Professional sports, as opposed to amateur sports, are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance. Professional athleticism has come to the fore through a combination of developments. Mass media and increased leisure have brought larger audiences, so that sports organizations or teams can command large incomes. Professional sport is perhaps the only activity that defies the commercial norm whereby the media expect to be paid for carrying publicity for non-media organizations; in professional sport they are expected to pay for the privilege of doing so. As a result, more sportspeople can afford to make athleticism their primary career, devoting the training time necessary to increase skills, physical condition, and experience to modern levels of achievement. This proficiency has also helped boost the popularity of sports.
Most sports played professionally also have amateur players far outnumbering the professionals. Professional athleticism is seen by some as a contradiction of the central ethos of sport, competition performed for its own sake and pure enjoyment, rather than as a means of earning a living. Consequently, many organisations and commentators have resisted the growth of professional athleticism, saying that it was so incredible that it has impeded the development of sport. For example, rugby union was for many years a part-time sport engaged in by amateurs, and English cricket has allegedly suffered in quality because of a "non-professional" approach.
Baseball originated before the American Civil War (1861-1865). A humble game played on sandlots in particular, scoring and record-keeping gave baseball gravity. "Today," notes John Thorn in The Baseball Encyclopedia, "baseball without records is inconceivable."
In 1871 the first professional baseball league was created. By the beginning of the 20th century, most large cities in the eastern United States had a professional baseball team. The teams were divided into two leagues, the National and American teams during the regular season, a team played only against other teams within its league. The most victorious team in each league was said to have won the "pennant;" the two pennant winners met after the end of the regular season in the World Series. The winner of at least four games (out of a possible seven) was the champion for that year. This arrangement still holds today, although the leagues are now subdivided and pennants are decided in post-season playoff series between the winners of each division. 
Baseball came in the 1920s, when Babe Ruth (1895-1948) led the New York Yankees to several World Series titles and became a national hero on the strength of his home runs (balls that cannot be played because they have been hit out of the field). Over the decades, every team has had its great players. One of the most noteworthy was the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), a gifted and courageous athlete who became the first African-American player in the major leagues in 1947. (Prior to Robinson, black players had been restricted to the Negro League.)
Starting in the 1950s, baseball expanded its geographical range. Western cities got teams, either by luring them to move from eastern cities or by forming so-called expansion teams with players made available by established teams. Until the 1970s, because of strict contracts, the owners of baseball teams also virtually owned the players; since then, the rules have changed so that players are free, within certain limits, to sell their services to any team. The results have been bidding wars and stars who are paid millions of dollars a year. Disputes between the players' union and the owners have at times halted baseball for months at a time. If baseball is both a sport and a business, late in the 20th century many disgruntled fans view the business side as the dominant one.
American Football American football was developed out of something like a cross between soccer and rugby. Rugby itself grew out of the soccer tradition in England, so soccer is truly at the very core of this sport. However, as both games made their way across the Atlantic, they were played at colleges and universities, and out of those two games, football was born. The earliest history of the sport tells us that no single variety of the game was played; some schools played essentially soccer, others rugby, while others played various combinations of the two. Princeton and Rutgers played each other on November 6, 1869 at Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This game was played under modified London Football Association rules – for example, players could only kick the ball, not touch it with their hands and each score, called a goal, counted for one point (Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4). However, unlike soccer, there were 25 players on each side, not like the normal 11. This first college game was essentially soccer, but nevertheless laid the groundwork for the modern game as we know it today. 
By 1920, pro football remained overshadowed by the college game. The first game involving an APFA team took place on September 26, 1920, at Douglas Park in Rock Island, Illinois, as the hometown Independents flattened the St. Paul Ideals 48-0. The first head-to-head battles in the league occurred one week later as Dayton topped Columbus 14-0 and Rock Island pasted Muncie 45-0.
Forward passes were rare, coaching from the sidelines was prohibited and players competed on both offense and defense. Money was so tight that Halas carried equipment, wrote press releases, sold tickets, taped ankles, played and coached for the Decatur club. As opposed to today’s standard 16-game schedule, clubs in 1920 scheduled their own opponents and could play nonleague and even college squads that counted toward their records. With no established guidelines, the number of games played—and the quality of opponents scheduled—by APFA teams varied, and the league did not maintain official standings. 
The Buffalo All-Americans, Chicago Tigers, Columbus Panhandles and Detroit Heralds joined the league before the end of the season, raising the total number of teams to 14, but the inaugural season was a struggle. Games received little attention from the fans—and even less from the press. According to Robert W. Peterson’s book “Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football,” APFA games averaged crowds of 4,241. The association bylaws called for teams to pay a $100 entry fee, but no one ever did. Muncie played only one game before dropping out before the end of the season, which concluded on December 19.
At the conclusion of the season there were no playoffs—let alone a Super Bowl—and it took more than four months before the league even bothered to crown a champion. Much as college football did for decades, the APFA determined its victor by ballot. On April 30, 1921, team representatives voted the Akron Pros, who completed the season undefeated with eight wins and three ties while yielding only a total of seven points, the champion in spite of protests by the one-loss teams in Decatur and Buffalo, who each had tied Akron and had more wins. The victors received a silver loving cup donated by sporting goods company Brunswick-Balke-Collender. While players were not given diamond-encrusted rings, they did receive golden fobs in the shape of a football inscribed with the words “World Champions.”
