Sports in the United States are an important part of the country's culture. In the United States the sports have, along all ITS history, a huge impact on the world of sports especially in some aspects: their achievements in international tournaments, the attractiveness of their national tournaments, the technological and scientific innovation, the commercialization and dissemination of professional sport and their role in the creation and the red tape of several disciplines. United States is always at the vanguard in sports.
The four major professional sports leagues in the United States are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL); all four are considered the preeminent leagues in their respective sports in the world. Those leagues have teams that represent Canadian cities, and all four are among the most financially lucrative sports leagues in the world.
The following table shows the major professional sports leagues, which average over 15,000 fans per game and that have a national TV contract that pays rights fees.
All major sports leagues use a similar type of regular season schedule with a playoff tournament after the regular season ends. Sports are particularly associated with education in the United States, with most high schools and universities having organized sports. College sports competitions play an important role in the American sporting culture, and certain college sports - particularly college football and college basketball - are at least as popular as professional sports.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL (NFL)
American football has the most participants of any sport at both high school and college levels. The NFL has 32 franchises divided into two conferences. After a 16-game regular season, each conference sends six teams to the NFL Playoffs, which eventually culminate in the league's championship game, the Super Bowl.
Millions watch college football throughout the fall months, and some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school football teams.
The popularity of college and high school football stems largely from the fact that these areas historically generally did not possess markets large enough for a professional team. During football season in the fall, fans have the opportunity to watch high school games on Fridays and Saturdays, college football on Saturdays, and NFL games on Sundays, the usual playing day of the professional teams.
The day on which the Super Bowl is played is called "Super Bowl Sunday". It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the Super Bowl has frequently been the most-watched American television broadcast of the year.
Baseball and a variant, softball, are popular participatory sports in the U.S. The highest level of baseball in the U.S. is Major League Baseball. The World Series of Major League Baseball is the culmination of the sport's postseason each October. It is played between the winner of each of the two leagues, the American League and the National League, and the winner is determined through a best-of-seven playoff.
As baseball developed over 150 years ago in the northeast, it has been played and followed in this region longer than in others. New York City is for many sports fans synonymous with the New York Yankees and their logo. The team is noted as having been the team of many of the all-time greats in the history of the game, and for having won more titles than any other US major professional sports franchise. The city was also host to two other highly popular baseball teams in the National League.
Of those Americans citing their favorite sport, basketball is ranked second (counting amateur levels) behind American football. However, in regards to money the NBA is ranked third in popularity. More Americans play basketball than any other team sport, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, with over 26 million Americans playing basketball. Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The National Basketball Association, NBA, is the world's premier men's professional basketball league and one of the major professional sports leagues of North America. It contains 30 teams (29 teams in the U.S. and 1 in Canada) that play an 82-game season from October to June. After the regular season, eight teams from each conference compete in the playoffs for the NBA trophy.
Another important item in the NBA is the wage ceiling (which it is used also in another leagues in USA) this is the amount of money that a team of the National Basketball Association can use in order to pay player`s salary. The amount of money changes every season and it is estimated depending on the last season. For example in the season 2006-07 the wage ceiling was 53.13 millions of dollars. This limit was establish in order to prevent that the teams with more economic power could have all the best players so in that way they have a more balanced league.
Notable NBA players in history include Wilt Chamberlain (4 time MVP), Bill Russell (5 time MVP) Jerry West, (12 time all NBA team), Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar(6 time MVP), Magic Johnson (3 time MVP), Larry Bird (3 time MVP), Michael Jordan (6 time finals) Notable players in the NBA today include Kobe Bryant (NBA's third all-time leading scorer), Lebron James (4 MVP awards), Tim Duncan (15-time NBA all-star).
Ever since the 1990s, an increasing number of players born outside the United States have signed with NBA teams. Among the notable foreign-born players in the NBA today are two-time MVP Steve Nash (a South Africa-born Canadian), Tony Parker (France), Pau Gasol (Spain) and 1 time all-star Nowitzky (Germany), the first European to win the NBA MVP.
Basketball at both the college and high school levels is popular throughout the country. Every March, 68 teams, in a six-round, single-elimination tournament (commonly called March Madness) determines the national champions of NCAA Division I men's college basketball.
