Framing Thoughts for "What is sport?"

After a meeting in which a College committee moved to add physical education to a program a colleague approached me and that they were concerned about the potential future abuse of the category. Specifically they cited a concern that one day all of our students would take "ballroom dance" or the equivalent of such in lieu of actual physical exercise.

I concur. Later generations may wonder what the framing thought were of the founders of the physical education requirement. I can only speak for myself, but I define sports very narrowly.

If the so-called "sport" requires a panel of expert judges to determine a winner then I deem the activity to be an art.

Running is simple: the first idiot across the line wins. Weight lifting is not too tough: for a given weight class whoever hefts and controls the most massive weight wins. Basketball, football, and baseball are more borderline. These activities require referees to interpret events leading to inevitable controversy.

Figure skating, ice dancing, aerobic dance, and gymnastics are not sports. Sorry, they are highly evolved art forms requiring tremendous physical control and strength to weight ratios. Hapkido, karate, and the ilk are not sports. PE 103 Hapkido should be struck from our catalog (where is that removal form again). These are martial arts, not martial sports.

I differentiate between and art and a sport. There is a tendency now to call any activity which might potentially induce the physical response of sweating a sport.

Of course, I still rue the day the word gymnasium lost its true meaning.

Ultimately it will be up to future curriculum committees to decide what meets the spirit of the physical education requirement and what does not.

On the other hand...

Other germane opinions

I find the extended quote from USA Tap to be a most informative take on this matter. I would paraphrase this the day someone suggests that a course built around local dances should be a physical education course. If there is the idea of daily exercise for life, then culturally dancing is not a physical fitness activity per se.

However, it should be remembered dance is not a sport it is an art form.

Respecting and honoring the very spirit of tap dance Fabulous Taps is NOT a "competition" and Fabulous Taps is NOT a "championship." But, you may ask...

Why not a "competition"? Don't performers compete? Yes, they do compete, and we have no problem with that word or with the concept of competing. Competing CAN be a thrill and a great experience. However, we have decided not to use terms such as "competition" or "nationals" as they have been rendered all but meaningless (in this case semantics are very important...) Too many competitions have turned dance, and especially tap, as a shadow of itself and have made a mockery of the true spirit of dance (competitions have little fiscal oversight and can be huge cash cows for their organizers, which explains why they have been sprouting like mushrooms for the past decade.) We prefer the term "contest" which is closer to what this should be all about. Like the term "challenge," contest was used extensively in the early days of tap, which makes it even more appropriate.

Why not a "championship"? Because the use of this term is TOTALLY inappropriate for tap dance. Championships and champions refer to sports. Tap dance is not a sport, but a CULTURAL AND ARTISTIC TRADITION that started as music played by African slaves in the Southern United States and evolved into a complex, sophisticated artistic medium that now stands at the crossroads of dance and music. While tap does involves some degree of athleticism (like most dance-related traditions) it is anything BUT a sport. Have you ever heard of a "violin world champion" or a "ballet world champion"? We didn't think so... (at least not without having a good laugh.) But we do think that associating tap dance with sports, however remotely, amounts to more than showing ignorance of the very nature of tap, it is nothing short of an insult to the memory of those African pioneers who found the strength and courage to survive something as unspeakable as slavery while inventing something as inspiring and uplifting as tap dancing and jazz music...