My colleague, News-Times sports writer Justin Williams, argued in his Sunday column that cheerleading is a sport.
I respectfully disagree.
Now, before you cheerleaders decide to show up at my office and cartwheel me into a coma, please read on.
I've often stated that any athletic endeavor using judges to determine a winner -- cheerleading, gymnastics, figure skating, etc. -- is a competition, not a sport.
I'm not saying cheerleaders and gymnasts are not athletes. They absolutely are.
At age 39, I still can sink most of my shots from a free-throw line, knock a base hit or tackle a guy carrying some pigskin. However, any attempt on my part to try some of the stunts regularly executed by cheerleaders and gymnasts surely would result in a trip to an emergency room.
But a true sport uses an objective scoring system. Cross the goal line and get six points. Sink a basket and get two points. Touch home plate and get a point.
Judges exist in those sports, and their decisions can affect the outcome of the game, but that isn't their purpose. Umpires and referees are there to guard against infractions of the rules.
In subjective competitions, judges determine the outcome, putting cheerleading and other judged athletic competitions on the same level as beauty pageants, and American Idol .
Fair-minded sports enthusiasts will complain endlessly about judgment calls in scored sports: Witness the recent furor over the umpire's bad call that ruined what should have been a no-hitter, or the American soccer team's denial of two goals against Algeria because of what replays showed were bad calls.
But those instances, and others like them, are anomalies. Typically, the most skilled team or athlete will win the game. And it's obvious to fans who won.
Not so in judged competitions.
During the winter Olympics, I watched some of the figure skating. Except for those who fell during routines, they all were amazing. Their grace and athleticism is undeniable. There's no way I could have picked one to be the best over all others. I'm not sure anyone truly could.
Therein lies the rub. Like cheerleading, it is judged using a subjective set of criteria.
With no finish line to cross, there can never be a clearly defined winner. And without that definition, that objective standard on which to determine an outcome, it's a competition.
Cheerleaders, you have incredible gifts. But calling what you do a sport is like calling karaoke a concert.
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