May 25, 2024

Sports have changed significantly throughout time. While many competitions and games have existed throughout history, the modern iteration of sports has only taken form in the past two centuries. As a result of its growth and popularity, sports has undoubtedly shaped our identity and story as a people, from sports heroes like Michael Jordan to some of our greatest scandals like Barry Bonds. The way that culture views and relates to sports is important not just for the entertainment value but for the social aspect. 

Mark Blincoe, professor of history, sheds some light on the origins of organized sports.

“There are no pro teams in many places, or even if you have a pro team, the pro team came much later than your college teams. Major League Baseball begins in like 1896, and you have collegiate teams before then, around the 1880s,” Blincoe said. 

College sports and the pro leagues developed right alongside each other over the decades. Professional baseball came first, followed by basketball and then football, with hockey as a sort of fourth professional sport in specific areas of America. 

This has also had a detrimental effect on college sports, especially with the growth of professional sports leagues and the money involved with professional organizations. 

“It’s shaped the way money works in basketball and football in college sports in a way that those professional sports have just fed off of college sports,” Blincoe said. “It also means that in your collegiate sports, like basketball and football, you can have schools that feel elite. I don’t like the fact that college sports are becoming more overtly professional and exclusive and having the money in a small percentage of schools.”

As a result of this, many colleges have essentially become training grounds for future pro players. It has affected the way athletes approach their college careers, with many ending their careers early to play at the pro level once they’ve trained up enough to move on.

“They’ve relied on college to be their minor leagues. As their minor leagues, colleges will have athletes that are good enough to be in professional sports but maybe not quite at the level to compete at 19 or 20 in the pro realm,” said Blincoe. “But if you were going into, say, baseball, you might be able to get drafted and be in a triple-A team and be a year or two away from being in the majors.” 

While some see this infusion of sports and money as a problem, many players see this as an opportunity to get out of whatever circumstances they may find themselves in. The drive to succeed is standard across the board for athletes.

“A good representation of a really big fan base is a school called Kahuku High School [in Hawaii],” said Timothy Tamashiro, senior pre-med health science major. “It’s kind of like what you would see down South. It’s just a football town. There is nothing going on there but football. For a lot of the kids, the only way out of the island is through football scholarships. Either that or they don’t have a ticket out at all.” 

Regardless of how people feel about college sports, professional sports, and the money involved in them now, people still have deep connections to the sports that many fans themselves have and still do play.   

“Soccer is definitely a key part of me,” said Matthew Marks, sophomore business administration major. “I definitely will never forget all the memories I made from soccer and I will continue carrying that as a part of me, even though I may not play professionally. I still have good memories and enjoy watching the sport for what it is.”

The attitude toward college sports is more varied in some places than others,  even the perception of the entertainment value between college and professional sports varies. 

“Pro sports is more competitive, more engaging in some ways and is nationally recognized compared to college,” Marks said. “I think it’s got a lot more excitement and entertainment than the college level.”

Having a personal connection to a team matters to people.  Tamashiro reiterates this view, demonstrating how people can feel very differently about sports, depending on whether it is a local team or a professional team. 

“For all of us, when I root for a team, there is another connection when it is from my hometown. I think that we could be like, look, that’s my team, that’s where I’m from [and] I’m proud of that,” Tamashiro said. “Because there’s no professional sports team [in Hawaii], a lot of people go for the 49ers or the Dallas Cowboys, so you have a mix of football teams. You’re going to see all types of flags waving.” 

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