US Sports History Essay

Sport plays an utterly important role in any society due to the fact that it combines those characteristics, which are united in any institution, at the same time having its unique appeal. Sport is definitely related to such processes as socialization and social change. Sport has come through a long way from being a form of play towards becoming an activity, guided by the principles of commercialism and entertainment. Sport could be integrative on high political levels and at the same time it is not the same at gender and race levels. It is possible to find the reflections of social inequalities, problems due to race relations or gender tensions within sport as well. Considering sociology of sport it is possible to reveal a lot of issues, related to the mentioned social problems during various historical periods. Researching the American sports history in the period between 1920s and 1940s it is possible to trace the social changes, taking place in the country during each single decade and follow the connections between sports and social challenges and their solutions during the period.

Sport occupied and still occupies an important place in life of American citizens. Sport is connected to political and social and economic aspects and spheres of the country. After the Civil War the attitude towards sports as a form of leisure activity was reconsidered by the American citizens. Working and middle classes started to participate in sport activities. Mostly these were male sportsmen, as opportunities for women in sports appeared only by the end of the nineteenth century. Spectator sports became popular and people wanted to see boxing rounds and various kinds of races. In 1890s the Marquis of Queensberry’s code was adopted, according to which certain limits were established in order to make this sport safer. Horse racing was mostly the kind of sport for wealthy people and for gamblers. Also wealthy people enjoyed yacht racing. In the 1890s such kinds of racing as rowing, auto boat, sailing, automobile races gained their popularity.

In 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin Jesse Owens obtained four gold medals. This was an important moment for the whole history of America, which was no related purely to sports, but “several insightful thinkers pointed out that while Owen’s runs and jumps supposedly annihilated Nazi racial ideology, they had little impact upon American versions of white supremacist philosophy”[1]

Taking into consideration the fact the Progressive Era is considered to be crucial for development of the modern corporate economy in America, it could be a good period for starting of research of the connections between sports and the institutions of the capitalist society. Baseball is the reflection of the challenges of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era along with the basic values of the period. On the one hand this game is as simple as just a ball and a bat and on the other hand it is utterly complex to the same extent as the whole American spirit, which is symbolized by baseball. “The game of baseball is as complex and changing as America itself. Baseball has gone through glory days and periods of desolation, has seen the country through its best and worst and has served almost every purpose to the American psyche.”[2] From the very beginning of its development baseball represents the hegemony of the nation in general and the growth of the country. One of the greatest baseball players during this period was certainly Ty Cobb. “Just as Cobb found it difficult to conform to the rules of the games as he mercilessly tried to dominate his opponents, so too his fans felt pulled between the behavioral requirements of modernity and traditional conceptions of manhood”[3]  It is possible that American citizens were not aware of this themselves, but baseball was the reflection of their daily lives. During the period of the Progressive Era the country had to go through a series of events, leading to serious transformation of the country, the same happened to baseball. The basic issues of concern during the Period of the Progressive era were related to the problems of poverty and working conditions and class relations. “Yet it was not the goal of Progressive minds to undermine the feeling of national greatness that had existed throughout the decades previous. Progressive Era politicians, such as Theodore Roosevelt, championed the ideas of expansion and competition, and baseball would follow alongside.”[4] The country was in the process of transformation from an agrarian nation into an urbanized one, based on a large industry. Thus development and popularization of baseball is associated with the significant shift of the American ideology of the Progressive Era.

The 1920s brought explosion of interest in American Sports. This was a period of social change and prosperity for most citizens of the country. Along with development of the industrialized towns and cities, people obtained more opportunities for their leisure. During this period huge stadiums, as for example the Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden were built. Rural Americans could follow the sporting events via listening to the radio. The producers used sporting events for placing of their mass advertising, promotion of a great range of products contributed to development of the consumer society in the United States. The most popular sports in the 1920s were baseball, basketball, football and boxing. “The Dempsey-Tunney fights of the 1920s provide striking examples of how, in subtle ways, cultural phenomena like sports may reveal larger social tensions”[5] The matches were of greater interest to middle and upper –class representatives of the society in comparison to lower-class audiences. Generally the period of the 1920s was called the Golden Age of American Sports and the Age of the Spectator. This was the period, when a lot of Americans were ready to pay money for the opportunity to see the competitions of the athletes. Baseball has become the major national past time and such outstanding sportsman as George Herman was a perfect hero prototype for the era of the Roaring Twenties. A lot of adult people played baseball, and some businesses became sponsors of the baseball teams. It was a game of both African Americans and white Americans, but sports continued to be racially segregated as well as any other spheres of life. Women had scarce opportunities in sports in 1920s, in most schools educators were convinced that running, jumping and sweating is not for ladies. Women did not have the right to participate in any athletic competitions. They could compete only in such sports as tennis or swimming. The 1920s ended with the Great Depression and sports had penetrated so much into the lives of the Americans that they were the only supporting factor for them to survive during the following hard times.[6]

The decade of the 1930s is associated with the historical memory of Theodore Roosevelt and his personal contribution into development of sport landscape in America. “Scholars and lay historians alike have often recounted Roosevelt’s athletic feats. And indeed many connections do exist. The National  Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) links Roosevelt to its earliest days. Fans of the Army-Navy  football game tout Roosevelt as a forefather.  Journalists covering Roosevelt’s time in the White House have left behind dozens of stories describing  the president’s wrestling, hiking, sparring, and tennis matches.”[7] Most of the researchers agree about his role, played for the creation of the sporting republic. His attitudes to sports had impact upon the overall development of the American culture. Roosevelt initiated and supported the reforming of college football, advocated the “strenuous life” for Americans. “In short, Theodore Roosevelt took to the athletic field with uncommon passion and to his pulpit to talk about athletics with unsurpassed frequency, but not even he could bully the American public into participating in sports in an entirely.”[8]

Development of the middle-class feminine basketball in this period is associated with the Bennett College. This transformation is the reflection of the continuous social tensions between males and females in the American society between 1920s and 1940s. According to the existing middle –class ideology the traditional conceptualization of gender relations was supported, whereas Bennett provided the competitive athletic participation opportunities for females. Finally the team of the college managed to become one of the most successful in the 1930s.[9] The changes of the roles of the middle class black women were not related purely to the sphere of sports, but also to the whole specter of social spheres.

