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Some Thoughts About Figure Skating Costumes


My colleague Jim Caple recently ran a column in which he asked members of the U.S. Olympic figure skating and ice dancing teams how they’d feel about wearing a standardized Team USA uniform, instead of the costumes they usually wear.

This is a subject that Jim and I have discussed quite a bit over the years — once in an debate and several times amongst ourselves via email. But while it’s fun to debate and speculate, Jim’s recent column was the first time I’ve seen anyone ask the skaters what they think.

Although a couple of the skaters Jim queried were open to the idea of wearing uniforms, most of them were against it. And some of their reasons were very revealing. Here are the anti-uniform quotes — most of which are actually pro-costume quotes — from the skaters in Jim’s piece:

“[W]e costume ourselves to the story we’re telling or the art we’re performing.” — Jeremy Abbott

“[T]he costumes are what make our sport unique. We bring an artistry to the sport by wearing costumes and, with the music, that makes it more exciting to watch.” — Marissa Castelli

“It’s all about the whole package — from the hair and the makeup to the outfits and the music to the personality and the emotion you bring.” — Simon Shnapir

“I personally think [uniforms] would be a huge drawback from the performance. There’s no denying that figure skating as a whole and ice dance in particular are [as] much based on performance as on athletics. I don’t think figure skating sport [would be the same] without the performance, without the glitz and the glamour.” — Meryl Davis

“I think in theater it is very much the same thing. In theater, a lot of times you use your outfit to get the story across. And that’s certainly what I feel like we’re doing. We’re not just trying to look nice, we’re really trying to be the characters we’re trying to embody.” — Charlie White

Hmmm — artistry, theater, glitz, glamour, storytelling. Those are all perfectly valid terms, and they do indeed seem to be central to figure skating’s ethos, and even its scoring rules, which are completely subjective and include grades for “Composition and Choreography” and “Interpretation and Timing.” All of which reinforces a simple point I’ve been making for years (and feel obliged to make again, now that the winter Olympics are taking place):

Figure skating is not a sport.

At this point I think it would be useful to shift into virtual-dialogue mode:

What do you mean figure skating isn’t a sport?! You’re just trying to marginalize skaters by implying that they’re not athletes. But skating is totally athletic!

Agreed — figure skating is a very athletic activity. So is ballet dancing, and most other forms of dancing for that matter. But ballet isn’t a sport, and neither is figure skating.

That’s apples and oranges, because ballet dancers don’t compete against each other, they don’t have winners and losers, and so on. Skating has all of that — that’s why it’s a sport.

Having winners and losers makes skating a competition, not a sport. Lots of things are competitions but not sports: ballroom dancing contests, battles of the bands, chess tournaments, American Idol, video games, fantasy baseball leagues, Uni Watch design contests, bake-offs, and so on. At least one of those things is athletic, but none of those things is a sport, and neither is figure skating.

So how do you define the difference between a competition and a sport?

To me, it’s not a sport unless (a) it involves athletic prowess and (b) there’s an objective scoring system. Go the fastest, score the most points, lift the heaviest weight, etc.

But figure skating totally meets that standard. The winning skater is the one with the most points!

Yeah, but those points are awarded according to an inherently subjective system, and involve things like “interpretation” and “composition,” which are inherently subjective concepts. Judging a figure skating performance is like judging an essay contest (which is another example of something that’s a competition but not a sport).

All sports officiating is subjective. That’s why we have so many controversies about blown calls, bad refs, and all the rest.

Although sports officiating can be subjective, most sports’ officiating standards are objective. The controversies only ensue when an official gets something objectively wrong. Think of it this way: Every single ball that’s hit in a baseball game is either fair or foul. Now, the umpires may miss the call on some of those balls, but it doesn’t change the fact that every single ball truly is either fair or foul. We know, objectively, what constitutes a fair ball (i.e., a ball hit on or between the foul lines), and a ball that doesn’t meet those conditions is, by definition, foul. Similarly, every shot on goal in a hockey game is either a goal (i.e., it has completely crossed the goal line) or it’s not. How the officials observe and adjudicate the situations may vary, but the standards are simple and straightforward: 10 yards is a first down; breaking the plane is a touchdown; a pitch in the strike zone (which is an objectively defined zone, although umpires often choose to disregard that definition) is a strike; and so on.

By comparison, figure skating rules rely on nebulous standards that are inherently subject to interpretation. Consider: In many sports, we can now use instant replay to review a questionable call. But how would you do that with figure skating? The answer, of course, is that you can’t, because there’s no way to review a skater’s composition or interpretation like you can review a fair/foul call or whether the ground caused a fumble.

But they do use replay in figure skating! For example, they check to see whether a skater landed on the inside or outside skate edge when landing from a jump.

Right. But there’s no way to have replay for things like composition or interpretation of the music, which are a big part of the judging. Those elements play into the costuming, which is why we’re discussing this in the first place.

But other sports have nebulous officiating standards too, like the penalty for pass interference in football, or virtually any penalty in hockey.

Fair point. But those standards, while subjective, aren’t the core of their respective sports’ rules. In figure skating, the main premise of the scoring is subjective!

The idea that the scoring is based in part on how well you match your skating to the music seems particularly ridiculous, and not just because of the subjectivity. Consider: What if there were a really great figure skater who happened to be deaf? Would he or she be barred from competing (or unable to compete on a high level) because he/she couldn’t match his/her skating to a soundtrack? Similarly, does this mean that a deaf person can’t be a figure skating judge? That’s nuts — and also very unfair.

There are lots of Olympic sports that rely on subjective judging, like freestyle skiing and gymnastics. Why are you singling out figure skating?

Because those other “sports” (which I think are not sports, just like figure skating isn’t a sport) at least have standardized uniforms, not costumes. My point is that if figure skating were truly a sport — or if it wanted to be taken more seriously as something more akin to a true sport — it would ditch the costumes. All this talk of theater and storytelling and glamour and being in character — what does that have to do with sports? Nothing. Get rid of it. Just wear a unitard and a number like all the other athletes, or at most wear some sort of standardized outfit.

It’s odd that someone who makes a living writing about sports aesthetics would want to eliminate the aesthetic aspect of skating.

I’m not trying to eliminate the aesthetic aspect. If figure skating had uniforms, we could assess them just like we assess other uniforms. But we’d eliminate the bogus notion that the costume somehow has any bearing on the performance or the judging of same. And by extension we’d be saying that other aesthetic considerations shouldn’t have any bearing on the judging either. For example, does anyone doubt that some skaters are docked a few points for having a bad hairstyle? Or bad teeth? Or bad skin? Or for not smiling enough? Is there any question that a female skater who didn’t shave her armpits would be docked a few points? All of that is absurd. We can (and should!) debate how those things affect our viewing experience — that’s what we do — but none of that should have any bearing on the scoring. All that matters is the skating.

Or at least that’s all that should matter. Until that happens, figure skating will be a combination of schmaltzy performance art and musical theater that happens to feature very gifted performers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone (including the participants) should be honest enough to call it what it is.

+ + + + +

’Skins Watch: In this article about Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, Smith speaks out against “bigotry in American sports” — a category that, in his mind, includes the ’Skins name (from Brad Iverson-Long). ”¦ David Kuruc was reading this children’s book about dinosaurs playing football to his son and noticed that one of the teams is called the Redscales. … Latest newspaper to call for the ’Skins name to be changed: The Great Falls Tribune.

Baseball News: Mets prospect Cory Vaughn, a Type 1 diabetic, plays with an insulin pump in his back pocket. … Decal supplier David Sulecki informs me that several Cardinals players will be using bat knob decals featuring their alma maters’ logos or their flags of national origin. … Hmmm, why did Buck Weaver have holes cut in his cap? And was he wearing a red, white, and blue belt? (Both of those from Robert Marshall.) … Mets pitchers are taking a wait-and-see approach to those new protective caps. … Thirty-seven years ago yesterday, the Blue Jays’ first equipment manager was setting up the team’s inaugural uniforms for the team’s first spring training camp. “Note the split ‘Toronto’ lettering, which wasn’t actually used until 1989,” notes Todd Radom. Indeed, the Jays’ first road uniforms had “Toronto” with solid lettering. Fascinating to see that they had a split-lettered version ready for use but apparently thought better of it. … The Marlins have dropped their facial hair ban — which, frankly, I hadn’t even known about (thanks, Phil). … New flag-desecration jersey for Michigan State. … Yesterday’s Ticker linked to a story about the Mets using lowercase letters on some of their NOBs. Here’s another story on that same topic, but this one is much more thoroughly reported — highly recommended reading. ”¦ A high school player bought a new glove and found a wedding ring inside of it (from Josh Claywell).

