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What is - and isn't a sport

By Doug Gorman

We often have good-natured debate around our newsroom as to if certain activities can truly be defined as a sport and even if the men and women who participate in them are athletes.

Here is my take on the subject.

Auto racing: Yes, racing is most certainly is a sport. Although most of my racing experience centers around covering NASCAR and other stockcar events, the competitive nature of the drivers I have been around leaves little doubt that racing fits all the elements to satisfy the definition of the word sport.

The last few laps of any race are intense, nail-biting experiences. I still remember the excitement generated by Dale Earnhardt's race to the wire for victory against Bobby Labonte in 2000 during the spring event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Even at Thursday Thunder, AMS' summer racing series there is enough intensity to show racing fits the definition of the word sport as drivers compete for a division points championship.

Some say drivers aren't athletes, I say yes they are.

It takes a lot of skill, endurance and hand-eye coordination to maneuver a car around a track at a high rate of speed.

Golf: I'm always surprised there is ever any room for discussion when it comes to golf's place in the sports word. Golf might be the toughest sport to master. Thousands of people play golf, few playing it really well.

Hitting a golf ball straight on a regular basis is one of the toughest things to do in sports. Some life-long golfers never master this yet they continue to enjoy the challenge of trying to tame their favorite course.

I also put golfers, especially those who play it on one of the pro tours in the category of an athlete. The Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson and Annika Sorenstams of the PGA and LPGA tours are gifted in their chosen sports the way Michael Jordan was skilled at basketball.

Fishing: Okay, we will need a little give and take here. Fishermen aren't athletes, at least when it comes to wetting a line, but those who spend hours trying to hook that trophy bass are engaging in a sport. I can't think of a better way to relax then going out on the water and letting your cares drift away.

My Grandfather loved fishing and once wrote me a letter after I had caught my first fish as a 5-year old.

He didn't care that it was a small little bream, caught out of a man-made pond, he was just glad I had been introduced to a sport he loved.

Some of my fondest summer memories were fishing with my Granddad and later fishing with other family members at our lake home in Tennessee.

For the record, I also think bowling is a sport and those on the pro tour are athletes.

Chess, while a great game of strategy and skill, and something I have never mastered, isn't a sport.

Dog shows, while often televised on one of the popular cable stations, also isn't a sport.

Also, billiards, ping-pong and darts are great recreation room games, and it takes skill to play them well, but I don't know if they are sports.

Then again, what do I know?

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. His column appears on Fridays. He can be e-mailed at dgorman@news-daily.com).