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Michael O'Malley is a senior studying political science at Ohio University.

For What it's Worth: Is wrestling a real sport?

On Aug. 11, ESPN launched WWE on ESPN, an entire division exclusively dedicated to reporting on professional wrestling. The launch of this new section is but an extension of ESPN’s existent WWE coverage, which has been expanding for quite some time now. 

While this move brought joy to 8-year-old boys and rednecks alike, it sparked outrage amongst a large segment of sports fans. These individuals feel that the sport broadcasting behemoth has turned from its titular charge (the provision of sports coverage) to the pursuit of profits. However, this event marks only the most recent development in a long trend that has seen the network move away from serious reporting on actual sports and toward the provision of entertainment which relates to sports. 

Alongside its coverage of the WWE, ESPN also covers non-sport competitions, such as professional gambling, billiards, drone racing, video gaming, bowling, figure skating, BMX and skateboarding, among others. This departure was made possible in large part by our loose definition of what exactly constitutes a sport. In this column I intend to tighten up this definition, in hopes that one day I will be able to get through an episode of Sports Center without feeling the urge to throw my remote through the screen.

Merriam-Webster defines a sport “as a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” Under this definition, there are four qualifications requisite to being a sport. (1) It must be a contest, (2) physical activity must be involved, (3) there must be rules and (4) there must be at least two competitive entities. While these requirements are effective in denying some non-sports, such as professional wrestling, video gaming and drone racing, the title of sport, they fail to screen out many others, including professional gambling and bowling.

In order to remedy this inadequacy, I propose additional criteria which will produce a more restrictive definition of sports. The first of these new criteria is there must be some element of direct physical interaction between competing players. For example, baseball meets these requirements through the tag-out. This qualification would effectively relegate all so-called “extreme sports” to the status of activity, along with bowling and tennis.

With this in mind, it is possible to produce a new and more effective definition of the term "sport": a sport is a form of competition in which competitors engage physically against each other according to a specific set of rules. This definition enables the exclusion of non-sports from sport status.

Now, if I could only get ESPN’s attention. 

Michael O'Malley is a senior studying political science at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you feel qualifies as a sport? Email your thoughts to Michael at

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