Sport is an integral part of society in the United States, impacting people’s lives across a variety of areas on a daily basis.
Five major team sports lead the sporting narrative in the USA – football, basketball, ice hockey, baseball and soccer.
Each one impacts heavily within the communities they are based, helping to mould the identities of towns and cities across the country.
Read on as we look at how sport has shaped American society nationally and globally.
Super Bowl: A sporting institution
Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most important days in the sporting calendar, with the event attracting a massive worldwide audience every year.
Millions of fans gather round televisions to watch the National Football League’s championship game, making it hugely attractive to advertisers.
Major companies pay millions of dollars for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, with many of the advertisements as eagerly anticipated as the game itself.
Wagering on the game also generates huge incomes for gambling operators, and as this sports betting blog in the USA reflects, there is massive interest year-round for the NFL and other American sports, highlighting how big a business sports betting has always been.
It’s all about the money
Many fans around the world argue that top class sport is too commercialised and that is certainly the case in the USA.
Professional sports are big business, with the clubs and their players able to benefit handsomely from the willingness of fans to watch them in action.
The Forbes top paid 100 athletes list for 2018 included two NBA stars – LeBron James and Steph Curry – highlighting a player’s ability to become a successful brand in their own right.
Owners of professional sports franchises are also often amongst the wealthiest people in the world, often making huge profits from their team’s operations.
College sports bloom in the US
Professional sports leagues in the USA run on a franchise basis, meaning many teams are viewed as lacking a genuine link to the towns and cities in which they are based.
College sports fill the void left by major sports, with the teams intrinsically embedded within the culture of their local communities.
Many of the players tend to be locals, meaning the fans have a far greater affinity with their college teams than the professional sides.
The amateur nature of college sports has also created charming local quirks and game day traditions that are simply not found at professional level.
Rivalries are the name of the game
Like many other nations around the world, top level sport in the USA thrives on rivalries created by location. However, the vast nature of the country means that some feuds can be rooted in historical events and a great example of this can be found in the NHL.
A nasty check by Colorado Avalanche star Claude Lemieux on Detroit Red Wings’ forward Kris Draper in 1996 left the latter with broken bones and plenty of stitches, but also sparked a rivalry that continues today.
A meeting between the two sides the following year degenerated into a slugfest, with the game subsequently nicknamed Bloody Wednesday or Brawl in Hockeytown due to the severity of the battles.
Players, coaches and even fans have repeatedly gone head-to-head since then, making the rivalry one of the most bitter in any sport.
Cold War spills over into sport
The USA and Russia have regularly been on opposite sides of the political argument, with the ideals of capitalism and communism not making for easy bedfellows.
The Russian invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent sanctions by the US heightened tensions between the two nations, creating a unique backdrop to the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The Soviet ice hockey team were the dominant force in amateur international hockey, with government backing allowing them to operate on an almost professional basis.
The US side was made up almost entirely of college players, but they famously defeated the Soviets at Lake Placid in an upset that was dubbed the ‘Miracle on Ice’. It came at a time when the US was suffering economically, but served to boost morale across the country.