Making the case for borderline sports

Khanh Dao, Staff Writer

As an Asian household, my family never misses watching Asiad. It’s essentially Asia’s Olympics, in which countries from all over the continent gather to compete in swimming, gymnastics, soccer, and the like. This year, however, eSports was included as a demonstration sport for the first time ever.
“That’s not a real sport!” my dad scoffed as the TV screen switched from soccer to Pro Evolution Soccer. It was a big move for eSports advocates, but for many like my dad, it was stretching the very definition of sports.
I didn’t argue with my dad because according to the English Oxford Dictionary, a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” However, I realized that this was just how people have defined things in the past, when world-class tournaments for video games, board games, and other disciplines that involve little to no physical exertion simply did not exist. While professionals in non-athletic disciplines are not athletes, they nonetheless dedicate themselves to rigorous training to be competent. Choosing to exclusively celebrate athletes as sportsmen, therefore, only puts disproportionate emphasis on physical fitness when mental fitness is equally important to our health.
The most up-to-date criteria for a sport, therefore, should accept any form of “exertion and skill.” Sure, it’s not how people have traditionally defined sports, but tradition is subject to change. Dance, for example, had been categorized as an art until its competitive form emerged.
Is this just a way to be more inclusive? Yes. In fact, it’s so inclusive Jeopardy could qualify as a sport. But let us put things in perspective. Our culture is one that glorifies sports, so much so that disciplines not recognized as sports are almost subordinate. To those who feel as though what they do is not celebrated because others don’t call it a sport, remember that “sports” is just a category, not a validation.