That America is the World’s super power goes without saying. America has virtually dominated all fields from the military might and strength to agriculture, space exploration and other aspects that include sports, music, innovations, democracy and many other fields where the country scores highly.
The country has reached a remarkable level that has seen it gain the super power status in a span of 3 centuries since its colonization. Since its colonization in the 18th century the transformation that has taken place in America came about by the competitive nature of the new inhabitants of the “New World”. The foundation of the country’s stability and economic development was wholly founded on the bedrock of capitalism. Perhaps the competitiveness of the American Society can be traced back to this fact alone. Capitalism gained ground in the early years of the colonization period when the new settlers rushed in to take advantage of the virgin hinterland where they started exploiting the resources that the new land had to offer.
America has made tremendous strides in many aspects over the last few centuries. It played a significant role in the innovation field including the development of the information and communication Technology that has completely turned the world and transformed not only how business is conducted but how societies interact as well.
Sports in the United States of America
Just like in other fields, America’s competitive nature has been witnessed in the sports arena, sports forms the very fabric that is the American society and defines the culture of the Nation. The culture of sports is very distinct and extremely different from sports in other countries of the world. While football (soccer) is adored world over, in American this is a different story all together, the Americans by nature prefer a different and unique kind of sports.
In the American society setup, sports plays a very significant role because apart from the popularity it commands it acts as the vehicle of transmitting various values of fair play, justice, team work and goes along way of integrating the various social dynamics that makes up the American society. The racial and social disintegration that characterized the American landscape during the period of the early sixties has virtually disappeared because of the role sports has played in bringing people from various cultures and race to work , play and enjoy together. It cannot be gainsaid that sports is the “social glue” that has held the country together. (Deford, F 79)
Sporting in America can be traced back to the colonial period because during this time team sports was more or less regarded as the way of life through the various forms of the ball games that would later evolve to the various forms of baseball, basketball and others. The colonialists and settlers that immigrated to America from Europe in the 17th century are credited with the bringing of the contemporary American sports of baseball, football and basketball. The colonialists also had great interest in sports like fishing, horse racing, shooting and running. The 1800s saw the introduction of such recent sports like tennis and golf, with recent decades ushering in such “extreme sports” like mountain biking, sail boarding, sport climbing and ice hockey. (Gorn, E & Goldstein, W 17)
During the colonial period the Native American’s form of sports was the Lacrosse which was a popular team sport. Lacrosse was limited in popularity and was only limited to the States of New England and mid-Atlantic. The popularity seems to be spreading nationally seeing such lacrosse leagues like the NLL and MLL and sometimes the games draw up to 10,000 fans in the areas where it is popular.( Fisher, Donald M 22)
However, the ball games as we know them today had to go through various transformations during the 19th century and were “re-fashioned” to make them the most popular sports in the country. Across the United States athletic contests have continued to shape various rituals that form the basis of the American culture. The growth of team sports was brought about by the growth of individual competition. (Gorn, E & Goldstein, W 13)
America is a sporting country; this came about because early American presidents like Benjamin n Franklin and Thomas Jefferson emphasized the need for fitness and advocated frequently for such fitness activities like swimming and running. Most of the various successive presidents that followed in the 20th Century followed their cue and continued encouraging the aspect of physical activity. It was during the tenure of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 that the President’s Council on Youth Fitness was founded with the sole responsibility of ensuring that the youths in America were encouraged to make fitness one of their priorities. (Gorn, E ; Goldstein, W 16)
This Council later evolved to become the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and now encompassed every American, regardless of age and ability. The focus of the Council nevertheless remained on using sports and games as the catalyst to fitness and healthy living. The formation of the council greatly influenced the spread of the awareness of fitness and encouraged the development of various sporting activities. This influence has continued up to today. (Gorn, E & Goldstein, W 17)
In the U.S unlike many nations in the world, sports are intertwined with the education system where a great number of students across the whole country participate in athletic programs that are sponsored by the respective colleges and schools. Students who excel in the athletic field find themselves getting scholarships to colleges acting as a motivator for the nurturing of talent. Students excelling at this level also stand a better chance of making great strides in their lives.
The government has continued to emphasize on the development and the nurturing of talent across the country and this emphasis has continued to greatly enhance the sporting capability of the nation. (Gorn, E & Goldstein, W 17)
In the US there are various types of sports but there are 4 sports that are very popular and include ice hockey, basketball American football and baseball. All of these sports are organized in major leagues, which receive extremely high media coverage strengthening the love of the sports and increasing their popularity. (Gorn, E & Goldstein, W 22)
Among the most popular sports in the US baseball remains the oldest dating back to 1869. Baseball also unlike other spectator sports that are popular it is played almost daily from April through October. The popularity of baseball however lost its popularity though it ranks number one in terms of ticket sales.
