Bridge? Not a Sport

In my Sports Marketing class, we often have a brief debate as to what and what should not constitute a "sport". To what degree should competition be a factor? If it is a factor then what about Jogging? Should physical exertion be a factor? How much physical exertion? Does Curling or Auto Racing count? Why does ESPN broadcast Spelling Bees and Hot Dog Eating Contests?

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Of course, this discussion is brief because it merely serves to illustrate the lack of agreement as to what "sport" really is, which is why it was so interesting to see the card game, Bridge, at the center of the controversy in Europe. Indeed it is a game of strategy and skill, one that few people (almost none of them under 50) even know how to play. Tournaments are held every year around the world. People are serious about this game. But is it really a sport?

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Last week, a European Court of Justice ruled that competitive Bridge couldn't be considered a sport because it lacks a "significant physical element". The whole thing arose from a tax dispute exemption that people over there get for engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, with bridge ultimately failing to qualify for the exemption. The decision makes it clear that activities that promote only mental well-being do not count as "sports", which is academic to those of us in my classroom, but a very important distinction when money is involved. And so sport must be physical, but the word "significant" is still rather open to interpretation, so don't expect the overall argument as to what is and what is not a "sport" to be settled any time soon.