The Tragedy of Non-Sport Games

The problems and limitions of “Non-Sport” games became apparent again over the last few days in the imbroglio over the Men’s Gymnastic All Around competiton and the problematic judging at some other events. Those of you who read (and who doesn’t) Scott’s Blog regularly will be familiar with my definition of sports from this article and you will know that Gymnastics is not a sport. Not because it is not athletic, it most assuredly is, but because the outcome is never decided on the field of play.

When these games become hotly contested and worth big money to the contestants and countries involved, the likelihood of political influence in the outcome increases exponentially. Certainly real sports are prone to cheating and scandals as well, but because the major portion of the outcome is determined on the field the possibilities of political influence in the outcome are reduced.

The current scandal is merely a repeat of the preposterous goings on in women’s figure skating two years ago in the Winter Olympics. Agreements among judges about who will win is really only possible in the non-sport judged games and it is my belief that these scandals will increase in both their magnitude and frequency until these so called sports collapse on themselves.

This will be good because, at their heart, these games are elitist. The average person in the crowd knows who won the soccer match but can’t possibly know who won the pommel horse. Only the elite, highly trained eye of the judge can tell who won. “Trust me,” says the judge, “you are not qualified, but my highly trained senses have made it possible for me to determine the best performance to a 100th of a point”.

This means that the athlete must reject the crowd, because he or she must perform for the judge. The games become then not about the crowd or the athlete but, in a perverse way, about the judges. The people with the talent (athletes) become less important than the mandrins who rule the game. This is simply not sport.