Demystifying the age-old question

Last night I stumbled upon something horrifying: poker on ESPN. Yes, I have seen this before, but this time a question arose. Why? How is poker considered a sport? I’m sure that some people (Lady Gaga?) may argue that playing poker takes immense skill, however, that is not the only qualification of sport.

So what then qualifies a game as a sport? “Well, it should have a competitive aspect as well as some degree of physical activity,” says Sabrina Versteeg, Canadian women’s netball team player. “A superior team player should be in good physical shape and use a combination of skill and technique.” In this case, many so-called sports such as poker, bridge, darts, billiards, horseshoe throwing, bowling, archery, target shooting, power boating and fishing can be easily ruled out. They are fun recreational activities, but they just don’t cut it. This isn’t to say that dexterity or skill are not involved, but the last time I checked, nobody ever broke a sweat by playing snooker. That being said, here are some gray-area “sports” that have caused a great deal of controversy.


 Curling is about as gray as it gets. There is a copious amount of skill and strategy involved in this game as well as defence, competition, and pinpoint accuracy and precision. Also, it is surprisingly amusing to hear the players yelling “Hard, hard, hard!” It is, however, a relatively slow-paced game and the frequent argument is about whether the excessive brushing counts in terms of physical activity. It does get tremendously intense, and the players do become quite agitated sweeping those brooms, but so do janitors, and unless I see that creepy custodian from my elementary school at Sochi, I’m not prepared to give this one sport status.


This is a tricky one. This is always the biggest arguing point when the subject arises. It looks like a sport, but don’t let this deceive you. It does require clubs and balls, similar to baseball, however, unless you count walking from hole to hole, the physical aspect of the sport is quite lacking, a point that culminated the moment Casey Martin won the right to play while riding a golf cart. Also, Tiger Wood’s hiatus strangely coincided with the departure of all interest from golf, and a sport without a star (of fans) is definitely lacking in the credibility department. Even if this is a sport, it has to be the most boring one in all of existence. I mean, the only thing more painful than watching golf is actually playing it and continuously hitting divots out of the Earth. 

NASCAR/Auto Racing

NASCAR is truly an intense competition. For one, it is entertaining [Really? - Mac] and requires defence and strategy, but yet again there is no physical extertion required in these races. In addition, I think it is safe to say that players of a sport should not need a non-human powered machine to be able to play it. Playing a sport should be beneficial, perhaps resulting in a sustainable living and healthy body, not pollution and car accidents.

Figure Skating

Many people dispute that this is simply a judged competition, and that a sport shouldn’t need a judge to decipher the true winner. On the other hand, referees are quite similar to judges, and as the NBA has repeatedly demonstrated, a case of bad refereeing can easily cost a team a win. Figure skating requires both competition and physical ability. Although it is non-aggressive, like many Olympic sports, it is aesthetically appealing. It is pretty much dancing on ice, which is where the fine line between arts and sports gets shady. However, under these criteria, dance itself could be named a sport. Figure skating is vastly popular, and widely practiced, seeing as an Olympic sport must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries and four continents, and by women in at least 40 countries and three continents. Any figure skating skeptics need only watch Blades of Glory to have their opinion shifted on this one.

Ping Pong/Table tennis

This is a pretty wimpy sport, if that’s what it is. Although table tennis is the most popular racket “sport” in the world, the physical activity portion is yet again questionable. There is no doubt that Ping Pong is an enjoyable recreational activity, but the fact that rugby (definitely a sport) was only recently declared an Olympic sport, while Ping Pong has been in the Games since 1988 is a massive puzzlement to me. Seeing grown men crouch in front of a table with constipated looks on their faces while swatting balls at each other is quite comical, but still wimpy. Although it is popular, nobody really knows any Ping Pong stars. I’m just saying that I’m pretty sure that Tom Brady wouldn’t have picked up supermodel Gisele Bündchen if he was a Ping Pong champion.

// Mercedes Sargent

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