12/14/14

lucy

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dave Santos.

Today’s blong here:

Christmas Lights

12/7/14

Convict Tree

tree

My office tree.

Steroids? Check.

Dog fighting? Check.

Bountygate? Check.

Nothing says God’s grace at Christmas like sports’ scandal.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s blong here:

Tree Trim

10/18/14

Kelly Slater is Not a Sport

Kelly Slater, the livingly legendary surfer, apparently just did this:

Some are reporting it as a 540 (as in degrees). Others as a 720. I don’t really care. However characterized, it’s wildly unimpressive.

But, it does give me an opportunity to repost one of my longstanding personal theories on a deep cosmic question, to the instigation of many personal friends and Charlestonians especially:

What is sport?

The eternal debate over which activities constitute “sport” and which do not, ends now. For too long, we’ve been left to our own individual view. Bass fishing. Ice skating. The WNBA. What are they? We need an objective test. A standardized list. Even the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports, without distinction, sloppily conflates the performances of Kelly Slater and Jimmie Johnson and Shaun White with those of Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick and Mike Trout. All world class athletes for sure. Not all participants of sport. But, how can we know for sure?

So, presently, I think we’re all working with a kind of intuitive definition of sport that includes three generalized elements:

1. An activity;
2. requiring some threshold level of physical exertion/skill; and
3. performed within a measurable and competitive context.

These three elements by themselves lead to all kinds of controversy. Is race car driving a sport? It requires an above-resting-heart-rate level of cardio; physical strength; and world class eye hand coordination. It’s also a race. But, it sure looks a lot like just driving a car. Is surfing a sport? The physical element is plainly satisfied. But, what really is a surfing “contest”? Non-standardized playing environment. And, physical techniques poorly suited for quantification and measurement. How about billiards? A kind of low-grade eye-hand coordination, relative to something like baseball or golf. But, plainly an objectively measurable competitive outcome.

Most people think the controversy is all in the second element. Are you being “athletic” enough to constitute sport? But, an emphasis on the second element leads to unnecessarily forced accusations like “soccer players are bed wetters” in order to try and discount an activity as sport, when plainly the physical element is present. And, while there is admittedly some grey area caused by our intuition that sport requires “physicality,” I actually think the real confusion is almost entirely in the third element.

When we doubt sport, we are really subconsciously reacting to an activity out of context.

See the problem is that we live in a “game” culture. And, so we are constantly turning everything into a measurable test of wills and talent. Pie eating contests. iPad math games. Iron Chef. Seed spitting. Spelling Bees. Madden Bowl. Project Runway. Jeopardy. Last Comic Standing. That cup stacking thing. Otherwise non-competitive activities that we simply decide to score. And, then we’re stuck wondering if it is a sport. There really isn’t any activity that we can’t quantify and make competitive. And, so we wind up shrugging our shoulders at ESPN’s 2:00 am time slot and reluctantly accepting that the Lumberjack Games must be a sport. “They’re really strong. And they get a trophy carved from a tree trunk.” Check and check.

But, intuitively we know this isn’t right. And, when we can’t clearly challenge on the basis of athleticism, like with The World’s Strongest Man competition or American Ninja Warrior, it’s all the more frustrating. “I know he’s pulling a transport truck with his teeth, but that can’t possibly be a sport.”

Consider the mystery solved. Our definition of sport simply needs to include the following clarification.

If an activity has some context other than its competitive one, it is NOT A SPORT, even if it also now enjoys a competitive context; it is just an activity. By contrast, sport has no other context for its activity than its competitive one.

Football doesn’t have a non-competitive context. Football was invented for football’s sake. You can choose to not keep score but that doesn’t make the performance of the activity any less advesarial. It is always pitting, so to speak. Some activity called “footballing” did not predate the competitive, sport version of football. The activity is a priori, in philosophical parlance. Same with basketball or golf or hockey.

Certainly you can break down the individual elements of an inherently competitive activity into non-competitive ones. Like hitting balls at the range. Or throwing a baseball off a brick wall. But, that’s just practice; not the actual and full activity itself. When you play baseball. You’re playing baseball. And, if you want to say that spinning the football with your dad in the backyard isn’t a sport, we can agree to agree. It’s an activity. Football, however, is a sport.

So, let’s look at the modified rule in application.

Skateboarding? Not a sport. Skateboards were toys and transportation first. X-games came later. It’s an activity. And a public nuisance.

Horseback riding? Not a sport. Horses were for transportation, hunting, and nation-state imperialism originally. The track came later. It’s an activity. And a farm animal.

Car racing? Not a sport. It’s an activity. You may have heard of it. It’s called driving.

And, cycling? Yep. Not a sport. It’s an activity. Horn. Woven basket. Tandem seats. Picnic. The Tour came later.

Surfing. Uh uh. Any activity that includes the risk of shark attack is not a sport. It’s survival.

