After a conversation with Jacki at the milblogger's convention, I knew I wanted to write about this.
In the US, and especially the olympics, and even in some other countries, we have this inclination to call games and skills played by individuals and sometimes teams, a "sport."
I'll get on to the definitions in a minute, but identifying a sport vs. a skill isn't the same as defining pornography with the "when I see it, I know it" methodology.
A sport, in chucks definition, MUST have the inherent risk of violence, not accidental violence (i.e. rock climbing--if you screw up, you go splat). That is the key to identification and classification as a sport. Someone or something is trying to kill you. Footbal: sport. a 300+ pound nose tackle trying to tear off your head is a sport. If you are successful, you get past him to your target. If not, meet Joe Theissman. Fishing--only large gamefish and sharks, because if you go in the drink, you stand a very good chance of becoming dinner. Same goes for hunting. The chances of getting gored by a deer are small, but a predator animal (e.g. bear, tiger, mountain lion, or even a not predator with a nasty temper when riled, like an elephant, etc) may just turn you into their next warm meal/stuff betwix their toes.
Boxing is the epitome of true sport, as is ancient greco-roman wrestling. At the ancient greek olympiad, wrestlers were paired off, and wrestled with a pugili-a club of sorts, or grappled with bare hands-until one of them was dead. The winner took on the next challenger, etc, until there was only one wrestler remaining. Now there's an inherent risk of death.
NASCAR, or as I like to call it, driving and making left turns, is NOT a sport. Driving is a skill. Driving fast is a skill, and is learned. I realize it is hot in the cars, and there are other cars rubbing and bumping and generally being nasty and trying to make you lose control, but the rules do not allow them to do so on purpose--therefore all of the risk however intentional, is accidental. Now, if 1/2 the cars drove in the opposite direction, and all forms of collision were allowed, that'd meet the inherent risk of death definition.
Skiing--skill. Skulling--skill. Luge or tobagan or any of the winter sports involving grown men sledding--skill. There is a risk of death, granted, but only if you screw up and newtonian physics kills you. Curling--aside from being a really idiotic game--is a skill. JaiLai--sport. Horse racing, skill. Baseball--until the pitcher is allowed to throw the ball AT the batter, and the batter gets to keep his bat and use it while running--skill/game.
Most of our sports are now skills, or games, or have had so much safety equipment or rules incorporated that the risk of intentional violence or even death is minimized, and that is a function of our non-barbaric society. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, but I hate the obfuscation of the word by those who dinimish its meaning.
Fencing--until they take off the sieves from their faces and the corks off the swords--is a skill. Karate, and any of the full-contact martial arts, are sports.
Calling golf, tennis, badmitton, any form of swimming or running, chess, tiddlywinks, soccer, cycling, basketball, hell any non-contact game with no inherent risk of death a game--is just wrong. It doesn't pass the litmus test.