This research is devoted to the central issues of professional sports in the USA. We are going to consider matters connected with the historical development of the professional sports, the difference between amateur and professional sports, principal components and problems, views of different researchers, professional sports and women and some other aspects. In conclusion, we will try to summarize the main ideas and questions highlighted in the research.
The whole time of person’s activity we could divide into work time and leisure time. Starting from the old time people had to perform some portion of hard work to get their rest time and spend it in the way they like. There were the so-called Sabbath days, which were a reason to stop every day struggle for food and shelter and have a rest. Catholic immigrants were the first to break the religion’s traditions and devote their day off to picnics and sports. During the process of industrialization more and more people were occupied with mental work, including little physical movements. It was the main reason why most people wanted to devote their free time to some physical activities with their friends and families. In the middle of the 19th century, these physical activities started to turn into organized sports. Before Americans certainly had sports competitions, but without strict organization. From Europe were borrowed horse racing and ball games, during the second half of the 19th-century spectator sports like professional athletics started to appear. For example, the first curling club appeared in 1845, and in 1880 German immigrants organized bowing clubs. From the year 1820 people in America started to talk about a game where a bat, a ball and a base were used. By 1845 the order was brought into the rules or the game, which was called baseball. During 1890s football used to be a popular college game, but the first Football League was established only in 1940. The first National Basketball Leagues was formed in 1937, and three corporations did it.
It is essential to understand the difference between amateur and professional sports. The American nation is called unique in this correlation because the connection between secondary and tertiary education and sports is solid like nowhere else in the world. There are special athletic programs for students, there is plenty of youth sports clubs, and for those who finish their education and do not feel able to take up professional sports, there are minor league systems for baseball and hockey for example. “Especially in basketball and football, high school and particularly college sports are followed with a fervor equaling or exceeding that felt for professional sports; college football games can draw six-digit crowds and, for upper-tier schools, sports are a significant source of revenue” (Shropshire, 99). Talking about professional sports we have to mention that most of the sports leagues exist as associations of franchises. Every year there are around 30-32 teams to take part in the event, and at some point in time they are moved to another place or leagues can be extended through new franchises. Practically all sports leagues in the USA have the same basic plan of events. As soon as the regular season is over, the best teams (8-16) take part in the playoff tournament, followed by championship series. There is a difference between the cups of professional leagues in Europe and America. Even if we are talking about soccer, really few soccer fans would know about cup competition. “Also, major-league professional teams in the U.S. never play teams from other organizations in meaningful games, although NBA teams have played European teams in preseason exhibitions on a semi-regular basis” (Rader, 12-13).
In the sphere of professional sports, it is necessary to pay attention to the relationship between players and team owners. This type of relations is under some certain contract principles. There is a model contract for players and owners – Standard Player’s Contract – that most of sports leagues have. In case of necessity for some talented sportsmen, the contract can be modified. If the salary of a sportsman is high enough he can have a personal agent for representing him. To control their activity, there was created a system of registration at some administrative agency.
Women had also taken an active part in sports events, and some managed even to build their career in this sphere. What is noticeable about women professional sports is the fact that individual sports developed much earlier and quicker than team sports. The oldest history of women professional sports has golf. LPGA – Ladies Professional Golf Association was created in the 1950s. In 20 years it could be already called an international standard organization. In 1959 the Professional Women’s Bowling Association was created, in 1976 – The Women’s Professional Billiard Association. The main reason, why women team sports developed later was those hard times of stabilization. But at any rate, as time passed the image of purely masculine team sports was changed and women teams sports leagues started to appear. “As we have seen, individual professional sports, such as golf and tennis, have been a success and taken root in the United States. However, as for team sports, most of the women’s leagues and organizations have struggled to survive, except that WNBA has started to gain public’s attention recently. WNBA’s success can be attributed to the fact that women’s sports have been gradually accepted in the U.S. society. Once the organizations and systems are formed to pave the way for further acceptance, the next step will be to take a substantial action.” (Sage, 55).
