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4 • MAY 2019



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If You Can Do It From Your Couch, It Isn’t a Sport


ack in my days as a sportswriter, we would get into heated arguments about what was and was not a sport. Bowling and curling are sports, but shuffleboard isn’t.

Pool and darts are iffy. Golf is a little bit of a gray area too. If you walk the course it’s a sport, but if you ride the cart and have a cold beer in the cupholder at all times it probably isn’t. Poker isn’t a sport. Dancing isn’t a sport, even if its on ice skates. Gymnastics is a sport, but cheerleading isn’t. I know that ruffles feathers, but the reason for cheerleaders is right there in the name - to lead the cheers, from the sidelines, as other athletes compete in what are sports. Almost all races are sports, but there is a descending level of sportiness, with the world record holder in the 100-meter dash at the very top. Horse racing and NASCAR are sports, even though the horse and car do most of the work. The annual Great Races in Silver City, in which teams push a motorless go-cart and driver in a race around campus, is a sport. So is the annual Pancake Day race in Liberal, Kansas and the Brass Bed Race in Central City, Colorado. Duck races are not a sport. Tennis, volleyball, squash, handball, pickleball, racquetball, ping pong, paddleball and Jai alai are all sports. So are soccer, hockey, water polo, field hockey and polo. But not air hockey. Later, after I had moved to Las Cruces, there were more heated arguments when New Mexico changed the physical education requirements for high school graduation to include being in the marching band. I hesitate to bring this into a discussion of what is and is not a sport because PE, while it may include sports, is not itself a sport. Dodgeball is a sport, climbing a rope isn’t. Playing a musical instrument is never a sport, even if you play and walk at the same time. Chuck Berry played and duckwalked at the same time, but he never claimed it was a sport. Twirling flags isn’t a sport either.

Like cheerleading, these are things that are done at sporting events, but that does not make them sports. Last year, the board of directors for the New Mexico Activities Association, which governs high school sports, decided on a 6-5 vote to include video games as an officially sanctioned activity, culminating each year with a state championship tournament. Except, of course, that they don’t call them video games. They call them eSports. The objective, supporters say, is to attract students who don’t like sports. The state has selected five video games, or … whatever, that will be used the first year. One of them is NBA 2K, in which competitors pretend to be playing basketball. So, along with awarding championships each year to the state’s best basketball teams, we will also award championships to those teams that are the best at pretending to play basketball. I don’t know anything about the other four selections: Smite, League of Legends, Rocket League and Icons, other than that none are violent, which is probably why I’ve never heard of them. The best thing about our arguments about what qualifies as a sport is that - like all great arguments - there is no right or wrong answer, only strongly held opinions. All of us had our own criteria, and it often shifted to suit that day’s debate. But there is one thing I’m pretty sure that we all would have agreed on. If you can do it without getting off the couch, it’s not a sport. Walt Rubel has been a journalist since 1982, working in Las Cruces since 2002. He can be reached at waltrubel@ gmail.com.

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