Tuesday, September 30, 2014

United States of America; the Sole Super Power in the World

MLB is 1 of 4 professional sports leagues in US
Sports in the United States

Sports are an important part of the culture of the United States. Three of the nation's five most popular team sports were developed in North America: American football, basketball and ice hockey, whereas soccer was developed in England and baseball was developed in both Ireland and the United States. 

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), and the National Hockey League (NHL); all enjoy massive media exposure and are considered the preeminent competitions in their respective sports in the world. 

Three of those leagues have teams that represent Canadian cities, and all four are among the most lucrative sports leagues in the world. 

Major League Soccer- the Logo
The top professional soccer league in the United States, Major League Soccer, has not yet reached the popularity levels of the top four sports leagues, although average attendance has been increasing and in fact has surpassed those of the NBA and the NHL. 

Professional teams in all major sports operate as franchises within a league. All major sports leagues use the same type of schedule with a playoff tournament after the regular season ends. In addition to the major league-level organizations, several sports also have professional minor leagues, active in smaller cities across the country. 

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. In many cases college athletics are more popular than professional sports, with the major sanctioning body being the NCAA. 

USOC is the National Olympic Committee
Olympics 

The United States has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympic Games, except the 1980 Summer Olympics, which it boycotted. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the National Olympic Committee for the United States. 

American athletes have won a total of 2570 medals at the Summer Olympic Games and another 253 at the Winter Olympic Games. More medals have been won in athletics (track and field) (738, 29%) and swimming (489, 19%) than any others. 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 of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. American athlete Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. 

US is the only country to win atleast 1 GM in every Winter Olympics
The United States has won more gold and overall medals than any other country in the Summer Games and overall. The US also has the second-most overall medals at the Winter games, trailing only Norway. Earlier United States mainly conceded to Soviet Union at summer Games and to Soviet Union, Norway, East Germany at winter Games only and now strongly fights with China only at summer Games. The United States is the only country to have won at least one gold medal at every Winter Olympics, and has won the total medal count at Lake Placid in the 1932 Winter Olympics and at Vancouver in the 2010 Winter Olympics. During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the United States set a record for most total medals of any country at a single Winter Olympics. 

Motor sports are widely popular in the United States
The United States has hosted both Summer and Winter Games in 1932 and most occasions of the Games among other countries - eight times, four times each for the Summer and Winter Games: 
  • 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, 1932 Summer Olympics and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta 
  • 1932 Winter Olympics and 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 
Individual Sports 

Motor Sports 

Motor sports are widely popular in the United States, but Americans generally ignore major international series, such as Formula One and MotoGP, in favor of home-grown racing series.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Americans, like the rest of the world, initially began using public streets as a host of automobile races. As time progressed it was soon discovered that these venues were often unsafe to the public as they offered relatively little crowd control. Promoters and drivers in the United States discovered that horse racing tracks could provide better conditions for drivers and spectators than public streets. The result has been long standing popularity for oval track racing while road racing has waned; however, an extensive illegal street racing culture persists. 

Indianapolis 500 

Historically, open wheel racing was the most popular nationwide, with the Indianapolis 500 being the most widely followed race. However, an acrimonious split in 1994 between the primary series, CART (later known as Champ Car), and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the site of the Indy 500) led to the formation of the Indy Racing League, which launched the rival IndyCar Series in 1996. 

The Baryan-Bob and Mike-brothers
From that point, the popularity of open wheel racing in the U.S. declined dramatically. The feud was settled in 2008 with an agreement to merge the two series under the IndyCar banner, but enormous damage had already been done to the sport. 

Tennis 

Tennis is a popular sport in the U.S. with the pinnacle of the sport in the country being the US Open. Tennis is popular in all five categories (Men's and Ladies' Singles; Men's, Ladies' and Mixed Doubles); however, the most popular are the singles. The United States has had a lot of success in tennis for many years, with players such as Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras dominating their sport in the past. More recently, the Williams sisters, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, have been a strong force in the women's game, and twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan hold almost all significant career records for men's doubles teams. 

