This debate has been expressed more simply by the question, is it a sport or not a sport? I have clarified the argument by changing the debate to “Is it a sport, competition or a game.” I will explain.
Golf, Bowling, Archery, Track and Field are not sports. They are Competitions. In a Competition, regardless of what the opponent does you are always able to play at your highest level. The intense physical ability and training in track and field makes them to the equal of any other athlete in the world. The out of shape golfers and bowlers competing in a Major makes you wonder?
The main action in a Sport absent from a Competition is defense. Defense is the mark of a sport. The physical bumping, hitting, and in-your-face kind of defense the limits opponent’s options. In a sport if you play great defense you can prevent an opponent from victory. In basketball defense can prevent the game winning shot, in football scoring the touchdown, in baseball safely hitting the ball, or in soccer scoring the goal. That is why at crucial game times fans feverishly scream the mantra “DEFENSE.” When the basketball is arching toward the basket, football heading toward the uprights, baseball heading over the wall, the relief a fan feels when the shot is blocked, football is outside the uprights, or fielder catches the ball from going over the wall is huge.
In a competition, the pressure felt does not rise to the level of a sport. There is pressure on a Golfer who has to make a putt to win or succumb to a playoff if missed. If he feels the pressure and does not convert it to relaxation then focus at his highest level he limits his ability. Let’s see if a golfer could make a putt after Roberto Duran hits him in the face. That would be concentration! Sugar Ray Leonard may make the putt while Tiger would be seeing stars.
A competition is where playing at your best, and it is the best, you will be better then the rest. It will not matter what fellow competitors do if you do better.
Golf is a competition but what happens if intrusive actions occur? On a golf course when the opponent has to make a putt to win the tournament it is against the rules to verbally distract the golfer or physically interfere with the balls travel. In a Competition it is against the rules to interfere with a fellow competitor and it causes an ejected fan or player disqualification.
If a track runner exits his lane whether he impedes the progress of a fellow track runner or not that is grounds for disqualification. If a bowler tosses his pizza plate into a competitor’s lane distracting him that is a disqualifier.
How would I classify Pool and Shuffleboard? Both of these have a defensive aspect. In planning your shot in pool you position the cue in a tough location upon completion making the opponents shot difficult. In Shuffleboard, after an opponent hits a high score on your turn you can hit their piece out of favorable position. Yet the offense and defense does not occur simultaneously so they are not sports. Also the physical action in both of these is minimal so they are not competitions. They are both games.
Chess, Checkers, Dominoes, Backgammon, and Monopoly are not sports or competitions, these are games. It is easy to understand why these are not because physical effort is minimal. Even though we call basketball a game it is a sport. The Olympics may be known as “The Games” but it is a combination of sports and competitions.
Some may think that golf and bowling are not even competitions because the physical component in minimal. For those who have not played these games there is significant physical component. There are not at the intensity of a sport or other competitions like track and field but it will wear you out and effect your concentration.
In summary, a Sport requires intense physical effort along with the defensive component. The defense occurs simultaneously with the offense. In a competition or game defense are grounds for disqualification. In a competition your only true opponent is yourself. A game has no physical component offensively or defensively, it is mainly the mental component. A games physical efforts are minuscule and you can even eat a sandwich while participating.
If you know of a sport which does not fit in these categories I will enjoy the challenge and your commentary.