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
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