Americans love sport, not only because they like to support teams and individuals, but also because it acts as glue, and as a source of social and racial integration in an otherwise divided continent, helping people of different backgrounds, ethnic origins and cultures coalesce together.
Tens of millions of people play some form of sport every week, and many more sit down to watch it in front of their televisions. Here are the five most-watched sports in North America.
27% of Americans profess to be fans of American Football, or Gridiron, as it is known in certain parts of the country. People tune in to watch not only the main league (the NFL) but college games are extremely popular as well.
And they are not just watching games at home as well. In 2012, the average NFL attendance for a game was over 67,000, making it the most-watched league in the world.
Baseball has been described as America’s national pastime, although it has lost some of its former popularity to faster-growing sports like basketball and soccer. Despite that, it still attracts armchair fans in the millions, with often several games are played from late spring to early autumn.
Unlike baseball and, to a lesser extent, American football, basketball has managed to attract large worldwide audiences outside the USA, with stars like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant household names worldwide. It means that the NBA is extremely popular, but college basketball also attracts viewers in significant numbers.
Ice Hockey (NHL)
Ice hockey is immensely popular in Canada and the northern parts of the United States with millions glued to NHL (National Hockey League) matches every week. It is also one of the most played indoor sports in the country, due to the proliferation of artificial ice rinks.
Soccer (football) is still the new kid on the block, but it is gaining popularity fast. Previously largely the preserve of the country’s large immigrant population, it is now attracting an audience amongst indigenous Americans, thanks to the growing success of the MLS and high profile exports like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as well as the all-conquering US Women’s team. It is also the most played sport in the country, particularly by children and young women.