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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is paintball a sport? What about poker?

On Friday Crikey published a letter from Peter Holmes A'Court , co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team, in which he defended the club's decision to play a game in Florida.
In it he said, among other things :

Is there a place for Australian sports in the US? The age of the hegemony of the big four sports in the US (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) is clearly over. The fastest growing sports today are soccer, arena football, various forms of dirt bike riding, paint ball and poker. Lacross [sic], previously considered a preppy past time [sic] now has a professional league. A rugby union tournament recently drew 50,000 spectators, and its [sic] a country where more people play rugby union than play it in Australia by some enormous factor.

I'd like to know how Mr Holmes A'Court and his business partner Russell Crowe define "sport" (or "sports" as the Americans and some Australians, including Mr H A'C, call it - or them) .
The "big four" he mentions (if I've interpreted the acronyms correctly) are all professional games played in arenas in front of spectators, and nowadays often broadcast by radio, television or online. There is no question that rugby league is a sport, and most people would probably agree that some contests between individuals, eg athletics, tennis, and others between animals ridden by humans, would also come within the "sport" classification because they require the exercise of considerable athletic skill by their human participants.

Is paintball a sport? I don't think so, but then , to my surprise, I've found the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) website, which suggests that it is. OK, I'll concede that one.

What about poker? If it is, and it certainly has many of the indicia of a sport, eg it requires skill (albeit not of an athletic kind), is played by professionals, and enjoys considerable media coverage then shouldn't all card games, eg bridge, be so classified?

I have a problem with games which require a high level of skill but little physical exertion, eg card games, chess, being classified as sports. It looks as if I'm fighting a losing battle though and that Mr Holmes A'Court and his like will have their way.

Update 14 January

Is darts a sport? asks Patrick West at Spiked

No, he answers, " it is not a sport. It is only a game - but an excellent game, nevertheless. Even better than Trivial Pursuit and Connect Four."

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