It’s a real shame that there are no female athletes in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist, announced this morning. But what struck me about the all-male list is just how little resemblance it bears to the reality of modern British sport. Some of the nominees don’t even play sport at all.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that a working definition of sport would include a bit of running about as well as a bit of technique. A damp brow at the very least. But not so, say the compilers of the SPotY shortlist, who have put three golfers (Darren Clarke, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy) in the running for the prize.
Now, when I typed “golf is” into Google this morning, the first phrase suggested for completing my query was “not a sport.” This is something that I have long suspected, and now at last I feel less alone. It’s a game, of course, and it requires a great deal of skill. But so does chess. And physical prowess, while helpful, isn’t crucial to the successful completion of a competitive game of golf. Let’s just say a generous gut doesn’t always look out of place on the 18th fairway, and Darren Clarke himself is well known for smoking cigars while on the course. Also, there is actually such a thing as “fitness golf.” As a rudimentary classification system for whether someone is eligible for Sports Personality of the Year, I propose that there should, at the very least, not exist a different version of their “sport” preceded by the word “fitness.”