An acquaintance from former times would assert that he believed that an activity could only be considered a sport if it could be undertaken wearing tweed. While it was a comment that would always prompt smiles among those hearing it, there was always a suspicion that he was being serious. A young fogey, he delighted in wearing a tweed cap and jacket and corduroy trousers, dressing as P.G. Wodehouse’s character Bertie Wooster might have done when invited for a round of golf or to a shoot.
If the wearing of tweed was the criterion for an activity to be considered sporting, then sport was the type of leisure that might be pursued by readers of “Country Life” magazine. The definition of sport would definitely have included hunting and shooting and fishing. Equestrian activity would be possible for the tweed wearer. Horse racing might demand silks for a professional jockey, but a country gentleman might have ridden in point-to-point in a sports jacket and bowler hat.
Among other sports, golf would have been on the list, and bicycling would have been a possibility; as would the racing of motor cars. Anything demanding the wearing of shorts would have been excluded from his idea of sport. He was persuaded that ski-ing was possible, but insisted that it could not be considered if it meant wearing luridly coloured, skin-tight body suits. Indoors, snooker would have seemed a natural sporting activity, although he would probably have thought billiards to be a more appropriate activity for the tweed-clad gentleman. He never mentioned darts.
Definitions of sport vary, but if strong athletic skills are required, how many activities considered to be sporting are really sports?
Watching the athleticism, speed and agility of England’s World Cup-winning cricketers this past week, and the extraordinary physical powers of Geraint Thomas as he rides the Tour de France, there seems a gulf between such activity and that of those walking around a seaside golf course.
In the 1970s there was a television series called “Superstars” in which sportsmen from various backgrounds would compete in various races and tests of strength. (On the first episode I saw, boxer Joe Frazier stepped onto a bicycle and pushed down on the pedals with such force that he snapped the chain). It was obvious in those programmes that golfers did not possess the physical strength to compete with the other competitors.
So if sport is not about speed, strength or agility, what is it about? If darts and snooker are considered to be sport, then is the definition about physical dexterity? Is the potential for wearing tweed the real test?