An NFL American Football Match
Popular Team sports 

The most popular team sports in the United States are American football, basketball, baseball/softball, soccer, and ice hockey. All five of these team sports are popular with fans, have a fully professional league, are played by millions of Americans, and enjoy varsity status at many Division 1 colleges. 

American Football 

American football, known within the U.S. simply as football, has the most participants of any sport at both high school and college levels. The NFL is the preeminent professional football league in the United States. 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. 

A college football match Colorado State v. Air Force
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 in areas such as the Southern United States (Southeastern Conference) and the Great Plains stems largely from the fact that these areas historically generally did not possess markets large enough for a professional team. Nonetheless, college football has a rich history in the United States, predating the NFL by decades, and fans and alumni are generally very passionate about their teams. 

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. However, some colleges play games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, while the NFL offers weekly games on Monday (since 1970) and Thursday (since 2006). Between September and Thanksgiving weekend, there is at least one nationally televised college or professional football game every day. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest annual sporting event held in the United States. The Super Bowl itself is always among the highest-rated programs off all-time in the Nielsen ratings. 

Tom Brady, a notable NFL player
Notable NFL players include Larry Csonka, Roger Staubach, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Walter Payton, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, and Ray Lewis. Notable current NFL players include Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Adrian Peterson. 

Indoor American football, a form of football played in indoor arenas, has several professional and semi-professional leagues. The Arena Football League, which plays by the formerly proprietary code of arena football, was active from 1987 to 2008 and folded in 2009, but several teams from the AFL and its former minor league, af2, relaunched the league in 2010. Most other extant indoor leagues date to the mid-2000s (decade) and are regional in nature. 

The Canadian Football League has a niche market in the United States; the league has not had any teams in the United States since the mid-1990s but has had at least some television coverage continuously since 2004. 

Team Washington Redskins on the field
Nationwide, the NFL obtains the highest television ratings for regular and post-season games among major sports. This situation began in the late 1960s and early 1970's with the establishment of the Super Bowl and merger of the existing professional leagues, the old NFL and the American Football League, into one NFL league. Since then, watching NFL games on television on Sunday afternoons has become a common routine for many Americans during the football season. Among the professional American football teams in the NFL which have become practically identified with their host cities are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins. It could also be said that college football (i.e. NCAA) enjoys unparalleled popularity in the southeastern states, where there are fewer professional teams in the major sports leagues. In many of these areas, college football is the most avidly followed sport, with the Saturday college games being the biggest event of the week. 

Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in major league baseball
Baseball 

Baseball and the 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. 

Notable American baseball players in history include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, and Jackie Robinson, who was instrumental in dissolving the color line and allowing African-Americans into the major leagues. The more noted players of today include Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. 

Basketball was invented by James Naismith
Basketball 

Of those Americans citing their favorite sport, basketball is ranked second (counting amateur levels) behind football. However, in regards to professional sports 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 physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

The National Basketball Association, more popularly known as the 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 Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. The American Basketball Association, active from 1967 until 1976, when it merged with the NBA, was the last major competitor of the NBA. 

US men's national basketball team at the 2008 summer Olympics
Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, NBA players have represented the United States in international competition and won several important tournaments. The Dream Team was the unofficial nickname of the United States men's basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. 

Basketball at both the college and high school levels is popular throughout the country. Every March, a 68-team, six-round, single-elimination tournament (commonly called March Madness) determines the national champions of NCAA Division I men's college basketball. 

Most U.S. states also crown state champions among their high schools. Many high school basketball teams have intense local followings, especially in the Midwest and Upper South. Indiana has 10 of the 12 largest high school gyms in the United States, and is famous for its basketball passion, known as Hoosier Hysteria. 

Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a notable NBA player
Notable NBA players in history include Wilt Chamberlain (4 time MVP), Bill Russell (5 time MVP), Bob Pettit (11 time all NBA team), Bob Cousy (12 time all NBA team), Walt Frazier, 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 MVP), John Stockton (#1 in career assists and steals), Karl Malone (14 time all NBA team), Shaquille O'Neal (3 time finals MVP) and Jason Kidd (#2 in career assists and steals). Notable players in the NBA today include Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Demarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony. 

