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The following thesis, "The Age of Sport, 1954-2004 A.D.," is hereby submitted as evidence of research completed for the degree Master of Sporting Sciences (M.S.S.).
FOREWORD: Before proceeding with an examination of sports over the past half century, the candidate presumes to say a personal word in explanation of his interest in the subject. The candidate comes from a family of sports zealots. His father, for whom he was named, was in turn named for one of the storied figures of early baseball, Branch Rickey, whose teams won pennants in St. Louis, Brooklyn and (after his retirement) at Pittsburgh. Then, too, the candidate was strongly influenced by the fact that he grew up in the extremely sports-minded city of Levittown, N.Y. This city, it might be said parenthetically, was not even incorporated in 1954 but was a mere housing development. But, as was the case up and down the country, developments and suburbs time and again came to dwarf the very cities that spawned them. And, as in the case of Levittown, to appropriate many of the parent city's institutions. It is scarcely necessary to point out, in this connection, that the Levittown Subdivides were once known as the Brooklyn Dodgers in the old National League.
GENERAL INTRODUCTION: Although there is wide disagreement among historians as to precisely when the Age of Sport began, this candidate has selected the year 1954. Thus he is able to take in a half century of sporting history and to pinpoint the beginnings of trends which were not always recognized as trends at the time. The candidate confesses that he has been influenced in his selection of the year 1954 by the fact that a national weekly sports magazine was founded in that year and the sporting public's cordial reception of this magazine, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, would seem to indicate that the Age of Sport was indeed dawning. The candidate has drawn heavily in his research on the files of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and, moreover, has been given access to certain confidential interoffice memoranda written by early staff writers who, from time to time, made certain predictions of sporting trends. Sometimes these forecasts turned out to be surprisingly accurate. At other times they were (as will be shown) far wide of the mark.
The present editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—now, of course, the international as well as national magazine of sport—in their 50th Anniversary Issue (Aug. 20, 2004) have themselves called attention to what seems to this candidate (and them) a delightful naivet� of the founders. As long ago as 1954, these pioneers were referring to the U.S. sporting scene as The Wonderful World of Sport and calling the times The New Golden Age. In view of the enormous new importance of sports in our day, this enthusiasm can only be compared to what surely must have been wide-eyed wonder at the flight of the first jet airplane.
As one final point of this introduction it seems relevant to remind the reader that the Age of Sport has also been the Age of Age (as it was so heralded in TIME, the weekly newsmagazine, in its issue of July 23, 1956), and this fact makes comparisons of individual performances before and after the Age of Age worse than meaningless. The amazing progress of the medical profession in "adding life to years, not just years to life" has been (as no one needs to be told) enormously successful. Working with hormones and estrogens and the later discoveries, scientists have made the age of 75 a man's prime in such sports as archery, soft-ball, bowling, golf and curling. Of course, the case of Satchel Paige (who emerged from intensive treatment at Washington University's Medical School in St. Louis to win 22 games for the Kansas City Athletics in 1976) cannot be called typical—even now.
SCOPE OP INQUIRY: The detailed examination of some of the more popular sports will be limited in this thesis to the United States. But mention should be made, at least briefly, of the transformation of certain national sports into world sports. Baseball, for example, is now played all over the world, a trend that began with its adoption by Italy ( SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, June 25, 1956) and continued with its rapid spread throughout Europe and Asia. Soccer, which was being called (erroneously) "the world game" long before 1954, became that in fact when the U.S. revived it on a large scale after the all-weather stadiums made it practical. The first World Cup final that matched the U.S. and England in Wembley Stadium was played in 1963. (The U.S. won 4-2.) Tennis became truly a world game when Russia took it up seriously in 1958, and the U.S. (looking for a game that required small playing space in the big cities) gave it tremendous impetus in 1960 and thereafter, relegating Australia to the status of a second-rate tennis power.
Some games, like Panamanian leg smashing, never became really popular outside the countries of their origin.
However, with the advent of intercontinental television, in full color and three dimensions, there was always a world audience for every sport, even those not actually played on a world scale.
As indicated, not every sport will be examined in detail in this thesis, but those subjected to scrutiny will also serve to indicate the trends generally.