Those of you who know me, follow me on Twitter, or read this blog regularly know I am passionate about three things: Jesus Christ, conservatism, and baseball. (Someday when I marry Ms. Right I'll be passionate about four.) I'm also a fan of sports in general. So recently, after listening to a conversation on a local radio station, a topic that I've debated for years came up: Cheerleading. Is Cheerleading, and similar activities like Colorguard, Dance Team, etc, a "sport."
It's a debate that I think begins with political correctness and making sure we don't hurt anyone's feelings. Along with it is an attitude that, at least at the academic level, if we don't call an activity a "sport" it's somehow invalid. It's a debate I had in my own house growing up...my sister participated in Winterguard/Colorguard for seven years through junior high and high school. She said it was a sport. I said it wasn't.
Before I proceed, I should explain my reasoning. Several years ago, my close friend and fellow blogger the JC_Freak and I sat down and developed what we felt were two iron-clad criteria for what makes something a sport. They are:
1 - The Human Body is the engine that drives the competition: Specifically this means that there can be an aparatus used along with the human body, ie a bicycle, however, the bicycle does not go on it's own, it requires the human body to make it go. An automobile, however, has it's own internal combustion engine, and even if a human is required to steer the car, it is that internal combustion engine that makes the car go. Hence, our conclusion was that a bicycle race was indeed a sport, while NASCAR was not.
2 - Objective Scoring: Specifically, this means that you put the ball in the hoop from inside the line you earn two points. Put the ball in the hoop from outside the line, you earn three points. You cross home plate before you are tagged out, you earn one run (point). Score a touchdown, you earn 6 points. Period. It doesn't matter how nicely you perform the activity, you get X points for X activity.
Inherent to this is that the referee/umpire's job is to enforce rules, but not choose the winner. That is the difference between a referee (rule enforcer) and a judge (decider of winner). A referee decides IF something happened, a judge decides HOW WELL something happened. For this reason, we excluded judged competitions from the definition.
Now I know there are many of you out there who are already upset at me, because you were a cheerleader, or in Winterguard (if my sister is reading this, sorry) or gymnastics, etc, that thing you did is really hard and requires a lot of athletic ability...please note I'm not trying to diminish your activity!
First off, to respond to the "it requires a lot of atheletic ability" question: Yes, I know that activities like bowling, which you can do well while weighing 500 lbs. and eating nachos while playing fit my definition and such highly atheletic activities as gymnastics don't fit the same definition. I get that. Under this definition, athletics are not the same thing as sports. Sports are a type of athletics. Otherwise if we just qualified everything that requires atheletic ability as a sport, we'd have to consider ballet, roofing, being a lumberjack and climbing a tree to be sports.
Each of these activities requires atheleticism. They aren't sports. We don't go see a ballet game...it's a performance! To me, an activity like gymnastics falls into that category...it is a performance. Are there performance competitions? Absolutely! Choirs have competed for decades, so have rock bands in various Battles of the Bands, etc.
Which brings me to my second point: Since when does something need to be categorized as a "sport" to matter? That's the attitude behind this mentality. When I was in school I did both sports and performance arts. I studied karate and participated in several tournaments (for the record, the scoring was "strike your opponent cleanly, 1 point. First to 3 points wins the match). I also was on the wrestling team. I also played the guitar in two bands, sang in the choir on several different levels, and acted in a few plays and musicals. I was in a Battle of the Bands with one band, sang in choral competitions, and yes, the dancing in the musicals often required athleticism. They weren't a sport...and that was just fine by me.
So why do you think your activity needs to be a sport to matter? Calling your activity a sport doesn't affect your activity's funding...the reason activities like football and basketball get more funding is largely because people actually pay to see a high school football or basketball game so there is a measure of self-funding. THAT is why they get more funding...they actually fund themselves in many levels. Yet I think we've made the heading of "sport" so inherent to the value of an activity, and that is wrong.
This is another fine example of political correctness pervading our society, so much so that we have to call a visual performance a sport just so we don't hurt people's feelings. It's silly. If you're a cheerleader, or on the dance team, or do Winter Guard, that's awesome...I'm glad you've found an activity that brings you joy. But it's not a sport...and that's not a bad thing. Just be proud of what you do...don't feel the need to cram your square peg into the round hole that is the heading of sports.