Episode 291: Skinny Guy, Skinny Guy, Fat Guy, Fat Guy

The Overthinkers tackle the definition of sports, sports’ shadow-sports, and sports movies.

NES Ice Hockey Team

Skinny Guy, Skinny Guy, Fat Guy, Fat Guy

Peter Fenzel, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather tackle sports: Their definition, their shadow sports, their many and varied film representations.


→ Download Episode 291 (MP3)

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13 Comments on “Episode 291: Skinny Guy, Skinny Guy, Fat Guy, Fat Guy”

  1. PotatoKnight #

    I was totally counting down to Fenzel’s making a Magic: the Gathering reference in the last segment of this one. And it did not disappoint!


  2. Andrew Buonopane #

    The first few episodes of Ken Burns’s Baseball documentary has some input about the financial factors in determining sport outcomes. This happens in the context of licit sports management and in the context of fixing games (or illicit sports management).

    Here’s the way the documentary generally paints licit sports management: when Baseball was given by the 19th Century pastoral American gods into the grubby hands of American industrialists who started selling tickets, those industrialists were usually players themselves. On the one hand they were playing the game of baseball on the field, and on the other, they were playing the business of baseball with cities and venues and sporting goods manufacturers, etc. Some regarded this business as the real game, but nobody regarded it as an actual sport.

    Regarding illict sports, there’s a quote regarding Arnold Rothstein, who was the chief figure in paying Chicago White Sox to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series from someone who was growing up in New York at the time (paraphrase): “Most kids said their heroes were Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, my hero was Arnold Rothstein.”


  3. Cimmerius #

    You discussed the similarities between American Gladiators and pro wrestling but did not bring up the Battle Dome?


    It appears your knowledge of sports entertainment is sorely lacking, sirs.


  4. Braintree9 #

    Excellent discussion.

    One factor that I think separates sports (and games) from other competitive activities, is non-industrious nature of the contest. By this I mean nothing of value outside of the sport is created by the performance of the sport. The participants compete in either the acquisition of invented points (goals, runs, etc) or in the fastest completion of a goal (run a distance, etc). At the completion of the contest, nothing is created of lasting duration. No structure is built, no thing is created. Everything is left on the field per se.

    I think this allows sports to be separated from other competitive activities. A cooking competition results in the creation of a dish. The contestant is judged on the resulting output of the participant, rather than the physical actions of the participant.


  5. Ben Adams OTI Staff #

    Relevant from Justice Scalia:

    “If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf—and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point—then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government’s power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would some day have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental” aspect of golf.”

    (PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin (2001))


  6. Darth Sensitive #

    I personally contend that it isn’t a sport unless it is a physical contest requiring defense.


    • Rambler #

      I’m not entirely sure I agree… however I WOULD suddenly become interested in Golf if I could play outfield.


  7. cat #

    Not that I watch a ton of sports movies (because I’ve barely seen any sports movies) but to take two examples of films I have seen, Glory Road and Cutting Edge, I’d like to challenge the assumption behind the “question of the week” that sports movies involve training scenes and montages that are not related to the sport the characters are going to be engaging in. Of course Glory Road came out in 2006 and The Cutting Edge came out in 1992 so perhaps they are part of the trend away from training scenes and montages that do not involve actually training for the sport.


    • Rambler #

      This is only a quasi-reply… :-)
      I’m going to use the reference to figure skating to springboard to one of the boundaries of sport that didn’t get discussed on the podcast.
      “Sport” borders right up against “Art” in a little valley called “competitive performance”.

      Within that valley the shared similarities are greater than the obvious differences, but the river that divides side from side is scoring.
      On the “performance sport” side; scoring is tied to very fine grained objectives, often coming down to fractional measurements of time or distance.
      On the “performance art” side; scoring becomes so subjective that judges now “award” points for each performance based entirely on esoteric elements of the art and its history.

      So from a narrative perspective a movie about the performance art of Figure Skating is very far from being a “Sports movie” in spite of the competition at the heart of both.

      You could demonstrate a corresponding separation between narratives about the performance arts of Ballroom Dance or Bull Riding in comparison to traditional “Sports movies”.


      • cat #

        I can’t think of any scored performance arts aside from ballroom dancing. But on the performance sport side of things… Is gymnastics a sport? Is figure skating a sport? Is cheerleading a sport? Is competitive dance a sport? Is diving a sport? Is snowboarding a sport?

        I also question whether a performance art film is that different from a sports movie and, if it is, what makes it so. Is it the lack of a team? Certainly a lot of performance sport and performance art films focus on individuals. I just watched The Gabby Douglas Story earlier today which I guess you would consider a performance sport movie. But then a lot of sports movies that do feature teams focus on an individual or only a few members of the team and there are certainly performance sport films that also feature teams. The cheerleading movies are the ones that come to mind. I would say that there are often a lot of similarities in the plots of performance sport movies and sports movies when both feature teams.


        • Rambler #

          BIG HUG to you cat!
          I jotted down a few notes yesterday to form into a reply… and then looking at them today I came up with an idea for an article.
          Having an idea is a long way from “complete”, “reviewed”, or “accepted”. But it feels good to write.


  8. BastionofLight #

    In my years of post-secondary education, I learned two things about definitions that shape how I think about definitions.

    The first a philosophy professor told me in undergrad: a whole lot of philosophy is trying to find definitions for hard to define words.

    Noteworthy in that an exercise in delineating sports ended up being a list of fractional sports.

    The second I learned implicitly in law school: a lot of the time, one does not need the correct definition of a word, merely a useful definition for a particular conversation.

    So I put it to you: for what purpose were you classifying sports, and would your definitions change if you were classifying extracurricular activities in a high school?

    Categorization questions: foot races: how much of a sport?


  9. Fred #

    My dad tried really hard to get me involved with various sports, but I was bad at all of them. In high school, I took full advantage of the “no cut sport” of cross country, and I was always in the back of the pack. In my forties, I finally discovered that I am OK with exercising at home, and that’s as close as I get to a sport. Anyway, thanks for a great discussion of the subject for those of us who aren’t sports fans.

    When you mentioned American Gladiators and the more recent “revival” of the show, I had to give my wife pop culture credit for recognizing MMA fighter and actress Gina Carano, aka “Crush”, when she appeared recently on the show Almost Human. My wife wasn’t even a big fan of American Gladiators, but she enjoys competition shows in general.


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