|Banks County Opinions...||
May 23, 2001
By Todd Simons
The Banks County News
May 23, 2001
Eating glass is cool, but I don't think it's a sport
I had never been to a rodeo, but when I was a kid I did try to ride my dog's back, hoping it would suddenly buck my weight high into the air and I'd grab the hair on the back of its neck just to hang on.
I've watched rodeos on television and vicariously risked life and limb, and I guess that is what the rodeo is about: romanticized risk. The most romantic of all the events at a rodeo is the bull riding. Like most things romantic, on some level it appears crazy.
The event begs for the sportswriter's often-asked question, the question that justifies our jobs. What is a sport? Is rodeo any more a sport than wrestling is? Is it as much of a sport as what Evel Knievel did? If sport simply requires athletic ability, then aren't the guys who do underwater welding participating in a sport? If it is that you work really hard and risk your life, then aren't those Kentucky coal miners the greatest of athletes?
If rodeo cowboys wore less earth tones and more fuchsia they would be on the X-games. The X-games are a display of the genius of Disney, which owns ESPN, which took activities that are risky and take athleticism and made them into sports by having people judge them and giving names to moves. But a man that can ride a bull is much more worthy of my admiration than a kid doing an inverted tirly-wode on the half pipe.
As far as admiration goes, I also think more highly of the bull rider, the bulldogging cowboy or the bronco buster than I do Evel Knievel jumping over buses or canyons. Something about the exploits of engines seems contrived.
For that matter, is drag racing a sport? Isn't drag racing more about mastering engineering skills? Won't the best mechanic win out over the best driver? I know little about drag racing, I'll admit (I'm sure my drag racing education is a future column), but as far as I can tell one has an instant of athleticism in drag racing. When the amber light goes off and the green light goes on, you must send a signal from eye to brain to foot and that is eye-hand coordination and that is athleticism. After that the driver holds on and points straight.
The same for Evel Knievel. Guts can win poker games and street fights, but there is a certain skill needed to hit a curve ball and just having the guts to stand in there and let it break isn't enough to get the ball out of the infield. Having the guts to stand in front of a 280-pound linebacker won't keep him off the quarterback.
Cheerleading is an often-argued example. Cheerleading used to be what girls did before it was ladylike to participate in sports. Now girls play fast-pitch softball and field hockey. Girls aren't restricted to acting ladylike any more. The Victorian ideas of grace are gone, or at least going. We walk in between in many ways, but discussion of cultural norms and their influence on athletics can't be reasonably taken on here.
The point is that sport is entertainment. Sport is an athletic endeavor. Sport is something that takes determination to be good. Everything I have mentioned above, therefore, is a sport.
Is bowling entertaining? Like golf, it is entertaining to watch somebody be good at something that you have tried to be good at. More than half of the males in America at one time thought "I can be a good basketball player. I'm going to run and shoot and work on my dribbling." Now that is long forgotten and we watch Allen Iverson, who is actually shorter than me, and think, "Could I have run enough, shot enough, dribbled enough to be that good?"
Probably not. But I was the best damn Weimaraner rider in Georgia for that one summer in 1984. I grabbed her neck and slapped her rear and she just sat down and rolled over until I fell off and then she jumped her front paws on my chest and licked my face and jumped back thinking that what I wanted to do was chase her. So I chased her and wrestled her to the ground and tried to hold her feet in the air like I had seen cowboys do.
I'm from Texas. I knew what cowboys did. I never owned a horse or rode a bull, but there was a time when I thought that someday I might be good at that.
We appreciate sports because we have tried them. We envy athletes who have accomplished something we wish we could have done. If we have never tried it or never taken a close look at the skills needed, then it is impossible to appreciate any activity. Appreciation makes sport. If you don't appreciate what athletes are doing, then baseball players are just throwing balls at each other and NASCAR is about a bunch of people driving in circles.
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