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Just for the sport of it: Fastest-growing American competition changes rapidly

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, May 28, 2006

This just in from the Bureau of Things Even Single-Cell Organisms That Have Been Living In A Cave for Five Years and Keanu Reeves Know — Sports are competitive.

Duh.

But what you and the single-cell organism may not realize (we’ll leave Keanu out of it — this will get a little deep for him) is just how competitive sports have become.

Obviously sports involves competition — between players, fans, sponsors, gear manufacturers, obsessive parents and movie studios trying to come up with yet another nauseatingly uncreative take on the “animal befriends lonely kid and leads the team to victory” genre.

Now sports are competing with each other, and not just for participants, viewers, endorsements, air time or other likely reasons. Competition has become so rampant that sports have stooped to the point of squabbling over a hollow, meaningless designation that sounds cool yet is as worthless as a big sale on an item you bought a week ago.

No, not American Idol. Good guess, though.

I’m talking about the title of “fastest-growing sport in America.”

You hear it often, usually in reference to endeavors that involve household items and look like they were invented under the influence of a lot of alcohol — like curling or lacrosse.

Though essentially meaningless, I can see some appeal in being called the fastest-growing sport in the nation. It’s catchy, and it probably helps with advertising and endorsement deals. After all, what product executive would want to endorse the “most stagnant sport in America,” or the “sport people would rather have a root canal than play?”

In the pursuit of good journalism (OK, I was bored and didn’t feel like washing the dishes) I attempted to research which sport actually is the fastest-growing in America. A quick Google search showed me I’d have an easier time figuring out where they buried Hoffa.

Web site after Web site showed the designation usurped for its activity of choice. Some of them at least pretended to have a valid reason for their claim — usually by saying “a recent poll has shown that ...” without citing the poll. Other claims are crazier than giving a cat a bath while on blood thinners, then peeling lemons.

Here are some of the contenders for the “fastest-growing sport in America”:

· NASCAR. I can kind of see that. It probably isn’t picking up masses of participants (backyard race tracks aren’t too popular in suburbia), but it’s big with viewers. And I suppose it is the fastest sport in the nation, growing or not.

· Competitive eating. This one’s just semantics. It doesn’t have the fastest-growing number of participants or viewers, but I bet its participants grow faster, weightwise, than those of other activities.

· Rugby. I’d make a joke about this but I don’t know anything about it, mainly because I was never tall enough to see over the kegs on the sidelines.

· Poker. It might be the fastest-growing way for people to lose their money, marriages and/or pinkie fingers when the loan sharks get ahold of them. But it’s disqualified because I refuse to acknowledge a card game as a sport. Why poker and not other games? Until the Go Fish national championship is aired on ESPN, I’m not accepting poker.

· Bull riding. Fastest way to make it uncomfortable to sit down? Beyond that I haven’t got a clue on this one.

· Paint ball. Yeah. Whatever.

· Roller derby. See above.

· Dog agility. Ditto x2.

· Sport or speed stacking. No, I hadn’t heard of it before, either. According to speedstack.com, sport stacking is where — brace yourself — participants stack objects as quickly as they can. The Web site actually says that “Speed Stacks is proud to be the number one choice among physical education teachers across the country.”

How’s that for a ringing endorsement? And here I though the number one choice among PE teachers was the phrase, “walk it off.”

· Pickleball.

· Snowboarding. Wait. Hold on a second. Did that say pickleball? Pickleball?!

· Rounding out the search was a motley crew of mixed martial arts, kite surfing, kayaking/rafting, snorkeling and scooter riding.

But why let bull riding and pickleball have all the fun (that’s an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one). I’m going to invent my own sport. It’s called booting, and it’s a competition to see who can hurl malfunctioning computer equipment the farthest.

A quick poll of my office shows booting is up to six players, an exponential growth rate. That’s got to qualify as the fastest-growing sport in the nation, if not the whole world.

I’ve got to notify Google.

When she’s not hurling malfunctioning computer equipment, Jenny Neyman is the city editor for the Clarion.



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