Sport and recreation in the United States — страница 3

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earliest; during the 1880s there were also Irish and German picnics. Picnics were also hosted by military regiments, labor unions, colleges, and wealthy athletic associations like the New York Athletic Club and the Schuylkill Navy Club of Philadelphia. In the 1870s the "gentlemen" began to complain about having to compete against lower class professionals at track meets. The solution to this genteel dilemma was the doctrine of amateurism, which made it possible for the well-born to win more than an occasional race and, incidentally, made athletics respectable since social contact with workmen was infra dig. In 1888 today's ruling amateur sports organization, the Amateur Athletic Union, was formed, which by strictly enforcing the rules of amateurism effectively banished

working-class participation from track and field. Not until the 1970s would these rules be relaxed enough to allow athletes without private means of support to compete. The professional champions of the "pedestrian" era set records that still astound. In 1885 a professional runner set a mile record of 4:12.4, a mark no amateur could match until 1915. The most amazing professional track record was set by the outstanding pedestrian Richard Perry Williams, who ran a carefully authenticated 9 second 100 yard dash on June 2, 1906. It took nearly seventy years for an amateur to equal that achievement. As track evolved into an upper-class preserve, baseball grew from similar beginnings into the earliest, and still the most complete, form of popular sports culture

[3,p.207-209]. In 1911, the American writer Ambrose Bierce defined Monday as “in Christian countries, the day after the baseball game”. Times have changed and countries, too. In the U.S. of today, football is the most popular spectator sport. Baseball is now in second place among the sports people most like to watch. In Japan, it is the most popular. Both baseball and football are, of course, American developments of sports played in England. But baseball does not come from cricket, as many people think. Baseball comes from baseball. As early as 1700, an English churchman in Kent complained of baseball being played on Sundays. And illustrations of the time make it clear that this baseball was the baseball now called “the American game”. Baseball is still very popular in

the USA as an informal, neighborhood sport. More than one American remembers the time when she or he hit a baseball through a neighbor’s window. Baseball and football have the reputation of being “typically American” team sports. This is ironic because the two most popular participant sports in the world today are indeed American in origin-basketball and volleyball. The first basketball game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. It was invented at a YMCA there as a game that would fill the empty period between the football season (autumn) and the baseball season (spring and summer). Volleyball was also first played in Massachusetts, and also at a YMCA, this one in Holyoke, in 1895. During the First and Second World Wars, American soldiers took volleyball with

them overseas and helped to make it popular. Today, of course, both basketball and volleyball are played everywhere by men and women of all ages. They are especially popular as school sports [1, p.138-139]. Problems and prospects of American sport The single largest problem in the conduct of American sports is the obsession with winning that is found at almost all levels of competition. Already at age twelve or thirteen youngsters are often exposed to grueling training regiments. Sometimes dirty tactics are even introduced at this age by coaches who are too eager to win. In some cases parents who appear to be living out fantasies of success in sports through their children contribute to the tremendous pressure of sporting competition at an early age. Baseball for children ages

9-12, called Little League baseball, and its football counterpart have often been criticized for their premature stress on winning at all cost. Football, with its violent contact, would appear to be a particularly dangerous game for youngsters whose bone structure has not fully developed. Competition at an early age is not bad in itself as long as a healthy spirit of fun and recreation is maintained. Another trend in contemporary American sports partly related to the obsession with winning is over specialization. While this over specialization helps to produce the remarkable feats of modem gymnasts, basketball players, and others, it nevertheless discourages some from trying out a wide variety of sports. A particularly American phenomenon connected with sport is what might be