Have Americans always been big on sports?

Sports became a popular pastime for many Americans in the late 19th century. Golf, tennis, and bicycling (which became a short-lived national craze in the 1890s) attracted middle-class and well-to-do men and women, while baseball drew more diverse and much larger crowds.

Not long after the professional Cincinnati Red Stockings began barnstorming around the country, the National League was formed (1876) and the rules of the modern game took shape. The rival American League began play in 1901, and the inaugural World Series was held two years later.

Prizefighting, long considered a working man's sport, gained wider acceptance with the introduction of the Queensberry rules, which mandated the use of gloves, set the length of a round at three minutes, and outlawed wrestling holds; no less a figure than Theodore Roosevelt endorsed boxing as a manly sport.

Football quickly became the premier collegiate spectator sport, and Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 as an indoor game that could be played between the football and baseball seasons.