For years, debate has raged whether activities like golf, bowling, horseracing and others are technically “sports”. While I won’t argue the point here, I will state for the record that any “sport” with the words “synchronised”, “rhythmic” or “dance” in its name probably belongs in the non-sporting category.

Is Fido an athlete?
Is Fido an athlete?

So what qualifies an activity as a sport? Well, if we look to TV Sports as a guide, we may get a better idea.

Rock, Paper, Scissors Championships (ESPN): The schoolyard game is hitting the big time, and the major sponsors are probably drooling in anticipation. (I can see the commercial now: “Reflex Paper: We cover rock EVERY time!”) I would classify this as a sport if, and only if, they A) Introduced the highly controversial thumb-in-the-air “dynamite” option and then, but more importantly, B) Played with ACTUAL rocks, paper, scissors, and said dynamite. Though the official World Rock Paper Scissors Society (yes, it actually exists) may have something to say about that.

National Spelling Bee (ESPN): On a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, there’s nothing like settling onto the sofa and flicking on the TV for a nice, exciting round of … er…spelling? At the risk of stereotyping, I might suggest that the organisers eschew the typical “spelling geeks” in favour of, say, contestants from the National Cheerleading Championships (ESPN). I’m not saying that cheerleaders can’t spell – on the contrary, I think they generally do an admirable job (Gimme a G, gimme an O, gimme an A, gimme an L …what’s that spell? Anyone?) But imagine all the wild jumping and general pom-pomming when perky little Missy spells “ubiquitous” (“um, you did WHAT to us?”)

The American Kennel Club Dog Show (Various): When did “taking your dog for a walk” become classified as a sport? Call me a traditionalist, but I side with the old maxim that, “If competitors aren’t aware that they are competing, then it isn’t really a competition”. This would hold true to dog shows, horseracing, or even contestants on Bikini Beach (Fuel TV). At the AKC Dog Show, competitors must endure the rigors of being groomed, primped and preened, followed by a simple trot around a circle before a judge examines their teeth, legs and backside (which, by sheer coincidence, is almost the same premise in Bikini Beach.) At any rate, why not put the blue-ribbon pooches against a group of emaciated dishlickers from the local track in a top-speed race around the stadium – the mechanical rabbit replaced in favour of the dogs’ “handlers”, running with Schmackos treats stapled to their coat pockets.

iFish (Lifestyle Channel), Hooked (Aurora): Ask a fish for his perspective on fishing, and he’ll likely indicate that it isn’t really a sport (refer to maxim above). Maybe the fisherman should first be required to persuade, say, one of the cheerleaders to put the worm on the hook (“Like, ewwwwwwwww! You want me to, like, TOUCH that? No way, loser! Like, barf-o-rama”.) Better yet, why not get rid of the rod, hook, bait, boat, net, etc., and force the fisherman (let’s call him “Buck”) to wade in the cold, murky lake and try to grab the fish with his bare hands. Then, to up the ante a smidgen, why not replace the bass and trout with a school of hungry piranha.

Texas Hold’em/Poker (Various): Judging solely by players’ attire (sunnies, sports cap, logo-slathered jumper) you could be understandably confused into thinking this is a bona-fide outdoor sport. But let’s face it: watching a group of guys sitting at a table, staring silently at each other while trying to remain as emotionless as possible doesn’t exactly reek of athleticism. But then again, they DO stand up every now and then.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (ESPN): Not quite a “sport”, not quite “dining”, this contest is plated somewhere in the middle. (Betting tip: always put your money on the skinny little bugger at the end of the table.) I can’t help but wonder how this show would play out if they invited, say, the cheerleaders to participate (“Ewwwwww. Like, ohmygod, you, like, want me to, like EAT that? I’m soooo sure, like, whatever. Do you even KNOW what they put in a hotdog, it’s all teeth and bones and skin and stuff. Speaking of which, has anyone, like, seen Tiffany?”)

World Pool League (Fox Sports): Half the skill in billiards is in not just sinking that 5-3 combo in the corner pocket to a hushed crowd, but rather, sinking that 5-3 combo in the corner pocket, using a bent cue with no tip and no chalk, on a slightly askew table littered with beer stains from Lachlan and Kaz’s weekly high-volume Tuesday night domestic dispute in a cramped, stuffy, noisy, hole-in-the-wall pub while the doorman, also named Lachlan, disentangles a gang of sloshed uni exchange students from their escalating brawl that began at the hostel last night and will likely end with someone “Going All Bruce Lee” with the pub’s only good remaining pool cue. To make billiards really exciting, why not combine it with other pub-related TV shows like the World Darts Championship (Fox Sports 3) and theWorld Bartending Championships (Food Network), and throw in a few man-hulks from theWorld’s Strongest Man Competition (ESPN) (unofficial tagline: Pick up heavy thing. Put over there) in a winner-takes-all “Cage-Match” filled with drunk and disorderly pub-goers, a few Bikini Beach cocktail waitresses and a couple of the hyperactive greyhounds from the AKC finals? Come to think of it, that’s more suited to Pay Per View.

About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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