NFL News: Didn’t see this one coming: The Buccaneers will be unveiling a new logo and helmet tomorrow, but the changes won’t be drastic. … Mike Ditka thinks Lions QB Matt Stafford should stop wearing his cap backwards (thanks, Brinke). ”¦ Someone on eBay is selling some amazing old NFL color slides (thanks, Phil).

College Football News: Whoa, dig this: The 1937 U. of Chicago football team wore the wishbone-C on top of their helmets! Never seen that before (awesome find by Tris Wykes).

Hockey News: The Binghamton Senators wore Olympic-themed uniforms the other night (from Jamie Owens). … Valentine’s Day jerseys a few nights back for the Oshawa Generals (from Jason Perrier). … The Mississauga Chargers went Pink in the Rink the other day. … Check out this Cornell hockey player wearing what appears to be a football helmet in 1974 (great find by Tris Wykes). ”¦ Here’s a 1988 hockey uniform catalog from the Finnish company Tackla (from Rob Yasinsac). ”¦ Someone on eBay is selling some amazing NHL color slides (thanks, Phil).

Soccer News: Australia’s new World Cup kit is a beauty (thanks, Phil). … Interesting article on why the German soccer team wore green as its away color. “The prevailing myth is that Germany wore green as a ‘thank you’ to Ireland for being the first team to play the Germans after World War II, but apparently that’s not the case,” explains Chris Marsicano. … If you’ve been dying to see dogs Photoshopped into soccer jerseys, today’s your lucky day. … Jacksonville’s new NASL team will be called the Armada.

NBA News: The NPR show Marketplace did a segment on NBA sleeves (from Tom Mulgrew). … Also from Tom: Really nice slideshow of Bill Russell through the years at the bottom of this page. … Kenyon Martin is the latest NBA player to speak out against the sleeved jerseys, although he didn’t exactly provide the most intelligent critique (thanks, Phil).

College Hoops News: Small note at the bottom of this page indicates that Boston College is adding a “DK” memorial patch for longtime media rep Dick Kelley, who died last week (thanks, Phil). … Also from Phil: Throwbacks on tap tonight for

Olympics News: Ukrainian athletes want to wear a blank armband in memory of the Kiev riot victims, but the IOC has put the kibosh on that. … Good AP story about the Olympic sponsorship regulations. … Craft, the small Swedish company that outfits the Dutch speed skaters, is having a very good Olympics. … Good story two of the Team USA equipment managers — one for hockey and one for skiing. … This is fascinating: Sochi is filled with camouflaged security stations. … Can’t get enough of these skeleton helmet photo galleries. …

Grab Bag: New lacrosse helmet for Michigan (from Matt Powers). … Thanks to a new sponsorship arrangement, pro golfer Zach Johnson will start wearing the John Deere logo. … New cycling logo for the Tour de Paris. … New logos for the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Health Department and a Cicinnati-area business association. … At least one UFC fighter isn’t happy about the prospect of standardized uniforms. … A Mississippi high school band is trying to raise money for new uniforms. … New logo for the state of Colorado. … Check out this customized lacrosse mask (from Connor Wilson). … Here’s a gallery of “outrageous” (whatever that means) ice dancing costumes (from Yusuke Toyoda).

Comments (228)

    New jerseys launched for German Bundesliga’s Schalke 04:


    The run-up is much longer than usual this year (usually they were shown just prior to the final match of the season).

    Reason being: Fans can pay to have their photo on the back of the shirt for the final home game of this season, when the shirts will first be worn.

    IOC will apparently not let Ukranian athletes wear black armband for protestors killed in Kiev riots.

    That picture is from the 1913-14 New York Giants/Chicago White Sox World Tour (in a game vs. Keio University, Tokyo). I’m 99.9% sure that his belt is red/white/blue.

    Isn’t the prevailing theory that the biggest change will be the helmet because the Buccaneers want to wear creamsicle throwbacks?

    That’s my theory. It doesn’t quite jive with the claim that they aren’t making a drastic change, though. A new helmet color is a drastic change, isn’t it?

    (Not to mention that they’d look rather horrible with a white helmet on top of the current red/pewter uniform)

    If they go to a white helmet wouldn’t they need to incorporate pewter into it somehow (striping or facemask)? Their throwbacks are amazing but I really like their pewter/red/pewter combo and would hate to see them go to a more red/white look for the other 14 games.

    The Bics’ current look is one of my favorites in the NFL. I, too, hope they don’t foul it up.

    Yup. Ever since the NFL forced the Bucs to scrap throwback weekend last year with the stupid rule change on helmets, I’ve believed a redesign was inevitable. I just pray the redesign doesn’t suck.

    If they are getting an update for the 2014 season, the NFL forcing the Bucs to scrap throwback weekend had nothing to do with it.
    The timeline for changes starts more than a year to happen.


    I think figure skating officially became a non-sport when compulsory figures were eliminated from the competition.

    I find it interesting that in French, the sport/activity/event is called patinage artistique — “artistic skating.”

    Yes, I remember the compulsories…that was interesting to watch. Here is what Wikipedia says about the issue, and let me be the first to say “you can’t base your opinion on Wikipedia”…I just find it mildly amusing:

    “Compulsory figures or school figures were formerly an aspect of the sport of figure skating, from which the sport derives its name. Carving specific patterns or figures into the ice was the original focus of the sport. The patterns of compulsory figures all derive from the basic figure eight. Although figures no longer exist in competition, they have evolved into the contemporary moves in the field (MIF) discipline of figure skating.”

    Hey Paul (and who ever else),
    I am curious if you think boxing/mma is a sport. Since technically it meets the same criteria as figure skating. Subjective judges where At the end of the bout it isn’t clear who wins or loses until the judges render their decision. A LOT of the scoring comes from subjective things like, aggression, ring control, opponent control, striking effectiveness. Those things can’t be ‘measured’ and are completely subjective. Granted, those bouts can end quickly with a knock out, tko or submission. But a majority of those fights go to the judges score cards, who gve their opinion based on subjective information.. Thoughts?

    I’d put boxing in the “athletic competition, but not a sport” category.

    It’s also kinda odd that it even still exists considering all of the fuss over concussions in the NFL lately. Getting repeatedly punched in the face seems like it’d be far worse for future mental health.

    I think a couple of things – you root for a football team for essentially your whole life, but once a boxer retires, he might as well fall of the face of the earth, so there’s less emotional attachment to the participants.

    Also, middle class kids don’t go into boxing, but even rich kids go into football. People care when it’s their own kids who could end up with CTE.

    Boxing still exists, but I’d argue “just barely.”

    Once an absolute pillar of American culture, it’s become a fringe sport kept alive by the occassional pay-per-view and Hollywood’s obsession with the dramatic potential of boxing movies.

    Hope the NFL is taking notes.

    The argument that figure skating isn’t a sport relies on a tautology.

    Just arbitrarily decide sports results aren’t determined by subjective factors, and based on that self-created definition, voila, you’ve successfully argued that figure skating isn’t a sport.

    That’s not a tautology — it’s establishing a definition and seeing what meets that definition.

    If you have a different definition, let’s hear it. But be careful — if your definition is expansive enough to include figure skating, it will likely include lots of other things that most of us wouldn’t consider to be sports.

    Bring it!

    I suspect that most people who make the “_____ isn’t a sport” arguments are working backwards. They think of whatever their favorite sports or the ones they grow up, and create a definition of sports to make those sports fit.

    My definition of sports? Call me unoriginal, but I adapt dictionary definitions as my own:

    a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other

    a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other

    According to this definition, any kind of dance contest is a sport.

    If you’re comfortable with that, be my guest. But I think most people would strongly disagree.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say people are working backwards to create a definition.

    You think a dance contest isn’t a sport. So you specifically create a definition of sport that keeps out dance contests.

    You think a dance contest isn’t a sport.

    And you think a dance contest IS a sport?

    If a definition doesn’t hold up to intellectual rigor, such as disproof by counter-example, then it’s a bad definition. That’s not “working backwards” — that’s applying a reasonable standard.

    If you’re prepared to defend your definition, please do so.

    Maybe a dance contest is a sport. You’re willing to challenge the dictionary-accepted definition of “sport”, but less so with how we categorize dance contests.

