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)

A hulking, populous landmass that's overstuffed with sun- and chlorine-drenched pursuits. Beach volleyball — which was birthed in Santa Monica in the 1920s and 1930s — is a strong contender but ultimately falls short on account of its relative dearth of competitors. Skateboarding has similarly local origins and is arguably the state's most enduring cultural export. Fast-forward 50 years, and I guarantee that the state flag will feature a bear doing an ollie.

Colorado

Official state sport(s): skiing and snowboarding

Our choice: mountain climbing

Also considered: skiing, snowboarding, Olympic sports

In 2008, the Colorado state legislature named skiing and snowboarding as "the official state winter recreational sports." The will of the people must be defied here, because: 1) It's just plain greedy to claim skiing and snowboarding. 2) Naming them the "official state winter recreational sports" betrays a disturbing lack of decisiveness. (Should we anticipate that the legislature will soon name Colorado's official state autumn competitive sports?) Our choice: mountain climbing. Colorado has 53 fourteeners — that is, 14,000-foot peaks that also have at least 300 feet of "topographic prominence" — far more than any other state. Is mountain climbing a sport? I say yes — there's a goal, it requires great skill, it's a physical challenge, and there's an international federation that's guided by the Olympic charter

Connecticut

Official state sport(s): squash

Our choice: squash

Also considered: women's college basketball

Nutmeg State residents will argue that Geno Auriemma's University of Connecticut Huskies, the winners of eight national titles since 1995, are the center of the state's sporting universe. That's true and all, but Connecticut isn't the only state that loves women's basketball — and UConn, it must be said, hasn't led the nation in women's basketball attendance since 2003. The Trinity College Bantams men's squash team is an even bigger dynasty than UConn women's hoops. And who broke Trinity's 252-match winning streak, the longest in intercollegiate sports history? New Haven's Yale University Bulldogs. The Trinity-Yale rivalry has spawned some memorable squash trash talk. (I'm guessing that the phrase "squash trash talk" has never been uttered in any other state.) There are 17 Connecticut schools in the New England Interscholastic Squash Association, the most of any state. And Connecticut also recently hosted the junior nationals and the high school team championships, the world's biggest squash tournament. Want to defy the hoity-toity New England stereotype, Connecticut? Take off the protective eyewear and the Boast polo and we can talk.

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