Organizational activities in the small-town and city school sometimes tend toward too great profusion during adolescence when elaborate extracurricular schedules fill up the students’ time. The town adolescent frequently is so overloaded with extracurricular work that he has little time for home activities, and he is so overstimulated that he loses much of the sheer joy of social participation and becomes weary of many things because of an overenrichment of experience.
The British football, as it developed in the state school system and clubs, transformed ideas about what modern sport means. The game generally played in this period was something like association soccer, but it was completely unorganized, and any number of players was usually allowed on each side.
By 1910 there were 300,000 football players in 12,000 clubs registered with the Football Assoeiation (FA). After 1900, market forces increasingly replaced paternalism, and professional football was promoted by business patrons who saw opportunities to exploit the new mass demand for entertainment.
Football led the way toward the general commereialization of sport. Larger, professional clubs were successful commercial ventures, attracting huge crowds and deriving their revenue from gate money and sales of food and drinks. The FA Cup Final attracted enarmous numbers of speetators: 120,000 in 1913.
Watching professional football became central to the culture of the working classes, and spectators deeply concerned for victory and vociferously partisan, gave it a unique character. The popularity of football developed into a mania. Professional foctball teams from Britain toured abroad. Players and coaches became emissaries of the game, transmitting skills around the world.
Other spectator sports had also become highly popular and profitable in Britain. In 1913 there were 1-kilometer (half-rnile) queues on Men’s finals day at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and touts were selling £1 tickets for £10. The popularity of spectator sport had a knock-on effect, acting as an incentive for people to participate themselves, and for entrepreneurs to profit from sales of sports equipment, clothing and medication.
Play is secluded and limited, containing its own course and meanrag: it begins and is over at a specific moment. Yet, since it becomes a tradition, it can be repeated. The dual elements of repetition and alternation are contributions to the independence of play, which further functions within limitations of time and space. Play thus constitutes a temporary world within, and marked off from, the ordinary world Play creates order; in fact, it is order. It is inside a “playground”; slight deviation from the rules spoils the game.
Working-class people avidly followed sports of all kinds. By 1900 there were 25 sporting newspapers in London alone and daily papers were sprouting sports pages. A foreign visitor declared, “All is sport in England…. It is sucked in with the mother’ s milk.” This phenomenal expansion in the field of sports was the most significant development in the nation’s recreational life that had yet taken place. Apart from all the considerations already mentioned, athletics provided an outlet for surplus energy and suppressed emotions which the British people greatly needed.
By World War I sport had become a major industry, and the essential charaeteristics of professional sport were established. There were separate amateur and professionalleagues and competitions, sporting heroes and unruly fan behavior. The sport of motoring was hazardous and exciting as well as costly in the first decade of the 20th century. A long course of instruction was necessary to learn how to drive, the schools providing preliminary practice in gear-shifting and steering behind dummy wheels before the pupil was allowed to venture on the road. He was also taught something about the engine, how to make the necessary repairs and replace parts.
Many car-owners became adept at tinkering with the engine, but this phase of motoring was not always considered fun. “The nerve strain of working over those jarring parts, if you have no mechanical instinct,” wrote one harassed motorist, “would take away all the pleasure of ownership.” One of the most popular automobile jokes was that of the car-owner’s ward in the insane asylum. A visitor one day was surprised to find it apparently empty. The physician in charge explained that the patients were all under the cots fixing the slats.
Sport was increasingly used as a publicity medium by politieians and other public figures. Those who owned sport wielded power: most professional players were working-class, owned and controlled, bought and sold, and subjected to strict discipIinary procedures imposed by wealthy businessmen. There were struggles between players and employers over the minimum wage and the transfer system, and though players’ unions were formed, the players nonetheless remained in a weak position.
Baseball slowly spread north, south, east, and west. It drove out town-ball in New England and cricket in Philadelphia, made its way to the Mississippi Valley ( Chicago had four clubs in 1858), crossed the trans-Mississippi frontier, reached out to the Pacific Coast. Everywhere it was bringing men and boys into active outdoor play. It was also becoming highly organized.
The National Association of Base Ball Players was formed in 1858, with twenty-five clubs applying for charter membership, and two years later delegates from fifty organizations attended its annual meeting. New York and New Jersey led in the number of clubs ( New England had a separate association for teams still playing town-ball), but Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans were but a few among the cities where baseball was now established.
Popular spectator sport was promoted as an escape from the hardships and poverty of working-class life, and became an extremely effective vehicle of social control. The ruling classes valued it as a socialiy more acceptable pursuit than political or criminal activities, but working men found football exciting. Its hard physical contact reflected the tough life they were accustomed to. It became an integral part of their lives, and an important setting for male bonding.
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