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Tegan Marie competes at Craig Campbell's 6th Annual Celebrity Cornhole Challenge. Photo: Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images

The emergence of esports and breakdancing's Olympics debut in 2024 got me thinking: What is a "sport" exactly?

I wondered: Is any competition considered a sport? Does someone need to be keeping score? Is physical exertion required?

Sport, defined:

  • Oxford: "An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment."
  • Dictionary.com: "An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature."
  • Merriam-Webster: "A source of diversion," or "physical activity engaged in for pleasure or exercise."

Some thoughts:

  • By the first two definitions, non-competitive fishing wouldn't qualify as a sport, but Merriam-Webster accepts it with open arms — and many weekend fishermen likely consider themselves "sportsmen."
  • If I, as an amateur, decide to go skiing, that's not a sport. But if I challenge my friend to a race down the mountain, are we now engaged in a sport? If not, what would make it one? A set of rules? A trophy? Stephen A. Smith's expert analysis?
  • Board games like Monopoly are clearly not sports, but many consider chess to be one. In fact, former SI writer Tim Crothers said "chess is as pure a sport as there is."
  • In 2015, former ESPN president John Skipper famously said of esports: "It's not a sport — it's a competition." Ya know, just to introduce another word into the mix: competitions, sports, activities, games, the list goes on.
  • "Competition is the basis of all hip-hop culture," says longtime breakdancer Michael Holman, per NYT. "The DJ's compete … The MC's and rappers battle … the breakers battle." Absolutely true, but isn't that art?

The bottom line: There will always be activities that exist on the fringe of sports. In that case, perhaps the best definition comes from the Australian Sports Commission: A sport is a sport if it is ... "generally accepted as being a sport."

Go deeper: Check out Kendall's Axios Sports newsletter for coverage of fringe sports in "The Ocho"

Go deeper

President Joe Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to sooth a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.