Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Is Sport?

First a definition. What is Sport? Sport is a competition between two or more people or teams. Sport can be decided by honest competitors without the use of judges. For example, golf is a sport. Ballet dancing is not a sport. Ballet dancers are in much better physical condition than golfers, and I'd rather watch Ashley Bouder perform with the New York City Ballet than John Daly throwing his back out driving the ball. That still doesn't make ballet a sport.

Let's take a look now at the events in the Summer Olympics and we'll decide which are sports and which are not:

Archery - Sport. Who can put an arrow or five closest to the center of the target? Easy pick.

Track and Field - Sport. All Field events are sports. Who throws farther, jumps higher, or runs faster? another easy pick. All racing events, THAT ARE HUMAN POWERED, are sports. sorry NASCAR and Indy series, you're out of luck. Sailing? We'll get to you in a minute.

Badminton - Sport. But you do that at your summer picnics? How could it be a sport? Simple, two sides competing in an event that is decided by points and is not judged for style or performance.

Basketball - Sport. Two teams. Two baskets. One Ball.

Boxing - Mixed. Tricky one here. Boxing is a sport if the result comes by way of Knockout, one participant quits or his corner throws in the towel. Otherwise...NOT a sport. If a boxing result is decided by judges scorecards it's no better than a beauty pageant.

Canoeing/Kayaking - Sport. Who can paddle fastest.

Cycling Road Racing and Mountain Biking - Sport. Road racing and Mountain biking are both sports. You get on the bike and pedal faster than the other competitors.

Cycling BMX - Not a Sport. BMX is not a sport. It's fun to watch, but you win by getting the most points from the judges. Thus, not a sport.

Diving - Not a Sport. No ifs ands or buts. It's judged. Not a sport.

Equestrian Dressage - Not a Sport. Fun to watch, but while it is a timed event, it is also judged.

Equestrian Jumping - Sport. Horses are taken through a course with a series of jumps set up and finishing places are determined by a combination of fastest time and fewest faults on the course.

Equestrian Eventing - Not a Sport. This event combines Jumping (Sport), Cross Country (Sport), and Dressage (Not a Sport).

Fencing - Sport. This event is scored using sensors worn on the body to determine 'touches'.

Football (We Yanks, correctly, call this Soccer) - Sport. As much as it grieves me to say. Not my sport, but sport nonetheless.

Gymnastics - Not a Sport. If you need further explanation of this I'm happy to oblige. If you count gymnastics as a sport then I challenge you to deny American idol a spot at the opening ceremonies. At least the American idol judges are entertaining. If the North Korean judge can cost you a medal with his low score you are not competing in a sport.

Handball - Sport. Just two teams, a ball, and two goals. Sound familiar?

Field Hockey - Sport. Again with the two teams, a ball and two goals bit.

JudoMixed . Usually a sport. Most of the time. Another tough call because it is judged. How about bouts ending with submission are sport, and bouts that go to the judges scorecards are not sport?

Modern Pentathlon - Sport. Running, swimming, shooting, fencing, and ride a horse? For sure this is sport.

Rowing - Sport. Humans using their bodies to propel a machine across the water? Winner has the fastest time? Sport.

Sailing - Not a Sport. Counter Intuitive? I know. I'll explain. The event is between two or more people or teams? Check. It can be decided between honest competitors without going to the judges scorecards? Check. It is human powered? Not on your life! So? Not a sport.

Shooting - Sport. See Archery.

Swimming - Sport. See Track and Field.

Synchronized Swimming - Not a Sport. The event is judged. If you include this you might as well include the NBA slam dunk competition as an Olympic event.

Table Tennis - Sport. Just like tennis, on a table. Call your own lines guys.

TaekwondoMixed. See Boxing and Judo.

Tennis - Sport. See Table Tennis.

Volleyball - Sport. In the words of George Carlin "Racket less team ping-pong played with an inflated ball and a raised net while standing on the table." Or in the case of beach volleyball, the sand box.

Water Polo - Sport. See Hand Ball.

Weightlifting - Sport. Lift more than your competitor? Check. Sport.

WrestlingMixed. See Taekwondo, Judo, and Boxing.

So that's it. A total of 32 events in the Summer Olympics. 19 sports, 7 non-sports, and 4 mixed events. The London 2012 Olympics run from July 27, 2012 to August 12, 2012.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Top 5 Sports Movies of Ever

Wow! This was so much harder to put together than I thought it was going to be. I finally got it put together, and I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to take me to task in the comments section if one of your favorites didn't crack the top five.


5. Eight Men Out

Directed by John Sayles and starring John Cusack, Clifton James and Michael Lerner.

Before Pete Rose, there was the 1919 Chicago White Sox. The best team of their day, with an owner who thinks money looks better in his pocket than the players. A collection of gamblers get together and arrange to pay key members of the team to lose in the World Series. An ensemble cast including John Cusack, Charlie Sheen,  and DB Sweeney among others.

