It took a while for scholars in the twentieth century to recognize the significance of sports. Philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and physical educators preceded historians into the sports field, but enthusiasts established the North American Society for Sport History complete with a journal in 1973. In 30 years the small academic group has grown from 163 members to 380. Scattered through colleges and universities in North America, Europe, and Australia now are courses about sports, and although sports history is still a subtopic it is accepted in course curriculums and as a subject for serious research. It is no longer viewed as a boondoggle for instructors who wish to deduct the cost of stadium tickets from their income tax.
Strangely enough, there has been a problem about defining the word "sport." Everyone knows what it means, and yet there is confusion. For instance, are fishing, hunting, skiing, or hiking sports? Most would agree that these activities are a kind of recreation, and a sort of sport. What happens, however, when there is a sponsored contest to catch the largest bass, or to find out who can ski over a set of mountain moguls with the fastest time? Most would agree that these activities are still sports, but that there is a difference in the intensity or seriousness of the physical effort involved. In explanation, physical educators have suggested a continuum for sports with recreation, or play, at one end of the line and athletics at the other.
Recreation is mainly for fun, or exercise, or relaxation-such as a game of noontime basketball at a local athletic club. At the other end of the continuum with athletics there is a high degree of training, investment, and coaching, along with spectators, rules, publicity, and institutional control such as with a varsity basketball game at a university. The amount of sheer fun diminishes, and the amount of serious work increases as you move from