Whether as a means of escape from the troubles of day to day life, (like when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead, game-winning home run for the New York Mets in the first professional sporting contest played in the Big Apple following the September 11 attacks, giving a hurting city a chance to smile) or as a vehicle for change (like when Jackie Robinson and other brave, trailblazing athletes broke the colour barrier in their respective sports), athletic competition means more than just two football players hitting one another, two boxers trash talking. It’s an encapsulation of American life, the good and the bad, the uplifting and the sad.
Here’s a look at the impact of influence of sports in America, both in the past and the present day.
Sports: Telling the Story of America
Part of why sports are so often used as a vehicle for change is the way that they provide a common ground for people of all backgrounds, a familiar meeting ground to start having the tough conversations.
While Jackie Robinson became an icon for breaking the color barrier in baseball, putting himself in the firing line of vicious racial hatred for daring to take the same field as white athletes, the sad fact is that he wasn’t the last Black athlete to come under that kind of duress: the story of integration in sports doesn’t end there, a bow put on it as people learned to live harmoniously with one another.
More than two decades later, Atlanta Braves slugger Henry “Hank” Aaron received that same level of racist vitriol during his chase of Babe Ruth for the title of all-time home run king.
Playing in the Deep South, Aaron received dozens of hateful letters every day from people threatening to kill him if he didn’t retire and give up his pursuit, hating him for daring to chase down a white man entrenched as one of baseball’s all-time greats.
Aaron ended up passing Ruth, hitting 755 home runs to the Great Bambino’s 714, but he later said that the trauma “carved a part of me out that I will never regain, never restore.”
He kept the letters for the rest of his life, a brutal reminder of the racism he faced, racism still festering long after Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, long after Robinson broke the colour barrier, saying that “I read the letters…because they remind me not to be surprised or hurt. They remind me what people are really like.”
Aaron remained active with the Braves following his playing career, helping to advance initiatives of diversity in sport and serving in Atlanta’s front office as Senior Vice President. Following his passing in 2021 at age 86, the team he helped build went on to win the World Series that year in his honor.
Aaron’s Braves are the favorites to win it all this season, running rampant through the National League with a 70-39 record and listed at or around +325 at various betting apps here in the states. Odds can vary quite a bit from sportsbook to sportsbook, as can the promotions they offer for new and returning bettors: make sure you’re taking advantage of the best betting promos so that you know you’re locking in the best possible odds of winning big.
The Influence of Sports: Exponential Growth
Sports have seen their influence wax and wane across the past century, from the heyday of baseball as America’s pastime for much of the 20th century to the wild popularity of football today.