    Just because most people don’t see tomatoes as fruits, doesn’t mean it isn’t, you know?

    I think there is a need for some key information in this discussion regarding subjective scoring. There are definite technical pieces that one must include in the ice dance or points are deducted from the scoring.

    However, there have been reviews of the sport that suggest that “observer bias” determines about 20% of the mark given by a judge. The ISU uses the same scoring basis similar to what is seen in gymnastics, so take from that what you will about both disciplines.

    If you’re going to remove ice dancing because it is judged subjectively, though, you’re going to see a vast number of events removed from both the Summer and Winter Olympics: boxing, diving, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, equestrian dressage, trampoline, wrestling, a lot of snowboarding events, ski jumping… the list could essentially be endless if there isn’t a scoreboard to determine winner from loser.

    In saying this, though, ice dancing judges are some of the most corrupt in the world. The sport needs to be removed not because of the athleticism shown is not worthy of being a sport, but because there is simply no honesty or integrity being shown at the judging level. Since 1998, there have been two confirmed scandals in the sport, and yet it still holds an Olympic sport certification while sports like women’s softball, baseball, and golf are kept off the IOC’s table.

    While I get that those are summer sports, I fail to see how a sport so rife with corruption can remain on the world’s largest sporting stage.

    f you’re going to remove ice dancing because it is judged subjectively, though, you’re going to see a vast number of events removed from both the Summer and Winter Olympics

    Works for me. Get rid of them!

    But let’s remember why we’re talking about this: costumes. At least the participants in those other “sports” don’t claim that they need to wear costumes in order to stay in character and tell a story. That’s all bullshit.

    Then tennis at the Olympics is not a sport. It has a scoring system that uses a judge to help determine the in-vs-out committed by players’ shots, and all of the participants can wear what they want.

    Not a sport, according to your rules.

    No — you’re way off-base here.

    Every sport has officials to make rulings and maintain order. But tennis rules are objective: Every single tennis shot is objectively in or out. Someone may miss the call, that doesn’t change the fact that every single shot is truly either in or out. That is an objective and observable fact.

    But there’s no objective way to assess good composition or music interpretation, because those are inherently subjective concepts.

    As for the participants wearing what they want, you’re missing my point. I don’t necessarily have a problem with athletes in individual sports (as opposed to team sports) wearing whatever they like. But when an athlete claims that his/her costume is important because it helps him/her deliver a level of character-based storytelling, and when that is part of how the athlete is judged/scored, that’s bullshit.

    Serena Williams can dress as outrageously as she wants. But the only determinant of whether she wins or loses is whether she wins more points (as objectively defined) than her opponent.

    But then you just killed your whole argument over the uniform.

    It doesn’t matter what the skaters wear as long as there are tangible scoring points introduced to the sport. That’s all you’re arguing at this point because at the end of the day, like tennis, skating is a competition where you just need to score more points.

    Teebz, we’re now debating this in two different threads.

    One last time: The participants say that the costumes are necessary for their character-driven storytelling *which is part of what they’re scored on.*

    Let’s kill this thread and pick it up on the one down below.

    I don’t know anything about UFC/MMA, so I’m going to leave that for others to discuss.

    But I was hoping someone would bring up the boxing question!

    Yes, any fight that doesn’t end in a knockout fails to meet my definition of a sport. And think about it: One reason boxing can’t be taken seriously by so many people is that the judging/scoring/etc. is so subjective (and often corrupt). At the end of a fight, you often don’t know who won– that’s crazy. What other sporting event works like that? And awarding points for nebulous things like “ring generalship” is every bit as bogus as scoring a figure skater on his/her “composition.”

    But at least boxing doesn’t pretend that the trunks have any bearing on the performance.

    Paul, I have never felt such an intellectual kinship with you! I’ve been using this exact definition for like the last decade. Boxing is the most obvious problem, because it morphs from sport to non-sport based on outcome, which seems weird.

    I will agree that for me it was a backwards process to get to this definition. I thought of all the things I knew were sports, all the things that seemed obviously not sports, and figured the difference.

    My starting point on this was actually cheerleading. For a while schools were counting cheerleading as a sport for Title IX. (“Well fellas, we need to come up with something for the dames to do while we play football or the feds will come after us. Cheerleading! That counts as a chick sport, right?”) I found that to be obviously a violation of the spirit of Title IX, but wanted to come up with a valid reason why. Thus, I got to Paul’s definition of sport.

    FYI, cheerleading has been legally declared a non-sport now. link

    Then what about college gymnastics?

    Also, it’s weird that the courts say that cheer leading is not a sport because it doesn’t seem organized enough to them. The problem is no one is going to bother organizing it unless it was a sport…

    FWIW, I don’t think either is a sport, since there’s the athletes really aren’t competing against anyone but themselves.

    “Boxing is the most obvious problem, because it morphs from sport to non-sport based on outcome, which seems weird.”

    This would be an indication that the definition being used is flawed.

    Do Not bring this argument into my house.

    My mother was a cheerleader.
    Both of my sisters were cheerleaders.
    My wife was a cheerleader.
    And now, both of my daughters are cheerleaders who often populate my house with many little cheerleaders.

    They are part of the “Bring It On”, ESPN competition cheerleading, which to me seems more like synchronized gymnastics than anything else.

    Boxing didn’t always have a scoring system, it used to go until someone was either knocked out or quit. The limited rounds and scoring system only came later to try to cut down on all those pesky deaths.

    Paul is from New Jersey so he cant tell the difference between Ottawa and Oshawa ;) Just Kidding!!!!

    Not only is the Cornell hockey player wearing a football helmet but he has on a very rare externally padded MacGregor MH 100 (clearshell). It is exactly what Ed Marinaro wore on the cover of SI in 1970.

    BTW, wish the Bucs would change back to the creamsicle unis full time.

    Why I love Uni Watch reason #417…Paul “debates” himself over the topic of figure skating.

    Thank you for creating interesting material each and every day.

    I waiting for the debate where Paul asks himself a really good question and it causes Paul to change his opinion.

    I’ve had this “is this a sport or is this not a sport” talk with my friends many, many times. Always it goes back to each person’s individual definition of sport. There’s never one universal definition that everybody can agree on.

    Paul says that a sport “involves athletic prowess and an objective scoring system”. Good definition, but not one that I would agree with. Using Paul’s definition, there are a lot of physical activities that could be considered a sport, such as the fastest time you can run 1 mile while juggling 5 live rabbits.

    The official definition of sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. The official definition of competition is the activity or condition of competing. Both definitions involve the word compete.

    My definition of sports is not something most people would agree with but it is “an individual or team competition that has a reasonably fit person panting by the end of it.” I know it’s not the best definition but I think it’s the closest I can come to the true meaning of sports. If you’re huffing and puffing by the end of it, it’s a sport. The degree of huffing and puffing may vary for each sport but if it’s there, then congratulations you are an active participant of a sport.

    Bobsledding, bowling, baseball, car racing, golf are not sports to me.

    Good topic to generate 200+ comments today for this site.

    Good topic to generate 200+ comments today for this site.

    Basically, gentle trolling for comments.

    ?? I enjoy the comments section when there’s a somewhat controversial topic posted. That’s why we’re here aren’t we, to discuss the merits of each side of the debate?

    But it’s a faux “debate” based on intentionally narrow definitions of words (words that have definitions in the dictionary, mind you) to fit people’s own likes and dislikes.

    It’s as intellectually dishonest as presenting “both side of the debate” about global warming or evolution.

    My definition of a sport isn’t “intentionally narrow.” It’s a completely reasonable definition that I’m prepared to defend. If you have a better one that *you’re* prepared to defend, let’s hear it.

    Society debates and redefines the meanings of words all the time. Meanings evolve. You know that as well as I do.

    You’re being much more tautological than I am. You’re basically saying, “Figure skating is a sport because it claims to be, the end.”

    Using Paul’s definition, there are a lot of physical activities that could be considered a sport, such as the fastest time you can run 1 mile while juggling 5 live rabbits.

    You say that as if it’s self-evident that this is not a sport. But why wouldn’t it be? It totally works for me — I’d even pay to watch it!

    Definitely more of a sport than figure skating.

    I agree, it fits my definition of a sport too! I think the issue with both of our definitions is that it allows many, many physical activities, however inane they are to be considered a sport. Or is this even an issue at all?

