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Sports The History and Evolution

Overview Though for many sports today is just another part of their daily lives, it is easy to forget that just 120 years ago, many of the sports we take for granted did not yet exist, and those that did would be barely recognizable to the modern sports audience. The history of modern sports details an evolution, from games played primarily for entertainment and leisure to an industry rivaling any other in size and power.
Popular Culture Influence With that evolution came an increase in influence. Sports over the last hundred years has affected modern popular culture and has often reflected changing social attitudes and standards. Sports has also seen advances in techniques and achievements in records and levels that reflect the commitment by sportsman, sportswomen and training to be the best. Fashions now often reflect sports clothing, partly because of the money injected into sports by fashion houses and partly because of our desire to emulate our heroes and heroines.
Politics Along with an increase in influence over popular culture has come an increase in political influence. This can include athletes using their fame to run for office, office-seekers using athletes to boost their candidacy, boycotts to boost causes – most famously the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and most recently the immigration law passed in Arizona – and using sports as a way to reach certain demographics.
There is, however, a downside to the use of sports in politics. This ranges from terrorists using the sports to gain exposure for their cause – most famously at the Munich Olympics – to countries using sports as a way of trying to demonstrate that their specific ideology is better than another, notably in Soviet Russia.
College Scholarship Opportunities The growth of sports has also made possible the education of many young people who would otherwise never have that opportunity. Though today most of the noticeable college athletes often leave school early to enter the professional ranks of their sport, the vast majority of college athletes graduate and move on to a field other than their sport. For many of those students, sports made going to college possible, particularly through the use of college scholarships, which have increased in size and number as sports created bigger revenues for schools.
Integration We will examine how sports embraced (or at least shoe-horned) integration, looking at Willie O’Ree playing hockey for the Boston Bruins, Prentiss Gault, a football player at the University of Oklahoma, Kenny Washington, the first African-American to play in the NFL, the whole-scale, and early, integration by the NBA, soccer’s struggle to this day with racism, particularly in Europe, and, perhaps most famously, Jackie Robinson’s entrance into baseball.
Big Business It is also impossible to talk about modern sports without considering the heavy influence of business. Sports and business have become forever linked, even in college, which is supposedly played by “amateurs” and not “professionals,” despite the fact that the coaches and athletic directors make as much as their counterparts in the professional leagues. From sports on television to sponsorships to naming rights on stadiums, the history of the business of sports reveals that business tied itself to sports more and more in the latter half of the 20th century, really ramping up in the 1970's and onward.
Salaries As a part of the stream of business into sports, another change has been the influx of money, which many believe has become obscene and wrong. However, the fact of the matter is that when somebody is “The Best in the World" at anything, ordinary people want to watch or see those people perform - whether they are actors, musicians or athletes. As much as people decry the high salaries and excess of sports, the spectators and consumers of sports make it possible. Past the issue of public perception, however, there lie more serious issues. Like all things in life, when big money and business are involved, the opportunities and temptations to cheat or do whatever it takes to get ahead increase. In sports, this often involves performance enhancing drugs or gambling.
Ticket Prices Additionally, the growth of big money and high salaries into the games has affected who can now afford to go to the events. Though this impact is most commonly associated with sports in the United States, this is not just an American phenomenon, but reflected in other countries and sports around the world. Soccer in the U.K is a great example. Many of the teams in the English Leagues were once supported by local blue-collar workers, with ticket prices costing about the same as one hour’s worth of wages. Now, to get a good seat to watch a top British soccer team can easily cost more than 8 hours wages for a blue-collar worker. As sports have grown bigger and more profitable, they are driving out those who helped make growth possible.