Ever since the 1990's, an increasing number of players born outside the United States have signed with NBA teams, sparking league interest in different parts of the world. Among the notable foreign-born players in the NBA today are two-time MVP Steve Nash (a South Africa-born Canadian), 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker (France), and 11 time all-star Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), the first European to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. 

Michael Jordan with hi coach Phil Jackson
Aside from its huge popularity as a high school and college sport in Indiana and Kentucky, basketball may also be the most popular professional sport in cities during particular periods when the local NBA team may be enjoying an era of remarkable success, such as in Chicago during the dynasty days of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan during the 1990s, or in Los Angeles ever since the Los Angeles Lakers developed as a perennial powerhouse and title contender since the 1980's, becoming the most popular sports team in the city and the league's glamor team in part due to the many Hollywood stars regularly attending their games. Professional basketball is also primarily followed in cities where there are no other sports teams in the four major professional leagues, such as in the case of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Portland Trail Blazers. New York City has also had a long historical connection with college and professional basketball, and many basketball legends initially developed their reputations playing in the many playgrounds throughout the city. Madison Square Garden, the home arena of the New York Knicks, is often referred to as the "Mecca of basketball." 

Soccer is increasing in popularity in the US
Soccer 

Soccer (called "football" in most of the world), although not as popular in the U.S. as certain American sports such as baseball and American football, has been increasing in popularity 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. Most Division 1 colleges field both a men's and women's varsity soccer team. Many American sports fans, as compared to decades ago, now follow international competitions such as the World Cup, and club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and England's Premier League, and there is growing interest in the top local professional league, Major League Soccer. 

The United States men's and women's senior national teams, as well as a number of national youth teams for both sexes, represent the United States in international soccer competitions and are governed by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer). The U.S. men's team is one of only seven teams in the world to have qualified for every World Cup since 1990. 

A Football Stadium in America
Major League Soccer is the premier soccer league in the United States. MLS has 19 clubs (16 from the U.S., 3 from Canada). The 34-game schedule runs from mid-March to late October, with the playoffs and championship in November. Soccer-specific stadiums continue to be built for MLS teams around the country. Other professional soccer leagues in the U.S. include the Division II North American Soccer League, the Division III USL Pro, and the Major Indoor Soccer League. 

Women's professional soccer has not seen sustained success. The first two attempts at fully professional leagues—the Women's United Soccer Association and Women's Professional Soccer—each folded after playing three seasons. U.S. Soccer has since established a new professional league, the National Women's Soccer League, which started in 2013. However, at the lower levels of the salary scale, the NWSL is effectively semi-professional. The new league has financial and operational backing from U.S. Soccer, and additional financial support from the Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Football Federation. 

Pele played in NASL
Many notable international soccer players have played in NASL — including Pelé, the Brazlian football legend, Eusébio, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, and Johan Cruyff — or in MLS — including Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthäus, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Robbie Keane. Notable international women to have played professionally in the U.S. include Marta, Birgit Prinz, and Christine Sinclair. 

The best American soccer players enter the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Particularly notable American players, past and present, include Bert Patenaude, Kyle Rote, Jr., Shep Messing, Roy Lassiter, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Tony Meola, Eric Wynalda, Brad Friedel, Brian McBride, Kasey Keller, Jeff Cunningham, Claudio Reyna, Eddie Pope, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey. Notable female American players include Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers, Christie Rampone, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Alex Morgan. 

Beach Volleyball has become popular
Volleyball 

Volleyball is also a notable sport in the United States, especially at the college and university levels. Unlike most Olympic sports which are sponsored widely at the collegiate level for both sexes, the support for college volleyball is dramatically skewed in favor of the women's game. 

In the 2011–12 school year, over 300 schools in NCAA Division I alone (the highest of three NCAA tiers) sponsored women's volleyball at the varsity level, while fewer than 100 schools in all three NCAA divisions combined sponsored varsity men's volleyball, with only 23 of them in Division I. This is partially due to Title IX; female-oriented sports such as volleyball help balance a college's athletic opportunities for women with those for men. 

Beach volleyball has increasingly become popular in the United States, in part due to media exposure during the Olympic Games. 

