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Sport Practices Of Long Standing

Like many symbols, baseball is steeped in legend. The myth of its creation by Civil War hero Abner Doubleday helped forge the all-American pedigree a national symbol needs. And over the years, baseball itself has been heroic in wartime, heartening Americans on the home front and battlefront. Patriotic images combine the diamond with the stars and stripes, while baseball traditions (specific practices of long standing) such as the presidential "first pitch" reinforce the bond linking the game to our heritage and national institutions.

Hoosier Hysteria is the state of excitement surrounding the state high school basketball tournament in Indiana. In part, the excitement stemmed from the inclusion of all Indiana high schools in the same tournament, where a small town's David might knock off a large city's Goliath. The most famous example occurred in 1954, when Milan (enrollment 161) defeated Muncie Central (enrollment over 1,600) to win the State title. The plot of the now famous movie, Hoosiers, was based on the story of the 1954 Milan team and seems to typify the hysteria related to basketball in the state of Indiana.

Indiana's passion for basketball was observed and written about by basketball's inventor, James Naismith. In 1925, Naismith visited an Indiana basketball state finals game along with 15,000 screaming fans and later wrote, that while it was invented in Massachusetts, "basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport." Hoosiers have a traditional love for basketball similar to the love for football in Texas, and Minnesotans' love for hockey. It truly is one of the State's most cherished traditions.

The second most popular song at ballparks

Jack Norworth, the vaudeville songwriter, in 1908 penned the lyrics to what now amounts to the national anthem of baseball, Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Norworth had never seen a baseball game when he wrote the song's lyrics. He was riding the subway in New York when he saw a billboard for the Polo Grounds, the legendary ballpark where San Francisco's Giants then played. He pulled out a pencil and paper and dashed out the lyrics.

The song was a big hit for the prolific Norworth, who followed it up later that year with another: "Shine On, Harvest Moon."

Norworth didn't see his first baseball game until 1940. And the first time he heard his song performed at a game was in 1958, when the Dodgers, newly arrived from Brooklyn, honored him at the Coliseum during the tune's 50th anniversary. The makers of Cracker Jack presented him with a trophy.

That the song is played at every professional baseball game is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Baseball Hall of Fame dates it to the mid-1970s, when Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, ever the showman, encouraged announcer Harry Caray to serenade the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch. A tradition was born.

Norworth died in 1959 at the age of 80. He was a longtime resident of Laguna Beach, where he founded the city's Little League. Today, teams still compete for the Jack Norworth Trophy - the one he was given the year before his death.

It is tradition for fans to get up and stretch their legs (and sing) between the top and bottom of the 7th inning. It's an opportunity to shift your weight after sitting in those oh-so-comfortable stadium seats for such a long time. The true origin of the 7th inning stretch is unknown. One story is that in 1910 President William Howard Taft, who is credited with being the first president to throw out the opening pitch, got restless and stood up part way through the 7th inning. Out of respect for the President the entire stadium stood too, and the tradition was born. References to this baseball-tradition actually appear as early as 1869, and the phrase was coined around 1920. Over time, it became tradition for fans to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch.

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have become a tradition in millions of homes on the most American of holidays. Such a tradition doesn't happen overnight. The NFL's presence on Thanksgiving Day dates all the way back to the NFL's inaugural season in 1920 when Jim Thorpe and the Canton Bulldogs battled the Akron Pros to a scoreless tie.

The Lions began their turkey day tradition in 1934 when owner G.A. Richards scheduled a game between the first-year Lions and the defending World Champion Chicago Bears. The team had lost only one game, but attendance had been poor until the Thanksgiving Day game, which was attended by 26,000 fans and was broadcast by the NBC Radio Network coast-to-coast. The Lions lost the game, but a tradition was born as they have played every Thanksgiving Day since the 1934 game, except for a hiatus during World War II.

The Cowboys joined the Thanksgiving Day scene decades later in 1966 when then-commissioner Pete Rozelle was looking for a second team to host a Thanksgiving game for a TV doubleheader. Dallas general manager Tex Schramm volunteered the Cowboys.

