Every time the Olympics roll around and I’m confronted with spectacles like ice dancing (winter) and synchronized swimming (summer), I wonder just who decides what a sport is.
It’s not the International Olympic Committee; they’re only in charge of deciding what sports are in the Olympics and taking bribes from cities that want to host them.
But who determines what activities are sports in the first place? I mean, you just can’t go around calling anything a sport. Otherwise you could end up with people playing billiards in loud, skin-tight uniforms. That would be silly.
Fortunately, there is an organization called the Global Association of International Sports Federations (because the International Association of International Sports Federations would sound ridiculous) that is in charge of determining what is a sport.
Unfortunately, the GAISF seems to have a problem differentiating between a sport and a game. As proof of this, it includes the aforementioned billiards in its list of sports.
GAISF’s membership also includes many sports I’ve never heard of, like (and I’m not making any of these up): bandy, dragon boating, icestock, and just about any nonsensical game anyone has ever created involving a round object, such as korfball, floorball, netball, sepaktakraw (a combination of volleyball and soccer pictured at left–and that net is not on the ground) and fistball, which, for all I know, is a combination of basketball and boxing.
The GAISF even has a sport called casting, which is fishing without the fish. Or the water. Really. It’s a bunch of people standing around on dry land with fishing poles. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
But evidently, there still aren’t enough sports in the world, because new ones are being nominated all the time. For instance, one potential sport currently under consideration is Foosball.
You may be thinking, “But that’s crazy. How would each country choose which little people are good enough to hang from the rods?”
Well, you’re getting ahead of yourself. Before a meta-sport even thinks about international competition, it has to be recognized. And, in order for that to happen, it has to have an international federation and a sporty-sounding name. Which is why Foosball’s petition for sportshood came from the International Table Soccer Federation.
I bet you didn’t know that Chandler and Joey have been playing table soccer all these years. Maybe they can try out for the Olympic team.
But it’s not a sure thing that Foosball will become a sport. It’s going to have to fight off other contenders, such as foot golf.
What the hell is foot golf, you ask? Well, it’s almost exactly what you’re imagining. There are no clubs; you just kick the ball. And it’s not a golf ball; it’s a soccer ball. Oh, yeah, and you sink a putt into a hole that’s about the size of a sink. This is a real thing. The only way it could sound dumber is if there was a goalie. Or a holie.
Considering that regular golf was just reinstated to the Olympics in 2016 after an absence of 112 years (after a major scandal when 1904 Gold Medalist George Lyon [pictured at right] was nearly disqualified due to a non-regulation pocket handkerchief), it seems unlikely that foot golf will appear anytime soon. Frisbee golf, on the other hand, or some disk-based sport that is not discus throwing, may soon be on the way.
That brings me to two more not-quite-sports actually under consideration by the GAISF. One of them, believe it or not, is poker. My first reaction upon hearing this was: if I’ve been playing a possible Olympic sport every other Thursday night for 30 years, I should be in much better shape. My second thought was that the guys at my game would test positive for whatever the opposite of a performance-enhancing substance is.
But, alas, the poker nominated for sportsdom is not regular old poker; it’s match poker, and, according to the International Federation of Match Poker website, it’s a “mind-sport of strategic skill.” It’s also a team sport that does not involve gambling and uses “digital technology.” In other words, it’s multi-player video poker. Which means there is no physical activity whatsoever–not even so much as picking up real playing cards. That can’t be a sport, right? I mean, a sport has to require you to at least move, doesn’t it? Not only is this not a sport, it’s barely poker. The only reason it’s even remotely poker-like is that it is somehow based on Texas Hold’em.
Personally, I think the use of the term “mind-sport” should automatically disqualify Match Poker from sportsiosity. Because that means you’d have to include chess, checkers, Go, and so on.* And I do not want to have to sit through Bob Costas covering the Olympic Monopoly competition.
There’s one more thing the GAISF has on its agenda, and I’ve saved the best for last.
It has actually been granted “observer status,” which is the first step in becoming a sport, but which is frankly the status that pole dancing has had since it was invented. Except in places where touching is allowed.
And, that, dear reader, explains the title of this post.
See you soon.
*Frighteningly, chess, Go and checkers are GAISF members, so they are, technically, sports, although checkers is referred to as “draughts,” and is represented by the World Draughts Federation which, for some unexplained reason, has the acronym FMJD.