Thursday, 25 February 2016

Huxley's Sportiness Scoring System

Sorry, campanologists, Bell ringing is not a sport.

As you might expect, from a title like that, this is going to be one of my arrogant, opinionated posts where I explain why everyone else is wrong. In other words, this is a blog post.

For some time, it seems as if people have been getting confused about what is and isn't a sport. I would like to take this opportunity to clear things up.

There's no point in calling everything that is a game a sport. Nor is there any point in calling any physical activity a sport. We have different words for these things to help us distinguish between them.

The difference between a game and a sport is that a sport is dependent on physical activity of the participants in the game. Chess, bridge and poker can all be played over the internet, with mice and keyboards, in remote locations, with no fundamental change to what's going on. The same cannot be said for cricket, table tennis or rugby.

E-sports can be considered a category of their own, where physical skill is required but physical presence is not. Whether these count as sports or not can be dealt with some other time.

The difference between physical activity and a sport is the lack of a game element. A game involves two or more players, in a situation where what one player does affects the other(s).

So a sport requires two things:

  • Physical activity with two or more players
  • Interaction between the players in that what one player does affects what the others do.
Those two requirements are inclusive of virtually all, if not all recognised current Olympic sports, as well as every other generally recognised sport I am aware of.

I say virtually all because I don't know enough about one or two disciplines. The 100m sprint has very little game element to it and you could argue that everyone's going to run as fast as they can, no matter what anyone else does. However, noticing that you're a step behind the leader early on can put you off, as can being ahead. A particularly fast sprinter can ease her way through early rounds and conserve energy for the final, knowing that the other contenders in a heat aren't going to challenge her.

I'm not sure if the same holds true in the artistically judged sports like figure skating and synchronised swimming. A very high scoring dive could cause another competitor to go for a riskier dive but I'm not sure the same is true of some other disciplines. This confuses the issue slightly as one could argue for juggling, ballet or air guitar being a sport on these grounds. These seem to be judged artistic performances rather than sports.

But I don't simply want to talk about whether something is or isn't a sport. I want to know how sporty something is. And to that effect, I have created Huxley's Sportiness Scoring System (HuxSSS).

For this system, I have split the physical aspect of a sport into two separate areas: athleticism and technical skill. Some sports (e.g. darts) can be performed at the top level with virtually no athleticism (although you still need an arm). But more obviously sporty sports, like tennis, require high levels of athleticism. Similarly, some sports require very precise and wide-ranging technique (e.g. cricket) and others need far less technique and a more reliant on athleticism (e.g. powerlifting).

So to find out how sporty something is, judge it from 0 (not at all) to 4 (incredibly demanding) in the following areas:

1) Athleticism (A)
2) Skill (S)
3) Game (G)

and multiply the numbers together.

Anything which lacks any element will get a 0 and be excluded. But you will also see that, as a rule, the most exciting, obviously sporty sports get high scores (heading towards 64, the perfect score) and the less interesting ones score lower. Your scores may differ from mine, and you may prefer one sport to another for other reasons (aesthetic, TV presentation, culture, etc.).

So without further ado, here are some sports scored with HuxSSS:

Football (Soccer): A3S4G3 = 36
Football (NFL): A4S4G4 = 64 (across the team as a whole, I think this stands, although you could deduct something because not everyone involved has to have all of this. Perhaps you take an average for all the positions (including coaches and GMs), take the mean and multiply them up)
Rugby: A4S3G3
Cricket: A3S4G4 = 48 (sadly one of my highest scores in competitive cricket)
Tennis: A3S4G4 = 48
100m sprint: A4S2G1 = 8. Obviously this is far more exciting than that but Tongans may be just as excited about powerlifting. It's not a very sporty sport it just requires incredible natural physique and conditioning.
Road cycling (e.g. Tour de France): A4S3G3 = 36
Gymnastics (multidiscipline): A4S4G1 = 16
Snooker: A1S4G4 = 16
Sailing: A2S3G3 = 12 (don't know this well enough but it's somewhere around there. Any one category could go up by 1 but not all three).
Equestrian: A2S4G2 = 16

And so on.

So next time you're wondering if something's a sport or not, use HuxSSS and you should get a good idea how obviously it is or isn't a sport.

Feel free to add your own scores for sports in the comments or tell me how wrong I am.


  1. Regarding 100m low 'game' score. Are you assuming that the interaction takes place contemporaneously? Because someone achieving a record inspires someone else to beat it, which brings about competition, which is the heart of 'game'. Same goes for most athletics...

  2. Good point. Yes, I think so.

    There are time trial based competitions. Say, trying to beat your friend's PB at 10km or Top Gear's 'Star in a reasonably priced car'. But although one performance might give ideas for, and push the level of competition up, the game element (involving interaction) is not present at the same time as the physical element.