Sport and recreation in the United States — страница 11

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play» and spectators watch. Part of this comes from the fact that people have been slow to recognize that professional sport really is a business and that people make their living engaging it. In addition, the world of professional sport, as the rest of society, is more complex than it was in the past. Another familiar complaint, not without some justification, is that professional athletes in the most popular sports such as baseball, basketball, and football are paid more money than they could possibly be worth. For example, as of this writing the average major league baseball player's salary is just under the incredible sum of one million dollars per year! No wonder people complain. Yet, when a star player demands more money from his or her team, it is often the fans and the

press who take the side of the athlete. One of the most unfortunate results of the currently inflated price of tickets to professional sports events such as baseball is that they are now accessible only to the most well off. This is a sad break with the past tradition of having a sizable number of inexpensive tickets available to all segments of society. Over time sport in the US has become more open to all classes and ethnic groups. Recent moves by professional sports management to cater more and more to an elite clientele through such means as special luxury viewing areas (called sky boxes) at stadiums and arenas are an unwelcome departure from the mostly democratic development of American sport. Only the most naive observers and spectators of American professional sport now

believe that it exists in a realm that is separate from other social concerns. Sport is also related to politics. It has become a practice for politicians to associate themselves with championship teams. For example, the president usually phones congratulations to the winners of baseball's World Series; presidents have hosted the National Basketball Association (NBA) champions at the White House. The attraction of major league professional sport is so great that there are keen competitions among cities for franchises. It is widely accepted by politicians, the public, and the press that having a major league team in their city or region is good not only for the local economy but also for the prestige of the area and even the morale of the population. Professional franchises often

exploit this desire of localities to have a major league team by demanding and receiving extremely favorable terms for the use of public stadiums. When teams do not get what they want from local government, they often begin to play one city off against another and sometimes move to an area that offers a better deal. Sport also has an international political dimension. After the Soviet Union joined the Olympic movement in 1952, the US and the USSR engaged in a long, hard-fought battle, especially at the Olympic Games, for overall supremacy in sport [2, p.307-308]. Olympic Games and the names of American heroes The United States has traditionally been a very successful player in international sports events. The Olympic Games are the highlight of international competition. The

United States has had the pleasure to host Olympic winter or summer Games on seven occasions. The Centennial Games of the Olympic Movement took place in Atlanta in 1996. The Games were one of the largest in history so far, featuring almost 11.000 competitors. The U.S. Olympic Team has always performed very well and again finished first in the final medal standings in 1996 and in 2000. The next Olympic Winter Games will be hosted by Salt Lake City in 2002. Hosted by Athens the next Olympic Summer Games will take place in Greece in August 2004. Following the national trials the United States Olympic Committee nominates members of the Olympic team. The United States also participates in the Pan-American Games, the second largest sports event following the Olympic Games. They are

held every four years preceding the Olympic Games. The Pan Am Games consists of all Summer Olympic sports, plus some non-Olympic sports. American athletes also compete in world championships and other international sports events. Cyclist Lance Armstrong won the prestigious Tour de France in 1999, 2000, and 2001. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have counted among the top tennis players in the world for many years. Tiger Woods dominates the international golf scene. Track athletes Michael Johnson, Maurice Greene, and Marion Jones are the fastest sprinters in the world. These and many more American sports heroes rank among the country's best-known celebrities. The modern Olympics also have female competitors from 1900 onward, though women at first participated in considerably fewer