Trying to resolve the unresolvable debate: Watch me resolve it (Part II)

>> Monday

In Part I of this two-part post, I began to write something, abruptly cut off what I was writing, made some excuses, and told you all to go to hell. Tonight, in the riveting conclusion to this series, I flesh out my cockamamie definition of sport that I was segwaying to at the end of Part I.

Now I realize everyone has his own opinion of what constitutes a sport, but the problem with most of these opinions is that they're horrible. Almost without exception, the definitions formed are incoherent and framed around an agenda to include competitions that they enjoy and exclude those they do not. The result is most often a ridiculous conclusion like, "If NASCAR is a sport, then playing Paperboy is a sport."

While you may agree with that statement, the string of logic that led you there is probably dumber than Chris Matthews (sorry... DNC coverage on in the background. Politics is for idiots, by the way). And that's the problem.

Of course, the reason I wanted to open this can of Chris Matthewses now is that Olympic events are often the most contentious centerpieces and/or weapons in this debate, and many of you likely engaged in some form of it during the past two weeks. In fact, it was such an argument during the '06 winter games involving a few of us YCSies that first inspired me to attempt a cohesive definition of sport that--if not palatable to anyone else--would at least offer a better conclusion to similar future debates than the one that ended ours (which I believe was the hurling of empty beer cans, as February '06 was during the pinnacle of our empty beer can-hurling phase... ah, but enough reminiscing).

What has resulted from my labor of two-and-a-half years not thinking about this subject followed by a single week of thinking about this subject is my proudest achievement to date. I call it, "Vinnie's Awesome Triangle of Defining 'Sport' and Non-Sport Sport-Like Things."

The triangle is centered around my opinion that for something to be a sport, it must have all of three indispensible elements. They are:

Scoring. A sport must have scoring--that is, any agreed-upon system, whether it be objective or not, for determining a winner. Now, I know a lot of people will object to putting subjective scoring systems on par with objective ones. To that I say: Just look at how arbitrary some of the scoring systems in our objectively scored games are. And that's to say nothing of the governance of their rules (NBA, anyone??? Hell-ooo-ohhh!!!) Scoring is represented by yellow on the triangle, symbolizing the yellow sun that illuminates scores written in newsprint, even though no one reads newspapers anymore except old people.

Athletic skill. I don't think many people should have an issue with this part of the definition. Of course, what constitutes athletic skill is debatable, but I would like to suggest it is any combination of the Platonic "gifts of the flesh"--a term I just made up for what are actually known as the nine componenets of physical fitness. I'd like to further suggest that these qualities become athletic only when used in way that emulates our survival instincts of domination, defense, and procreation. I have represented athletic skill in red on the triangle to symbolize the heat of battle, the flow of blood through the body, and fire trucks.

Interplay. By interplay, I mean the immediate, interreactive exchange by which one opponent's actions are both necessary to and dictated by the other opponent's actions. This is--in my opinion--the most crucial, yet the most stretched and abused element of sport. In an effort to be inclusive, we (by which I mean everyone except me and other people who are right about this) have been willing to overlook the interplay component entirely and have consequently labeled things that are individual challenges performed concurrently with other people as "sports." More than anyone, I blame a certain class of people for this, but I won't name names right now. Interplay is represented on the triangle by blue, symbolizing... I don't know... beauty or Jesus or something.



As you can see, I've come up with names for the orange, green, and purple zones on the triangle as well. These may or may not be good names, but I think their distinctions from my definition of sport are fairly obvious in that they simply lack one of the three components.

Also, becuase I do think the distinction between objective scoring methods and commie-sympathizing, pro-Chinese-biased subjective judging methods is at least worth representing, I made a modified version of the triangle with orange, green, and sport subdivided for this distinction:

To clarify these subdivisions, here is the triangle with an example of each category filled in:



I realize that I've made sport very exclusive, and that's intentional. Our culture's current conception of sport is inclusive to a fault, leading to a slippery slope that has fostered poker on ESPN and IOC consideration of competetive eating. If correcting the imbalance means Phelpsy's eight golds came in "physical skills competitions" instead of sports, I don't think anyone would care, nor would they be asking for swimming to be removed from the Olympics. But I think de-jumbling the term "sport" from the heterogeneous mess it's become would be helpful to everyone.

Now I'd hoped to expand on my Vinnie Triangle of Awesomeness or whatever I called it by slotting Olympic events into their respective categories, as well as by individually addressing the most contentious sport / non-sport subjects (auto racing, bowling, etc.). But I can feel my writing getting really lazy and uninteresting, which I think is my body saying it's bedtime. And as Cosmo Kramer said, that's one argument you can't win or something like that.

Part III, anyone??????????????

9 comments:

Patrick 8:47 AM  

More, MoRe, MORE!

Anonymous,  9:16 AM  

MORE!!!!!!

Iain 1:11 PM  

What do you include in athleticism? Would curling be defined as nerd competition or sport?
The thing people need to realize is that while thier favorite "activity" may not be a sport it can still be amazingly difficult to tain and compete at a high level.

Anonymous,  3:18 PM  

WOW! Those graphics are amazing and your expository writing is also impressive.

Paul 3:28 PM  

Last comment = obviously written by mom

Paul 3:29 PM  

Nevermind. Ma wouldn't have forgotten a comma after the word amazing.

Vinnie 4:19 PM  

Missing comma and all, I'll bet 20 to 1 that was ma.

Anonymous,  8:13 PM  

OK, your both correct, it was I. I rewrote the second half of the sentence and forget to put the comma back.

Anonymous,  4:30 AM  

Today is my lucky day :)
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