A few months ago I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine who, like most everybody our age, loves to play golf. We were marveling about the guys on the PGA Tour. In addition to shot making talent (with nearly every club in the bag), possessing nerves of steel (especially when there are millions of people watching), being able to get out of terrible trouble (with no worse than a bogey - and usually a par) and the ability to play well in any kind of weather, the overall mental - and physical - toughness golfers must have in their game labels them elite athletes.
Along came another buddy of mine (who’s never played golf and definitely has no plans to pick it up in the near future) asked what we were talking about and when he heard, I thought we might have to call 911 he became so apoplectic. “What!!?!! You’re calling golfers athletes?” he screamed. After the other patrons were assured no physical harm was coming, I asked him who, exactly, he considered athletes.
His reply was similar to the one Justice Potter Stewart gave when he was asked to describe pornography: “I know it when I see it.” We discussed the topic for hours that day/night and brought up a zillion examples - tennis players, wrestlers, bowlers, ping pong players, archers, swimmers, synchronized swimmers, dart throwers, long distance runners, shot putters (and the other throwers), high, long and triple jumpers, cheerleaders, chess and checker players, spelling bee championships, you name it. If there was something in which score was kept or people competed, we added it to the argument. After all was said and done (and, believe me, more was said than done), we called a truce. I now realize that was four-five hours of my life I can never get back.
I recall reading a quote somewhere by Rhonda Rousey who became the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1992 as well as becoming the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. I don’t necessarily agree with her definition but would never tell her that. She has her definition and, until someone comes up with another, it’s illustrates what she does and her belief in it:
“If you don’t break a sweat doing it, it’s a skill. If you do break a sweat doing it, it’s a sport.”