WNBA is the best professional league in the female basketball. It was created in 1996 thanks to the NBA, and it started the following year. Most teams are property of NBA teams and they use the same stadiums. They play from May to August, and the playoffs in September, a calendar totally opposed to the NBA one.
ICE HOCKEY (NHL)
Ice hockey, usually referred to simply as "hockey". In the U.S. the game is more popular in regions of the country with a cold winter climate, namely the northeast and the upper Midwest.23 U.S.-based teams and 7 Canadian-based teams compete for the Stanley Cup. While NHL stars are still not as readily familiar to the general American public as are stars of the NFL, MLB, and the NBA, average attendance for NHL games in the U.S. has surpassed average NBA attendance in recent seasons.
College hockey has a regional following in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. The U.S. now has more youth hockey players than all other countries, apart from Canada, combined.
Soccer has been increasing in popularity in the United States in recent years. Soccer is played by over 13 million people in the U.S., making it the third most played sport in the U.S., more widely played than ice hockey and American football. The U.S. men's team is one of only seven teams in the world to have qualified for every World Cup since 1990. The U.S. women's team holds the record for most Women's World Cup championships, and is the only team that has never finished worse than third place in a World Cup.
Major League Soccer is the premier soccer league in the United States. MLS has 20 clubs (17 from the U.S. and 3 from Canada). The 34-game schedule runs from mid-March to late October, with the playoffs and championship in November.
Many American sports fans, as compared to decades ago, now follow international soccer competitions such as the World Cup. Soccer fans also follow foreign club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and England's Premier League, and there is growing interest in Major League Soccer. Many immigrants living in the United States continue to follow soccer as their favorite team sport.
OTHER TEAM SPORTS
Now we are going to talk about other team sports less common in the United States:
Cycling have increased in popularity, fueled by the success of cyclists Greg LeMond and the eight consecutive Tours de France won by American contestants, although all eight were discarded in the wake of doping revelations against the two winners, Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis.
Tennis is a popular sport in the U.S. The United States has had a lot of success in tennis for many years. More recently, the Williams sisters , Venus and Serena Williams( the second one has dominated the tournaments in last years) have been a strong force in the women's game, and the twin Bob and Mike Bryant have claimed nearly every possible record for men's doubles teams
Rugby formed the basis of modern American football; the two sports were nearly identical in the late 19th century but diverged into distinct, incompatible codes by the start of the 20th. Popular in other English-speaking nations, is not as well known in the United States. Rugby is played recreationally and in colleges. The semi-professional Rugby Super League is the premier domestic competition. The U.S. national team has competed at the Rugby World Cup.
Ultimate is a team sport played with a flying disc. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to members of your own team, on a rectangular field, 110 yards (110m) by 40 yards (37m), until you have successfully completed a pass to a team member in the opposing team’s end zone.
Golf is played in the United States by about 25 million people. The three most important national championships are U.S Open, U.S Women`s Open and U.S Senior Open. The most known is Tiger Woods which makes the Americans be more (than they were) interested in golf.
Motor sports are widely popular in the United States but Americans generally show little interest in the major international competitions, such as the F1 Grand Prix series and Moto GP. However, some Americans have achieved great success in these international series, such as Mario Andretti and Kenny Roberts.
Lacrosse is a team sport that is believed to have originated with the Iroquois, a confederacy of indigenous tribes that reside in Canada and what is now upstate New York.It is most popular in the East Coast area. The National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse are the national box and outdoor lacrosse leagues, respectively, with both leagues operating on a fully professional level.
Cricket is another sport but less popular than basket or baseball in the U.S. However, it’s slowly growing in popularity. Many amateur US cricket leagues have been formed by Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Australian, South African, English and Caribbean immigrants.
Historically, cricket used to be the most popular sport in America during the 18th and early 19th centuries, but it suffered a rapid decline as the sport of baseball overtook cricket as the bat-and-ball code of choice. The U.S. vs. Canada cricket match is the oldest international sporting event in the modern world, pre-dating even today's Olympic Games by nearly 50 years. United States Youth Cricket Association was formed in 2010 to develop the interest in sport among young kids.
