American Attitude To Sports

Word Count: 1916 |

Americans are a nation of distinctive character which is relflected in every aspect of their lives. Thanks to their Puritan haritage they put a great value in hard work, being successful and therefore in making money. They also think of themselves as self-sufficient nation and tend to show that by not being interested in history or affairs of other countries, and praising everything “truly American”. All of the features associated with the stereotype of an American can be found in every part of their life and culture e.g. in their attitude to sports.
American have a tireless work ethic. They struggle hard to achieve their aims. Working only for the sake of work is simply pointless according to their philosophy. Theodore Roosevelt in his speech to the people of Chicago said that he preaches “the doctrine of strenuous life”, life of a “(…) man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph” . This practice made American culture glorify winning – being second is no better than being last.
This attitude of being the best, being number one, winning at all costs and by all means is a thing that you see everywhere in the United States. That’s a part of American character in which people are brought up from early childhood. That is why USA is such a prosperous country.
American athletes e.g. basketball players are devoting their entire lives to practice and honing their skills to be the best at every moment of their career which often starts in early highschool. The best go to colleges with strong basketball teams and play in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball league and then get picked by one of the professional basketball teams in the NBA draft.
Making it to NBA is the dream of every kid playing on courts all over the United States. This is one way of fullfiling the American dream, and it was like this for many American athletes who are now internationally known for their fearless competing on the drive for winning. Many players made it from poor families only because of their love and passion that they had for the game they played, because of the many hours spend in the gym or at the cours, litres of sweat left on the trainings, because of the pain and struggle and because of one desire – to be the best.
Best examples are, out of many, Micheal Jordan or Allan Iverson (who won highschool championship in football and basketball the same year) – outstanding and now even legendary basketball palyers. Both of them came from poor backgrounds, and smoetime in their early school career where rejected from the team. But they could stand up and come back stronger and prove everybody that they were wron.
They have their life mottoes which they repeat on every occasion and in every interview. Micheal Jordan said that he will retire from the game of basketball when he will have nothing more to prove as a player, and so he did after winnig 6 NBA championship rings, many MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards and being selected as an All-Star in nearly every year of his career.
Allen Iverson always says that “you should play every game as it’s your last” and that is what he does. He probably had broken each and every bone during his time in the NBA which was a result of his small size (according to NBA standards) and regular beating that he got every night. Despite this he was always able to come back and give an outstanding performance in every game he had played.
The fact that players get drafted to a professional league from college is also a thing distinctive to American character and culture. They believe that you have to start working with something as early as you can – that is why there is a whole system of promoting athletes through every stage of education and giving them oportunity of joining a school team where they can compete, train and learn. It is done on a scale never seen anywhere else in the world. NCAA leagues of every American sport are far better than any professional league in any country in the world. No country either has such a system of promoting young athletes and sport as a way of life.
Americans love everything that is American so they sometimes “make” things American. This is the case with baseball which is called the national sport of the USA and is considered being invented by Americans while in fact it had evolved from a Britain’s child game.
The idea of American self-sufficiency and “autonomy” in the world has resemblance in the sports that Americans are interested in. They are basketball, American football, baseball and ice hockey. Except basketball they are nearly not played anywhere else in the world (few countries play baseball), and even if they were never invited to play with American champions in any of these disciplines, it haven’t at any time prevented the Americans from calling the finals of MLB (Major League Baseball) World Series and winners of the NBA finals World Champions.
This is an evidence that Americans have different expectations from sports. American character aims on achievement which on the ground of team sports means simply scoring. That is why soccer is still not so popular in the US as it is in the whole world. Americans claim that soccer is boring because a high percentage of games ends in a draw – often even with a 0:0 result – after a 90 minutes of playing. For an American what the sport and life is about is the effort which brings result. “My theory is that Americans have neither the belief system nor the temperment for such a sisyphean sport as soccer. We are a society of doers, achievers, and builders.” . Americans love scoring and winning. This is why rules of NFL (National Football League) have been changed preventing games from ending in a draw.
