sport [spawrt, spohrt]
1. An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature
2. Diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.
At some point in our lives, we have all been exposed to a celebrated tradition, game or popular activity introduced to us, for the first time, as a sport. In the United States, some of the most popular sports include NASCAR auto-racing, baseball, football, soccer, tennis and professional boxing. At a glance, the chain of recognized sports may seem considerably small, but dozens of sports exist worldwide. Analyzing more obscure titles among the master list of all sports in creation can lead many of us to ask the focal question of all sporting interests: “Who or what even decides a sport, and what are the most important factors that constitute a sporting activity?”
The critical analysis that goes into what is given the official title of “sport” can be deeper than one might expect. Some sports become popular in culture based on their competitive nature, elaborate rule structure, or simply public popularity. Take baseball and football, a few of the most popular sports in the United States, as an example; both of these sporting activities are nationwide cultural phenomena, and although the fundamental rules of each are drastically different, both Major League Baseball and the National Football League draw exceptionally large crowds to every game. Other sports, such as skydiving (as a matter of fact, it is a sport) are recognized as more casual or private in the sense that they do not generally gain publicity through the national media.
Some sports gain popularity based on athletic requirements and the required physical prowess to dominate the playing field. Sports like rugby, wrestling, boxing, and (perhaps to your surprise) lacrosse, are all exceedingly dangerous sports. These sports often result in injury (sometimes mandatorily), which, according to most fans, simply adds to the fun. Other sports, like golf or professional chess, are a game of the mind, measuring the human capacity of focus, mental agility, coordination and skill. There are even some activities whose classification as a sport is controversial, such as auto-racing. Perhaps driving in a circle for an exceptionally long period of time takes more skill than most people care to admit. The suspenseful danger of a crash on the roadway could yet be another reason.
Ultimately, the question of what makes a sporting activity has no simple answer. This is due to the sheer diversity of sports in the world, and more are invented with every passing day. Be it a private game like badminton or racquet ball, a rough-‘em-up competitive event like hockey, or a new recreational activity born out of an ordinary person’s backyard, sporting events will know no end. Perhaps the decisive factor in what is classified as a sport simply comes down to a fun and respected tradition that people enjoy watching, playing a part in, and sharing with others.
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