Monday, February 10, 2014

But is it a sport?

the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi 2014
The Winter Olympic  Games at Sochi, Russia  2014

I don’t enjoy some of the Olympic winter games.  Team ice dancing, snowboarding or free-style snowshoeing hold no interest to me.  (There is no free-style snowshoeing.)

I find downhill skiing, luge, and even curling to be much more interesting.

What?  You’d rather watch people sweep the ice to get better glide from a large metal puck, than beautiful women and handsome men gracefully moving over ice while performing feats of strength and impeccable timing?

Yes, I would.  I’d rather watch a Biathlon or even plain cross-country skiing events than snowboarding.

It’s because many of the winter Olympic events aren’t sports.

Here’s my list:
Sports
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Bobsleigh
  • Ice Hockey
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Curling
  • Luge
  • Nordic Combined
  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Skeleton
  • Ski Jumping 
  • Speed skating


Non-sports
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Figure skating


What makes the difference?

Am I one of those guys that figures a sport has to have a ball?  The only thing close to a ball in my list above is curling and that’s like ice bowling with brooms.

Do I need speed?  The rush of air past my face from hurling down a mountain or do I need a chase like in speed skating?   No, that’s not it either.

Let’s sharpen the edge of this monologue and cut to the core.  Sports don’t have style points. 

It’s that simple.  Pick any conventional sport: baseball, soccer, American football, golf.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a team event or a single person.  The winner is determined by total points.  In golf low score wins; in bull's-eye shooting it’s high score.  The scoring is direct and measurable.  There are no style points.

Sochi 2014 winter olympic show boarding in mid air
Do you gain or lose points because the arms are bent differently?   

Style points?  What do you think is happening when the judges award scores on whether they thought your toes were pointed sufficiently or deduct points because your back was arched too much?  Those are style points.

Yes, I believe figure skaters and freestyle snowboarders are athletes.  


Four speed skaters at the Sochi Winter Olympics
Speed skaters.  You can tell who's in first and who's in last place.  In fact if they did this one person at a time you know the winner by the best time for the event.  Or do you think that number 18 should lose points cause she has to touch the ice and number 14 doesn't?

There’s no question about that.  I’m not sure you could claim the two middle people on a 4-man bob-sled team are athletes.  Seems to me all they need to know is how to quickly fold their bodies around the other team mates and have a low center of gravity.  I don’t see them or curlers out doing 10-mile runs or bench presses to stay in shape.  But I could be wrong on that.

You don’t have to have a league or a stadium/arena to have a sport.  You don’t have to have followers.  You do have to have measurable results, not opinions. 

I used to fence with a foil.  Who the heck follows fencing now a days?  I would if it was on TV.

You had five judges to score hits or touches as they say.  The competitors were supposed to own up to feeling a touch.  What made that subjective activity a sport was three touches won the match.  Nobody got style points for a loud appel, a flamboyant balstra, or graceful riposte.  You got points and won by countering your opponent’s defense and offense and scoring three touches in the target zone before they did.

Then what are these events if not sports?

They are performance art.

It’s not the costumes, the music or rehearsals.  It’s the scoring.  Anytime you have judges tell you the timing of the performers was off, or a leg wasn’t fully extended, or the 360 revolution was too high, you have an art form.

You want further proof?  I've got it.

Anytime you have compulsory movements, you have an art.  I’ve never been to a martial arts event where the contestants were required to do a front leg sweep or reverse punch.  You did that stuff for determining rank/belts, but competition was always decided on points scored by hits.

Could the Swan Lake ballet be a sport?  By the Olympic standards, yes.  You have a limited time to perform, there are compulsory moves, and the performers have a variety of costumes and are evaluated on style points.  The performers are beyond a doubt athletes. 

Tremendous performance, but did they get all the style points possible or are her legs crossed too high, his hand too closed?  And how do you compare that to last year's performance in front of different judges?

But truly, would you consider Swan Lake a sport?



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Granite, not metal, and a stone, not puck.

Frank the Knife said...

Thank you for the corrections! i was fly fast and low to the ground and didn't stop to fact check my information.