For nearly 50 years, hockey fans in Detroit have been throwing octopi on to the ice after a big win by the Red Wings. This started on April 15, 1952 during the Red Wings' Stanley Cup run. Two brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano, who owned a fish shop in Detroit threw an octopus on the ice during a game in Detroit. Each tentacle of the octopus was symbolic of a win in the playoffs. Back then, the NHL had just six teams and eight wins (two best-of-seven series) were needed to win the Stanley Cup. The largest octopus to be thrown on the ice was a 50 pounder in 1996. The creature was proundly displayed on the hood of the Zamboni while the ice at the Joe Louis Arena was being cleaned between periods.

If you've ever seen hockey fans throw hats on the ice - it's not because their favorite player needs some new head wear or is going bald. It's to celebrate a player scoring three goals in a game which is called a hat trick. The term comes from the game of cricket (a lame form of baseball played in England.) In 1858, a player knocked down three wickets in a row. This feat was considered so great that the team gave the player a brand new hat - big whoop! The fastest hat trick in NHL history was scored by Bill Mosienko of the Chicago Blackhawks who potted three goals in just 21 seconds in 1952. A "natural hat trick" is when a player scores three goals in a row - with no goals by the other team in between. The player who scores the three goals doesn't keep the hats. They're given to charity instead (for all those hatless kids!)

As immigration increased, the new arrivals brought soccer traditions with them, and the game grew rapidly in the Northeastern industrial cities. Pick-up games and loose informal teams soon grew into established clubs and led to corporate sponsorship finally the development of local and even regional leagues. The game spread to other parts of New England including Boston and Rhode Island, and into Baltimore, and in the 1880's, into Chicago, Cleveland and St. Louis, and finally Pittsburgh. The game was continually hampered by sociological forces - Baseball was seen as the American past-time, and many immigrants would attempt to Americanize themselves to assimilate, often switching to baseball from soccer which was seen increasingly as a sport only played by foreigners.

Three fans at the 1994 world cup were accidentally introduced when Mark Wheeler, a doctoral student at Carnegie-Mellon, spilled his soda on Marc Spacone, a coach at SUNY-Buffalo, who was with his friend John Wright. The three of them got to talking and bemoaned the fact that even on their home turf, the team had to face stadium crowds that were mostly rooting for their opposition, an effect of the still strong ethnic component of the game in the US. They hatched the idea of a club whose members would go to all national team home games, sit together with logo shirts, drums, instruments, songs and cheers, and work to develop a strong tradition of American fans wildly supporting the American team in the European tradition (minus the hooliganism and poor sportsmanship). Sam's Army was born. Their first game, the beginning of the US Cup 1995 was a resounding success, and Sam's Army has appeared at every game since, with crowds ranging as high as 900 for a game. Sam's Army now has over 5,000 members nationwide, and even overseas.

Traditionally a day for outdoor events and fireworks, Independence Day was a natural for boxing matches in the United States early in the 20th Century. There were 15 championship bouts on the 4th of July in the US between 1903 and 1923, then not another one until 59 years later. Strangely the last one in the first quarter of the century was the Dempsey/Gibbons fight in Shelby Montana, a disaster for the town. Yet that shouldn't have caused a cessation of matches in areas more able to sustain large crowds of fans.

The term "ring" comes from the original practice of having a circle of spectators form a ring around the two contestants. Often a rope would be held by the crowd to designate the area the fighters would have to move around. There weren't even stools, since the fights were usually outdoors and in isolated areas, so one of the fighter's supporters, called a "second", would kneel with one knee on the ground and the other up to form a seat for the resting fighter between rounds. Also, since boxing was illegal almost everywhere in its early days, if the "proper authorities" dropped in uninvited, the spectators simply dropped the rope and ran in every direction. The police might round up a few of the slow footed, but all the promoters would be out would be the cost of a rope.

The Kentucky Derby may be as much about partying as about thoroughbred horse racing. It is actually a two day event, with a race for fillies the day before the main race. During these two days, it is estimated that 80,000 mint juleps are consumed around the racetrack. The well-heeled sip from frosted sterling glasses in roomy boxes. Many of the society ladies, true to the scene in "My Fair Lady", dress up in their finest for Derby Day, even up to enormous hats and silk dresses.

