ARTICLE OF THE DAY

America's Pastime
by Coach Gary Overton
6/23/05

The debate has been raging for several years as to what sport is number one in the hearts of American sports fans, and an answer is hard to pin down. Research has shown to further that debate with no clear-cut answers to be found.

Before making a case for a particular sport, it's important to understand what exactly the word pastime means. According to Webster's Dictionary, a pastime is "something that occupies the time pleasantly". That said, we will now pleasantly explore the possibilities.

Baseball has always been referred to as "America's Favorite Pastime", and perhaps with good reason. Invented by Americans in the early 19th century, baseball has an unmatched history in the nation's sports culture. For many there isn't anything more American than sitting in the sun or watching dusk turn to nightfall at a baseball game. Mix in the playing of our national anthem on a summer's evening, enjoying a ballpark hot dog, and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch and one cannot envision a more fan friendly moment in the national sporting arena. But in recent years, other sports have taken center stage, leaving baseball's popularity and respect questioned.

Many people make the case that football has become America's game, thanks to an incredible surge in popularity and tremendous television ratings. People love their football or why else would the television networks agree to pay billions of dollars to broadcast NFL games every Sunday. Football is also an American invention and some feel sport is all about painting your face and yelling for the defense to make a goal line stand. Around eastern North Carolina, we Pirate fans look forward to football Saturdays at a feverish pitch and the countdown to kickoff gives everyone something to follow throughout the summer and into the start of football season. Passion and excitement, to an ECU fan, is all about that which takes place in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on those revered Saturday afternoons in the fall. 

Basketball is also an American sport (thanks to Dr. James A. Naismith) and its popularity has grown immensely in the last two decades, thanks to the NBA (a.k.a. Michael Jordan) and the NCAA, particularly "March Madness". This sport deserves serious consideration because unlike football and baseball, it has fully integrated females into the sport. Such a case can be made because of the growing enthusiasm for high school teams, college women's programs and the WNBA as well.

Another typically American sport and one of increasing popularity for several years is NASCAR. Throughout the 53-year history of NASCAR, its race cars have been transformed from road-going, lumbering true "stock" cars into the sleek, technologically advanced machines that we see today on ultra-modern speedways. While this sport carries much popularity nationwide, its roots and heritage can be traced to the South and particularly to North Carolina.

Although soccer is growing at a rapid pace, it has yet to reach the level of interest from other countries. And hockey is beloved by many throughout the country but like soccer has not reached the level of attention to be considered anywhere near our national pastime.

And so the debate goes on. For many Americans the mere rite of Athletics creates a pastime for any Sport depending on which happens to be in season at the time. As for which is Number One, it's all in the eyes of the beholder, as research strongly suggests.

Coach Gary Overton