I remember the moment I fell in love with soccer. I was 7 years old. My family had just moved further north in the city for my brother to attend a better school program. My dad walked with me on the first day of Grade 3. We passed the field and saw kids playing soccer before class. One of the taller kids had the ball and made a run, got around a few outstretched legs and shot from quite a distance. The ball sailed right into the net. I was so impressed I don’t remember feeling nervous about my new surroundings. I played soccer almost every recess (yeah remember those) and lunch for the next 3 years.
My definition of a sport:
A competition between individuals or teams in a skilled physical activity that comprises strength, agility and stamina.
I’ve listened to my college roommates debate over sports many times. These debates (or arguments) reached a crescendo right around the time of the Winter Olympics. Since the Olympics are considered the pinnacle of athletics, does that mean ice dancing is a sport? No doubt ice dancing requires physical prowess and coordination, but dancing in general falls under the art category. Or can sports be considered a form of art?
Sports are truly an expression of human physicality. But the mental requirements to achieve higher levels of athletic ability far exceed the physical. Physical training takes a great deal of perseverance and mental willpower. As Mark’s latest article details, there needs to be a purpose behind such determination.
Sports give athletes the ultimate purpose. They pit two opposing forces against each other, both looking for the same goal. It’s a war, a confrontation of two separate worlds.
I’ve been reading The Way of the Fight by Georges St Pierre. Many people call GSP a freak athlete and think his physical ability comes out of nowhere. They diminish his true ability and say these things because they fundamentally lack the mental capacity to believe in their own potential. By pointing at genetics and calling it a day, they deny themselves the chance to work hard and get to the same level.
The true ability of GSP is his determination to make his dream come true. He not only wanted to be the Champion of UFC but he wanted recognition as the world’s greatest martial artist. He came from humble beginnings and many of his coaches thought he was an average level athlete, if that. He built his legacy by having a clear vision of what he wanted and taking the measures he knew were necessary to get there. He sought out the best in their fields and employed a methodical strategic approach to each of his fights. Sure, his aptitude to learning and combining martial arts was exceptional. But this too is proof of his mental determination.
Now I could go on about training for sports and building quicker neural connections (myelin sheath and all that) but you can also Google that on your own. We want to boil down what the best sport in the world is. But how can we compare Mixed Martial Arts to a sport like Tennis? Or individual sports to team sports like Soccer, , Volleyball, Rugby and yes, even Ultimate Frisbee?
A good method is to set up criteria based on the definition (strength, agility, stamina) and score the sports on those components. Good thing Ask Men has already done that for us. But this type of scientific approach doesn’t appeal to me. (If you’re curious they’ve listed Rugby, American Football and MMA as the third, second, and first hardest sports respectively)
Sports are about passion. They’re fluid and exciting. They need to be experienced to truly be understood. But how many people have achieved a high level in more than two sports? We all grow up in different circumstances, so really, it comes down to which sports we fall in love with and which continue to ignite our passions throughout our lives.
Now before you leave feeling cheated with a bullshit “everybody’s right” answer, here’s my list of the World’s Top 5 Sports. Loosely based on what I’ve written above and mostly just in my humble fucking opinion:
- Mixed Martial Arts
I’ve left the racing sports (Running, Swimming, Cycling) and sports like American Football, Golf and Baseball off the list for similar reasons. The nature of them is more structured and largely based on controlled situations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s a fair amount of reactions and interactions involved in some of them, but not as much as my Top 5 which have more dynamic and fluid action.
The fluidity of sport gives them a degree of beauty. For this reason alone, I’ve placed Soccer above Rugby. On all accounts I consider Rugby to be a more purely athletic sport. Rugby is a true combination of strength and stamina that can’t be matched. Watch this for proof:
But the skillful play and beautiful development of a goal in soccer is the reason why they call it The Beautiful Game. Give a child a ball and tell them not to use what they’ve learned to rely on their entire lives (their hands). They’ll squeal in delight.
I don’t care if you disagree with my Top 5. In fact, I expect most people to. But that’s what’s great about sports. They’re so different and each deserve respect in their own right for what they all represent: A competition in the spirit of fun but the greatest opportunity to sharpen the mind and body towards something greater.
In closing, I apologize on behalf of the human race for making this man angry enough to headbutt.