Chicken is Not a Vegetable, Skateboarding is Not a Sport
In order to watch either Lakai’s The Flare or Antihero’s The Body Corporate on my laptop, I can’t help but notice that iTunes chose to categorize these films under the limp umbrella word: “sports.” I have nothing against sports, to be clear, but as a lifelong skateboarder, I do have something against skateboarding being portrayed inaccurately in popular culture. So in this spirit, allow me to humbly but firmly assert a claim which can be easily defended; skateboarding is not a sport.
Let’s make this real simple. Skateboarding is not a sport in the same way that chicken is not a vegetable.
Bear with me for a moment.
A vegetable is a plant or part of a plant that is used for food. Is chicken also something that can be used for food? Yep. But is chicken a plant or part of a plant? Nope. Recognizing this distinction is crucial to grasping the obvious conclusion that chicken is not a vegetable.
And before we traverse any further, notice how this topic is a matter of fact, as opposed to a matter of opinion. If you heard someone say, “Well, I think people are entitled to their own opinion about what chicken is. Some see it as more of a meat, but some see it as more of a vegetable. It just depends on your point of view.” Claims such as these are absurd on face value, and we should rightly distrust people who speak like this. Why? Because words have meanings, ladies and gentlemen! And in the same way that chicken is not a vegetable, skateboarding is not a sport.
How do we know this? We know this because the literal dictionary definition of the word sport is, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Does skateboarding involve physical exertion? Duh. Does skateboarding require skill? Obviously. Is skateboarding entertaining? Roger that. But is skateboarding inherently competitive? No, it’s just not. The simple fact is that the definition of the word “sport” requires an element of competition. And fortunately for us, skateboarding is clearly not intrinsically competitive, and therefore, cannot be a sport.
The truth is that skateboarding is more like dancing than basketball.
Is it possible to create dance competitions? Of course. But the pure act of dancing in and of itself is simply an act of creative physical expression. You can dance alone, you can dance in groups, you can dance in any fashion you please. It might not be pretty, it might not be something we want to pay to see, but fundamentally, if you’re moving your body in an attempt to follow to a beat, you’re dancing. This remains true regardless of whether or not you’re competing with anyone.
Like dancing, the pure act of skateboarding is simply another form of creative physical expression. It’s fundamentally self-guided and is bound by no rulebook. If you’re rolling around and doing tricks on a wooden board with trucks and four wheels, you’re skateboarding. This is true weather or not you’re competing with anyone.
At various points throughout my early childhood, I played football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey at the behest of my parents. I learned valuable skills and lessons from all of these experiences. But I also quit them all the moment I picked up a skateboard, and I haven’t put it down since.
Why? Because from the moment I began rolling around in my driveway and working on ollies at age 12, I realized there was something deeply different about skateboarding. The difference, which I felt then but better understand now, lies largely in the purpose of the activity. And if the main objective of sports is to win, the main objective of skateboarding is to have fun. For me, the freedom to cease worrying about winning unlocked an enormous amount of creative energy.
As a teacher, I’ve come to appreciate the degree to which learning to think and act creatively is one of the most valuable skills anyone can learn in life. And while there are many paths that can lead us to develop our creative potential throughout our lifetimes, for me, it was through skateboarding. It happened every time I learned a new trick and almost immediately thought about what I wanted to try next. It happened every time I drove by a ledge or rail I’d never spotted before and wondered if it was skateable. It happened every time I watched a new skate video and experienced the thrill of seeing the boundaries of what was possible to do with a skateboard pushed year, after year, after year.
Today, more eyes are watching skateboarding than at any point in my lifetime. This makes certain things better, and it makes certain things worse.
But of one thing I am quite certain, that no matter how hard it may be to define what skateboarding is, but it’s absolutely clear what it is not.
So come one, and come all. Inform your family, remind your friends: Chicken is not a vegetable, and skateboarding is not a sport.