To be clear, all of these are athletic or rather require athleticism. But, so does hand-to-hand guerrilla warfare. That doesn’t make it a sport.

To the point, this “original context” view eliminates the sort of qualitative judgment the debate about sport presently implies. So, currently, the race car driver has to behave sort of defensively that the athleticism and physicality required of him is high, whenever his racing is not accepted by some as a sport. But, this proposed addendum to the definition of sport effectively shifts the debate from athletic v. non-athletic to activity v. sport. And, truthfully this view is already in line with the culture of these activities. Competition and scoring were imposed on many of these activities, like surfing and skateboarding and axe hurling, whose participants philosophically already see contests and competitions as a kind of existential threat to the purity of the real experience and culture of those things. A definition, which focuses on the original purpose of the activity, therefore, removes this more judgmental and artificial exercise in critisizing the physical talent or skill or difficulty of relative sports.

How about foot races you might ask or long jump? People have been jumping over and running from and after things for as long as we’ve been bi-pedal. And, mostly for non-competitive reasons. How can the 100m or triple jump not be a sport simply because they have other non-competitive contexts?

And, so, I have promulgated an important corollary to our definition, called the “Antiquities Exception.” It goes as follows:

If the activity was originally considered a sport, in antiquity, then it remains a sport in modernity.

Running.

Jumping.

Wrestling/Boxing/Fighting Arts.

Object hurling. Javelins. Shot puts.

All of these were “sport” in antiquity. They’re grandfathered in, so to speak. If it was a “sport” before the invention of pants, let’s say, you can continue to claim it now.

Before I continue, it’s critical that we say a little more about the second element — that physical exertion/skill be present. Although this is where most people believe the debate lies, I think it’s pretty straightforward.

If an activity requires two or more of speed/quickness, strength, agility, flexibility, and eye-hand coordination, it satisfies the physical exertion demands of sport.

Period.

This working definition quickly helps identify inherently competitive activity without physicality, as “game,” and inherently competitive activity with physicality, as sport. Things like board and yard games, therefore, pretty rapidly find their water level as games.

Monopoly. Game.
Chess. Game.
Cornhole. A passion.

It also relegates something like billiards to the game category for its reliance essentially on only one attribute in eye hand coordination but solidifies something like ping pong or table tennis as sport for demanding quickness plus coordination.

Here are some interesting test cases.

The sleddings. Bob, dog, snow. Ancient activities. But, not necessarily ancient sports. 1967 was the first Iditarod. Not a sport. Anything that involves “packing” or “food stores” is not a sport.

Skiing. As a means of snow escape, maybe as old as 5 to 6 thousand years. As a sport, relatively new. It’s, at best, an activity, at worst, suicide.

Sailing. You already saw the spoiler. Not a sport. Anything used to “circumnavigate” cannot be sport. Satellites. Shuttles. Boats.

Roller Derby. Although roller skating itself is an activity, punching women in the face while roller skating has no other context. Sport.

Lumberjack Olympics. Not a sport. Anything that scores or measures “job performance” is an evaluation not a sport.

Arm wrestling. Have you seen Over the Top? Sport.

Fishing. As with the sleddings, if the activity also doubles as a food source or other life necessity, not a sport.

One of my favorites. Cheerleading. Not a sport. It has another context. Called cheerleading.

Horseshoes. A game. Eye hand coordination only.

Ice skating. Regardless of the definition used, ice skating will never, ever, ever be a sport. Panty hose = no sport.

Women’s softball. Begrudgingly a sport.

Clemson football. Not a sport. It plainly has no competitive context. It is strictly non-competitive.

How about swimming? Evidence of “swim meets” and Speedo in the Ancient World is admittedly a little thin, but it has such a high association with modern sport, like track, that it’s hard to not deem swimming a sport. So, is swimming more like skiing, essentially a type of environmentally specific transportation, or more like sprinting, an old sport? To resolve it, the Antiquities Exception should reasonably be extended to cover any competition based on an irreducibly singular athletic movement that doesn’t include equipment. Like running or jumping. Whereas skiing and sailing are an activity in human/equipment hybrid, swimming is a base athletic activity. A sport. You’re lucky, Phelps. Real lucky.

One more canard: gymnastics.

Trust me. The the back layout with a half twist has no other context. And, no one can quibble with the physical requirements. But, it gets such a bad rap for scoring that it seems to fail the measurable/competitive element as simply not well-suited to assessment. I would offer that although the current judging system is an abomination, as with boxing, that doesn’t mean you can’t imagine a more technical and objective type of adjudication. Sport. By the skin of your leotard, Tim Daggett.

So, let’s review. A “sport” is

1. Any activity;
2. requiring physical exertion, to include two or more of the following physical attributes – speed, agility, flexibility, strength, or eye-hand coordination; and
3. performed within a competitive context, so long as the activity has no other non-competitive context,

otherwise, it is a game or an activity.

Antiquities Exception: Any physical activity deemed a “sport” in antiquity is a sport in modernity, to include any competition based on an irreducibly singular athletic movement that doesn’t include equipment.