    How valued does the word “sport” have to be? It seems to me that the word has inherent value, like an activity is considered to be more honorable if it can be classified as a sport. The dictionary says that a sport requires physical exertion and competition for the entertainment of others so really, almost anything could be a sport, according to the dictionary.

    But in our society, the word sport is reserved for physical activities that we respect the most. Maybe I’ve tailored my definition to exclude activities that I do not “respect”. I personally enjoy sports that require endurance so perhaps my definition has been tailored for that reason. Thanks for making me think today!

    I think the issue with both of our definitions is that it allows many, many physical activities, however inane they are to be considered a sport.

    But I don’t see that as a problem, as long as there’s an objective basis for determining the winner and loser.

    Right now the Olympics “allows many, many physical activities, however inane they are, to be considered a sport” — but they’re totally subjective, like all the X Games-ish “sports” that now included. Those are just as silly as juggling rabbits while running — but at least the rabbit jugglers can be judged by who crosses the finish line first. THAT’S a sport, at least to me. Once you start awarding style points, you’ve basically opened up the door to anything.

    I think perhaps another thing to add to the potential definition of a sport is that the opponent has an opportunity to interfere with the other team/player’s ability to score. Bowling, Darts, or Rabbit Juggle Running wouldn’t qualify because those are all instances of competitors simply trying to out perform each other in a given task.

    Or would that be too narrow?

    Why do you think objective scoring helps define sport and not actual head-to-head competition?

    Javelin athletes are competing against themselves & the wind. Not each other. This is just like figure skaters & the ice. The actions they both do are as insular.

    Neither is a sport, really.

    Yeah… I’d consider most of the Olympic sports to be competitions instead. They’re still impressive displays of athletic ability (mostly), they’re just not “sports” to me.

    I agree with … The Jeff often makes a lot of comments on this website. (so hard to put all those words together)

    “Javelin athletes are competing against themselves & the wind. Not each other.”

    This argument has been used a few times today, but it makes no sense to me. Of course they’re competing against one another, otherwise it’d be an exhibition of one person’s skills, no?

    Perhaps all this debate is the reason they are referred to as the “Olympic Games” and not “Olympic Sports.”

    How does the performance of the javelin thrower from Sweden physically affect the throw from the athlete from Switzerland? It doesn’t – therefore they aren’t competing against one another.

    Practicing tennis serves is not a sport. Playing tennis against someone is.

    A 3 point contest is not a sport. Draining a buzzer beater 3 with a hand in your face or setting up your offense to create an open man to shoot a 3 is.

    Yes, I think “competes against another” means that there competitors are interacting with each other.

    Bowling is tricky to include in this context, because the way someone bowls will change up the oil patterns on the lane for the other bowlers.

    Of course, there are different oil patterns to begin with so…

    I’m guessing that rules out most winter sports – downhill skiing, sleigh events and speed skating (excluding short track).

    You’re right about sliding, but speed skating & cross country skiing both allow competitors to interfere/interact. For example, you may want to race in a particular line, but the rules may not let you pass (in speed skating) or one of your opponents is blocking you (cross country).

    Also, both sports make use of drafting.

    No, because golf is a sport. It’s like figure skating in that sense that each compeititor is putting their “score” against another opponent’s “score”.

    I think the one comment that hit it on the head was the one who brought up boxing – it can be a measured quantifiable result – if one guy knocks out the other – otherwise it can come down to judging, which may be subjective.

    For me, I think a sport is a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other in a manner such that there are quantifiable, measurable, results that are not subjective to interpretative judges.

    For me a 100 meter dash while juggling live rabbits would be a sport if you are scored by how fast your time is (minus a penalty for each rabbit you dropped), however it would not a sport if you are judged on style points by how you looked while doing it.

    I think some version of this is what most people sort of agree on. Although I guess there are a couple of oddballs, like how ski jumping has landing and form judges.

    I completely agree and is the main reason I don’t follow the Olympics or any of the XGames stuff. I have no use for “sports” that the winner is chosen by how pretty they are. It feels strange to award the same prize(a gold medal) for being the prettiest, and then also for being the fastest/strongest/best. Why not a gold medal for painting and novel writing.

    Rob H.: I was replying to TheJeff, who said “perhaps another thing to add to the potential definition of a sport is that the opponent has an opportunity to interfere with the other team/player’s ability to score.”

    Then by the official definition of sport, figure skating isn’t a sport. You aren’t competing against other skaters. You’re competing against yourself. Other skaters can do nothing to hinder your scoring. For this reason, golf isn’t a sport either.

    Also, by this official definition, boxing/mma is a sport.

    Your ball can certainly strike another’s ball while it is live and you have potentially affected their score in golf.

    Furthermore, while in many of these instances, you may not be able to physically affect another’s ability to score, that doesn’t mean you can’t mentally affect another’s performance.

    Consider a golfer trailing his playing partner by one stroke, sitting on the 18th fairway. He plays first and holes his iron shot for Eagle to take the lead by one stroke. Does this not potentially affect how his playing partner will approach the remainder of the hole?

    “If you’re huffing and puffing by the end of it, it’s a sport.”

    I was huffing and puffing moving furniture last weekend. Physical exertion does not equal sport.

    Sort of interesting to me that Matt Holliday’s decal would have the Oklahoma State logo, even though he entered the MLB draft after signing to play football for the Cowboys out of high school. Granted, his dad is a former OSU baseball coach and his brother is the current one, but still slightly odd to me. Then again though, he’s worn OSU gear during a lot of interviews in the past, so as an alumnus, I don’t hate it.

    The Rockies have signed lots of football players over the years: Helton, Holliday, Seth Smith, Russel Wilson. I think some of it has to do with Keli McGregor’s position in the organization as he was a good player on very bad Colorado State football teams of the early 80s.

    The White Sox under Kenny Williams (baseball & football at Stanford) have had the same fetish in their personnel selection.


    It looks like the Univ. of Chicago Maroons are playing Princeton – who started out the Winged Helmets later adopted by Michigan.

    Is that game being played in Chicago? I remember seeing other games where the Maroons wore White-at-Home.

    Never saw the Wishbone “C” on the helmets before. Wow!

    Fritz Crisler is the common denominator between Princeton and Michigan.

    Interesting that his name and that connection arises today with the inclusion of Michigan’s new winged Lacrosse helmet in the ticker!!!!HMMM!

    By the way, I hope that you all checked out the BAD ASS MASK on the lacrosse helmet in the Grab bag. That mask is made by the same company that makes the masks for Justin Tuck, Darnell Dockett and the Ray Lewis.

    BTW FOGO is lacrosse vernacular for Face Off, Get Off…a very specialized position on the field. With free substitution, once his job is done, he is replaced with either a defensive long pole if he failed or typically, a short stick midfielder if he succeeded.

    The old NFL slides are GREAT! Maybe not for their composition, but certainly for their UNI-history!

    ‘Skins spear and “R” helmets.
    Raiders white on sliver w/ silver numbers
    Eagles with pant stripes

    just name a few. Great stuff!!

    I beg of you — please, no more minor-league Pink in the Rink ticker items! Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll go away. Besides, it’s become so common that it’s almost like drawing attention to a team wearing their home uniforms for a home game.

    I believe this was mentioned before here about the upside down P for d’Arnaud on the NOB. It appears the Mets will have a lower case font for the NOB’s, created by their equipment manager.


    I would think Buck was wearing his hat with holes because those old wool caps were HOT. I guess it let his head be cooler.

    As for figure skating being a sport, doing the jumps and all is tough. Do we not say a NBA player has serious hops and they don’t even do a triple turn in the air.

    I’ll be honest I haven’t read all the comments so somebody may have touched on this…

    If figure skating had 10 required jumps/moves that must be successfully executed in a certain amount of time, and the skater who completes the number of jumps the fastest was deemed “winner,” would it then qualify as a sport?

    Sure, as long as they weren’t also judged on the quality of the moves. The only criterion would be “Did you land it? Ok, you get credit.”

    I dont remember if its been in the ticker yet

    But Dana White has brought up UFC fighters having uniforms

    This would naturally curtail fighters from having thwir own / non-UFC sponsors.

    SOmeone else didn’t read today’s Ticker very carefully.

    Come on, people — it’s one thing not to remember if something has been covered before, but it’s something else to overlook something that’s covered *today.*

    THANK YOU, PAUL! I’ve been saying for YEARS that figure skating is not a sport. It’s ballet on ice. That takes absolutely nothing away from a figure skater’s phenomenal athletic ability, but athletic competition is not always sport as you’ve pointed out. Gymnastics is the Summer Games’ equivalent. Same deal. Athletic, but not sport.

