Wednesday, 14 March 2012

#54: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

My second blog in less than 24 hours can mean only one thing: I currently have a lot of time on my hands. I've submitted a preliminary draft of my thesis to my committee and am currently awaiting feedback. In case you're interested, the gist of my thesis argues that 'committed and competitive recreational runners' display cognitive, emotional and behavioural characteristics that CAN and DO mimic various models of addiction/dependence... HOWEVER, due to the lack of pathology or conflict both short and long-term, their behaviours are better considered and conceptualized as 'Serious Leisure' pursuits which through perseverance, expending effort to acquire knowledge and skills, attaining durable benefits, building a leisure career, participating in a unique social world and ethos, and creating a personal and social identity ultimately adds meaning, value and significance to their lives. More details to follow...

So originally I planned to write about my declining faith in humanity (not that I had much to begin with) after getting all worked up after a quick scan of the headlines making news over the past couple of days... In no particular order here are a few articles that make me sad to be alive:

Rich kids with no sense of responsibility brutally killing and mutilating exotic animals.

The utterly despicable and unforgiveable reports from the Tori Stafford murder case.

An American soldier goes on a shooting spree in Afghanistan.

Squabbling politicians make a mockery of democracy.

And perhaps not surprisingly given the above: Apparently more and more Canadians are open to the idea of reinstating capital punishment.

...but then I was again given good reason to resume my topic of yesterday on the concept of sport.

So, what is sport?!

From Wikipedia: Sport is all forms of competitive physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Hundreds of sports exist, from those requiring only two participants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. Sport is generally recognised as activities which are based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity, with the largest major competitions such as the Olympic Games admitting only sports meeting this definition. However, a number of competitive, but non-physical, activities claim recognition as mind sports. The International Olympic Committee recognises both chess and bridge as bona fide sports.

Here is the definition of sport as used by government: “Sport is a regulated form of physical activity organized as a contest between two or more participants for the purpose of determining a winner by fair and ethical means. Such contests may be in the form of a game, match, race or other form of event.”

A sport has the following characteristics:

a) It involves, where repetition of standardized or required movements or forms are included in competition, a high degree of difficulty, risk or effort in such reproduction;
b) It involves two or more participants in its competitive mode, engaging for the purpose of competitively evaluating their personal performance;
c) It involves formal rules and procedures to ensure a safe and fair outcome for all participants;
d) It requires fair, ethical and effective tactics or strategies;
e) It requires specialized neuromuscular and cardiovascular skills (such as speed, strength, stamina, flexibility, balance, precision and coordination) that include significant involvement of large muscle groups, and that can be taught, learned and improved;
f) It requires the development of coaching personnel trained in both general subjects such as bio-mechanics, sport psychology, nutrition, group dynamics, physiology, etc., and in the specific skills of the sport;
g) It is, or has been, traditionally regarded as a sport in its competitive mode;
h) Its primary activity involves interaction between the participant and the environment (air, water, ground, floor or special apparatus). No activity in which the performance of a motorized vehicle is the primary determinant of the outcome of the competition is eligible in this program (e.g. racing automobiles, powerboats, aircraft or, snow machines).

So what does this all mean?! Simply, there is no short answer as to what counts as sport. There are lots of definitions just as there are lots of kinds and types of sports. Here, I am generally talking about competetive and high performance sport (think the Olympics and World Championships). Others, such as youth and amateur sport stress development of key skills and attributes and exist for very different reasons. Grassroots sport is a popular phrase which covers the amateur participation in sport at lower levels, normally without pretension towards higher achievement, and is in line with the "sport for all" mentality, where enjoyment is the primary reason for participation.

With regard to handicapped sports, I argue it's unjust to give handicaps because it penalizes someone for their speed/strength/stamina by rewarding those who don't (relatively speaking). It goes against the fundamental definition of sport as a contest to determine a winner by ethical means. Determining the winner must be based on an evaluation of their performance and that performance is dependent on specialized neuromuscular and cardiovascular skills. By giving handicaps, it alters the competitive nature of sport and doesn't reward athletes based on absolute skill or ability, but rather on relative ability. It essentially boils down to an equal opportunity for anyone and everyone to win. If everyone wins, it's not a sport. In sport, there is a winner and a loser (or lots of losers...).

And sure, one could easily argue about the arbitrary nature of sport: what rules exist and for what purpose. To me, sport is only as arbitrary as time, distance, and even language. Sure we just made it all up, but it serves a specific and important purpose. Importantly, sport is about competition and comparing one's abilities over another. It is about determining the best from the almost best and yes, that means a whole lot of losers! Increasing participation, fairness, enjoyment and the excitement of sport are important initiatives, but they are divorced and secondary from the primary goal: the determination of excellence.

Note this isn't an answer. It just creates more questions. Becoming a better writer, and indeed a better thinker, means being challenged on your ideas and defending them...sometimes abandoning them, when needed. As a participant of sport, I constantly question the validity and merits of my behaviours; the ethical and moral implications; the physical, emotional and social consequences. Ultimately the question becomes: why do we participate in sport and why does it matter?

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