The period of 1865 to 1950 was critical to the formation of “Modern” sport that is recognized today. In an article by Allen Guttmann titled From Ritual to Record: the nature of modern sport, Guttmann outlines seven characteristics that played a central role in the development of sports. These concepts were created as a sociological history of sports and took into place both American and European competitions. Guttmann’s notions of secularism, rationalization, bureaucracy and quantification, among others, all advanced the culture of sports; yet the most important of the stated characteristics is equality.
Equality in modern sports can be broken down into two meanings as defined by Guttmann, first that “everyone should, theoretically, have the opportunity to compete”, and secondly that “the conditions of competition should be the same for all contestants”. While this definition and subsequent stipulations seem logical and more common sense than learned knowledge, they have not always been the case American society. Sports were often divided by race and gender, even though African American leagues such as Negro League baseball had athletes that could excel against any competitor, regardless of skin color. Egalitarianism took time to develop in sports, and taking note of critical events in history allows for a greater appreciation of where modern sports are today.
Two examples of inequality in sports during the time period of 1865-1950 occur in baseball and boxing. In baseball the adoption of Jim Crow laws led to the unwritten rule that African Americans were no longer able to play in Major League Baseball. In boxing white Americans desperately pleaded for their hero Jim Jeffries to come out of retirement in an attempt to reclaim the heavyweight title from a black man, Jack Johnson. Both of these sports underwent changes in perception of equality during this time period. In Baseball there is a complete reversal of opinion during these 95 years, from barring...
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