    Someone spoke of boxing in comparison to skating…

    To be honest, I’d be okay watching skating if it had direct one on one competition and a 10 point must system.

    I just don’t think it can be a sport when the choice of music , something totally unrelated to the athletic performance, can impact the outcome of a competition.

    I don’t like how the skaters prefer the term costumes over uniforms.

    Referring to their clothing as a costume makes it sound less professional, also as if they are dressing up as someone else. Although uniforms generally refer to similar team clothing, it could still be used at an individual level.

    You need more than 1 of something to call them “uniform”.

    since no two skaters wear the same/similat thing you can’t use the word “uniform”. Costume seems the next best thing–especially as described by the skaters themselves as to what they hope to protray by their outfits.

    Referring to their clothing as a costume makes it sound … as if they are dressing up as someone else

    But that’s exactly what they’re doing. In the skaters’ own words, they are playing characters to tell a story.

    My wife does synchronized swimming (whose participants also wear costumes). I’ve asked her why no uniforms are worn and to add to your lede, she said that the judges aren’t supposed to know who the participants are. Just adding something to the discussion.

    Unless playing in a *team* (Davis Cup, Ryder Cup, etc.) tennis players and golfers don’t wear uniforms, per se. They’re more like outfits (or at least that is what I call them).

    Are they sports?

    My point isn’t that someone participating in a sport needs to wear a uniform; my point is that whatever you wear shouldn’t figure into the scoring, as it clearly does in figure skating.

    I really don’t care if Tiger Woods or Rafael Nadal wear a uniform or a Nike-designed outfit. Either way, it has nothing to do with whether they win or lose. That’s not the case with figure skating.

    If you listen to Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, and the like, the unis they make for x,y,z sport/athletes (speed skating, swimming, track, football, etc.) do have an impact on the outcome of the sport/event/competition. Their claims of lighter material, aerodynamic materials, sweat resistant materials, etc. allow the athletes to perform better, therefore, having an impact on the outcome/scoring of events you deem to be sports. This totally BS argument says that what an athlete wears does have an impact on the outcome of the event.

    But Nike, Adidas, et al. are talking about the attire making a *performance* difference.

    The aesthetics of the attire makes no difference — except in figure skating. Which is one reason why figure skating is not a sport.

    It does not figure into the sport’s scoring, Paul. Music does, but costuming does not.

    There are certain things skaters can and cannot wear, and they fit their costumes within those guidelines in order to add to the story they are telling on the ice. No more and no less. There is nothing preventing them from wearing the same uniform, but there is no rule in place stating they have to as well.

    In other words, they don’t play a team sport, and the rules of figure skating allow for individuality. Much like tennis players at the Olympics.

    It does not figure into the sport’s scoring, Paul. Music does, but costuming does not.

    Teebz, go back and read the quotes from the skaters themselves — they say the costumes are essential for their character-driven storytelling, which is part of the interpretative aspect of the scoring.

    It’s all bullshit — make them wear a unitard and a number like everyone else.

    Oh I have.

    There are no rules that state what the costumes have to be. There are guidelines, and the total deduction for failing to be within those guidelines is 1.0 points. If costuming falls off, a deduction is given of 1.0 points.

    You can link, but I quote,

    “The following restrictions apply unless otherwise announced by the Ice Dance Technical Committee in an ISU Communication. At ISU Championships and International Competitions, the clothing must be modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competitions — not garish or theatrical in design. Clothing may, however, reflect the character of the music chosen.

    a) Ladies must wear a skirt. The Ladies dress must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport. Men must wear full-length trousers: no tights are allowed and the Man’s costume may not be sleeveless;

    b) Accessories and props are not permitted;

    c) Clothing that does not adhere to these guidelines will be penalized by a deduction (see Rule 353, paragraph 1.n) (ii). Besides, the decorations on costumes must be non-detachable. Part of the costume or decoration falling on the ice will be penalized by a deduction (see Rule 353, paragraph 1.n) (ii).”

    They can wear whatever they want because the rules say so. If you don’t like the rule, join the ISU and change it.

    You’re missing the point. The athletes themselves are stating that the costumes are necessary for their character-driven storytelling.

    That’s not sports — that’s theater. And there’s nothing wrong with theater. Just be honest enough to call it what it is.

    But that’s not what you were arguing. You said, “they say the costumes are essential for their character-driven storytelling, which is part of the interpretative aspect of the scoring.”

    I just pointed out that the rules state that the choice of costume does not factor in as a scoring option.

    If we’re talking about costumes being theatre, then tennis isn’t a sport either. They also have guidelines that they must follow, and don’t need to conform to a standard set of uniforms.

    But that’s not what you were arguing.

    Yes it is! The skaters the costumes are necessary for their character-driven storytelling *which is part of what they’re scored on.* It’s part of the composition and interpretation.

    I will point out this line once more: “Clothing may, however, reflect the character of the music chosen.”

    I’m quite certain that they could wear a distinctive uniform if they chose to, but they aren’t forced to. It only makes sense to pair the choice of music with clothing that is suitable for that style of dance. You wouldn’t dance the salsa or tango in an evening gown and tuxedo, but I doubt you’d show up to serve as a witness in sweat pants and a t-shirt full of holes. You wanna look the part.

    They are, by rule, permitted to wear whatever they like as long as its within the guidelines of the rules I posted above. They could wear the same thing that Youppi! or the San Diego Chicken wears if they wanted. The end result? It still comes down to skating.

    I’m not here to rekindle the discussion, but I have read the article over and over and not one of the skaters has said that the costume affects their scoring in any way. It simply allows them to represent an idea or character based upon the their choices of music.

    All of them said it’s about individuality, much like a goalie mask in hockey. It represents them as much as it does the performance and athleticism of their routines.

    If memory serves, the 30 for 30 about Tonya Harding (since Nancy Kerrigan declined to participate) very directly talked about how costumes are hugely influential in the judging. Harding at one point told a story of a judge who threatened that Harding would never win another competition as long as she lived if she ever wore a particular pink dress again.

    Now, think about that. Could you imagine the Seahawks being told they could never win another game unless they changed their uniform? Or, to pick something more iconic, the Yankees being told they were given a three run headstart because of their pinstripes?

    That’s illegal, and that judge should have been reported. The judge cannot influence what a skater can or cannot wear. As long as it falls within the guidelines, the judge cannot fault the skater for wearing the costume in question.

    It’s also at least a little bit likely that it never happened. It’s something that the average ESPN watcher will find probable, given stereotypical impressions of the shadowy world of figure skating, but I’m an average ESPN watcher, and until I was 18, I thought everybody in Russia looked like Boris Badenov.

    This sounds like an episode of what Thucydides calls “altering memory to suit one’s suffering.” Tonya needs to feel the world had aligned against her. Tonya needs to believe that the judges were petty, vicious, and conspiratorial.

    Of course. It’s Tonya Harding, it’s very likely that she made the whole thing up. And, yes, the judge was likely not following proper protocol. A shocking development in figure skating, to be sure.

    The thing is, whether it happened or not, is it hard to believe something like that would happen in figure skating? It’s not to me, and I don’t think it would be for many others. And that sure seems like a big enough problem.

    I’ve always found figure skating to be especially odd in the “sporting” world because of the uniforms(or lack thereof). In addition to figure skating, I have issue with any sport that uses a subjective scoring system(skateboarding, gymnastics, etc.). It puts them in a different category to me, despite being truly athletic and impressive skills, it’s hard to call them true sports.

    Not sure there is a better way to do it, but the best I can come up with is this: HORSE.

    If you can pull off a move that your opponent cannot, you are the superior skater, diver, slam dunker etc.

    Since 1998, there have been two confirmed scandals in the sport, and yet it still holds an Olympic sport certification while sports like women’s softball, baseball, and golf are kept off the IOC’s table.

    Golf re-enters the Olympics in 2016, along with rugby sevens.

    What do you think about hunting and fishing? includes hunting and fishing in its examples of sport, so how would those fit into your definition? I do like your definition, although it would include bean bag toss, which isn’t a bad thing! :) Very interesting topic and I like the intelligent discussion.

    That’s a different kind of sport — that’s a “sporting activity,” not competitive sports, which is what we’re discussing here.

    Of course, if you give shotguns to the animals, so they’d be armed the same as the hunters, *then* you’d have an interesting competitive sport.

