Is Cheerleading a Sport? Discuss.

I know, I know – first blog of the year…should be something super inspirational mapping out the next twelve months of Gandhi-like activities.  OR, we could have a debate. 

Okay – just to appease anyone already feeling shafted.  The next twelve months will be much the same as the last twelve months, with a few exceptions.

* I will turn 40 in March.  I’m already planning my own surprise party.  Details to follow.
* I’m going to go to Burbank in April.  California.  Because when Denise invited me, she probably never thought I’d say yes.  Sucker.
* No trip to the Baltics this year – the folks are going to Alsaka (spelled wrong in honor of my pal, Jerri) and I will be on on guest pet duty.  Or doody.

Other than that – I suspect life to remain pretty much status quo as I hit a lot of tennis balls, hang out with friends and pretend Prince Charming is waiting right around the corner. 

There – now let’s get back to the important stuff.

Let’s face it – over the last decade or so, there have been some changes in the world of athletics.  Extreme Sports are everywhere.  Kick Boxing is spiking in popularity.  And Cheerleading has gone from being a gaggle of spirit ball toting barbies to being a competitive-I-really-meant-to-be-a-gymnast-athon.

My question – raised again last week by a debate that crossed state lines – is…when is something really a sport and when is it just an activity for athletes?

I’ve always claimed the existence of what I call “Dumbed Down Sports.”  Synchronized Swimming…Ice Dancing…Golf…Nascar…

Now, before you come back at me with darts of poison (did I mention Darts?), I’m now saying that the people who participate in these DDS’s aren’t athletic.  I have no doubt that a guy who spends the better part of the day driving in a circle at 150 plus miles per hour has to be in excellent shape.  Not so much for the driving in a circle part but for the part where he doesn’t want to crash, pee or starve.

And I’ve stood on ice skates before – it’s hard.  I get it.  I’m just saying that there a lot less sport in dancing together than there is in throwing your partner through the air, asking her to do a bunch of twirls and then land on her feet.

I think part of the problem is the Olympics. If you know me at all you know I have a severe case of OCD when it comes to the Olympics.  I plan my TV viewing months in advance – scoping out which channel is showing which event and when.  My DVR becomes a ballet of sorts (ballet…is that a sport?) as I schedule recordings to stop and start within milliseconds of each other. 

However, the IOC takes the liberty of dropping and adding sports willy nilly.  Without contacting me.  And some of there choices have left me a bit perplexed.  Most obviously, Curling.  Defined as “a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area.”  Well, hell, you may as well throw in shuffleboard as well – venues could be the local pubs, thus saving money and providing built in concession stands.

As it turns out – the IOC picks participating sports not based on the athletics of it – but on whether or not it is currently popular and well-practiced across the world.  Well, thanks IOC, for confirming my belief that the existence of Dumbed Down Sports is real.  I mean, that pretty much says Olympic Events are based on popularity, not difficulty level.

Some of the list of sports recognized by the IOC, but not contested in the games?
Air sports (um, like what?  Parachute raises?  I don’t think that would be a sport)

Bandy (Huh?)
Billiard sports (Again…shooting pool…DDS)
Bridge (Okay, really?)
Golf (will be part of the 2016 program)
Lifesaving (Important.  Though not a sport.  Though I would curious as to how the winner is determined.)
Pelota Vasca (I think I dated him)
Rugby (sevens will be part of the 2016 program)
Tug of war (Would LOVE to see this on TV)
Underwater sports (Again…would love to see how the winner is determined.  I’m assuming it’s the one who doesn’t drown)

Okay, let’s go to the dictionary…Webster please:
Sport: An active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition.

I’m not going to lie.  When I read this my immediate thought was – wait, where’s the part about a winner and a loser?  And jumps of triumph?  And tears of despair?   And broken records and new prodigies who will change the face of athletics?  What about rivalries and salary caps and play offs? Where do the training staffs, entourages and agents fit in? 

Because, when I read that definition – it really made ‘sport’ seem like a very basic thing.  It takes out all the hoopla and craziness and fanatical behavior.  Yes, competition is required – but there are certainly no guidelines on what makes it competitive – whether it’s a judge, a timer, a finish line – all kosher.

It almost points out that maybe, I’ve over thunk sports. 
Of course, that’s doubtful. 
I rarely over think anything. 
As proven by the previous 849 words.

But if sports are really defined as diversions (involving physical exertion and competition)…then maybe I’m the one that’s wrong. 

And, maybe cheerleading is a sport, after all?  That hurts.

And yet…in this picture…that popped up when I typed “Sport” into Google Images…I see no spirit balls.

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