Game On…with Rob Kriete – SEPTEMBER 16

It must have been Christmas in the very early 1980s when I received a Rubik’s Cube as a gift (the actual one is shown in the picture here on my column). Back then, every kid had one. I eventually learned the sequence to solve three sides of the puzzle; this was quite an achievement for this youngster with little confidence. And there was always that one knucklehead who methodically peeled the colored stickers from the cube and reapplied them in a way to show they “solved” the puzzle. Perhaps that was the Roger Clemens method of success with the Rubik’s Cube?

Recently, I watched a brief and amazing documentary titled, “The Speed Cubers.” Evidently, there is a competition held every two years wherein competitors vie to be the fastest person on the planet to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Comprised of mostly kids who have seemingly endless time to practice, the competition is fierce with competitors solving each puzzle in mere seconds! The documentary, only 40 minutes in length, is interesting and heartwarming at the same time because it delves into a unique friendship between an American and Australian “cuber,” as they define themselves.

Watching the skill and dexterity with which these “cubers” work and solve the puzzles is impressive, but it begs the question: When does competition become a sport? Heck, every Independence Day, ESPN covers Nathan’s Hot-Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in Brooklyn. Embarrassingly I have witnessed this insanity live. The self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” broadcasts competitive eating, which I would argue is a veritable contest, grotesque, insulting to a world wherein people are starving, but clearly not a sport.
I have always maintained that the difference between a sport and a contest is athletic prowess. If agility is one attribute of athletic prowess, why wouldn’t we call “Speed Cubing” a sport? We have collectively decided that racecar driving is a sport, no? I am unsure as to the amount of athletic ability involved with driving a speeding vehicle. I would agree it is difficult and dangerous, but, to me, not a sport.

Eating 75 hotdogs is difficult and dangerous, but not a sport. Solving a Rubik’s Cube in 8 seconds, not dangerous, very difficult, needing amazing agility and strategy, might be a sport.

And what about cheerleading?  Sport or competition?  That’s a stand-alone topic for another column, for sure.

What do you think defines competition and sports?  Be safe, everyone.