    Best thing about that Eau Claire Health Department logo?

    The new logo is a part of a rebranding effort for the Health Department and uses a design created by senior graphic art design students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

    What a great opportunity for those students. If only every university and high school currently using a “borrowed” professional logo did the same.

    I have been stating this debate over and over about sport and competition having boxing (now mma) the only outlier of being both. People in competition get bent about not being called a sport but I am saying you are still athletes (Olympics=elite athletes) requiring a skill/talent to perform said competition. BTW I would pay good money to see a 100 meter dash where people juggle rabbits or any live animal.

    The whole debate seems to be about creating a definition for a word that already has a definition in order to marginalize things a person doesn’t like or respect as much as other things.

    Not at all. I’m not trying to marginalize anything — hell, I respect artistry and creativity way more than I respect athletic prowess.

    But artistry and creativity are not the basis of a sport.

    You’re taking word that already has a definition, and creating a new definition, so to exclude certain things that are encompassed by the established definition. That is an act of exclusion or marginalization.

    No, it’s just an act of precision. The meanings of words and terms are constantly evolving — legally, culturally, and otherwise. Critiques like the one I wrote today are part of that evolution.

    Go to your dictionary of choice and come back with the definition of “sport.” Then let’s see which activities fit into your definition and which ones fit into mine.

    I’m pretty certain mine will result in a list of things most reasonable people would consider to be sports, and yours will result in a list of all sorts of things that most reasonable people would not consider to be sports.


    That’s your prerogative. But then don’t go tossing around accusations of “marginalizing” and so on, because it turns out you don’t even care.

    Oooh, that’s a fun little can of worms. Surprised it hadn’t come up in the discussion until now. I’ll say sport, but just not one that I’m particularly interested in.

    As a NASCAR fan, wholeheartedly agree. Certainly a competition, not really a sport.

    I heard a good definition of a sport once.

    If you can smoke a cigarette while you wait your turn, it’s not a sport.

    The OED definition of “sport” (at least in my 1971 ed.) is, variously, (1) “pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation or diversion”; and (2) “participation in games or exercises, esp. those of an athletic character or pursued in the open air; such games or amusements collectively.” In turn, the OED defines “game” variously as (1) “a diversion in the nature of a contest, played according to rules, and displaying in the result the superiority in skill, strength or good fortune of the winner or winners; and (2) “athletic, dramatic, and musical contests; gladiatorial and other shows.”

    But hey, as pointed out previously, let’s reason backwards from a pre-determined outcome to create our own definition!

    I foresee a white bucs helmet with pewter face mask and permanent replacement of the pewter pants with white. Don’t think it would look too bad.

    By using the “sport” definition used here, that would also apply to gymnastics, synchronized swimming and diving ….all would be declassified as sports

    Yes — exactly.

    But at least the participants in those “sports” don’t claim that their costumes are necessary for character-driven storytelling.

    This is why I want there to be a Spring and Fall Olympics as well as Summer and Winter.

    That way we can move all the non sports to the Fall Olympics: Ice Dancing, some of the gymnastic stuff, heck make the Fall Olympics the “arts” Olympics and bring back the musical and theater competitions that used to exist. There was once even an architecture competition.

    Interesting discussion. Thanks.

    I wonder how much of the discussion is coloured by the fact that, in addition to being perceived as subjective, figure skating (and ice dance in particular) is widely perceived as fixed?

    Compare it to (say) freestyle skiing, halfpipe, aerials, that sort of thing. Also judged, but that sport seems to have their shit together – no judging scandals, no perception of fixing or subjective unfairness.

    If figure skating could somehow repair the judging so that it was more subjective and less impressionistic, would that make it a sport?

    Paul couldn’t agree with you more on those things that make a sport a sport. I would add one thing however, to be a sport each have direct competition. in swimming you react to somebody going faster. In football you react to whether the run or pass. In golf you don’t have that reaction to someone hitting the ball farther. In figure skating you don’t have that reaction. In Gymnastics you don’t have that reaction. Those are athletic-based competition. Isn’t it which pretty much do the same thing over and over again regardless of what your competitor done. This is coming from someone who used to work the United States figure skating Association and currently owns the gymnastics club.

    A few other people have suggested this “direct competition” standard, but I’m not sure I agree.

    So you don’t think downhill skiing is a sport? Or lots of track and field events (hammer toss, javelin throw, shot put, high jump, long jump, etc.)?

    I think those totally qualify as sports.

    So you’re conconcting a definition to exclude golf, all the field events of track & field, weightlifting, any time-trialed competition such as alpine skiing or luge, archery, etc. Why? Is it really that important to create new categories to marginalize certain forms of sporting competition?

    Never mind that competitors in those sports do react to each other. They see someone put up a great time/score/distance and they try to top it.

    Golf certainly involves the same thing. See my example above about a player down one stroke to his playing partner and holing for Eagle from the 18th fairway to go up by one stroke. His partner has to react much differently than if he were still up one stroke going into the green.

    A million thanks to Todd Radon for uncovering that Blue Jays Spring Training photo. I remember Opening Day at the Ex like it was yesterday: it was broadcast live on the CBC. Bill Singer, pitching in a snowstorm, Anne Murray singing the National Anthem, Doug Ault’s home runs…very nice memories.

    Canada doesn’t have a national passtime. The two national sports are lacrosse and hockey.

    Why do Olympic competitions have to be sports? The Olympics ideally are about international competition, typically in athletic competitions.

    The fact of the matter is the Olympics are not about ideals… they are about money. Figure Skating, and Gymnastics in the summer games, are typically among the highest rated events on TV.
    (Google “Popularity of Televised Figure Skating))

    They’re not going anywhere, and will continue to wear their costumes, because that’s what the audience wants.

    OK — so let’s make singing an Olympic sport, à la American Idol. After all, it requires a certain physical skill, it’ll make money, and the audience will love it.

    Makes sense to me.

    that’s a step too far. “Physical skill” and athleticism are different, as skating and American Idol are different.

    Again… my assertion is the Olympics are about international athletic competitions that make money on TV… Just because NBC Sports covers it, and ESPN is there. doesn’t mean you have to call it a sport.

    Just because NBC Sports covers it, and ESPN is there. doesn’t mean you have to call it a sport.

    Great — then I won’t! Because it isn’t!!

    “Note the split ‘Toronto’ lettering, which wasn’t actually used until 1989,”

    Is this correct? I think it should say 1979…here is just one example of split lettering from 1985


    That jersey has split “Blue Jays” lettering, not “Toronto.”

    The Jays used several versions of “Toronto” lettering prior to 1989 (solid, outlined, etc.), but they didn’t use SPLIT “Toronto” lettering until 1989.


    Ok…they switched to BLUE JAYS from 1979-1988, then when they switched back to TORONTO, they finally split the lettering. Don’t know why they did all that, but they finally got it right for awhile.

    Paul, in response to elements of track and field (I.e the field events) not bring a sport Id have to say they are not based on the direct competition guideline.

    But I’ll also acquiesce to the concept that if society deems it a sport, it’s a sport. Society pretty much deems figure skating, golf, gymnastics, football, etc as sports so they are sports. I may not agree as much, but I’m not going to fight it.

    The skating commentators just used the word “performance”…which leads me to the concept that a skating performance is planned out and executed and not much like a game to me. Calling it an “athletic performance” may be more descriptive than calling it a sport, but people would probably think its easier to just say sport. An interested party can feel free to develop this distinction more broadly.

    In a different way…you usually don’t hear “Carmelo Anthony had a great performance tonight”…he had a great game is more customary…conversely you would never hear “Gracie Gold played a great game tonight” after a skating competition.

    Personally, I think there are a lot of sports, with sub-categories such as games and athletic performances. The word “sport” is pretty broad…does wearing a “sports jacket” mean I’m in a competition? I don’t want to re-invent the wheel of commonly used terms…I can live with what we have. Baseball is a sport, sub-category game…skating is a sport, sub-category athletic performance. Just my $0.02.


    “Carmelo Anthony turned in a performance for the ages on Friday, pouring in 62 points to lead the Knicks to a 125-96 win over the Bobcats.”

    TA…your point is well-taken, but words are not set in stone…they can be used in different situations. Some fit better than others.


