Sport and recreation in the United States — страница 2

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hostility toward games and enjoyment codified in the law books of the first settlers. The colonies' early rulers, north and south, were dedicated to rooting out play and enforcing the discipline of hard work as a moral value in itself and as a frontier necessity. The Puritans' war against sports may be traced to their equation of work with prayer and their belief that divine election was accompanied by an easy rejection of idleness; as members of England's rising middle class, the Puritans also had a social bias against the traditional amusements of the aristocracy. Today's fascination with the moral significance of winning, with the accompanying neglect of the play element in sports, may be an atavistic survival of this Puritan outlook—although the win-at-any-cost ethic is no

less in evidence in countries with no Puritan heritage. Then again, the sheer number of seventeenth century laws against sports must also mean that games were very popular in colonial .America. Throughout the colonies the old English sports like wrestling and footraces seem to have been present, although cockfighting and horse racing were not permitted in New England. Sledding and ice skating were also popular where the climate permitted; ice skating remained one form of physical exercise allowed women when the mores of the Victorian era later began to exclude them from sport. The nineteenth-century class revolution that changed the rank of gentleman from one of ascription to achievement had a pernicious effect on participation in sports. An eighteenth-century gentleman (or lady)

could hardly have lost his status by anything short of a major crime, but the kind of gentility that was the goal of social climbing in the second quar­ter of the nineteenth century was as easily lost as gained, particularly by women. The determination of the new middle classes to separate themselves from the vulgar meant avoiding anything that had the appearance of physical work, which was enough to rule out strenuous play. It is not true that there was no American participation in sports during the 1840s and 1850s; these were the years when a primitive form of baseball was evolving. However, these decades were more notable for the rise of spectator sports—early evidence of tastes that would eventually be satisfied by the television sports broadcasts of today. The most

popular spectator sport was horse racing, and whole sections, sometimes the whole country, followed rivalries between famous stable owners. Sailing regattas were another way social leaders could exhibit themselves before the masses in a pastime whose expense insured its exclusivity. There were professional races staged by gamblers for cash purses, but most were sponsored by elite rowing and sailing clubs. The first America's Cup race in 1851, and the intense interest it aroused, gave the rich an opportunity to hold themselves up as defenders of national pride in an arena none but they could afford to enter. As the nineteenth century progressed, sports seemed to evolve along two diverging paths. On the one hand, sports suitable for general participation tended to be monopolized by

elite groups who excluded the working class and immigrants. On the other hand, sports with an in-eradicable working class (and hence professional) character tended to be taken over by commercial interests and run as money-making enterprises. Track exemplifies the first tendency, baseball the second. Professional track and field, or "pedestrianism," was one of the most popular sports of the nineteenth century, both as recreation and spectacle. Before the Civil War races tended to be promoted by gamblers and often pitted English champions against American favorites; the races were commonly held at horse race tracks or on city streets. In 1844 some thirty thousand spectators watched the American runner John Gilder-sleeve beat the Englishman John Barlow in a ten mile run

for $1,000 at a Hoboken race track. Forty thousand watched the rematch, which Barlow won with a time of 54:21. After the Civil War track was particularly popular as an opportunity for wagering, with the competitors often handicapped with weights or staggered starts to ensure parity. Amusement parks sponsored weekend track meets on an elimination basis with the winners receiving cash awards or readily pawnable trophies. Marathons and long distance races were also popular. Probably the most important sponsors of track and field sports in the nineteenth century were the ethnic organizations with their annual "picnics"—mass athletic meets allowing amateurs and professionals to compete separately and against each other. The Caledonian Games of New York City were the