Got it?

To summarize:

Baseball. A sport.

Surfing (Kelly Slater). Not a sport.

Lacrosse. A sport.

Fantasy sports. Not a sport. Even if you’re in an auction, keeper, league-specific, PPR, rotisserie, War Room league.

So next time someone invites you to a NASCAR event or the Kentucky Derby or the above videoed 2014 Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal, you can confidently say, “Why thank you. I’d love to attend that ‘activity competition’ with you.”

(And, yes, please use air quotes, when you do.)

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Fab da Eclectic. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Bad Sport

10/15/14

The End

Too tired to make Ebola jokes. Just trust me. This does not end well. I’ve seen all the movies. The strain mutates in a way no one predicts. Becomes airborne or contractable via Snapchat. You’ll meet up with a Sheriff from Georgia and his son. Over orders from his parents to stay close, the son will constantly leave the main group only to attract the attention of infected zombie hoards in increasingly preposterous ways and thereby repeatedly imperil himself and the group. He will inherit his dad’s gun and full-brimmed hat and an insufferable personality. You will pray each week for his morbid demise. It will never happen. All your favorite characters from the show, umm, I mean friends, will die. But, Carl, errr, I mean this hypothetically probable future acquaintance, will continue to boss adults around, be allowed to possess a firearm, and generally not die.

Or, maybe an infected nurse will just fly commercial. And, it will be too late.

I beg you, don’t let this happen to us:

ipoet

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by DNL. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Too Late

10/8/14

An Anniversary: Four Years of News Rap

Feeling wistful at four. Sometimes you just have to get back up. Everything you do. Start. Middle. Finish. Complete the task. I’m somewhere in the middle. Of song blogging and life.

Happy birthday song blogging.

rap birthday

Chingy knows what time it is.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dalama Jones. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Not Finished

10/7/14

Move Something

I have been rapping for 25 years. This impossibly archived Baltimore Sun article proves it. Yeah, you read that right. Denim shorts. Trust me, son. Smooth.

So it seems weird that my first commercially distributed solo record, Simple Moves, turns only 10 this year. Of course, there was certainly plenty of music before that, including this gem

sonkissed cover

But, Simple Moves was really the beginning of the modern me and, for about 100 people, a kind of industry classic.

As a result of a highly scientific Twitter poll, it’s also been chosen as the album of the month, available for free download at the Illect Recordings Bandcamp page and embedded below.

“One act of love is worth a thousand words I rap to you.”

I mean it as much today as I did back then. God bless and enjoy.

09/30/14

Number 2

So with less than two outs a pop fly to the infield is a Hobson’s choice for the base runner on first. If he advances before the ball is secured, in order to avoid the double play, he will be doubled off at the base he evacuated after the infielder catches the ball. If he stays at the bag to tag up, the infielder will cleverly allow the ball to fall to the ground and then easily turn two. Executed properly, it’s an assured double play that the runners have no opportunity to influence.

So baseball recognizes a special rule in that situation called Infield Fly. It’s fairly controversial for some of the subjectivity involved in calling it, but essentially if the umpire believes that the fly ball is suffiicently playable to implicate the above conundrum, then the batter is immediately deemed out relieving the runner of any requirement to advance.

Here’s an example of how not to apply the rule:

Infield fly is also theipoetlaureate in pinstripe:

sintax baseball

Or what you get when you cross Minka Kelly with 20 years of championship caliber baseball by Derek Jeter, who officially retires this week.

Handsome. Workmanlike. Selfless. The Captain.

Derek-Jeter

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by DNL. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Infield Fly

09/18/14

Separation Anxiety

The decision to leave.

Scotland votes today on its independence.

Choose wisely.

New_Scotland_Yard

Performed by laureate, the poetlaureate. Music produced by pumpkinFoot. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

A United Kingdom

09/15/14

Spare the Rod

When disciplined, my dad had to go out in the yard and pick a long slender limb as a switch for his own beating. Sort of like picking your favorite dog bite.

It’s a weird thing, parental autonomy over a child’s body. It’s a fairly recent regulatory phenomena for the State to violate it. The area of family discipline has been sacrosanct.

So as Adrian Peterson’s choices about parenting with a switch are put on public and literal trial, we are asked to reexamine that sort of line of scrimmage between discipline and abuse.

But there’s an evolution to moral behavior. In the paraphrased words of Sam Harris, if morality is fundamentally about human well being, then as our understanding of what makes humans healthy improves so does our capacity for moral choice. (Unfortunately, there’s a lot of personal dissonance in this statement for me presently.)

We can say with some scientific clarity that a steel chair across the back of a child effects a kind of physical and psychological harm inconsistent with well being. This doesn’t upset the ancient idiom that to spare the rod is to spoil the child. The principle still persists. But, maybe the implement, or switch, can be switched — so to speak.

teacher-west

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by dj clutch. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Switch