One indoor sport that seems certain of growth is billiards. It has become solidly rooted in the family ethic. According to Economist Snyder, billiard supplies and equipment have a growth rate of 14%, one of the highest in sports. In 1964 billiard sales totaled $19 million; in 1974 they should account for $47 million in expenditures.
?Sports will become safer and easier as Americans seek more and more family participation. In the next decade improved safety bindings should all but nullify the chance of broken legs in skiing (in the last decade, the broken-leg rate declined 95%), and bigger and better lifts are almost certain to make skiing all thrill and no work. Americans want excitement, but they want it without sweat. The golf-cart mentality is upon us. Already biologists at the Illinois State Natural History Survey have bred a special race of stupid fish, unable to resist a lure even when cast, one assumes, by the most stupid fisherman.
?Family interest in sports will remake living patterns. The golf-course housing project is a reality. More than 100 such developments are under construction in 26 states, and the future promises more. Similar projects, with skiing or boating or flying as the motif, are in the planning stage or already being developed.
Without doubt the greatest growth in sport in the next 10 years will come in water-based sports, such as swimming (the most popular sports activity in the country, according to the ORRRC, which counted 33 million participants), boating, skin diving, surfing, water skiing and fishing. The economic kingpin is boating. In 1964 Americans spent $650 million on boats; in 1974 they will spend $1.2 billion. In some areas ownership of a pleasure boat is no longer a gratifying luxury; it has become—as owning a TV set became a dozen years ago—a necessity.
The boat boom is everywhere. The highways of arid states like Nevada and Texas are jammed on holidays with boaters hauling their craft to the nearest navigable water. The number of artificial reservoirs and impoundments has increased prodigiously, and within a few years' time the acreage of man-made waters in the U.S. may exceed that of natural waters, including the Great Lakes. With an assist from the boat trailer, garages are fast becoming boathouses, and there is a profusion of "boatels" to aid, succor and comfort the amateur navigator. Waterfront overcrowding is inevitable, and the mooring problem afloat gives every sign of becoming as critical as the parking problem on land. Additional legislation seems inevitable to bring some order to the ultimate chaos. The likelihood now is that boats will become more and more standardized and more and more specialized. As molded plastic becomes the definitive building material, improving mass-production techniques will serve to make more and better low-cost, one-design boats. As these one-design, mass-production techniques take over, the specialized skills of the oldtime adz-wielding shipwright will become too rare and too precious for all save a few favored yachtsmen. Even now, tradition-conscious sailmakers find it unprofitable to cut a sail for one rich yachtsman when their computers can hum over the job of perfecting the curves in the identical sails of a new one-design fleet.
The sporting byproduct of standardization will be an increase in competitive boating at every level. This trend is obvious already in day-class boats like the Lightning, Comet, Snipe and Thistle, and in the near future it will spread to the open sea.
More standardization will lead, paradoxically, to greater specialization, inasmuch as there will be no such thing as the all-round boat. A boat, especially a mass-production boat, is built for a specific purpose: speed, comfort or seaworthiness. Long ago powerboats reached the point where a choice had to be made between speed and comfort. Where speed is of the essence, power will be provided by gas turbines, lightweight diesels and more efficient water jets. But the speed at which a boat can be pushed through the water is limited by physical law. To make a boat go faster, you must lift it, or most of it, right out of the water—like hydroplanes, hydrofoils and Hydroskimmers. (This raises a question of semantics: When is a boat not a boat but a plane?) The main effort in powerboating will be to make boats that will hold together under hideous punishment.
Where comfort is essential, the future will be limited only by the imagination of interior decorators and the advances in electronics. Future developments not only will provide hi-fi diversion for the bored skipper's wife but will, through sophisticated gadgetry, allow the skipper himself, even if he is the rankest novice, to navigate waters that would have befuddled a Phoenician.
Fishing is going to change drastically in the next decade. Natural trout streams will become a thing of the past, like clipper ships or plains buffalo. They will exist, but barely. And those that survive will be for fly-fishing only with all caught trout returned to the water. In brief, angling for trout will become a ceremonial ritual, like a Kabuki dance. Replacing trout in the fisherman's take-home catch—the trend is not new—are the so-called warm-water fishes, the black bass, panfish, pike and walleye. Earlier this year at the American Fisheries Society convention, Raymond E. Johnson, of the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife told biologists to forget about trout and concentrate on bass and the like. Not enough is known of the warm-water fishes and, although water acreage will increase at a rapid rate, the catch rate must double and more for every new acre. Why? Because the number of fishermen is growing at an even faster rate than the water acreage. By the year 2000, there will be a minimum of 60 million anglers, and if they are to go home happy the total catch rate will have to jump from the current 17 to 35 pounds per acre. "As things stand now, we need a knockout to get a draw," Johnson said wistfully. To meet the vastly increased demand for fish to catch, exotic species, such as the fast-growing tropical tilapia now being stocked in the South, will be introduced. In the north, striped bass probably will be stocked in freshwater ponds and lakes. The striper may prove to be the game fish needed to replace useless pounds of dull carp and stunted panfish.
While fishing will grow, hunting will level off. Prime hunting land is disappearing. The crush of a burgeoning population is too much, and although second-growth farmland in suburban areas is conducive to deer—there are more deer in the U.S. today than there were before the white man arrived—hunting with a rifle or even a shotgun is simply too dangerous in built-up areas. It is just about impossible to hunt within a 50-mile range of New York City, though game is abundant.