The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 10, 2013

The United Sports of America: What should your state's official sport be?

(Continued)

The city of Moab's tourism site claims that it's the spot for "the greatest mountain biking on the planet," which is pretty impressive considering that Earth is the top mountain biking planet. Despite that intergalactic dominance, church ball is the pick here. The Deseret News reports that there were an estimated 180,000 players in Latter-Day Saints church leagues in 2009. The site Stuff Mormons Like notes that "in any given ward, there is an unspoken hierarchy of individuals who are revered: the Bishop and Bishopric, the Relief Society and Elders Quorum President, and the guy with the keys to the chapel who opens it for late night/early morning church ball." Be careful out there_missionaries can jump.

Vermont

Official state sport(s): skiing and snowboarding

Our choice: snowboarding

Also considered: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing

Another grabby state claims two official sports, forcing us to choose which one it truly deserves. The correct answer is snowboarding, which was popularized in the Green Mountain State in the late 1970s and 1980s. As Sports Illustrated's E.M. Swift laid out, Jake Burton Carpenter launched his eponymous snowboard company in Londonderry in 1977, and the first U.S. Open snowboarding championships were held near Woodstock, Vt., in 1982. Vermont's Stratton resort was also the first place to allow snowboards on ski lifts, a decision that made America totally awesome.

Virginia

Official state sport(s): none

Our choice: steeplechase

Also considered: lacrosse, field hockey, youth soccer, polo, jousting

The Old Dominion is hard to grapple with. Pending the outcome of a Maryland vs. Virginia joust-off — jousting is one of Maryland's official sports, but Virginia has the National Jousting Hall of Fame — it seems most reasonable to honor the state's horsemanship. The Virginia Gold Cup is one of the country's oldest steeplechase races, the steeplechase being an event in which jockeys and their equine companions tromp through what appears to be an enormous garden full of fences and hedges while rich people in big hats mostly ignore what's going on. Now that's a sport.

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