Most of what I know about the Black Sox scandal I learned from this movie. From Comiskey underpaying, and in some cases cheating his players, to the players relationships with mobsters. A fascinating period not just in baseball but in the sports culture of the United States. So many far reaching changes occurred because of this scandal and it's aftermath.

For myself the enduring image of this movie is Bucky Weaver (played by John Cusack) sitting in the stands watching a banned Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney) playing under a different name in a minor league  baseball game in New Jersey.

4. Hoosiers

Directed by David Anspaugh and starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper.

Gene Hackman plays a newly hired high school basketball coach in Indiana in the 1950's. He's returning to coaching after a 12 year hiatus where he served in the Navy. He works to install a different system than the kids in the school are used to playing. Dennis Hopper plays an alcoholic former high school star who's son plays on the the team. The movie is about perseverance and finishing what you start.

Ollie McClellan: When do we scrimmage?
Coach Dale: We don't scrimmage, No shooting either.
Ollie McClellan: That aint no fun.
Coach Dale: My practices aren't designed for your enjoyment

Coach Dale: Where are you going? 
Rade: in the game 
Coach Dale: Sit down.
Rade: What do you mean? You gotta have five out there!
Coach Dale: Sit down! Sit!
Referee: Coach you need one more.
Coach Dale: My team's on the floor.

The scene where Hackman tells the referee that the four players on the floor are his team is one of my favorites of all time.

3. Tin Cup

Directed by Ron Shelton and starring Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, and Cheech Marin.

After being embarrassed by his old college teammate, driving range pro Roy McAvoy qualifies for the US Open, but will his all or nothing attitude end up costing him everything?

Cheech Marin makes this movie special. Every scene that he's in is worth watching. About half the scenes that he's not in are worth watching too and that lands this movie on this list. Cheech Marin plays McAvoy's friend, partner, mentor, and caddy. I shouldn't be suprised to find Marin and Don Johnson together here. Tin Cup came out around the time that they both were in Nash Bridges.

Romeo: Your brain was getting in the way.
McAvoy: Well that's hardly ever been the case.

McAvoy: I need to rise to the level of women who think I'm a joke.

McAvoy: Greatness courts failure

2. Waterboy

Directed by Frank Coraci and starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, and Henry Winkler.

After 18 years of being a water boy, Bobby Boucher discovers a talent for playing football that he didn't know he possessed.

Favorite Parts:
All scenes with Farmer Fran. I stole all of my dance moves from him.
Bobby's mama dancing behind Vicki Vallencourt and Lynn Swann in the sideline interview.
Bobby Boucher's first day at practice. Especially the double eye poke. "Captain Insano shows no mercy."
Coach Klein's Roy Orbison tattoo.
Coach Klein diagramming a play and having a nervous breakdown. "The QB fakes left, no he fakes right, no, he doesn't fake, he thinks about faking, he pretends to fake...I don't know where I am. I can't breath."
Lawrence Taylor's football camp.
Lee Corso and Chris Fowler announcing the Muddogs last game before the Bourbon Bowl.
Corso - Here we see Boucher instantly penetrating the pocket
Fowler - There's a lot of pain and shame in those eyes.
Corso - It's all over
QB Boucher tackles (offscreen) - My leg!
Fowler - Wow, that is a disturbing image.
Coach Klein in high heels after Red Beaulieu steals his playbook.
Klein (flashback. With perm, phone receiver unplugged from the base, and womens high heel shoes.) - No Grandma, I didn't get it. I can't believe it myself. I'm so numb. I just hate him, I hate him, I hate him!

I don't know if there are any life lessons to be learned by watching Waterboy. It's more like grabbing a candy bar from the impulse buy rack next to the cash register. You'll feel guilty for getting it, but your day will feel better. At least mine does

1. Bull Durham

Directed by Ron Shelton and starring Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins.

The Raleigh Durham Bulls minor league baseball team signs a veteran catcher to help a rookie pitcher harness his talent and make it to the major leagues. This movie has some of the best lines of all time.

Annie Savoy - I believe in the church of baseball.
Crash Davis - See you at the yard meat!
Crash Davis - ...Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring, besides that they're fascist. Throw some ground balls, it's more democratic.
Crash Davis - Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show you can let the fungus grow back on you shower shoes and the press will think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show however, it means you're a slob.
Crash Davis - ...You just got lesson number one: don't think, you can only hurt the ball club.
Crash Davis - The rose goes in the front big guy.

More than just a comedy. There's a poignancy that surrounds Crash's realization that it's time for him to hang up the cleats and find something else to do with his life. The older I get the more this theme comes through for me.

Honorable Mentions

Happy Gilmore
Caddy Shack
The Legend of Bagger Vance
North Dallas Forty
Friday Night Lights
The Natural