Sport and recreation in the United States

Sport and recreation in the United States


Introduction 3


1.1.          Historical background, names of national sports, borrowed games 4

1.2.          Problems and prospects of American sport 6


2.1.          Professional sport 9

2.1.1.   The business of sport 9

2.1.2.   Major sports 10                   Baseball and business 10                   Basketball 12                   Football: an American spectacle 13                   Bowling 15

2.1.3.   Problems in professional sport 16

2.1.4.   Olympic Games and the names of American heroes 17

2.2.          Leisure sports 17

2.2.1.   Badminton 17

2.2.2.   Bowling 20

2.3.          Sports for the disabled 21

2.4.          Women in sports 22

2.4.1.   Women and traditional sports and games 23

2.4.2.   Womens sport in the 19th century 24

2.4.3.   Challenging gendered boundaries 25

2.4.4.   The age of modern sports 26

3.                 RECREATION IN THE USA 29

3.1.          Sports at colleges 30

3.1.1.   College and sport 30

3.1.2.   Sport and money 31

3.1.3.   Women's Collegiate Sport 32

3.1.4.   Intramural and club sports 32

3.2.          Animals in sport 32

3.3.          Unusual sports 33

3.4.          Camps 33





Nowadays a lot of people are getting more and more ambitious and now the always hurry somewhere, they are eager to do everything and are afraid of losing any minute that can bring them happiness, joy, glory or just money. But if they want to get that all, theyd better have wonderful mood all the time, perfect health, steel nerves and strong will. At present sport is the very thing that can help any person either keep fit or reach all his aims.

In my course paper Im going to investigate almost all kinds of sport that can be popular famous in the USA, both professional and amateur ones.

There probably are countries where the people are as crazy about sports as they are in America, but I doubt that there is any place where the meaning and design of the country is so evident in its games. In many odd ways, America is its sports. The free market is an analog of on-the-field competition, apparently wild and woolly yet contained by rules, dependent on the individual's initiative within a corporate (team) structure, at once open and governed.

Sport plays a major role in American society as it accounts for the most popular form of recreation. Many Americans are involved in sports - either as a participant or as a spectator. Amateur sports distinguish between recreational and competitive sports. Favorite recreational activities include hiking, walking, boating, hunting, and fishing. All of these are liked for the recreational value as well as for exercise. But there are also many other sports activities in America which attract millions of participants for personal enjoyment, the love of competition and for the benefits of fitness and health. In addition, sport teaches social values like teamwork, sportsmanship, self-discipline, and persistence that are highly regarded in U.S. society.

So the main tasks of my course paper are to learn how sport influences on health and culture of the Americans, to find out all problems and prosperities of American sport and to figure out how many people of various classes, ages, nationalities and races, which live in the USA, are involved in playing games.

The first chapter of this course paper contains the information that shows us the stages of gradual development of American sport, beginning from Puritans times till our days. Different kinds of problems and prosperities that very often can appear in sport are also discussed here. In the second chapter any can find the information about great variety of sports that are played and watched on TV through the whole USA. Here I also give some data about participating women and the disabled in contests and competitions. The third chapter tells us about sport as about the main sourse for recreation.

So the whole course paper is dedicated to the sport in the USA, its development and influence on American life.



1.1.         Historical background, names of national sports, borrowed games


Whatever else sports may mean or be, their present-day prosperity represents a repudiation of the hostility toward games and enjoyment codified in the law books of the first settlers. The colonies' early rulers, north and south, were dedicated to rooting out play and enforcing the discipline of hard work as a moral value in itself and as a frontier necessity. The Puritans' war against sports may be traced to their equation of work with prayer and their belief that divine election was accompanied by an easy rejection of idleness; as members of England's rising middle class, the Puritans also had a social bias against the traditional amusements of the aristocracy. Today's fascination with the moral significance of winning, with the accompanying neglect of the play element in sports, may be an atavistic survival of this Puritan outlookalthough the win-at-any-cost ethic is no less in evidence in countries with no Puritan heritage. Then again, the sheer number of seventeenth century laws against sports must also mean that games were very popular in colonial .America.

Throughout the colonies the old English sports like wrestling and footraces seem to have been present, although cockfighting and horse racing were not permitted in New England. Sledding and ice skating were also popular where the climate permitted; ice skating remained one form of physical exercise allowed women when the mores of the Victorian era later began to exclude them from sport.

