Canadian Gold?

What is a sport?

Recently, the International Olympic Committee made bridge an "attraction sport" to be demonstrated in the days prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. While the World Bridge Federation is enthused at the prospect of seeing one of its own paper jockies honoured with the same medal that someone who trekked thrice across miles of snow in the bitter cold to shoot at five distant targets, some athletes are not.

Some argue that bridge, along with all board and card games should not be considered sports. Obviously, bridge doesn’t involve any kind of injury risk, or physical fitness requirement other than being able to sit and move one’s hands and speak.

Those who treat bridge as a sport point to the strategy, communication and planning involved in winning at bridge and the strenuous mental tasks involved. In fact, the International Olympic Committee puts bridge on par with golf, rugby, and squash as sports waiting in the wings to become Olympic events.

While these arguments may have merit, we should take into account the modern definition of sport.

For most people, all modern activities that we collectively call sports can be broken down into some combination of three archetypes: a) making a usually round object go somewhere, b) moving oneself from point to point as quickly as possible, c) moving oneself artistically.

These activities are usually permutated in different ways. Perhaps with some kind of vehicle or in competition with other athletes. All are bound by a specific set of rules. There is also the requirement that the objective of the activity is largely not determined by randomness but by skill, and that performance can be enhanced through the use of certain legal or illegal substances.

From this, we can clearly see that basketball, horse jumping, and figure skating are sports, while politics, needlepoint, and flower-picking are not sports even though they meet the three criteria above. What distinguishes the second group from the first is the requirement of both physical and mental skill and endurance. Without those requirements, many activities, such as rocketry, data entry and animal husbandry could be considered sports. Even with those requirements, we do not consider garbage collection, catering, or forestry sports.

So where does that leave bridge?

Bridge is an activity where players often practice and train for years to understand the defenders, points, and sacrifices involved in mastering the manipulation of a deck of cards. The outcome involves as much a player’s strategy as it does his hand and understanding strategy and the other players. But, since it does not conform to the criteria above, and does not require any more physical skill than lifting cards, it is not a sport. In fact, the attributes above that would make bridge a sport would apply equally well to Magic®.

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