Team handball, a common sport in European countries, is seldom seen in the United States. The sport is mostly played in the country on the amateur level.
Water polo does not have a professional competition in the U.S., so the highest level of competitive play is at the college level and in the Olympics. The NCAA sanctions water polo as a varsity sport for both men and women, but sport is not popular in the U.S. beyond the west coast, and no team outside of California has ever reached the finals of the NCAA Division I men's water polo championship.
Field hockey is played in the United States predominantly by women. It is played widely at numerous NCAA colleges.
American athletes have won a total of 2,570 medals at the Summer Olympic Games and another 253 at the Winter Olympic Games. They also have won more medals in athletics and swimming than any other nations. Thomas Burke was the first athlete to represent the United States at the Olympics. He took first place in both the 100 meters and the 400 meters at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. American swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the United States set a record for most total medals of any country at a single Winter Olympics.
USA has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympics games, except the 1980 Summer Olympics, during which it led a boycott. The United States hosted both Summer and Winter Games in 1932, and has hosted more Games than any other country - eight times, four times each for the Summer and Winter Games:
The 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, 1932 Summer Olympics and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the 1932 Winter Olympics and 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York; the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California; and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
One of the most important symbol in the Olympic games were featuring by American athletes and it is known as the human rights salute. In the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute was an act of protest by the African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. As they turned to face their flags and hear the American national anthem, they each raised a black-gloved fist and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. The event is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games.
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN SPORTS
For the most part, there is no system of promotion and relegation in American professional sports. Major sports leagues operate as associations of franchises. The same 30–32 teams play in the league each year unless they move to another city or the league chooses to expand with new franchises.
After the regular season, the 10–16 teams with the best records enter a playoff tournament leading to a championship series or game. In addition, four of these teams qualify to play clubs from countries outside the U.S. and Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League. NBA teams have played European teams in preseason exhibitions on a semi-regular basis, and recent MLS All-Star Games have pitted top players from the league against major European soccer teams, such as members of the Premier League.
International competition is not as important in American sports as it is in the sporting culture of most other countries, although Olympic ice hockey and basketball tournaments do generate attention. The first international baseball tournament with top-level players, the World Baseball Classic, also generated some positive reviews after its inaugural tournament in 2006.
The major professional sports leagues operate drafts once a year, in which each league's teams selected eligible prospects. Eligibility differs from league to league.
No American government agency is charged with overseeing sports. However, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports advises the President through the Secretary of Health and Human Services about physical activity, fitness, and sports, and recommends programs to promote regular physical activity for the health of all Americans. The U.S. Congress has chartered the United States Olympic Committee to govern American participation in the Olympic Movement and promote amateur sports. Congress has also involved itself in several aspects of sports, notably gender equity in college athletics, illegal drugs in pro sports, sports broadcasting and the application of antitrust law to sports leagues.
COLLEGUE / HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
The extent in the United States to which sports are associated with secondary and tertiary education is rare among nations. Millions of students participate in athletics programs operated by high schools and colleges. Student-athletes often receive scholarships to colleges in recognition of their athletic potential. Currently, the largest governing body of collegiate sports is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Especially in football and basketball, college sports are followed in numbers equaling those of professional sports. College football games can draw over 100,000 spectators.
The most practised college sports, measured by NCAA reporting on varsity team participation, are: (1) football (64,000), (2) baseball/softball (47,000), (3) track and field (46,000), (4) soccer (43,000), (5) basketball (32,000), (6) cross-country running (25,000), and (7) swimming/diving (20,000). The most popular sport among female athletes is soccer, followed closely by track and field.
SPORTS MEDIA IN THE UNITED STATES
Sports have been a major part of American broadcasting since the early days of radio. Today, television networks and radio networks pay millions (sometimes billions) of dollars for the rights to broadcast sporting 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. Broadcasters also covet the television contracts for the major sports leagues (especially in the case of the NFL) in order to amplify their ability to promote their programming to the audience, especially young and middle-aged adult males. The advent of cable and satellite television has greatly expanded sports offerings on American TV.