Monday, June 14, 2010

A Robust Definition of a Sport

In doing some reading in another context, I came across the following minimum criteria for something to be a sport:

“An activity is not a sport unless there are challenges to be overcome and a clear set of rules about how to confront these challenges.” -- J P Spiro (2008) Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison

This was offered as a way to distinguish a "sportsman" from a "market hunter" in the US in the late 1800s. But it got me to wondering if it has a more general application. Clearly, the two criteria--challenges and clear rules--are not sufficient to define a sport, but are they necessary?

I am sure that ground has been broken on the question of what makes a sport a sport, so pointers to that literature would be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...

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David O'Hara said...

At first glance it looks fine, but aren't there sporting activities that are not *clearly* defined by rules? Take rock climbing, for example. Plainly there is a code of conduct governing the activity, and individual climbers will also self-impose rules, but none of them seems necessary to the activity.

Ted Richards said...

That, in part, is the question. While anyone can pull a trigger and kill things, the activity of hunting becomes a sport when certain (self-imposed) rules are followed, eg, never kill females or young, always attempt the cleanest kill, etc. I don't know enough about rock-climbing, but does it move from being an activity of getting to the top to a sport by the following of the self-imposed rules and codes? Anyone know?

alBostoni said...

I have a post I'd like to contribute to this blog. Who should I send it to?

Sorry to post this question here but I couldn't find any contact info for the blogs admin.


Jens Birch said...

Questions on the nature of sport is best summarized in the article "Triad Trickery" by K. Meier. Discussions on rules: Reddiford, "Institutions, Constitutions and Games" - these are about constitutive and regulative rules, what is usually considered defined by an organisation. Self-imposed rules sounds like what D'Agostino calls the Ethos of sport, see "the ethos of games".

astrobassist said...

Is cheerleading a sport? It seems to fit your definition...