Pinball and Other Sports

by Jay Nordlinger

Near the end of Impromptus today, I use the phrase “the game of golf,” then remark that Jack Nicklaus is a big user of that phrase. You always hear him talk about “the game of golf.”

For eons, there has been talk about whether golf is a game or a sport. (By the way, I think we say “game of golf” in part because we like the alliteration.) My friend Eddie used to tease me mercilessly about my love of golf. One day, I referred to Nicklaus as my favorite athlete. Eddie said, “‘Athlete’?! I doubt he could do a single chin-up.”

Two quick responses: 1) What kind of criterion is that? And 2) Jack could do a thousand, if he set his mind to it. Anyway . . .

Wanted to share a fun letter from a reader. He says,


Your comment on “the game of golf” brought back some memories. Back in college, we would debate which activities were games and which were sports, and whether any grand principle could distinguish between the two.

The best answer I heard is this: If you can play it with a beer in your hand, it’s a game; if you can’t, it’s a sport. This principle works quite well. For instance, hockey is definitely a sport, while chess is certainly a game. Therefore, it should be “the sport of golf,” unless you can swing with one arm. [Some do.]

Using this principle for barroom activities, darts is a game, but pinball and pool are sports!

Pinball! The mind reels . . .

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