Sport has become less independent and more economic
Arguably, sport and work originally were independent realms of social behavior. Then sport increasingly provided a form of compensation for work, but ultimately work values and behaviors began to spill over into sport. As a result, sport became less independent or compensatory over time.” Such spillover may occur for various reasons. Among these are cultural values (e.g., the Protestant work ethic, the spirit of capitalism) supporting work and disparaging leisurely and pleasurable activity. The American experience has corroborated the spillover model (see chapter 6). Sport was acquiring the characteristics of work while it was being touted as preparation for work or justified as a “break” from work. Characteristically, Theodore Roosevelt asserted that sport is preparation “to do work that counts when the time arises, when the occasion calls.”666 The prevailing view was that Americans should work until they were weary and then take recreation so they could work again. But as sport and recreation became more work-like, they offered less in the way of refreshment or compensation. Rodgers noted that workers in the Industrial era frequently used time off to engage in an equally strenuous regimen as members of athletic clubs and YMCAs.667 The recreation that took place in these settings revealed few compensatory qualities.
America’s athletes increasingly emulated disciplined laborers. Winning contests and setting records required maximum output that, in turn, necessitated intensive preparation at a pace and intensity reminiscent of the assembly line. The athlete essentially became a producer of performances and records. Efforts to this end were directed by a trainer or coach (the equivalent of the foreman/supervisor) whose goal was to improve the performance of athletes.668 The assembly-line methods applied to the game of college football led historian Arnold Toynbee to comment that “Anglo-Saxon football was not a game at all. It was the Industrial System celebrating a triumph over its vanquished antidote. Sport, by masquerading in its guise.”669 Sports heroes were idolized by the public in the same context as heroic laborers. Mark Twain noted that both river boat pilots and athletes were made into heroes not only for their power, authority, and glamour, but also for pride in their jobs and their salaries.670
Thus did the work ethic divert sport from the model of amateurism. By the late nineteenth century, coaching had become a paid profession, and talented athletes gained the option of being paid to play sports. There had been early instances of paid athletes in the sports of boxing and horseracing. In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the ﬁrst salaried Major League Baseball team—although some ballplayers had been compensated prior to then. An increasing number of sports careers were made available to athletes who demonstrated the requisite skills. In the ﬁrst half of the twentieth century, football, basketball, and hockey formed professional leagues with salaried athletes placed under contract. The athlete became a new type of worker who sold his labor power to entertain the general public. Moreover, the work-oriented mentality of paid athletes and coaches gradually inﬁltrated amateur sports (see chapter 1 l).‘571
The modern Olympic movement attempted to maintain a spirit of amateurism, and Olympic athletes adhered to this principle for a while. Through the early years of the games and into the 19303, the typical Olympian participated in his or her sport as an avocation. Medal-winning swimmer and film actor Johnny Weissmuller epitomized the rather carefree spirit of the era. He would begin training for his event about two weeks before a meet. Elizabeth Robinson, who ran for the American team in the 1928 Olympics, normally trained only three days a week. She won her Olympic medal in the fourth track meet in which she had ever competed. Jean Shirley, who won a gold medal in the high jump at the 1932 Olympics, had never participated in a national meet until she qualiﬁed for the games. Olympic athletes of that era were amateurs not only in their approach to training, but in the sense that many of them held full-time jobs to support themselves while they trained
This amateurish approach to training was soon to change. Elements within the American Olympic movement pushed coaches and athletes toward a more disciplined model following the poor showing of the American team in the 1924 Paris games. It was ironic that some of the critics subsequently charged the 1928 Olympic team with being over- coached and over-trained. However, Americans convinced themselves a more work-like approach to training was the key to improving performance. The new emphasis was evident in the escalating training regimen of Olympic swimmers over the following decades. Sixteen-year-old Cathy Ferguson, a gold medal winner at the 1964 games, was swimming [2,000 to 16,000 meters (seven to ten miles) a day. John Nabor, a 1976 gold medal winner, recalled that most trainers by then had established four hours of training a day as the minimum for competitive swimmers.674
Sport was becoming a full-time occupation.
Steven J. Overman, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Sport
Notes: Page 207