    “Move over Bernard King. And Kobe Bryant. Carmelo Anthony is the new Knicks and MSG single-game scoring leader after dropping 62 on …”

    Would it sound natural to say “Carmelo Anthony is the new Knicks single-performance scoring leader?” N-O

    The Buccaneers’ announcement has led to this New Orleans newspaper column on the Saints’ short-lived black helmets.


    this is from a tb bucs forum from 2011. they have some concept designs. you can see a sticker page in one of the pictures. i have no idea if these a legit but they look cool


    Syracuse isn’t the 1st team to wear alternate shorts with originally published Hyper Elite jerseys. Ohio State wore gray “throwback” shorts with their gray Hyper Elite tops against TTUN on February 11th. I’m assuming they’ll wear the red shorts at Indiana, because Nike loves showing their stuff off against Adidas schools.


    Very glad that OSU wore the matching gray shorts with the gray tops. Haven’t heard anything about them wearing the red, but I hope you are right. I loved those “throwbacks”

    Love the “what is/isn’t a sport” debate, but I’m pretty sure link.

    “Bowling isn’t a sport because you have to rent the shoes … Gymnastics is not a sport because Romanians are good at it …”

    We still miss ya, George!

    Yes! I’ve been waiting all afternoon for someone to invoke George Carlin’s rules! Love that bit! “My rules, I make ’em up”.

    Ice dancing and figure skating may not be sports, but at least they are not a “f$%#@* college activity. I don’t care how rough it is, anytime you’re running around a field waving a stick with a little net on the end of it, you’re engaged in a f$%#@* college activity.”

    Bottom line, it’s called the XXII Winter Olympic Games

    game /gām/
    noun: game; plural noun: games 1. a form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.

    Figure skating seems to belong according to that definition. Surya Bonaly was enjoyable to watch, very theatrical and athletic, but she didn’t win Olympic Gold because she didn’t do the required objective technical components well enough. (Yes, the judging is/has been corrupt, but that’s not at issue here.)

    Please. If you’re going to emphasize the word “Games,” then I assume you’re in favor of checkers, Boggle, and Yahtzee all gaining Olympic status.

    You can consult as many dictionaries as you want, but I’ve yet to see anyone defend a definition like I’m defending mine.

    The Olympics are designed to highlight physical skills…those games you mentioned are more mental skills. In fact, you could play checkers vs. a computer, so that is not a good analogy. For an event to be part of the Olympics, it must have at least some physical component, I think we can agree. Hockey is a game that requires physical abilities…many Olympic events are games, but not all IMO. Skating is not a game…it is an athletic performance…someone preforming a pre-rehearsed routine in a competition with others.

    The Olympics are designed to highlight physical skills…those games you mentioned are more mental skills.

    Right. But they fit the dictionary definition he posted.

    Everyone’s trotting out definitions, and then they don’t like it when I point out that those definitions are so expansive that they’d allow for all sorts of bullshit.

    My definition, on the other hand, works. I’ve defended it all day long and have yet to see anyone else defend theirs.


    I like your definition and you are great at defending it. What I’m struggling with, as are others, is that the other Billion or so people out there who speak English and don’t read Uni Watch may have pre-conceived notions dating back decades of what is a sport. You are a great writer and have great knowledge of uniforms, but to tell us how society over time has used the word sport, we need a respected Etymologist. I would hope one could come to an expert opinion as to how the majority use the term and that should be the convention. If we have different conventions for words, it wouldn’t be a standard language…similar to a team wearing different scripts on their jerseys. You would understand what team they were on, but it would probably annoy you. It’s fine to try to evolve language, but be prepared for a heated battle, with no clear winner.

    I hear you.

    But the exercise I’ve proposed is pretty simple: State a standard, apply the standard, and see what comes out.

    When I do that, what comes out are things that, I submit, most reasonable people would agree to be sports. When everyone else does that (like with the dictionary definition at the top of this thread), what comes out are a bunch of things that, I submit, most reasonable people would consider not to be sports.

    “No clear winner”? I respectfully disagree.

    I appreciate you taking the lead on this…makes for great reading and you are passionate about it. You could be absolutely right in making your standard, based 100% on facts and logic that nobody could really find holes in…but it won’t be a standard if people don’t want to follow it.

    Can you clarify one thing…do you propose skating, since it doesn’t meet your standard of a sport, be removed from the Olympics?

    it won’t be a standard if people don’t want to follow it.

    But here’s the thing: As I just said, if we APPLY the standard, then I think most reasonable people would actually AGREE with my standard. I’m not asking people to reconfigure their notions of this or that. On the contrary, I’ve come up with a standard that, I submit, CONFORMS to most people’s notions.

    do you propose skating, since it doesn’t meet your standard of a sport, be removed from the Olympics?

    Yes. Ditto for gymnastics, dressage, freestyle skiing, and all the other subjectively judged “sports.” (But at least those sports’ participants don’t claim that their costumes are necessary for their character-driven storytelling, which is the whole reason we’re discussing figure skating here today.)

    Do I really expect that to happen? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth discussing.

    Seems you’re conflating two issues. There’s the issue of the use of costuming and storytelling in competition, and the issue of your definition of sport. Figure skating could follow your advice and eliminate the costuming and storytelling, but it did so, it still wouldn’t meet your definition of a legitimate sport and is deserving of being ousted (marginalized) from the Olympics. So why should skating follow your advice if it can never meet your standard?

    You’re right — even if they wore uniforms, they wouldn’t meet my definition of a sport.

    But the chatter about the costumes being essential for character-driven storytelling really highlights and underscores the degree to which figure skating isn’t a sport. That’s all. It helps make my point for me.

    As for “marginalization,” I wish you’d stop using that term. Just as I don’t think figure skating is a sport, I also don’t think Greg Maddux was an “artist,” even though lots of people liked to call him that. I’m not suggesting a hierarchy of disciplines (although if forced to choose, I’d gladly take the world of art over the world of sports); I’m simply suggesting a dichotomy of disciplines, with clear boundaries between them.

    Figure skating is essentially performance art and musical theater. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it doesn’t belong in the Olympics and its participants and fans should be honest enough to call it what it is.

    You’re no longer talking just about language categories. You’re advocating that certain sports be expelled from their most important competitive event. I’d say that wrestling was marginalized by being kicked out of the Olympics, and the same would be true if they kicked out gymnastics or diving.

    You’re advocating that certain sports be expelled from their most important competitive event.

    Nope. I’m advocating that certain NON-sports be removed from what is, supposedly, a sports festival.

    If you choose to view that as marginalization, that says something about *your* hierarchy of disciplines, not mine. Figure skating competitions can keep on happening outside of the Olympics — they’d make for great television, just like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars or any of the other very popular televised competitions that happen not to be sports. That would be a more appropriate realm for figure skating, which is not a sport and doesn’t belong in a sports festival.

    I have to go now. It’s been fun playing with you.

    This kind of agrees with my thoughts…a game is a sub-category of sports. To me skating is a sport, but not a game…it is an athletic performance or competition, because it has a subjective component and one’s performance does not affect another’s. By my semantics, they should be called the Olympic Sports…but I’ll let it slide.

    As an actor, this whole discussion fascinates me. I could have been acting and playing a sport all this time… Where’s my letterman jacket for being Tevye in high school?

    It’s interesting to see where the discussion has led to considering what it stemmed from. That is, Paul’s argument that because Figure Skaters consider costumes so integral to the execution of the sport, it weakens it as a sport within his personal definition.

    Meryl Davis explains, “There’s no denying that figure skating as a whole and ice dance in particular are [as] much based on performance as on athletics.”

    Skaters feel that a costume is a necessary piece of performance, as she also states ““I personally think [uniforms] would be a huge drawback from the performance.”

    White even goes so far as to say “We’re not just trying to look nice, we’re really trying to be the characters we’re trying to embody.”

    What these Skaters are saying is that despite the fact that they are not technically to be awarded or discounted more than 1.0 point based on their costumes, they feel they could not execute to the best of their abilities in a standardized uniform. That would be like a Bengals player stating they couldn’t execute fully on the football field without striped helmets because they wouldn’t feel they embodied the true essence of a Bengal.

    I’m an actor. I get the storytelling thing. A costume is a huge part of how a story is told, just as the lighting and set are. Go see a local Shakespeare production where they set King Lear in the 1920’s and another where they make everyone Astronauts (God I hope no one is doing that). It severely and subjectively changes the way the story is told. I hate the idea of King Lear on the moon but you could love the daft old King yelling “Blow, winds and crack your cheeks!Rage! Blow!” at Mars.

