Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is Ice Skating a Sport?

I wouldn't want anyone to think that I have singled out ice skating for particular disdain, just because I don't associate choreography and costuming with the word, "sport". Given my OCPD tendencies, creating an elaborate classification of what does and does not constitute "sport" comes quite naturally to me.

Why does ESPN televise poker? The connection is apparently this: Gamblers bet on sports. Gamblers bet on poker. Thus poker is a sport. QED.


I maintain that, to be considered a sport, physical skill must be displayed (poker is out), and scoring must be immediate and obvious. If a panel of judges has to tally the scores, it could be a beauty contest or American Idol, but it isn't sport. Any activity where points are awarded for artistic merit is not a sport.

By this reasoning, swimming is a sport, but diving is not. Greco-Roman wrestling is a sport, but boxing is not. Gymnastics involves incredible levels of physical training and performance, but so does ballet. They aren't sports.

Any activity where the French or Polish judge can impact the results of the contest by raising or lowering scores in accordance with political ideology is not sport. "Though Clemson outscored North Carolina on the court tonight, the French judge awarded 7 points to the Tarheels for artistic merit, giving them the victory."

Not sport.

I will have all this in mind as the Winter Olympic Games unfold. There will be sports events, and there will be dance contests. Thanks to my handy typology, you too will know the difference.


  1. Would this then make speed-skating a sport but figuring skating not a sport? I could get behind that. They're both obviously athletic pursuits, but I would be comfortable classifying figuring skating as an art form rather than a sport.

  2. That would be my point, though I have to say that short-track speed skating is hard to classify. There are almost always challenges and disqualifications at the end of each race, requiring judges to determine the winner. It feels a bit like roller derby to me. Entertaining, artful, and athletic, yet we're always left wondering who REALLY won....

  3. for what it's worth, we sometimes end up wondering that for other sports too. I'm still smarting from the Vikings' recent loss where we're not really sure what ended up happenning.