A Rugby Match in the United States
Rugby Union 

Rugby union, popular in other English-speaking nations, is not as well known in the United States. Rugby is played recreationally and in colleges, though it is not governed by the NCAA There are more than 457,983 registered and unregistered players, with more than a quarter being women. The semi-professional Rugby Super League is the premier domestic competition. The U.S. national team competes at the Rugby World Cup. In the sevens variation of the sport, the men's national team is one of 15 "core teams" that participate in every event of the annual IRB Sevens World Series, and the women's national team is one of nine core teams in the IRB Women's Sevens World Series. 

Rugby participation in the US has grown significantly in recent years, growing by 350% between 2004 and 2011. A 2010 survey by the National Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association ranked rugby as the fastest growing sport in the US. 

USA vs Tonga in 2007 Rugby World Cup
Rugby's profile in the U.S. has received a tremendous boost from the IOC's announcement in 2009 that rugby would return to the Olympics in 2016. Since the Olympic announcement, rugby events such as the Collegiate Rugby Championship, the USA Sevens, and the Rugby World Cup have been broadcast on network TV. The USA Sevens, held every year in February, regularly draws more than 60,000 fans to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Two recent American presidents have been rugby players. Bill Clinton developed an interest in rugby in England, playing at Oxford University. George W. Bush was a keen player, during high school and University, and was on Yale's 1st XV, and in 1968, he was part of their dramatic win over Harvard. 

A Water Polo Match
Water Polo 

Water polo is a team water sport. The playing team consists of six field players and one goalkeeper. The winner of the game is the team that scores the most goals by getting the ball past the opposing team's goalkeeper into the net. Gameplay involves swimming, players passing the ball while being defended by opponents, and scoring by throwing into a net defended by a goalie. Water polo, therefore, has strong similarities to the land-based game of team handball. The frequency of 'man-up' (or 'power play') situations also draws comparisons with Ice hockey. 

Cricket 

Cricket, another common sport in Commonwealth countries, is not a popular sport in the U.S. Many amateur cricket leagues have been formed by Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Australian, South African, English and Caribbean (more specifically Commonwealth Caribbean) immigrants, and as a result, the sport has made limited inroads into the mainstream sports community because of a large influx of migrants from cricketing countries who make up almost 16 million of the American population. 

Cricket was the most popular sport in 18th century
Cricket used to be the most popular sport in America during the 18th century, 19th and early 20th centuries, when it suffered a rapid decline. In fact the first intercollegiate tournament in America was a cricket tournament. The first annual Canada vs. U.S. cricket match, played since the 1840s, was attended by 10,000 spectators at Bloomingdale Park in New York. The U.S. vs. Canada cricket match is the oldest international sporting event in the modern world, predating even today's Olympic Games by nearly 50 years. The U.S. participated in the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy where they were comprehensively beaten in matches against Australia and New Zealand. United States of America Cricket Association governs the professional Cricket in the country and are an associate member of International Cricket Council. 

Cricket is slowly growing in popularity in the US
United States Cricket team currently plays in World Cricket League Division IV to work their way up to 2013 Cricket World Cup Qualifier in order to enter 2015 Cricket World Cup. In 2011, they played Americas Region Twenty20 Division One tournament and qualified for the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. United States Cricket team also plays in the ICC Americas Championship and were qualified for ICC Intercontinental Cup in the past. United States Youth Cricket Association formed in 2010 to develop the interest in sport among the young kids. Women's cricket is one of the plans of USACA but it is a long road to build the infra-structure. Cricket is one of the most watched pay per view sports in the U.S., and multiple channels are provided by DirecTv, Dish Network and Comcast TV services. Starting 2012, ESPN will broadcast Cricket on ESPN3 and on its regular channels. 

The only professional Cricket Stadium in the U.S. is Central Broward Regional Park located in Lauderhill, Florida. The Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Los Angeles and Philadelphia Cricket Club in Philadelphia are few other established Cricket Grounds in the country that could qualify to play professional Cricket. Compton Cricket Club is a private club in Los Angeles that uses Cricket to promote Peace and good will among the troubled neighborhood of Compton. 

