American national pastimes: The genealogy of an idea

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In the early twenty-first century, a variety of sports jockey for a position as an American national pastime alongside football, basketball, and baseball, the games currently ensconced as the leading threesome. In the longer course of American history, hunting, horse racing, and prizefighting have also laid claim to the national pastime title. Popular acceptance as a national pastime gives a sport tremendous economic, cultural, and social clout. In an American republic historically grounded in consumption, national pastimes represent powerful commodities. They shape identities, particularly at the national level. But what features constitute national pastimes, the number of spectators, the number of participants, the number of references to a sport in popular culture, or some other measure? Historically, the term national pastime became common in the mid-nineteenth century in the Anglo-American world as writers and readers developed the concept that a nation's sporting habits revealed important characteristics. The idea of national pastimes has remained a powerful concept since its emergence in American conceptions of their own culture and in American interpretations of foreign cultures. Understanding the genealogy of the idea of national pastimes illumines important facets about the role of sport in American history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-28
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 22 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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