Friday, October 06, 2006

Golf Is Not A Sport

Had a spirited discussion yesterday with a guy at the gym who tried to convince me that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest athletes of all time.

I was respectfully havin’ none of it.

It all comes down to a single question for me: Is golf a sport or just a game?

I played a lot of golf when I was in high school and college but finally gave it up due to the geologic pace. Maybe I’ll take it up again when I’m in my 70’s. Of course by then I’ll probably be incontinent and drinking out of a sippy cup too :^)

So I’m hardly unbiased.

But anyway, I hit this guy with my patented mathematical formula which clearly demonstrates that golf is simply a game and not a sport.

I won’t bore you with the details of the actual formula, but suffice to say that I grade any potential sport by assigning numerical values to various building blocks of that particular activity. So for example, any competitive pursuit that requires exceptional speed gets 2 points. Quickness gets 2 points. Jumping ability gets 2. Strength gets 2. Fine and gross motor skill coordination both get 3. Concentration and controlling fear get 3's. And so on.

Points can also be subtracted. Any competitive pursuit that can be done successfully by a middle aged guy with a 44 inch waste who just downed a martini loses a point. Pursuits where the competitors have been known to wear checked pants or knickers lose a point. If some other poor guy is forced to carry your equipment around all day, you lose a point.

Pro Golfer John Daly--Exhibit A

I don’t think it’s necessary to go through the whole exercise here and add up the points for golf or even explain the mathematical threshold that gets a competitive pursuit into the realm of ‘real sport.’ Or failing to pass that threshold, reduces a pursuit into the company of other mere games like horseshoes or Twister.

I think you’re feeling me and seeing where all this is going. Sorry Tiger :^)


Anonymous Eddy E said...

You've ventured into dangerous territory. I would presume you would then argue that Bowling, Billiards, and Cheer are not sports either... What do you think of Texas Holdem', I mean ESPN is broadcasting every chance they get

PS Totally off point, but for some reason all your comments (on my site) are being caught by my spam comment filter... don't know why.

8:35 AM  
Blogger 3wishes said...

Tiger Woods represents all that is right with our country. Work hard, perservere, love your parents, dont be a quitter, do what you love and it will all work out. Golf is not a sport in my mind either. But Tiger is def. a champion in life. Texas Holdem isnt a sport either, but I sure love when those checks roll in from Costa Rica :^)

9:29 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Yeah, I'm expecting to get a knock on the door from the PGA anti-terrorist unit at any moment....

No, bowling is not a sport either, but I was raised as a bowler so I still carry around some affection for the Earls of this world and their 16 pounders. Andrew and I go every once in a while. Rolled a 200 game a few months ago so there's still some magic in the old wrist.

You're right. I don't know him personally obviously, but from everything I've seen he seems like a very decent guy. Nice to have some of those types around in the public eye.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Jon said...

I have a different opinion. I played soccer, baseball, basketball, golf, and football at the school sanctioned level in my younger years, and I played chess and cribbage in tournaments. Golf definitely was grouped with the other sports for me - in terms of the thought process, the way I practiced and trained my body, the way my muscles worked, injuries, issues of physical fatigue, all that. I think that darts and poker would definitely feel more like the other "games" rather than sports. Bowling is more of an in-between thing than golf is, but it probably still is slightly closer to sporthood than gamehood.

I'd like to know - where do cricket players rank on your scale? How about certain fat American-league baseball pitchers, or heavy designated hitters who can only hit for power? What about a field goal kicker? Archery? Skeet shooting?

Actually, it'd really be interesting to look at the numbers that marathon running or long-distance bicycling would get on your scale.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous johnteter said...

I think golf is a sport. The eye-hand and precision skill in golf is right up there wtih baseball. After shooting 18 holes, your body sure gets a work out. And for John Daly, there is also John Kruk.

Eddy, ESPN is an acronym for entertainment-sports-program-network. Texas hold 'em is part of the growing entertainment package.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Good points Jon and John.

Still don't think golf makes it in my mind. I give it major points for fine and gross motor coordination, concentration, etc. but where it gets killed is the lack of importance of strength, speed, quickness, real endurance (I've played 18 holes many times and barely broke a sweat), jumping ability, controlling physical fear, etc. Golf requires great skill and concentration but not great athletic ability. I can imagine many athletes in other sports who would have made great golfers had they pursued it seriously. I can think of very few golfers who would have made it in any other major sport. My scale is set up to reward pursuits with sports status when they involve a greater number of athletic attributes than I think golf does.

Re cricket, geez, I don't know. I think I've seen about 5 minutes of cricket in my life. Do cricketers even have to run?

Both of you guys raise an interesting point about individual vs. team sports. You can get certain positions in some team sports that require less athleticism than other positions in those same sports. Relief pitchers or designated hitters, offensive linemen, etc. can get away with being less athletic in an overall way. But when you take the overall athleticism required in baseball, the concentration required, the control of fear, it's clearly far more a sport than golf, the John Kruk's of the world notwithstanding :^)

Cycling and long distance running are in a limbo world on my scale--probably not really sports in the way I'm defining it but definitely not horseshoes either. They're examples of a pursuit that requires an extreme display of a few athletic and emotional attributes but little or none of most other attributes.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Jon said...

Cricket resembles baseball played at half-speed. They "run", but I've never seen a fielder sprint to a ball or a "baserunner" go back and forth in any very athletic way.

I think that my average round of 18 holes as a serious golfer involved more athletic activity than my average baseball game as a serious outfielder. I certainly rarely broke a sweat in baseball. I fielded balls maybe 4 times a game (with at least half of those not requiring much athleticism), swung a bat maybe 5-6 times, and ran to first base 2-3 times (maybe walked there once or twice) and ran towards other bases 4-5 times. That's just not much athletic activity.

On the other hand, golf required me to exert major muscle activity across my whole body with extreme precision about 50 times, plus walk 4 miles or so. And we did carry our bags, which would be a nice addition to the professional game. I can't think of a baseball game that ever exhausted me, but I was tired after many a golf match.

11:14 PM  

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