Sweat Not Enough to Redeem Bogus Sports (Georgia Straight)

Sweat Not Enough to Redeem Bogus Sports

The Georgia Straight, September 16-23, 1999

The weekend of bogus sports is over and it’s on to the real thing.

Goodbye, you funky-knickered golfers and alcohol- and cigarette-sponsored race-car drivers. It’s time for the real athletes to take over: baseball’s pennant race is in full swing, as are Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, who continue to swing for the fence every time up to bat; ice-hockey training camps open throughout the land (I qualify hockey with ice for those stubbornly holding onto hope that field hockey will ever make it into print); and it’s only weeks before the NBA starts bouncing back into our consciousness. Kinda makes the impending darkness of autumn easier to take.

The beauty of this time of year for Vancouver (motto: City of Losers) is that both the hockey and basketball teams are tied for first. The Canucks (motto: We Can’t Get Any Worse!), without the distractions of Pavel Bure and Mike Keenan, hope to rebound from a very forgettable season. The Grizzlies (motto: The Canucks Stole Our Motto) are going with a new look since general manager Stu Jackson learned that his title enables him to make trades. So it’s encouraging.

It always amazes me that the dailies are expected to criticize some professional sports organizations but treat others like family. Attach a corporate sponsorship to your event and you’re guaranteed puff pieces and your very own supplement. Don’t insult the golfers or they’ll get their knickers in a knot and stay away. Half the racers don’t even speak our English or read our papers, so I don’t see why they get treated with kid gloves in the local press.

I realize there are those who will strongly disagree with my assessment of golf and car-racing as bogus sports. I’m willing to take the heat. Some of my closest friends are bogus-sports enthusiasts, so I’m used to it. In fact, I’ll anger a few more by lumping figure skating and virtually every other Olympic sport into that category. When ballroom dancing qualifies, you know there’s trouble. You want more? Just tune in to TSN at any time and flip a coin. Aerobics, darts, pro wrestling, fishing, bowling, on and on.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I have been forced, through threat of nonpayment, to cover such events for various other “sports” sections and publications. Indeed my rants against what are considered sports by the masses have appeared elsewhere almost biennially for years. It may be getting old, but on the off chance you’re not a regular reader of the Hicksville Weekly Swill, I humbly offer the set of criteriums (that’s how we wrote it at the Swill) I came up with to separate the sporting wheat from the bogus chaff:

  1. The event must require athleticism. Key word: require.
  2. It must induce sweat from the activity itself rather than external forces such as the sun, engines, adrenaline, or being grossly out of shape.
  3. It must provide a clear-cut winner.
  4. Participants should accomplish the feat with their own feet (hands… what have you).

At the very minimum, a real sport should include all these. Extra points go to sports with numbered jerseys.

Baseball fails number 1 but still qualifies under the numbered-jersey clause. (Bogus sports, by the way, are not to be confused with make-work sports like roller hockey, indoor soccer, arena football, and beach volleyball, which adhere to the criteria but which under no circumstances should be taken seriously.)

By these criteria – and excellent set, I think you’ll agree – you’ll never need wonder again what’s what. Bowling? Not a sport. Korfball? Sport. Pétanque? Nope. Table tennis? Most definitely. Just follow the easy-to-use step-by-step guide. I’ll walk you through it.

Golf isn’t a sport because it fails numbers 1 and 2. Some golfers are athletic, but it is not a requirement of the game in order to excel at it. And, folks, please remember: I love golf. In fact, I recently placed sixth in a miniature-golf tournament. I even took home the Spirit Award, so don’t accuse me of being antigolf. It’s a great game. Kick the Can is a great game too, but it’s not a sport, either (see point 1).

Racing enthusiasts disagree, but there’s no denying motor “sports” fail numbers 1, 2 an 4. They’ll tell you ad nauseam about the physical strains drivers go through, the muscular effort required to brace their heads against the phenomenal g-forces that can, literally, take their breath away. Yeah, whatever.

Figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and the like fail number 3. These are subjective events. Granted, they require athleticism, but so does ballet. We go to the ballet (theoretically speaking, of course) for the beauty of it, not to declare a winner. I don’t think anyone is served by having Karen Kain competing against Victoria Bertram for the prima-ballerina belt. And these events are, admittedly, beautiful. Admire them for what they are: ballet on ice, hardwood, and underwater.

And don’t even get me started on curling.

To further prove my point – and I don’t believe for an instant I should have to by now – consider the following inane exchange:

Fan A: “Do you like sports?”

Fan B: “Oh, yeah, baby!”

Fan A: “Yeah? What are your favourite sports?”

Fan B: “Figure skating and ballroom dancing are my favourites, but I also like horse racing, the luge, and interpretative dance.”

Fan A: “Hey, interpretative dance isn’t a sport!”

Fan B: “It isn’t? Why not?”

Fan A: “Hmm. Good point.”

If we accept this dialogue (Plato, eat your heart out), my grandmother is the biggest sports fan on the planet.