The Cultural Influence of Sports in Modern Society
One need look no further than a typical December Sunday afternoon in America to realize there is something special about watching live sports in the U.S. Every Sunday, millions of men and some women gather in front of their big screen television sets, ready to spend the day watching grown men play a child’s game. The NFL has become the most popular spectator sport in the United States. What is the fascination that causes wives to become football widows while their husbands are glued to the TV for hours and hours?
Football and sports in general has become a tradition in America. Most young boys are initiated into the world of sports from the time they start to walk. Girls, who used to only play with dolls, are becoming more and more involved in sports as well. Kids may start out rolling a ball and then progress to playing catch. When they turn 4 or 5, they may get a plastic bat and ball or play their first game of miniature golf. If you live in America, you will be exposed to live sports every day of your life.
There is unprecedented live coverage of all types of sporting events. There are special TV channels devoted to live football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, soccer and horse racing. Networks compete with each other to gain the broadcast rights to such big live sporting events like the Super Bowl, World Series or Kentucky Derby. There is big money involved with sports.
In our history, many sports developed as a diversion from the struggles of everyday life. For instance, when baseball was introduced in America around the middle of the 19th century, it quickly became a way for laborers to unwind after a long day in the factory. It served as a diversion during WWII and also helped break down racial prejudice when Jackie Robinson became the first African American player.
Live sports have always influenced our children. Kids look up to the star players and make them heroes. A star athlete in high school or college is given special attention. Colleges give scholarships to great athletes because they want to field the best team possible. Both college and professional sports are big business. Owners are willing to pay millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars to some players because they know live games will attract fans and ultimately lead to greater profits.
In many ways, live sports are a microcosm of real life. The classic George Carlin bit on the differences between football and baseball is a perfect example of how we treat sport in America. Football is like war. According to Carlin, players clad in uniform with protective helmets are led downfield by a field general who hopes to penetrate the enemy’s defense and capture the territory that lies ahead. Through an aerial assault as well as a ground attack, they try to win battles on the field. When looking to strike a big blow against their enemy, the field general may launch a long bomb.
Name the game or live sport and you can connect it to some aspect of every day life. While golf may teach one to be gentlemanly and obey the rules, basketball may reflect cultural attitudes of the inner city. Our love affair with sports will be with us as long as we live.