Editorial: Is Scrabble a sport?

Published 9:33 am Monday, October 24, 2011


What’s a sport?

It’s a conversation everyone has now and then. We have it in the newsroom from time to time. We had it again recently when Sports Illustrated printed a story about a controversy at a national Scrabble championship.

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Do sports have to have a ball, puck, car or be some kind of race? Is yachting a sport? Rodeo? Darts? Pool? Chess?

Our view: Yes to all of the above.

A sport is a competition that involves physical activity.

Why chess? The International Olympic Committee recognizes chess as a sport. The participants often strive to be in good physical shape so they can mentally endure long matches.

Scrabble might be pushing the definition, but top-level Scrabble players talk about training, too.

Joel Sherman, grand prize winner at the National Scrabble Championship in San Diego, said this to Sports Illustrated, arguing that it is a sport:

“I trained for 100 hours in the past month. There’s a certain amount of physical movement, lifting the tile bag and reaching into it. It’s been proved that as we’re thinking, we’re burning calories at a rate similar to doing an activity that requires physical exertion.”

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, countered:

“It would only be a sport if you had to stand up for the whole game and hold something in each hand with your arms extended while the other players make their word.”

That said, fishing is considered a sport. It doesn’t take much physical exertion. And many sports channels have been covering a lot of poker. The line between what is and isn’t a sport surely turns gray here.

One thing is for sure: Whether you want to call your activity a sport or not, we want you to send in the results of your competitions to the Albert Lea Tribune’s sports staff.

The email is tribsports@albertleatribune.com. The phone number is 379-3437.