The NFL’s first season was so quickly forgotten in the collective sports memory that the league’s official record books listed the 1920 championship as undecided until the 1970s. The whereabouts of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup, only given out that one time, are unknown. The legacy of two APFA franchises continues on, however. The Racine Cardinals now play in Arizona, and the Decatur Staleys moved to Chicago in 1921 and changed their name to the Bears the following year. Ten APFA players along with Carr are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which opened its doors in 1963 not far from the Canton automobile dealership that gave birth to the NFL in 1920.  "The Birth of the National Football League." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://www.history.com/news/the-birth-of-the-national-football-league>.</ref>
People involved in professional sports can earn a great deal of money at the highest levels. For instance, the highest-paid team in professional baseball is New York Yankees. Tiger Woods is the highest paid athlete totaling $127,902,706 including his endorsement income, which massively exceeds what he earns from tournament golf. Woods recently became the world's first athlete to earn a billion dollars from prize money and endorsements. It would have taken the salary of 2,000 1980s professional golfers each making $58,500 to match up with Tiger Woods’ current salary. Samuel Eto'o is the world's second highest earning athlete and the highest paid footballer in the world, raking in £35.7 million (over $54 million) a year excluding off-field earnings. The top ten tennis players make about $3 million a year on average. Much of the growth in income for sports and athletes has come from broadcasting rights; for example, the most recent television contract for the NFL is valued at nearly US$5 billion per year.
Outside of the highest leagues, however, the money professional athletes can earn drops dramatically, as fan bases are generally smaller and television revenues are nonexistent. For instance, while the National Football League's teams can afford to pay their players millions of dollars each year and still maintain a significant profit, the second-highest American football league in the United States, the United Football League, has consistently struggled to pay its bills and has continually lost money despite allotting its players only US$20,000 a year. In the United States and Canada, most lower-end professional leagues run themselves as affiliated farm teams, effectively agreeing to develop younger players for eventual play in the major leagues in exchange for subsidizing those players' salaries; this is known as the minor league system and is most prevalent in professional baseball and professional ice hockey. Otherwise, the league may be required to classify itself as semi-professional, in other words, able to pay their players a small sum, but not enough to cover the player's basic costs of living.
Main article: Professionalism in association football
- The average salary of a player in the Chinese Super League was about ¥10.7 million (£1 million) for the 2011 season, up from ¥600,000 in the 2010 season. The highest paid player for the 2011 Chinese Super League season was Dario Conca of Guangzhou Evergrande who received an annual salary of ¥66.4 million ($10.5 million) after income tax, putting him among the highest paid players in the world.
- The highest paid player for the 2011-2012 Russian Premier League season was Samuel Eto'o of Anzhi Makhachkala, who at the end of the 2011-12 season was expected to receive a total salary of RUB 900.2 million (£35.7 million) after income tax, making Eto'o the second highest earning athlete in the world and the highest paid footballer in the world followed by Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
- The average salary of a player in the German Bundesliga was about €3.3 million (£2.5 million) for the 2010-2011 season, up from €2.5 million in the 2009-2010 Bundesliga season. The highest paid player for the 2010-2011 Bundesliga season was Franck Ribéry of Bayern Munich who received a salary of €6.3 million after income tax.
- In the Italian top league, Serie A, the average salary was about €5 million for the 2010-2011 Serie A season, up from €1 million in the 2005-2006 Serie A season. The highest paid player for the 2010-2011 Serie A season was Zlatan Ibrahimović of A.C. Milan who received a salary of €25.9 million after income tax and which also includes Ibrahimović's bonuses and endorsements.
- Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona is the world's second highest paid player receiving a salary of £29.6 million (over US$45 million) a year after income taxation and which also includes the incomes of Messi's bonuses and endorsements. In the Spanish La Liga, the average salary for the players of Lionel Messi's club FC Barcelona was €6.5 million for the 2010-2011 La Liga season, up from €5.5 million for the 2009-2010 La Liga season.
- The average salary of a player in the English Premier League was about £1.2 million in the 2007-2008 Premier League season, up from £676,000 in 2006-2007 Premier League season. Top players such as John Terry and Steven Gerrard can make up to £7 million per year with the players of Premier League club Manchester City F.C. receiving an average salary of £7 million for the 2010-2011 Premier League season, up from £5.5 million in the 2009-2010 Premier League season. Players in lower divisions make significantly less money. In 2006-2007 season the average salary of a player in the Championship (the second tier of the English football pyramid) made £195,750 while the average salary for League One (tier 3) was £67,850 and League Two (tier 4) was £49,600.
- David Beckham's salary of $6 million is the highest in Major League Soccer and about fifty times the average MLS base salary of $115,000. Beckham's salary is more than double that of the MLS per-team salary cap of $2.55 million for 2010; however, under MLS' Designated Player Rule, instituted in 2007 for the purpose of attracting stars of Beckham's stature, each team is allowed to sign three players (originally one) for any salary that will count for only US$335,000 each of cap room. Beckham was the first player signed under this rule.
In 1970, the average salary in Major League Baseball in the U.S. and Canada was $20,000 ($121,457 inflation-adjusted). By 2005, the average salary had increased to $2,632,655 ($3,179,013 inflation-adjusted) and the minimum salary was $316,000 (adjusted: $381,580). In 2012 the average MLB salary was $3,440,000, the median salary was $1,075,000, and the minimum salary had grown to four times the inflation-adjusted average salary in 1970 ($480,000).
Lists of professional sports
- List of professional sports
- List of professional sports leagues
- List of U.S. and Canadian cities by number of major professional sports franchises
- Andy Miah Sport & the Extreme Spectacle: Technological Dependence and Human Limits (PDF) Unpublished manuscript, 1998
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- Team Salaries
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- Premier league Salaries
- Highest Paid Athlete Soccer
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- Baseball's average salary goes up to $3.44M