A Brief History of American Sports (Magill Book Reviews)
English settlers in the seventeenth century colonies in North America brought with them their own amusements: festival games such as wrestling, cock-fighting, and foot races for the plebeians; horse racing, bear-baiting, and other pastimes for the planters of Virginia. These continued to be sources of recreation through much of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century until the industrial revolution began to change the structure of American society.
Baseball, with its combination of teamwork and individual excellence, began to appeal to large numbers by the 1850’s. In the years after 1865, baseball became professionalized and was from the beginning very much a sport of men from the blue-collar class. Very soon, team owners (many of them brewery owners) took over the game, organized formal leagues, and instituted rules binding the players to their teams and limiting their bargaining power.
The late nineteenth century saw new emphasis on physical strength and skill, fostered by those who rejected the Victorian image of weakness. New games, chiefly football, intended to strengthen young men and prepare them for the combats of life, became popular toward the end of the century, changing forever the structure of American colleges and universities. Tennis, polo, bicycling, rowing, and yachting, some of which allowed feminine participation, grew in popularity among the wealthy. Basketball, fostered by the settlement house movement and...
(The entire section is 307 words.)
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