With the NBA and NHL playoffs underway, there’s a whole lot of reasons for me to skip class, or as it almost happened this time around, miss my column deadline. Being Canadian, this time of the year only means one thing to me: playoff hockey. For the vast majority of other sports fans, it means it’s time to watch Kobe Bryant do things with a basketball that would only make sense if they were in “Space Jam 2: Michael Who?” Unfortunately, Kobe doesn’t have the acting prowess or public appeal of Jordan, so that won’t happen anytime soon. Nevertheless, for those looking for a great way to waste away their day in front of the TV, the time is now. Grab your favorite beer, put on that jersey you bought in middle school and enjoy the show.
With the NHL playoffs starting a week before the NBA’s, I had a jump-start on the process, which gave me time to think about my favorite sports and what makes them so enjoyable. When my inebriated neighbor stopped by last week to distract me from the game and inform me that hockey wasn’t a sport, I felt like breaking a bottle over his head. Instead, after a few deep breaths, I began to ponder the age-old question of what is a sport. Considering that I live with an aspiring golf pro and a retired go-kart racer – yeah I laughed at first, too – the debate that’s followed has been quite lively. The general consensus is that for an activity to be a sport, it must require that its participants be both physically fit and skilled. It should also be competitive in nature. In other words, basketball is a sport because you have to be able to run up and down the court without passing out and smart enough – on some level anyway – to shoot the ball into the hoop. Obviously players are not known for their smarts, but most of them are wise enough to learn over time how much backspin to put on their free throw shot, or to take a timeout when their coach is screaming at them to. That said, basketball, and similar activities like soccer or hockey, epitomizes sport.
As for auto racing? Not so much. Despite my roommate’s cries that racecar drivers are incredibly fit athletes, they’re still driving a fucking car. It’s one thing to be helped along by a racket or bat. It’s another to be sped around an oval in a two-ton piece of steel. Is Formula One legend Michael Schumacher insanely talented? Of course. Is he in better shape than me? I would hope so. Is auto racing a sport? No.
Another non-sport that many confuse with the real thing is golf. ESPN, which is the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports television, airs countless golf tournaments. Because of this, people naturally think golf is a sport. Then again, they also run bowling, pool, poker and dominoes. But I digress. Needless to say, with no disrespect to their incredible talent, golfers are not athletes. They are talented practitioners of one of the world’s most accessible outdoor games. Just ask your grandpa. Or John Daly, the 1991 PGA Championship winner, who could out-drink and out-play me any day, blind-folded.
Cheerleading is not a sport, because for 90 percent of their season, if you could call it that, they don’t actually compete. Unless of course, there’s a racial war going down, and then – well – they bring it. Horse racing is less of a sport than NASCAR. For one thing, the jockeys are five-foot tall midgets who typically don’t speak a word of English and eat less food than Lindsay Lohan on a coke binge. I didn’t realize that holing yourself up in a box for an hour before a race, just so you can lose 15 pounds, makes for a sport. If that’s the case, then drinking a beer in a hot tub makes me an athlete, too. Besides, when a horse falls in a race, as was the case with Barbaro last year, no one could care less if the jockey was hurt. All fans wanted to know was how fast he’d get out of the glue factory.