Even that soccer is not “the” sport for Americans, ones who have started training it quickly had their appearance on the world stage this year. Players of the MLS (Major League Soccer) thanks to their work and effort have made a name for themselves and made their way to the first round of the World Cup. Individual American soccer players are now recognized in the world and keep getting offers from many european teams. From the American point of view you can play soccer as an athlete but watching it as a fan is far more difficult because it does not fit to the character of the viewers.
Americans in their lives are trying to be successful and therefore earn a lot of money – and this is exactly what they did with sports – they turned them to profitable bussiness. Every professional (and even college) league makes huge sums of money. Every day teams earn millions of dollars on tickets, hot-dogs, drinks, advertisements, tv broadcast and all kinds of merchandise connected with the team and players.
Owners of the teams are one of the wealthiest people in the United States; the best players sing contracts for milions of dollars earned in a single year plus income from advertisements, etc. This is the American Dream comming true.
What is more important owners of the teams, players and the leagues as a whole are involved in charity. As the puritan philosophy had been saying you have to do everything to become prosperous and after achieving success you should help the less fortunate. Probably every sport superstar is involved in some kind of charity as many of them came from poor african American communities and housing projects.
NBA has created many different charity organisations to help children in Africa where they are building schools and gyms, provide people with medicine and educate them in preventice measures to H.I.V. Players like Ervin “Magic” Johnson (an Los Angeles Lakers’ Hall of Famer) has his own organisation devoted to fighting and preventing A.I.D.S.
Stephon Marbury from the New York Knicks has released his own line of basketball clothes, shoes and other kinds of gear called “Starbury”. His idea is to sell high quality products (the same as Nike, Reebok etc.) but on the cost of the production process and it is actually done – a pair of shoes cost only $14.98 – a price that every parent should afford.
Also as every American, sportsmen have a positive attitude to life and to other people. They smile a lot, communicate well with children and with fans. They are the kind of people you would like to talk to and joke with. The things they do on the court (often using brute strenght to get to the basket or score a touchdown) doesn’t matter after the game because many of the players are close friends and treat the game as a pure competition and challenge.
A part of American character is going with the crowd and the mainstream culture. At the end o 20th century there was a fashion for sports like jogging, kick-boxing and other activities that were to make your life style healthier. Millions of Americans put on their jumpsuits every morning and go jogging or to get some exercise in one of many gyms.
One more thing about the mainstream culture, which the Americans are in love with, is that all the media around the sport world are creating images of legends even if they are not completely true. Every American fan can name many players which were just too good for their discipline. There are movies produced by the league itself about the players. At the beginning of one of them we can find a description of a perfect player which is in fact what every athlete is trying to achieve: “If you were to create the ultimate basketball superstar he would be a player of extrordinary athletic ability. A player who could dominate his sport with a vast array of skills. He would also posses a tireless work ethic constantly pushing himself to the limit in his pursuit of victory. He would be a fierce competitor who could command the court through sheer force of will. He would posses the vision and the artistry to bring a new dimension to the game. He would also have the leadership to galvanize his teammates and he would have the flare to rise to the occasion time after time. He would display a passion to the game – a passion to lift his performance to its very highest level. And he would captivate fans – not only with his talent but also with his charisma. Through it all he would carry himslef with an air of grace and dignity that would make him look perfect ambassador for the sport he loved.”
Summing up, the attitude with which Americans approach sports, wether from economic perspective, as a participatn or a viewer is pretty much the same as the attitude with which they aproach life. The way they deal with sports in these various aspects is an exact image of American character. David Halberstam, historian and writer, said about Micheal Jordan: “He’s an American original (…) He’s who we are” .


1. Allen Iverson – the Answer. Dir. Jim Podhoretz. DVD. NBA Entertainment, 2001.
2. Allen Iverson Answer 9 Commercial. Dir. AI39theanswer. 2005. YouTube. 19 Dec. 2006 .
3. Breidlid, Anders, ed. American Culture. New York: Routlege, 1996. 377-378. Theodore Roosevelt – From “Strenuous Life” (1899)
4. FiedlerE., and R. Jansen. America in Close-Up. London: Longman, 1990. 245-257.
5. Luedtke, Luther S., ed. “Making America” – the Society and Culture of the United States. Chapel Hil: University of North Carolina P, 1088. 207-219.
6. Mandelbaum, Michael. “Why America Hates Football.” Observer Sport Monthly (2004). 19 Dec. 2006

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