The American football has replaced baseball in terms of popularity and is credited for attracting millions of American T.V viewers. However the American football ticket sales fall below those ones of baseball because unlike baseball the American football teams that form the National football leaguer play sixteen regular season annual games.
Basketball is another popular sports in America and is represented by the professional National Basketball Association. Such popular figures as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson have continued to be idolized world over for their prowess in the basketball sport. (Deford, F 79) Springfield, Massachusetts is believed to be the cradle of basketball when it was “invented” by James Naismith who was a Canadian teacher specializing in physical education ( http://www.nba.com ).The sport is rated among the top three in the country and continues to elicit great enthusiasm not only in the country where it originated but the whole world as well. NBA as it is popularly known is a professional body and is rated as the world’s number one basketball league. The league playoffs normally start in April bringing in eight teams that have qualified from the conference to compete for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. ( http://www.nba.com ).
Most of the NBA players have continued to represent the United States of America in various international competitions where they have continued to dominate and win most trophies. In the 1992 Olympics, the Dream Team that comprised Michael Jordan among others won the gold medal in the men’s basketball category. Since then the American team has been on the winning streak. ( http://www.nba.com ).
The popularity of basketball in America can only be equated to that one of the American foot ball. This popularity has come about by the popularization of the game from the tertiary level to college and high school levels through out the country. Annually in the month of March a national college basketball champions are picked after a rigorous elimination tournament. The tournament brings together about 65 teams who compete to get the eventual winner. It is during such tournaments that NBA teams scout for talent among the budding youth. According to The National Sporting Goods Association, because of the popularity and the big money to be earned in this game, basketball remains the most played sport in America. (http://www.nba.com ).
America has continued to inspire the world with its classic and competitive basketball that generates billion of dollars in revenues especially for the major advertising companies. The basketball sport at the same time also generates big earnings for the players who earn in excess off millions of dollars annually for just playing. The sport generates more millionaires more than any other sport in America.(http://www.nba.com ).
Another popular sport in the U.S is baseball with the Major League Baseball remaining the most popular baseball league. .(Enders Eric 34) This particular league has a schedule for about 162 games thereby generating the most revenue in ticket sales although it is not rated as the most popular game. Americans across the country still regard the game as a “national pastime” because historically, it has been the major sport since the late 19th century spanning over to the 20th century. Today in the months of April through October, teams in the Major League Baseball, play almost daily.(Enders Eric 36)
The roots of baseball in the U.S, at the professional level can be traced to 1865, with the formation of the National League as the first major league, coming in 1876. In the last month of October when the leagues comes to a close at the World Series the winners of the two leagues; The American League and the National League play against each other and the winner is determined by a playoff of the best-of-seven. Notable figures in baseball include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron among others. (Deford, F 79)
Besides basketball and baseball there are many other team and individual sports that have continued to grow in America. Because of the organization and the enthusiasm that sports has continued to generate many lives of young and talented youths have been turned around for a better and promising future.
However the competitiveness and the quest for fame and wealth have equally wrecked the lives of many American sportspeople. There has been a general increase in cases of the use of anabolic steroids and other performance drugs that has continued to dog the American athletes. Many athletes have been stripped of there medals bringing disgrace to themselves and their country as well. (http://grg51.typepad.com)
Some of the popular failed doping cases that have shaken the athletic world include the case of Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, and Maurice Greene among others. These Americans athletes have been stripped of their medals and some like Marion Jones have served jail sentences for the offences. They have made American athletes to be scrutinized closely because America has come to be known as the “Steroid Nation”, where steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are used with abandon. (http://grg51.typepad.com)
Axthelm, Pete. The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.p11-25
Deford, Frank. The Heart of a Champion: Celebrating the Spirit and Character of Great American Sports Heroes. Minnetonka, MN: NorthWord, 2002.78-79
Enders, Eric. 100 Years of the World Series. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003. p34-38
Fisher, Donald M. Lacrosse: A History of the Game. Baltimore, Maryland Johns Hopkins University Press. 2002
Gorn, Elliott J., and Goldstein, Warren. A Brief History of American Sports. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004. p12-14
Steroid Nation: Retrieved on 6th June 2008 from: http://grg51.typepad.com/steroid_nation/marion_jones_tim_montgomery/index.html
History of Basketball in Canada: Article dated 8th March 2002 Retrieved on 6th June 2008 from http://www.nba.com/canada/History_of_Basketball_in_Canad-Canada_Generic_Article-18023.html