Early Beginnings to the Current World of Sports History
It is easy to forget that just 120 years ago many sports that we take for granted did not exist. The history of modern sports is an evolution from games played primarily for entertainment and leisure to an industry rivaling any other in size and power.
With that evolution came in increasing influence. Sports over the last hundred years have affected modern popular culture and have reflected our changing social attitudes and standards. Sports has seen advances in techniques and achievements and records and levels that reflect the commitment by both men and women training to be the best. Fashions now reflect sports clothing partly due to the money injected into sports by fashion houses because of the desire to emulate our heroes and heroines.
Not only have sports increase in their influence over popular culture they have also increasingly affected our political culture. Athletes can use their fame to run for office and office seekers can use athletes to boost their candidacy. There is a downside to the use of sports and politics. This can range from terrorists most famously at the Munich Olympics to countries using sports as a way of trying to demonstrate that their specific ideology is better than any other, notably in Soviet Russia.
The growth of sports is also made possible college scholarship opportunities for many young people who would have never otherwise had that opportunity. Though today most of the noticeable college athletes often leave school early to enter the professional ranks of their sport, the vast majority of athletic college graduates move on to a field other than their sport. For many of them, sports have made going to college a possibility mostly through the use of college scholarships, which have increased in size and number as sports have created bigger revenues for schools.
Sports has even played a part in integration. Most famously was Jackie Robinson's entrance into baseball.
One cannot talk about modern sports without considering the heavy influence of business. Sports has become a business. From sports on television to sponsorships to naming rights on stadiums, the history of business of sports reveals business has tied itself to sports more and more in the latter half of the 20th century.
Another change has been the influx of money in the world of sports, which many believe has become obscene and wrong. The fact of the matter is that when somebody is the best in the world at anything, ordinary people want to watch and see them perform whether they are actors, musicians or athletes. Like all things, when big money and business are involved, the opportunities and temptations to cheat or do whatever it takes to get ahead increase. In sports, this often involves performance enhancing drugs or gambling.
Additionally the growth of big money and high salaries into the games has affected who can now afford to go to the events in ticket prices (see page Sports Tickets). Though this impact is most commonly associated with sports in the U.S. it's not just an American phenomenon but other countries and sports around the world have been affected also. Soccer in the UK is a great example. Many of the teams in the English leagues were once supported by local blue-collar workers, with ticket prices costing about the same as one hour worth of wages. Now, to get a good seat to watch a top British soccer team can cost more than eight hours wages for a blue-collar worker. As sports have grown bigger and more profitable, they are driving out those who help make growth possible.