NascarDuring the weekend, there were several auto-racing events broadcast. While briefly paused on one of these broadcasts, NASCAR I believe, a commentator referred to auto-racing as a "sport". The comment struck a nerve; does auto-racing fit the definition of a sport?

I broadly define a sport as a skilled activity where the fundamental kinetic energy is produced by the participating athlete's muscles, with locomotion sometimes augmented by the effects of gravity.

Therefore, I argue that although professional auto-racing requires extraordinary physical fitness, focus and skill, a sport it is not.

Tony Kinoue remarks:

As an avid "motorsport" fan, I have to agree. I presume many fellow fans might find it offensive to say auto racing isn't a sport, but I believe it isn't.

A good way of classifying different activities as sports or not, is the risk you face when practicing them.

What would happen if a soccer player failed to score a goal? The ball would not enter the arbitrary area defined by general convention. May the L_rd save us all. The same can be applied to most sports that involve balls.

On the other hand, activities such as auto racing carry with them a much higher probability of mistakes resulting in serious injury or death. Boxing also comes to my mind as an example. Does this make them more or less of a sport than ball sports? I don't know, but to me they aren't sports.

And what about those "sports" that ESPN often broadcasts these days? Domino, poker, billiards. Lots of skill and strategy no doubt, but where's the risk? Monetary risk is a component in all sports described before these.

I'm not trying to imply one is better than another, but they are all certainly different.

Steve Leslie replies:

ESPN is Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Therefore just because some activity is shown on the channel does not define it as a sport.

If auto racing is not a sport then what category would it be? It is entirely impossible to compete in auto racing without a car. That is a given. So where does the driver and the team fit in? To be a driver one must have great endurance, maintain excellent physical skills, such as quick reactionary times, reflexes, excellent hand to eye coordination and other qualities. Further, the team must have great physical skills. There is plenty of picking up and moving heavy objects, tires are extremely heavy, pit stops must be performed in seconds and it must be coordinated in a fashion to ensure the shortest time spent in the pits. Strategy is essential. A pit stop is like running a play in football. There is vast preparation throughout the week, strategy sessions before and during the race and a few seconds to execute everything. Auto racing is most definitely a sport when seen in its entire context.

Poker, on the other hand is a game. There is hardly any physical activity required. Blind people and quadraplegics play the game. And it can be played online.

Other games as shown on ESPN are dominoes, scrabble, spelling bees…

Billiards, darts, bowling, curling, cricket and horseracing are definitely sports. They just happen to be more subtle than baseball, rugby, soccer, and the major sports — football, basketball and hockey.


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