The period of the end of 1930s brought changes to the development of national football and the North-South relationship. Southern teams were successful before 1939, but in October 1939 they definitely received a portion of national attention. For the first time the football game, which was played in the South, was broadcasted to the national radio audience. Historian Patrick B. Miller wrote “The presence of northern coaches on the sidelines of southern playing fields …marked the assimilation of the South to a prominent national pastime”[10] At the same time this did not mean that all Southerners were accepted as equals by the players from the North. The southerners were to play for the northern teams in order to strengthen their positions. However, the first steps towards reuniting of the country were made.

Overall, sports could perform a function of lens for viewing and analyzing of the American culture, history and social change. Profound investigation of sports could offer perfect insights into such social problems as racial tensions, gender relations, the issues of identity and nationalism formation, political processes and development of democracy within American society. Building connections between economic, social and cultural factors and sports in the United States, it is possible to explore the past and current social and cultural dilemmas of the American society. Research of sports could contribute to better understanding of the factors, leading to the changes of the values and behaviors within society.

Bibliography

Dyreson Mark,  American Ideas about Race and Olympic Races from the  1890s to  the  1950s: Shattering Myths or  Reinforcing Scientific Racism? University of Illinois Press.

Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Summer  2001), pp. 173-215

Gorn Elliott J. The Manassa Mauler and the Fighting Marine:  An Interpretation of the  Dempsey-Tunney Fights. Cambridge University Press. Journal of American Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Apr., 1985), pp. 27-47

Matthew D. Shank and Mark R. Lyberger, Sports marketing: A strategic perspective. Routledge, 2014.

Pamela Grundy and Benjamin Rader, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports, 7th ed. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Panacy Peter, Major League Baseball Finds Its Roots in Progressive America, 2011.

Riess Steven A., Sport in Industrial America: 1850-1920. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davison, Inc., 1995.

Riess Steven A., Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Rita  Liberti, “We Were Ladies, We Just Played Basketball  Like  Boys”: African American Womanhood and Competitive Basketball  at Bennett College, 1928-1942. University of Illinois Press Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Fall 1999), pp. 567-584

Sumner Jim, The Golden Age of Sports. Tar Heel Junior Historian Association, NC Museum of History, 2004.

Swanson Ryan A., “I Never  Was a Champion  at Anything”: Theodore Roosevelt’s Complex and Contradictory Record as America’s  “Sports President”.  University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Fall 2011), pp. 425-446

Tripp Steve, “THE MOST POPULAR UNPOPULAR MAN  IN BASEBALL”: BASEBALL FANS AND TY COBB IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY. Oxford University Press. Journal of Social History, Vol. 43, No. 1 (fall 2009), pp. 67-87

Turpie David, From  Broadway  to  Hollywood: The Image of the  1939 University of Tennessee Football Team and the  Americanization of the  South. University of Illinois Press.  Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring  2008), pp. 119-140

Wade F.H., “Half Century of National Game,” Current Literature26, 1899.

Welky David B., Viking  Girls, Mermaids, and Little Brown Men: U.S. Journalism and the  1932 Olympics University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring  1997), pp. 24-49


[1] Dyreson Mark,  American Ideas about Race and Olympic Races from the  1890s to  the  1950s: Shattering Myths or  Reinforcing Scientific Racism? University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Summer  2001), pp. 173-215

[2] Riess Steven A., Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

[3] Tripp Steve, “THE MOST POPULAR UNPOPULAR MAN  IN BASEBALL”: BASEBALL FANS AND TY COBB IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY. Oxford University Press. Journal of Social History, Vol. 43, No. 1 (fall 2009), pp. 67-87

[4] Swanson Ryan A., “I Never  Was a Champion  at Anything”: Theodore Roosevelt’s Complex and Contradictory Record as America’s  “Sports President”.  University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Fall 2011), pp. 425-446

[5] Gorn Elliot J. The Manassa Mauler and the Fighting Marine: An Interpretation of the Dempsey-Tunney Fights. Cambridge University Press. Journal of American Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1985, pp. 27-47

[6] Welky David B., Viking  Girls, Mermaids, and Little Brown Men: U.S. Journalism and the  1932 Olympics University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring  1997), pp. 24-49

[7] Swanson Ryan A., “I Never  Was a Champion  at Anything”: Theodore Roosevelt’s Complex and Contradictory Record as America’s  “Sports President”.  University of Illinois Press. Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Fall 2011), pp. 425-446

[8] Swanson Ryan A., “I Never  Was a Champion  at Anything”, Fall 2011

[9] Rita  Liberti, “We Were Ladies, We Just Played Basketball  Like  Boys”: African American Womanhood and Competitive Basketball  at Bennett College, 1928-1942. University of Illinois Press Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Fall 1999), pp. 567-584

[10] Turpie David, From  Broadway  to  Hollywood: The Image of the  1939 University of Tennessee Football Team and the  Americanization of the  South. University of Illinois Press.  Journal of Sport  History, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring  2008), pp. 119-140

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

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[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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