Overview of Modern Sporting History

  • Baseball, from its origins in 1840s in northeastern United States to the institution of the National, and later American Leagues, making up what is today known as Major League Baseball includes the Origins, Growth, Records and History of Baseball

  • Basketball, the brainchild of Dr. James Naismith, created in the 1890s, it developed as much through colleges as it did through professional teams and leagues, with the modern National Basketball Association emerging around 1950. includes the Birth, Growth, Records and History of Basketball

  • American Football, which existed in various forms mostly across the college ranks in the 1800s before Walter Camp, at Yale University, began to help establish rules that made the game appear much as it does today. Football’s evolution primarily took place in college, as college football was far more popular than its professional counterpart until the late 1950's when the National Football League became the dominant force in American football. Covers the Origins, Growth, Records and History of American Football

  • Ice Hockey, whose history is traced to Canada as early as the 1810s, though scholars debate its origin. The modern sport emerged in the late 1800s in Montreal, with the National Hockey League forming in 1917. Hockey is another sport in which early development took place as much in college as it did in professional leagues. The History, Teams, Players and Organisations for Ice Hockey History of Ice Hockey

  • Motor Racing, whose origin is difficult to trace. Racing motorized vehicles actually began more with motorized bicycles or tricycles than cars, though not by many years. Car racing began to emerge at the very end of the 19th century, leading into the development of tracks built for car racing in the first decade of the 1900s, first in Britain in 1907, then later in the U.S., most famously with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. There are an extremely wide variety of motor racing, between the more famous Formula One and NASCAR to rally cars, touring cars and sports cars.

  • Association Football, or Soccer, widely considered the world’s most popular sport, traces it modern roots back to the standardization of the rules of the sport in England in the mid-1800s, leading to the creation of the Football Association in London in 1863. The current governing body in international soccer is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, which was formed in 1904 although the rest of Europe did not take up the game till the mid 1920s. includes the The History, Teams, Players and Organisations for the game of Soccer History of Soccer


  • Tennis, one of the oldest of the modern sports, goes back as far as the 1500s, though the true modern game of “lawn tennis” goes back to the 1870s. The game primarily grew out of England, including the first Wimbledon Championships in 1877. The International Lawn Tennis Federation, now known simply as the International Tennis Federation, the sport’s governing body, was founded in 1913, composed of 13 national tennis associations.

  • The Modern Olympics, growing out of the ancient tradition, resurfaced under the direction of the International Olympic Committee in Athens in 1896. The Olympics have been held every four years since, missing only 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to world wars. The original Olympiad allowed only men to compete; women were added four years later, in Paris in 1900.

  • The Winter Olympics, which initially developed alongside the Modern Summer Olympics, were first held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, the same year as the Paris Summer Games. The Winter Games were separated from the Summer Games for the first time in 1994, when the Winter Olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway, followed two years later by the Summer Games in Atlanta, USA. The original games had 9 sports, while the most recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver had 15.

  • Golf, whose origins are widely disputed, with various historians tracing it back to a variety of different stick and ball games throughout European history. However, most agree the modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century. Golf spread globally throughout the 19th century, though almost entirely in locations controlled by the British Empire. The Professional Golfers Association of America, today the governing body of golf via its 41 PGA sections worldwide and the world’s largest working sports organization, was formed in 1916. covers the Origins, Great Players part of our History of Golf
  • Rugby football, which is popularly believed to have been formed by William Web Ellis in 1823 at Rugby School in England, after he simply picked up the ball and ran with it. Scholars now say this is probably apocryphal, though the modern sport did likely form around the area at the same time. The Rugby Football Union, the sport’s governing body, was formed in London in 1871.

  • Boxing, whose history dates back to Ancient Greece, and became the modern sport we know today primarily in 1867, when the Marquess of Queensbury published a code of rules which still primarily govern the game today. The National Boxing Association, which later became the World Boxing Association, was formed in 1921. There are today 4 organizations recognized as governors of the sport: the WBA, the International Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Organization and the World Boxing Council.

  • Cricket, another sport whose origins are murky at best, though the modern game began to emerge in the 1770s. The first test match, which is a cricket match played between two countries, was in 1877, played between Australia and England. The International Cricket Council, the governing body of the sport, was founded in 1909, then called the Imperial Cricket Council and consisting only of England, South Africa and Australia. The organization today consists of 10 full members.

Our Sporting World During the summer break we have asked a young journalist with a love of sports to spend his summer researching and writing about the history of sports in the last 100 years.
I am hoping to have our new completed sports section online by late August / Early September, so please take the time to check it out when summer is over. Steve Webmaster The People History