    The fact that we’re discussing the ability to tell a story as something that can affect a sport is kind of making my head explode. It seems to me if you feel your sport is, to paraphrase White, very much the same as Theatre, then it may be Theatre. Now, is theatre a sport? According to many definitions offered here, as long as various productions are competing for something, say ‘Best Play of the Summer’ and is officiated according to pre determined set of rules, then it is. Could then, any piece of art pitted against another piece of art and judged by a specific set of rules then be sport?

    What Paul is offering is that Skaters clearly feel that costumes aid in the believability of a story they are trying to tell, which directly correlates to how well they can execute their sport. But a story and judging on believability is not a quantifiable yes or no event such as Paul argues that makes up a sport. You can’t say after watching Lear, ‘Oh, Gary Oldman WAS Lear. Yes, he was.’ because as art, it is subjective. Art imitates life, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. Imitation, in part relies on lying in some way. A painting of fruit can look like real fruit and can be art, but it is not fruit. Gary Oldman can meet all of your qualifications for being King Lear, but he can never truly be King Lear. He’s always Gary Oldman! Can such discrepancies exist in art? Paul argues that a baseball is always fair or foul (despite if it is called correctly), a touchdown is always or never a touchdown, a basket is always a basket. A golf ball either lands in the water or it doesn’t.

    Paul gives us a well defended take on what makes something a sport or not and using Skater’s resistance of a uniform (those things he writes about on uni-watch) as an point that weakens the argument that it is a sport.

    Because it is a well defended definition strengthened by the lede, I feel it is an acceptable definition of ‘Sport’.
    It really is a fun debate though. Usually when I debate whether or not something is a sport, the person I’m debating with wildly gestures to the TV and says ‘Look at that! Can you do that!!?”

    I can’t do many things.

    Doesn’t make them a sport.At least here, we’ve a more structured debate going on.

    Excellent post today Paul!

    I’m sure it’s been asked/answered (maybe even today), but would you consider NASCAR a “sport”?

    Based on your definition, it does fall into that category.

    I’m a NASCAR fan, and even I have trouble identifying it as a sport. So much does depend on one’s definition.

    The only question about NASCAR, it seems to me, is whether it’s athletic. And I honestly don’t know enough about NASCAR to answer that question.

    But it’s a race, it takes place outdoors — I’d say it probably qualifies.

    Also, I’d *better* say it’s a sport, cuz tomorrow’s post is NASCAR-centric…..

    You know, some drivers are really physically fit. Jimmie Johnson trains, runs road races, etc. The guy is one of the more physically fit guys in the sport.

    People will argue it’s a sport because “you try driving those cars for 4 hours in 90 degree heat”.

    Both things bring to mind the question, is being physically fit an advantage in NASCAR? I think there is an advantage to it. Is it a sport though? I still don’t think so. There’s always the argument that the car is the one doing all the work, etc. I can agree with that too.

    Reminds me of when I ran track in HS, we had one or two days in the weight room lifting weights, arms, legs, etc even though we were runners. Not sure the entire reason behind it but I imagine it did help.

    Syracuse “faux backs” — Blecch. If they were all orange, or even all navy, they’d be very good. Orange shirts and navy shorts is not a good look.

    I just visited the IOC’s official site. While they call the Olympics the “Olympic Games”, they clearly label the events as WINTER SPORTS and there are only 14 main events:

    Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Bobsleigh Skeleton, Curling, Ice Hockey, Luge, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping and Snowboard.

    If we eliminate Figure Skating, Freestyle and Snowboard, you likely would not have the Winter Olympics at all. I imagine Figure Skating brings in a lot of the viewers and revenue.

    Yeah I don’t understand those 14 (or 15 I thought) icons they use when there are many more events than just those 15 or so.

    So, basically, you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sport. All that matters is $$$$.

    That’s not exactly what I said, but I am concluding the Olympics would likely fold without figure skating.

    But it’s not a very good intellectual defense of figure skating being a sport.

    I agree it’s not, but it’s not MY defense. My defense of calling figure skating a sport is using a looser definition of sports than you…one that allows me to also own a sportscar and a sportscoat. I believe, for better or worse, most people are comfortable with this looser form.

    If we eliminate Figure Skating, Freestyle and Snowboard, you likely would not have the Winter Olympics at all.

    Or maybe the Winter Olympics would just be a smaller, less popular sports festival — just like a few jillion other sports festivals and tournaments. And what exactly would be wrong with that?

    I imagine Figure Skating brings in a lot of the viewers and revenue.

    So, basically, you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sport. All that matters is $$$$.

    At least that’s an honest response. But it’s not a very good intellectual defense of figure skating being a sport.

    I’m not emphasizing “Games”, the Olympics happen to, and thus, Figure Skating fits.

    And, as I pointed out (and as you’re self-servingly neglecting to address), checkers, Boggle, and Yahtzee would also “fit” under the definition you proposed.

    For the umpteenth time: There’s no shame in not being a sport. There’s no hierarchy of disciplines that says being a sport is better than being a non-sport. I’m not trying to downgrade or diminish figure skating; I’d just like it to be properly classified.

    Figure skating is a mix of performance art and musical theater. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it would be nice if its participants and fans could be honest enough (with themselves and with the rest of us) to accept it for what it is, instead of pretending that it’s something it’s not.

    Oh, I didn’t realize you were arguing they should be removed from the Olympics — I thought you were just saying they aren’t sports. I have no problem with just admitting they are not sports, yet still be Olympic events. Nothing says the Olympics have to be just sports.

    They don’t even include all sports, since baseball and softball have been excluded from the Summer Games, so why would they have to include only sports?

    They don’t even include all sports, since baseball and softball have been excluded from the Summer Games, so why would they have to include only sports?

    Whooo, I hope I don’t have to spell out the faulty logic embodied in that sentence!

    Obviously they wouldn’t have to include all sports — I’m just saying that I’ve always thought of the Olympics as not necessarily being synonymous with “sports” for the very reason that it has always included things such as figure skating that (for the reasons discussed today) I’ve thought were not sports.

    Ah — so (a) you agree that figure skating isn’t a sport, but (b) you don’t think that should disqualify figure skating from being in the Olympics, because (c) you don’t think the Olympics are a sports festival.

    Okay. But you realize this basically means *any* vaugely physical competition, no matter how subjectively assessed, can attain Olympic status, yes?

    I agree with that… If they (the ‘Olympic Powers That Be’) wanted to make ‘Scrabble’ an Olympic event, that’s their prerogative. It’s not going to make me consider it a sport, any more than I consider figure skating a sport now.

    I’ve never thought of the Olympics as purely a ‘sports’ festival. It is what it is – the Olympics. Not entirely sports, but not exclusive of sports, either.

    Think of how many other things also use ‘Olympic’ terminology. Like on the high school level, they have ‘Math Olympics’, they have ‘Science Olympics’ — they give the winners of academic events like these gold, silver and bronze medals, etc. Purely academic events, but they use ‘Olympic’ terminology.

    I’ve never thought of the Olympics as purely a Sports Festival, just like ESPN (whose initials originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Network) covers poker & the Spelling Bee, which I don’t considers sports either, although ESPN is mostly a sports network. Similarly, the Olympics are mostly a sports festival. To me, the Olympics are a festival that has many events that are sports, and some events that aren’t.

    …and also I agree that figure skating does take ‘athletic ability’ – so for that reason I don’t think they’d consider a game like scrabble or chess.

    But if they did consider something like that, that would even highlight more that the Olympics are entirely unique.

    Some things that are definitely (in my opinion) sports are not Olympic — golf (for now), bowling, American Football, etc.

    Some things that are not sports (in some people’s opinion) are Olympic — figure skating, synchronized swimming, etc.

    Therefore I can only conclude that the Olympics are what they are (sports, non-sports distinction not withstanding) – simply whatever the Olympic Committee wants them to be.

    Just saw a commercial for the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL)upcoming promotion this weekend. They will be wearing artic camo jerseys for “Puck Dynasty” Weekend. I think the guys from Duck Dynasty are apearing or something. Saw a picture of the jerseys on TV but cant find a picture.

    Hypothetical situation: What if the NFL started awarding the better dressed team in a given game some amount of points, based on a judges opinion. The rest of the game would be unchanged.

    Per your guidelines this new rule would turn the NFL from a sport to a competition, correct?

    I wonder if that Seahawk player knows one thing about the historical background of the name Redskins or just has heard it repeated so many times that it is racist…

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