A spectator sport is a sport that is characterized by the presence of spectators, or watchers, at its matches. For instance, soccer, American football, association football, baseball, basketball, Canadian football, cricket, field hockey, Formula One, ice hockey, rugby league, rugby union, team handball, tennis and volleyball are spectator sports, while hunting or underwater hockey typically are not. Spectator sports may be professional sports or amateur sports. They often are distinguished from participant sports, which are more recreational; golf and tennis can be either. Association football, also known as soccer, is by far the most watched sport on the planet.
The increasing broadcasting of sports events, along with media reporting can affect the number of people attending sports due to the ability to experience the sport without the need to physically attend and sometimes an increasingly enhanced experience including highlights, replays, commentary, statistics and analysis. Some sports are particularly known as "armchair sports" or "lounge room sports" due to the quality of the broadcasting experience in comparison to the live experience.
Spectator sports have built their own set of culture and traditions including, in the United States, cheerleading and pre-game and half time entertainment such as fireworks, particularly for big games such as competition decider events and international tests. The passion of some sports fans also means that there are occasionally spectator incidents.
Notable spectator sports events where events regularly sell out well in advance and are broadcast to large audiences include the K-League, Nippon Professional Baseball, Korea Professional Baseball, J. League Division 1, FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, UEFA European Football Championship, Cricket World Cup, Commonwealth Games, The Ashes, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Heineken Cup, Indian Premier League, Six Nations Championship, FA Cup, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Fußball-Bundesliga, Australian Football League, State of Origin series, Super League, Rugby League Challenge Cup, Grand Slam tennis, World Series Baseball, Rugby World Cup, Kentucky Derby, Melbourne Cup, PGA Tour, National Rugby League, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, Wimbledon, Formula One, and NASCAR.
The North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) devotes much of their annual conference to research addressing the psychology behind a desire to view spectator sports, and how it might be leveraged to increase demand. Much of the research focuses on exploiting a need for vicarious achievement, and a desire within the spectator to project a public image through a declaration of team allegiance.
Separation of the active and the passive, the line between sport and spectator, gives rise to the paradox of the spectator—described by French philosopher Jacques Rancière; which is to seek an opportunity to passively contemplate engaging in an activity, and in doing so, forfeit that life moment one might have used to actually engage in the activity.
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