The nineteenth-century class revolution that changed the rank of gentleman from one of ascription to achievement had a pernicious effect on participation in sports. An eighteenth-century gentleman (or lady) could hardly have lost his status by anything short of a major crime, but the kind of gentility that was the goal of social climbing in the second quarter of the nineteenth century was as easily lost as gained, particularly by women. The determination of the new middle classes to separate themselves from the vulgar meant avoiding anything that had the appearance of physical work, which was enough to rule out strenuous play.

It is not true that there was no American participation in sports during the 1840s and 1850s; these were the years when a primitive form of baseball was evolving. However, these decades were more notable for the rise of spectator sportsearly evidence of tastes that would eventually be satisfied by the television sports broadcasts of today. The most popular spectator sport was horse racing, and whole sections, sometimes the whole country, followed rivalries between famous stable owners.

Sailing regattas were another way social leaders could exhibit themselves before the masses in a pastime whose expense insured its exclusivity. There were professional races staged by gamblers for cash purses, but most were sponsored by elite rowing and sailing clubs. The first America's Cup race in 1851, and the intense interest it aroused, gave the rich an opportunity to hold themselves up as defenders of national pride in an arena none but they could afford to enter.

As the nineteenth century progressed, sports seemed to evolve along two diverging paths. On the one hand, sports suitable for general participation tended to be monopolized by elite groups who excluded the working class and immigrants. On the other hand, sports with an in-eradicable working class (and hence professional) character tended to be taken over by commercial interests and run as money-making enterprises. Track exemplifies the first tendency, baseball the second.

Professional track and field, or "pedestrianism," was one of the most popular sports of the nineteenth century, both as recreation and spectacle. Before the Civil War races tended to be promoted by gamblers and often pitted English champions against American favorites; the races were commonly held at horse race tracks or on city streets. In 1844 some thirty thousand spectators watched the American runner John Gilder-sleeve beat the Englishman John Barlow in a ten mile run for $1,000 at a Hoboken race track. Forty thousand watched the rematch, which Barlow won with a time of 54:21.

After the Civil War track was particularly popular as an opportunity for wagering, with the competitors often handicapped with weights or staggered starts to ensure parity. Amusement parks sponsored weekend track meets on an elimination basis with the winners receiving cash awards or readily pawnable trophies. Marathons and long distance races were also popular.

Probably the most important sponsors of track and field sports in the nineteenth century were the ethnic organizations with their annual "picnics"mass athletic meets allowing amateurs and professionals to compete separately and against each other. The Caledonian Games of New York City were the earliest; during the 1880s there were also Irish and German picnics. Picnics were also hosted by military regiments, labor unions, colleges, and wealthy athletic associations like the New York Athletic Club and the Schuylkill Navy Club of Philadelphia.

In the 1870s the "gentlemen" began to complain about having to compete against lower class professionals at track meets. The solution to this genteel dilemma was the doctrine of amateurism, which made it possible for the well-born to win more than an occasional race and, incidentally, made athletics respectable since social contact with workmen was infra dig. In 1888 today's ruling amateur sports organization, the Amateur Athletic Union, was formed, which by strictly enforcing the rules of amateurism effectively banished working-class participation from track and field. Not until the 1970s would these rules be relaxed enough to allow athletes without private means of support to compete.

The professional champions of the "pedestrian" era set records that still astound. In 1885 a professional runner set a mile record of 4:12.4, a mark no amateur could match until 1915. The most amazing professional track record was set by the outstanding pedestrian Richard Perry Williams, who ran a carefully authenticated 9 second 100 yard dash on June 2, 1906. It took nearly seventy years for an amateur to equal that achievement.

As track evolved into an upper-class preserve, baseball grew from similar beginnings into the earliest, and still the most complete, form of popular sports culture [3,p.207-209].

In 1911, the American writer Ambrose Bierce defined Monday as in Christian countries, the day after the baseball game. Times have changed and countries, too. In the U.S. of today, football is the most popular spectator sport. Baseball is now in second place among the sports people most like to watch. In Japan, it is the most popular. Both baseball and football are, of course, American developments of sports played in England. But baseball does not come from cricket, as many people think. Baseball comes from baseball. As early as 1700, an English churchman in Kent complained of baseball being played on Sundays. And illustrations of the time make it clear that this baseball was the baseball now called the American game. Baseball is still very popular in the USA as an informal, neighborhood sport. More than one American remembers the time when she or he hit a baseball through a neighbors window.

