Anyway, while laying in bed watching yet more US Open coverage, I began telling her about this half-baked theory I had come up with when I was younger. Basically, the way I see it, in the vast history of our planet man has only managed to come up with six sports. That's it thousands of years of civilization, a multi-billion dollar world wide atheletic industry and we only have six sports.
- Get the ball to the other end of the field
- Hit the target with the ball
- Don't let the ball hit the net
- Run faster than the other guy
- Beat the other guy up
I defy anyone to come up with a sport that doesn't fit nicely into one of those six buckets.
Granted sometimes one massages the rules in some trivial way in order to pretend its a different sport. Like hockey, which is basically the same game as soccer, football, and basketball, except the ball is hard and flat. Or all the variations of hit the target with the ball that use arrows or bullets or darts or whatnot. And of course there are lots of variations of racing that instead of judging who runs the fastest, instead judges who can jump the highest, throw the farthest or lift the heaviest weight. But they're all essentially the same.
Baseball seems like its kind of a unique sport (well, it and cricket), and I always give it its own category for convenience sake, but really, its just a combination of the game of hit the target, and a couple kinds of racing. Really, when you think about it, baseball is a seriously complex game. You'd think there'd be more games like it that took interesting variations on the other games and mixed them together. But no, most of them just sit in one of the 5 buckets or another. Ok, I'm not so sure about Calvinball.
It has been my goal over the years to get the list to as few buckets as possible. I'm not positive the games of racing and beating up the other guy are really all that different. But I've always erred on the side of considering them different for the simple reason of direction interaction. Whereas in the racing events, one tries to accomplish his goal more or less independently of the other competitor, in the long honored game of beat the other guy up, you must... well directly confront the competitor... and beat him up. This is why professional wrestling is such a pure sport.
Now while watching tennis, I really started thinking about how it differs from the other sports. All the other sports have a decisive end. And they have rules one must work within. In football for instance, there are certain formations you may use and if you deviate from those, you are penalized. In racing you are DQ'd if you start early. In pro-wrestling if you hold the ropes you must break the hold, or be DQ'd. In baseball you have to run the bases in a certain order. etc. In any sporting event of all of the other types, one can essentially play a perfect game by having neither competitor ever break a rule and therefore determine who the better man is. But in tennis, the rules of conduct simply determine who gets the points. The entire point of the game of hit the ball over the net is to keep playing until the other guy eventually accidentally breaks one of the rules (lets the ball hit the ground, or hit the net or go out of bounds). Essentially the only penalty for anything you can do in tennis is that the other guy gets points. The perfect, no rules broken, game of tennis/volleyball/pong essentially goes on forever.
So am I missing anything? Is there some sport that I am unaware of that doesn't fit in one of my buckets? Is there some group of sports that you think deserve their own bucket? Is it clear what sports go in which bucket? Is my analysis of how any of the buckets works wrong? As always, I am interested in everyone's point of view.