Since sports events were of great interest not only to players but spectators as well, sports became an important theme of broadcasting already during the times when radio appeared. With the development of television, networks had to pay huge amounts of money for the right to broadcast some sports competitions and other events. “Contracts between leagues and broadcasters stipulate how often games must be interrupted for commercials. Because of all of the advertisements, broadcasting contracts are very lucrative and account for the biggest chunk of pro teams’ revenues. Teams do not cover their fields and uniforms with sponsors’ logos as European teams often do (Shropshire, 11). After cable and satellite television occupied their places on American TV, people got more opportunities to follow sports. Although the size of sports market in the USA is rather big, there is no national daily newspaper devoted to sports events. The main reason for this is the division for time zones and some games on the West coast last longer than early morning in the East, and thus it is not always possible to provide information about scores and games in time. But there is a plenty of sports magazines, one of the best is considered to be Sports Illustrated.
As all over the world in the United States, professional sports are connected with promotion and relegation. Relegation – “(or demotion) means the mandated transfer of the least successful team(s) of a higher division into a lower division at the end of the season. Usually, an equal number of most successful team(s) from the lower division enjoy the different procedure, promotion, but the number of teams relegated and promoted may differ. For example in 1995 the English Premier League reduced its numbers by two, relegating four teams while only allowing two promotions” (Rader, 25). With the help of promotion and relegation, the professional teams are rearranged from time to time according to their level. However, some teams avoided this system, as they were not promoted and relegated as in North America there was the practice of sending the professional sports teams directly from universities.
Professional sport is a kind of entertainment only for spectators, for people why are engaged in the professional sport – this is their job and sometimes even their life.
Management of professional sports teams and leagues forms a separate branch of business. Thus professional leagues and teams have to consider public issues as well.
“As such, hiring practices of these institutions should be of societal concern. Franchises impact the lives of not only those whom they employ but entire cities as well. From the construction and operation of stadiums to the local merchants who take care of the fans, sports teams greatly affect a city’s economy. A glance at the rosters can quickly show what the players’ demographics are, but a closer look is needed to see the racial and gender makeup of these various teams and leagues.” (Sage, 100).
Traditionally professional sportsmen were male and most of Caucasian and African-American origins. Only after some professional sports organizations for women appeared, this contributed to the development of participation opportunities for women. Thus any not correct hiring practice can influence the social popularity of this or that league or organization negatively. “An early report of Northeastern University of the Study of Sport in Society in 1992 found that the top management hiring practices of the NBA earned a B-, the NFL a C, and MLB an F (Clay, 1994). In a more comprehensive 1997 report, the overall grades for the three sports leagues were NBA an A, NFL a B, and MLB a C. In terms of playing opportunities for minorities the NFL and NBA each earned A+ grades, while MLB received an A. Coaching opportunities found the NBA leading the way again with an A, the NFL received a C+, and MLB a B. No league fared exceptionally well regarding top management positions held by minorities” (Sage, 255).
On the other hand, it is not so easy to judge the way how they hire people, because the choice, in this case, can not be based purely on social status or origin of a sportsman, first of all, his professional qualities are to be taken into consideration.
Overall, in this research of professional sports in the USA we tried to briefly consider such issues like: historical development of professional sports, the difference between professional and amateur sports, the way women are involved in professional sports, what are the ways of spreading information about sport event in the United States, some social problems connected with hiring personnel to professional teams and leagues.
1. Rader, B. G. American sports: From the age of folk games to the age of televised sports (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1999
2. Rosentraub, M. S. Major league losers: The real cost of sports and who’s paying for it. New York: A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. 1997
3. Sage, G. H. Power and ideology in American sport: A critical perspective (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers. 1998
4. Shropshire, K. L. The sports franchise game: Cities in pursuit of sports franchise, events, stadiums, and arenas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2005
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