What makes a real sport?

So much of the discussion surrounding advancing the new sport of obstacle racing is focused on the features of the sport that matter the least. It needs to be spectator-friendly, we need pro athletes, it needs to be on ESPN, et cetera. These, to me at least, do not define a sport. These things define a business, but that is another story for another time. 

A sport is something that gets you moving, developing as an athlete and as a person, that drives you to be better, and helps those around you to be better by your example. It develops such beneficial traits as courage, fighting spirit, unit cohesion, compassion, sportsmanship, and the list goes on. Making a sport professional degrades much of this.

Rather than pulling people off the sofa to participate, most pro sports pull people to the sofa to watch, and somehow convince them that the pros are so far ahead that it is not worth the effort to even try to emulate them. The athletes themselves often develop an oversize ego leading to behavior that no one should want to emulate. One needs only look at the physique of your average American football fan and the news stories surrounding way too many football players to see my point.

My argument against it being more spectator-friendly is a personal one. I love the obstacles deep in the woods that no one can see, the shit that you tell people about and they think you’re making it up.

“But no one can understand what I just went through” is the common complaint I get, and my reply is stolen from the Corn Fed Spartans: “If you want to understand, come run with us.”

“But they can’t televise it or put it in the Olympics if you can’t see anything!” Who can actually see every mile of the Ironman, or the Tour de France? There are already a number of Olympic events that end up with mobile cameramen following the lead racers.

The truest example of what a sport is, in my mind, can be found in those who ran the New York Marathon this year, after it had been cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. No cheer section, no official time, no medal, and no one will ever know about it. But the accomplishment is yours.

Heading to Japan tomorrow and running a 12-hour challenge as soon as I get home. So my next post should be off of these opinion pieces and back to what this blog was started for.

One thought on “What makes a real sport?

  1. Good point. And what must be remembered is that every sport has grass roots level, widespread participation. The kids, families and weekend warriors underpin any major sport. OCR has this. Sponsors, race organisers and competitive racers forget it at their peril.

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