Sports serve humans with a much more significant benefit than mere entertainment; sports and pastimes also challenge the physical and mental abilities of the players, improve their problem-solving skills, inspire fans with heroes to admire and provide a medium for people to release energy and excitement. During the 20th century, many sports emerged as favourite pastimes in the United States.
Although baseball was established in the United States during the late 1800s, in the 20th century the sport gained supreme prominence and became the most commonly watched and most often played sport in the nation. Throughout the 1900s, Americans were celebrating and admiring great baseball players such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Colfax, Mickie Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The team with the largest market and with the most championship victories during the 20th century was the New York Yankees. With the sudden development of television, many people tuned in to cheer for or against the Yankees during World Series championship events.
American football was invented in the late 1800s. However, with the development of a professional league known as the NFL, in the mid-20th century football erupted as a favourite sport for many Americans. Its popularity further increased in 1970, when the two separate leagues -- the AFC and the NFL -- merged to form one league and established that the best team in each respective conference would play against each other in the Superbowl championship game every year. Players who Americans revered during the century include Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath, Lynn Swan, Dick Butkus, Joe Montana, Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice. Furthermore, teams that achieved success won multiple championships and stimulated the interest of fans during the century included the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.
Basketball also accumulated a loyal and dedicated following during the 1900s with the formation of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The popularity of the NBA motivated many people to begin playing basketball, and because the hoops could easily be installed at public parks and playgrounds, many people would gather, socialise and play the sport at parks during their free time. Remarkable superstar players in the NBA further stirred the nation's enthusiasm for basketball, inspired many kids to play the sport, and as a result, kids leagues were formed. Superstars who increased the sport's popularity during the 1900s included Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Additionally, dominant dynasties and intense rivalries such as the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers helped bring fans to the stadiums and motivated people to play during their spare time.
Hockey was invented in the 1870s in Canada, and then the sport migrated to the United States in the early 20th century. With the development and success of the National Hockey League, by the 1970s hockey had become one of the most popular sports in the nation. Because northern, colder cities generally offered numerous ice rinks for people to skate on during the winter, many people in these cities began using the rinks to play hockey as a pastime. Although most games occurred at public ice rinks, as children became more infatuated with the sport due to NHL superstars, organised leagues were formed and many children began playing hockey as their primary sport during the winter. Superior players who inspired kids to play included Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. The Detroit Redwings -- the biggest dynasty of the century -- also enticed fans who either hated them or loved them to appreciate the game and to play hockey.
Many new sports, games and pastimes were invented and developed during the 20th century. Ping pong was introduced in 1905, the first crossword puzzle was created in 1913, Monopoly became a widely played board game in 1934, Scrabble soon followed in 1948 and Trivial Pursuit was developed in 1982. Additionally, the innovation of race cars and race car organisations such as NASCAR increased the nation's passion for race car driving, and by the end of the century, car racing events were among the most watched sporting events in the nation.