From the first play to the formation of sporting clubs, games have come a long way.
WE CHEER. WE RANT. WE UNITE. WE BATTLE.
Competition is what makes us human. We love attending sporting events because of the memories they encapsulate. Like a time machine, hearing the crack of the bat can transport you back to your first baseball game as a child, or maybe it’s hearing the crunch of the football players pads as they smash into each other. Or perhaps it’s biting into that hot dog or digging your hand in the box of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts. Whatever the trigger, we get it. Sports are incredible in so many ways.
The first football game was played at Rutgers University in 1869. The ball was rounder when the game first started taking shape; it was more like a soccer ball, difficult to carry and hard to throw. A few years later, a rugby-type ball made its way to the game, which held more of a watermelon shape that made it easier to throw. Minor tweaks have been made since, including materials used to fill and create the outer shell, as well as size adjustments.
The industrial revolution helped the game of football reach its full potential. It was around this time that the average worker ended up having a little extra pocket money at the end of the day, and because labor laws had recently changed for the better, workers now found themselves with a Saturday afternoon off. The boom of steel manufacturing catapulted the railroad system. Soon mass amounts of people began traveling. This meant that not only could players move from one town to the next for games but people could also follow them. The larger crowds grew, the better the profit; companies saw it as big business. The concentration of people and the excess of personal funds and leisure time is what drove the development of sports like football, and it’s been flourishing ever since.
The origins of baseball are a controversial subject. The prevailing myth is that the game originated in the summer of 1839 conceived by a man named Abner Doublebay. He also went on to become a prominent American Civil War general. Rumor has it he jotted down the fundamental rules of the game while watching a group of students play in Cooperstown, New York. Another theory is that it was started by the Irish and English who played cricket, rounders and town ball.
Regardless of its beginnings, we know it’s been around for more than 150 years. Pitchers used to play for the offensive teams so that the batter could tell them exactly how to throw it so they could hit it. That’s no longer the case. Pitchers also used to throw over and over again until a batter finally swung, sometimes 90 throws in a row. (Can you imagine how long it must have taken for games to finish?) Today’s baseballs are manufactured from wool yarn wrapped in cowhide and tightly regulated. Up until the ’20s, pitchers were allowed to modify balls with spit and tar for greater advantage!
Throughout the years, rules have changed regarding where the game is played and what tactics are employed, and the equipment has gotten far better. The National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) formed in 1857. In 1867, when NABBP stopped being effective, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs formed (later known as the National League).
Today, science and technology are making athletes perform better than ever. Stronger, lighter, more durable equipment has been introduced and is evolving at rapid speed. From in-helmet headsets, composite tennis rackets, lighter shoes, sleeker swimsuit material, breakaway basketball rims and more, technology is an all-star player. Off the field, telephoto lenses and instant video replay have made an impact as well.
Team members get traded and uniforms change, but one thing is certain: Americans love their teams and aren’t afraid to show it! Playing a sport makes us stronger and more confident. It’s a healthy release that can help manage stress. It teachs us the value of perseverance and hard work. Watching a game is a great way to pass the time and escape from worries for a few hours. Chanting with likeminded fans, despite ethnicity, religious background and gender barriers, builds a sense of community and unity.
Tracing the history of sports
776 BC – 393: First Olympic Games
1846: First recorded game of organized baseball occurs
1860: Baseball’s popularity increases with the formulation of clubs
1863: Football Association in England is established
1869: Rutgers and Princeton face off in the first billed college football game
1875: First Kentucky Derby held
1876: Baseball’s National League forms
1877: First Wimbledon match held
1891: James Naismith invents basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts
1895: William G. Morgan invents volleyball, a combination of multiple sports
1896: First Modern Olympic Games occur in Athens, Greece
1903: First Tour de France is held and major league modern World Series
1920: First ever game of the National Football League (NFL)
1934: First U.S. Golf Masters is held
1967: First time the Super Bowl occurs