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"Sport, or not a sport' summer Olympics edition

This just in from the Beijing summer Olympics: India now dominates the world in the grueling and demanding sport of ... air rifle.

What's next for the planet's second-most populous nation? A badminton juggernaut?

(Just kidding. India is actually quite competitive in several real sports, such as cricket, which no one understands but which involves throwing a ball and therefore must be a sport.)

Clearly, it's time for another rousing installment of that biennial, fan-favorite feature, "Sport, or Not a Sport?" Basically, the premise is that some of the Olympic "games" are just that - games, and not sports at all. (Note: this feature is also a lot of fun during the winter Olympics. Think


To be a sport, an activity must require a fair amount of physical exertion. Bodily contact with other participants, in which one or both are likely to become injured, is a plus. Using a ball also helps.

Conversely, an activity cannot be a sport if it involves standing in one place, can be performed well by anyone over the age of 50 or allows participants to wear slacks.

Obviously, by those standards, air rifle belongs in the "Not a Sport" category. Badminton, on the other hand, despite my disparaging comment above, is actually a sport - at least, when it's played by highly skilled athletes. For the rest of us, it's just a way to kill time while the weenies roast.

Let's look at some of the other so-called "sports" on the agenda at this year's summer Games:

Shooting: Whether the projectiles in question are pellets or real bullets, this is definitely not a sport. An exception would be if someone is shooting back, or if the target is a large, angry carnivore standing less than 20 feet away.

Rhythmic gymnastics: I was tempted not to list this as a sport - it's much more like ballet than like regular gymnastics, after all - until I noticed that participants sometimes use balls. Call it a sport.

Equestrian: I know I'm going to make a lot of people angry when I say that riding horses is not a sport. Heck, it's not even a game. It's more of a pastime. Now riding a large, angry carnivore - That would be a sport.

Fencing: I'm tempted not to call this a sport, either, but I'm not sure I want to anger people who carry swords. Then again, what the heck. I've already ticked off the rifle crowd. Tell you what: take off the padded suits and we'll call it a sport.

Women's beach volleyball: This is either a sport or a Victoria's Secret catalog photo shoot. Hard to tell, sometimes.

Basketball: Although traditionally a sport, so far this summer it's been more like a Monday morning power walk around the shopping mall for the U.S. men's and women's teams.

Hey, bring on Team India.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at