Sports Development In Pre-Civil War Time

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Throughout history, masculinity has played a crucial part of young boys growing up in society. Though the concept of masculinity has evolved over time from men working in the fields to men working at job a behind a desk, there is still a sense of the predominant man providing resources to support their family. Masculinity in men also comes with a sense of competitiveness, where its publicly unacceptable to be less manly then the guy standing next to you.

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The introduction of sports in early Anglo-America in the early 1800’s, helped fulfill this need of competitiveness in men who found lack of enjoyment in their daily schedule. Sports also provided many benefits to men such as good physical condition, self-esteem, friendships, and a sense of belonging. Though sports helped men in many different ways, American men living in cities before the Civil War engaged in sport primarily to define themselves, publicly, as manly.

Although men flourished on being their best in public, this idea of manliness would soon change between the time America was established as a nation to the time the civil war ended. Sports in early Anglo-America started off as recreational pastime when people got off work. Then soon Puritans from Europe looked down upon what they called “idle or sinful recreation” which took place in the New England colonies. As Benjamin notes in his book, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports, “puritans sought to build a society free from the worldly absorptions of the country they had left behind, recreation became on focus of conflict” (10). This was noticed by the Puritans in the early failed colonies of Roanoke and Jamestown where colonist played games on the streets instead of farming and doing necessary work in order to survive. The puritans believed that a sport had to be dissociated from traditional revelries and be able to “refresh the participants” so that they could work their spiritually duties (Rader 11).

A man by the name of John Downame challenged these ideas of embodied sports the Puritans made for the New England colonies and said that sport was a “dichotomous concept” which is implying both conformance and non-conformance of the Puritan value system. Sports later on like bare-knuckle boxing allowed for men to express their toughness and overall masculinity. Boxing allowed for men with no gloves to strike each other until the other man developed a black eye and split lips, yet the fight continued (Gorn 72). The sense of violence that came from participating in bare-knuckle fighting was developed from the society surrounding the sport. Back in the mid 1800’s if two men wanted to settle a dispute between one another, they would settle it in the ring. This did mean that if two men were to fight in the ring it would put their egos and manhood’s to the test.

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