Disc Ultimate match in America
Ultimate and Disc Sports (Frisbee) 

Alternative sports, using the flying disc, began in the mid-sixties. As numbers of young people became alienated from social norms, they resisted and looked for alternative recreational activities, including that of throwing a Frisbee. What started with a few players like Victor Malafronte, Z Weyand and Ken Westerfield experimenting with new ways of throwing and catching a Frisbee, later would become known as playing freestyle. Organized disc sports, in the 1970s, began with promotional efforts from Wham-O, a few tournaments and professionals using Frisbee show tours to perform at universities, fairs and sporting events. Disc sports such as freestyle, double disc court, guts, disc ultimate and disc golf became this sports first events. Two events, the team sport of disc ultimate and disc golf are very popular worldwide and are now being played semi professionally. The World Flying Disc Federation, Professional Disc Golf Association, and the Freestyle Players Association, are the official rules and sanctioning organizations for flying disc sports worldwide. 

Australian Rules Football match in the US
Disc 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, 120 yards (110m) by 40 yards (37m), until you have successfully completed a pass to a team member in the opposing teams end zone. There are currently over four million people that play some form of organized ultimate in the US. Ultimate is also being played semi professionally with two newly formed leagues, the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) and Major League Ultimate (MLU). 

Other Sports 

Australian rules football in the United States is a fast growing team and spectator sport that was first played in the country in 1996. The United States Australian Football League is the governing body for the sport in the U.S., with various clubs and leagues around the country. The National Championships are held annually. The United States men's national Australian rules football team and the women's national team both regularly play international matches and play in the Australian Football International Cup, a tournament for all competing countries apart from Australia. 

Team Handball is not a popular game in the US
Curling is popular in northern states, possibly because of climate, proximity to Canada, or Scandinavian heritage. The national popularity of curling is growing after significant media coverage of the sport in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. 

Gaelic football and hurling are governed by North American GAA and New York GAA. They do not have a high profile, but are developing sports, with New York fielding a representative team in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. 

Team handball, a common sport in European countries, is not a popular sport in the U.S. The sport is mostly played in the country on the amateur level. Handball is not a NCAA sport, but is played in the Summer Olympics. The sport's governing body is USA Team Handball. 

Angleball match in the United States of America
Inline hockey was invented by Americans as a way to play the sport in all climates. The PIHA is the league with the largest number of professional teams in the nation. Street hockey is a non-standard version of inline hockey played by amateurs in informal games. 

Other Team Recreational Activities

Angleball is a high fitness sport developed in the 1940s by College Hall of Fame football coach Rip Engle as a way for players to maintain physical fitness in the off-season. It has light contact and minimal rules. Angleball is used for muscle conditioning in the NFL, and for fun by colleges, schools, camps and all-age groups. Because of angleball's light contact gameplay that emphasizes skill, accuracy and endurance, it has been called the best game ever developed for groups up to 40 composed of mixed ages and genders. Angleball gameplay is simple. Two large balls are placed atop standards (normally 10' tall posts with a 10' radius circle around the post) at opposite sides of a field. Teams pass a smaller ball back and forth, attempting to knock the other team's ball off its perch with the smaller ball. An offensive player who is touched by a defensive player cannot shoot for a goal and has three seconds to pass the ball. 

Capture the flag is played recreationally by adults and children.

Kickball is traditionally played in elementary school level
Dodgeball is played traditionally by children in school, though adult leagues in urban areas have formed within the past 10 years. A caricatured version was portrayed in the 2004 film comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. 

Kickball is also played recreationally by adults and children, especially at the elementary school level. Its rules are largely identical to baseball, except that no bat is used and instead a large rubber ball is rolled along the ground for the "batter" to kick. 

Roller derby is a fast-growing contact sport played on roller skates. Roller Derby was portrayed in the 2009 film Whip It and in the 2012 documentary "Derby, Baby! A story of love, addiction and rink rash" Since September 2009, there were 350 women's, men's, and junior leagues in the U.S.A. There are multiple Associations that govern roller derby: JRDA = Junior Roller Derby Association MADE = Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor MRDA = Men's Roller Derby Association OSDA = Old School Derby Association RDCL = Roller Derby Coalition of Leagues USARS = USA Roller Sports WFTDA = Women's Flat Track Derby Association WFTDA-AL = WFTDA Apprentice. 

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