Baseball and football have the reputation of being typically American team sports. This is ironic because the two most popular participant sports in the world today are indeed American in origin-basketball and volleyball. The first basketball game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. It was invented at a YMCA there as a game that would fill the empty period between the football season (autumn) and the baseball season (spring and summer). Volleyball was also first played in Massachusetts, and also at a YMCA, this one in Holyoke, in 1895. During the First and Second World Wars, American soldiers took volleyball with them overseas and helped to make it popular. Today, of course, both basketball and volleyball are played everywhere by men and women of all ages. They are especially popular as school sports [1, p.138-139].

1.2.         Problems and prospects of American sport


The single largest problem in the conduct of American sports is the obsession with winning that is found at almost all levels of competition. Already at age twelve or thirteen youngsters are often exposed to grueling training regiments. Sometimes dirty tactics are even introduced at this age by coaches who are too eager to win. In some cases parents who appear to be living out fantasies of success in sports through their children contribute to the tremendous pressure of sporting competition at an early age. Baseball for children ages 9-12, called Little League baseball, and its football counterpart have often been criticized for their premature stress on winning at all cost. Football, with its violent contact, would appear to be a particularly dangerous game for youngsters whose bone structure has not fully developed. Competition at an early age is not bad in itself as long as a healthy spirit of fun and recreation is maintained.

Another trend in contemporary American sports partly related to the obsession with winning is over specialization. While this over specialization helps to produce the remarkable feats of modem gymnasts, basketball players, and others, it nevertheless discourages some from trying out a wide variety of sports.

A particularly American phenomenon connected with sport is what might be called the cult of the coach. All sorts of legends and romantic tales have grown up around certain well-known coaches, and sometimes their coaching philosophy has entered folk wisdom. It may be that this cult of the coach is made possible partly by the fact that Americans are accustomed to having strong managers in the world of business. In any event, sports in the US are typically closely controlled and managed by their coaches, perhaps more so than in other parts of the world. This is reflected in the numerous timeouts and other stoppages of play characteristic of American football, basketball, and baseball. The increase in the number of timeouts that has come about in recent years in professional sport is of course also designed to allow more time for advertisements. At the amateur level, too many interruptions for coaching instruction may even have the result of discouraging individual initiative, something many Americans prize above all.

If American sport has certain problems, it also has many positive features. Perhaps the greatest achievement of American sport is that over the years it has attracted more and more people of all types and backgrounds. Participation by minorities and women is constantly increasing. There are certain sports, such as football and basketball, where black athletes now dominate. As in the rest of society, all problems associated with race relations are far from having been solved. For example, minorities are greatly under represented in the management of American sport. And, many private clubs, particularly golf clubs, continue to discriminate against minorities. Nevertheless, other areas of society would do well to match the example of sport in making opportunities for minority participation available.

Another positive feature of modern sport and physical culture in the US is that people are constantly inventing new sports and games and reshaping old ones to suit their needs and desires. At the same time, as people become better educated about physical fitness, they are more willing to try new recreational physical activity later in life. Progress in technology has also helped the spread of certain sports. Artificial snow-making devices are used at virtually all ski resorts throughout the country and have made possible skiing as far south as Georgia. Air conditioning and refrigeration have made it possible to construct skating rinks in all parts of the country so that figure skating and hockey are now found in Florida and California, where there are now both amateur and professional hockey teams.

How will sport in the US develop in the future? There should be increased opportunity for diverse groups of people to participate in an ever wider range of sporting activities. Sports such as golf and tennis, which have not been known for widespread minority participation, will probably experience a gradual increase in the number of blacks and other minorities. Sport has traditionally been one of the most visible paths of advancement for minorities and newly arrived immigrants in the US. Perhaps, however, in the future expectations about prospects for raising one's standard of living through spoil will become more realistic as people begin to understand that professional athletes comprise only a tiny fraction of the population.

On the other hand, watching professional sports will become more and more an activity for the social elite as costs and ticket prices increase. Although professional sport in the US has defied ups and downs in the economy, eventually it may be forced to take on a more modest profile. If that ever happens, teams may adopt new structures, such as community rather than corporate (business) ownership. In the short run, however, it seems that professional sport will only become more and more expensive.

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