But lest you think the physical is all about running and jumping, think again. While chess proponents argue that it is as physically draining as boxing - there's even something called "last-hour syndrome" to support the notion that the game taxes a player's stamina - it is nonetheless generally regarded as a class of games called mind sports. These include Go and bridge and, of course, the famous card game War.

I'm all for mind sports being included as Olympic events. It's why I've been drinking more lately. Training. In case they make backgammon an Olympic game.

Anybody who knows anything about backgammon knows that you have to be a good drinker to play it well. The game is ostensibly about trying to get your 15 checkers around the board and off of it before your opponent does. But the true challenge is the ability to knock back whiskies and beer while enfogged in cigarette smoke and deafened by thumping rock music. A single game takes roughly 10 minutes to play. But no one plays a single game. True backgammon players play over and over and over, rolling dice for hours, a long night's journey into day, until the player sees dice tumbling in his dreams.

It is what you might call, an endurance sport. I got hooked on the game in college. I lived in a hovel, as, of course, do most students. But this hovel was also a basement. Occasional shafts of dim Michigan light shone through the half-windows that were more or less even with the lawn. They were like portholes in a submarine, those windows. We holed up in the small, dungeonlike space we called a dining room because it had a table. It was there, by softly glowing lamplight, that I lost my sanity.

One of my housemates was earning his doctorate in math. Number theory, if I recall correctly, the very idea of which I don't understand. I only know that it is to math what Sun Ra is to jazz.