This subject has been hotly debated for years and will continue to be debated for many more. The definition below has been officially adopted as PubGuy law. It was originally created and documented in 1997 after a week long debate involving several experts in the field of sports watching and many, many beers.
This definition of “What is a sport” has been directly referred to by many articles, sports shows, and websites and has stood the test of time! There are many definitions out there, but what sets this definition apart from all the rest is its objectivity. Just like in sports, there are clear, documented rules that anyone can apply. Unlike other “definitions” there is no judgment or arbitrary scoring system necessary to apply these rules.
What is a sport?
To be classified a sport it must:
1. Have well-defined rules and a clear winner
2. Judgment must not play the most important part of determining the outcome
3. Physical exertion, however minimal, must occur during the play of the sport
There are two categories of sports
1. Organized – An organized sport has an official and recognized governing body such as FIFA, NCAA, or NASCAR
2. Unorganized – An unorganized sport has well-understood rules but no widely recognized governing body
Purity of Sport
There are different degrees of purity of a sport. A Sport that needs very little or no officiating to enforce or interpret the rules is more pure. A Sport that requires many potentially biased officials or jurors to interpret and enforce the rules is less pure. A sport that requires a third party to judge the participants in part, but not in whole, to determine the winner is still a sport, but at the lowest end of the purity scale.
Recognition of Athleticism
The rules of determining the validity or purity of a sport is not meant to imply that other events’ participants are not athletic. There are many examples of events that require great skill and physical exertion and that are governed by a set of rules. However, if that event fails to meet the above criteria, it is suggested here that it be known as an “athletic event” or if one prefers an “athletic competition”.
Examples of sports vs. athletic competition
Alpine Skiing, American Football, Association Football (soccer), 500m relay, darts, kickball.
Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Jogging, Synchronized Swimming.
Special thanks to the 1997 Crystal Beach Conference crew for their ground breaking contribution to this definition!