What is ‘sport’?

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I have written several posts on the world of sport. its many attractions and smattering of negatives but have recently been thinking about what ‘sport’ is, and it’s something of a slippery concept, especially considering what a common, everyday word it is. When i talk about ‘sport’, what do I mean? What is included?

A few discussions I’ve had recently about what the difference is between a ‘sport’ and a ‘game’ have been inconclusive and even consulting the dictionary only further muddied the waters, giving the definition of ‘sport’ as:

“a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job”

and ‘game’ as:

“an entertaining activity or sport, especially one played by children, or the equipment needed for such an activity”

Rather too circular to be much help- a sport is a game, and a game is a sport.

Some other theories about the boundary between the two concepts of  ‘sport’ and ‘game’ that came up during our ramblings were:

“If you can do it wearing trousers, it isn’t a sport”: this distinction would cover most major sports, ruling out things such as snooker, pool and darts- borderline cases which I personally am happy to consign to either camp. It would also, however, label cricket and golf as games rather than sports. In the case of golf, it is also lacking the element of being able to directly affect your opponent, put forward by some as part of the definition of a ‘sport’. I would still be hesitant about claiming either of these not to be sports, so I’m not entirely happy with this method of division.

“If you can do it in the pub it’s a game”: the most satisfactory theory thus far, though snooker and darts enthusiasts may disagree. There are still holes to pick though- for one, boxing is certainly possible in a pub, though severely frowned upon by most landlords.

The hunt for the perfect method of distinguishing between sports and games is still on…


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