The middle of the track is, in contrast, more like a mosh pit. The people who pay the fairly low ticket price know they cannot actually see much of the race, but go for the party instead. Derby Day brings many Kentuckians out for some kind of thoroughbred horse racing related activity. Since the 1930s, it has been a tradition for the governor to hold a public breakfast in the state capital, Frankfort. As many people as want to come for a free breakfast and entertainment. Tourists also flood the area for Derby Day, and plenty of cities and towns are ready to welcome them with their own thoroughbred horse racing traditions.

The Masters is a tradition like none other. First worn by members in 1937 and first given to the champion in 1948, the green jacket has become such a symbol in sports that the Augusta baseball team in the South Atlantic League is known as the GreenJackets. The original idea was for club members to wear the jackets, which feature the club's logo of a flagstick on a map of the USA, so spectators would know who to ask for reliable information during the tournament. A champion gets one jacket to keep for one year to use in non-commercial public appearances, but then it must be returned and kept at the club. Phil Mickelson slept in his jacket.

A popular gathering place, the big tree behind the clubhouse, where players pass while going to the course and movers and shakers of golf mingle. It's a live oak tree that was planted in the 1850s and is as much a landmark to golf's insiders as Amen Corner is to the public.

The late Arthur Ashe, one of the tournament's great champions, attempted to explain: "Part of the reason that Wimbledon attracts such attention is that it is a bona fide, certified British tradition and British traditions are just a bit more traditional than anyone else's."

British royalty has been associated with The Championships since 1907 when the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Princess Mary, visited the Worple Road ground on Saturday, 29th June. Arriving by motor car at about 3.15 p.m., they were met by the Committee at the entrance to the ground and escorted to the Committee Box, which had temporarily been fitted out as a Royal Box.

Before leaving the ground the Prince accepted an offer of the Presidency of the Club and declared his intention of donating to the Club a challenge trophy. The Prince remained President until his accession to the throne as King George V in 1910. He then became Patron of the Club, a position subsequently maintained by succeeding monarchs. King George V and Queen Mary were avid spectators at The Championships, being present each year from 1919 to 1934, with the exception of 1927 and 1929. Queen Mary continued this association and from 1935 to 1951 missed only the meeting of 1936.

The tradition continues with the present Duke of Kent, who succeeded his mother in 1969. He and the Duchess of Kent attend frequently each year and present the trophies. Other members of the Royal family are regular visitors. The very first royal visit to Wimbledon was on Monday, 15th July, 1895, when the Crown Princess Stephanie of Austria, accompanied by Prince Batthyany Strattmann, witnessed the Gentlemen's Doubles Challenge Round. It has been agreed that the time is right to discontinue the tradition of players bowing/curtseying to members of the Royal family on entering or leaving the Centre Court. The only exceptions will be for Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

Bowling has been popular in America since Colonial days. During 17th century, English, Dutch and German settlers imported their own version of bowling to America. At that time, the game consisted of nine pins which were regularly played in an area of New York City still known as "Bowling Green". Connecticut banned ninepins in 1841 because of their gambling implications. Informal and casual betting permeates the bowling alley today.

Certain frames are designated "beer frames," and the bowler who scores the lowest on his or her first ball in that frame must buy a round of drinks for the rest of the team. No matter that bottled water and diet soft drinks may comprise the modern "round"; it remains a "beer frame." The "beer frame" has many varieties and permutations. It may require anyone who hurls a gutter ball to automatically buy a round; it may demand that the bowler who converts a split be relieved of having to buy even if his or her first ball scores the lowest. Often the rules of these informal challenge games are made up on the spot.

Individual pools are set up to make the night a little more interesting. So-called "pools" abound. The best bowlers put a dollar or five dollars into a pool and the highest score for that game takes home the cash. Small side bets between individuals are rampant.

The rodeo tradition, is where eight seconds is a lifetime, all events end in an outpouring of clowns, and everybody gets up to do it again. The traditional ranching and cowboy skills of horseback riding and roping, are embraced and raised to new performance levels in rodeo competitions held annually across the western U.S. Rodeos range from national professional events to local high school competitions and feature such events as bareback and saddle bronc riding, team tying, calf roping and bulldogging.

The Rodeo preserves a way of life. Rodeos do the same thing county fairs do. They bring a community together as a gathering spot for families. People might not be interested in the action out of the chutes, but you can see them outside of the grandstands girl-watching or boy-watching and having a good time. It's the Rodeo tradition.



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