Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is Golf a Sport?

Following up on my post last week: Is Tiger The Best Athlete?, I ran across a great article today by Michael Lewis which questions whether golf is a sport at all.

Just to give you a flavor of his argument, he talks about how Tiger Woods played the US Open on a broken leg. He says, citing those who defend golf as a sport: "A golfer is proving once and for all that our game is a test of deep character and physical courage.

See: Golfers play hurt!

See: You can even get hurt playing golf!!!

Well, you can get hurt playing darts, too. Or hiking. Bowling can be seriously hazardous, if you don't know what you're doing. Play with enough passion and you can even injure yourself in a spirited game of Monopoly. (I once cut my finger grabbing Park Place.)

It's absurd when you get hurt bowling, just as it is absurd when you get hurt playing golf -- or would be if golf assumed its rightful classification among curious outdoor hobbies, on the same mental shelf as scuba diving and tai chi chuan".

If you like, you can read the entire article by clicking here.

Well, this kind of resonates with me. I also wonder about whether synchronized swimming is a sport. How about a whole bunch of other activities that people who don't speak English as a first language play or root for, like bocce ball?

I don't really know what it takes for an activity to be defined as a sport. So, I looked it up. Sports can be defined as "an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition". Under this definition, I guess that all the activities cited are sports. I'm just not so sure.

Surely, all True Americans would argue that baseball, football and basketball are sports. And all Canadians and at least 20,000 fans in each NHL city in the U.S. would have no problem declaring that hockey is a true sport. But, in the case of basketball and football, those participating in the sport have to be pretty large. In fact, they're not normal humans at all.

I think we should modify the definition of sport to say that it has to be played by normal sized humans to qualify. Professional football and basketball can then be classified as spectacles to be watched for their performance qualities, much like opera or professional wrestling.

I could go on and on with this. I've clearly drifted off of the question that started this entire screed. I just don't know whether golf is a sport in the same way that I think baseball and hockey are sports. If this is the case, I'm further inclined to believe that, in answer to the question I posed last week, Tiger Woods is not the greatest athlete.


Anonymous said...

I hate golf more than anyone and get incredibly frustrated that people with 1/100th the athletic ability that I have can crush me in this game. BTW, if you want to call golf a game and not a sport, I am fine with that.

Despite that bias, I realize that golf is the hardest game to excel at given the small margin for error and the incredible amount of practice it takes to get proficient. Because this game is not predicated on athletic ability, it takes a phenomenal effort to master it and when you add in someone of Tiger's athletic ability, you create the world's finest athlete or gamesman depending on your point of view.

For those of you who think golf is not a sport, did you ever wonder why hockey players are so good at golf and why basketball players are so bad at golf? Are they mentally different or is there a physical element and sport-specific training where hockey players have an advantage over basketball players?

Incontrovertible said...

I'm fine with calling golf a game. I also agree that it's incredibly hard to master.

Basketball players are worse at golf because their arms and legs are too long to control as easily as hockey players. Very tall baseball pitchers have the same problems. It took Randy Johnson over a decade to become a great pitcher after he reached the professional level.

Anonymous said...

the only reason to play golf is the promise of the ninteenth hole. Oh, and the incredible plaid pants they sell for the men to wear. signed a fashionista