Sports that deserve more recognition


Abhinav Kasturi|The Phoenix

Sports are capable of drawing people together to form strong and supportive communities. However, some sports have never been able to capture people’s attention and therefore never gained traction. Sports that fit this criteria are generally called “underrated” and are deserving of more attention. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

1. Water Polo: Although water polo is popular in Eastern Europe, it was never able to gain similar attention in the United States. The game shares similar features with basketball and soccer, but it is played in the water, so inherently many find it interesting. However, water polo doesn’t have many popular outlets in the United States nor worldwide, other than being played in the Olympics or in high school. As a result, even though the sport is popular at many high schools, the sport is not consistently followed past high school. In addition, the game is extremely aggressive, quick and filled with fouls which can be abrasive to film and for viewers to watch.

2. Soccer: While soccer is one of the most well known sports worldwide, in the United States it does not gain the attention that other major league sports receive. Many schools have soccer teams and many people play the sport, however the attention for soccer on media is extremely minuscule compared to the coverage for the NFL, the MLB, and the NBA. Due to these big competitors, soccer is pushed to the side by many media companies. This is likely since lower-level soccer, viz high school and college soccer, receives little to no coverage by the press (local and national). If given more attention, soccer within the United States has the potential to succeed similar to other countries that have expansive cultures surrounding soccer like Brazil, Portugal and Spain.

3. Hockey: Ice Hockey is a fast paced and aggressive game that, unlike the other sports listed, has a well-known national league called the National Hockey League. On contrary to other sports on this list, ice hockey and the NHL is also gaining more media coverage. Additionally, the sport is popular internationally with major leagues in Sweden, Russia, Canada and Switzerland. However, even with all of these components, the NHL still receives much less attraction compared to American Football and basketball. The reason is likely the lack of lower level play, as most high schools do not have ice hockey teams, resulting in a lack of exposure and connection in most people’s childhood. Regardless, ice hockey definitely fits the criteria of an underrated sport.

As highlighted, some key components that “big” sports have are strong culture and passion, media coverage, and active communities set for expansion. To add, many popular sports are accessible to the vast majority of viewers and are played at mature, rookie and professional levels consistently. A classic example is American football and the NFL: many people grow up playing football in school or for fun, the sport has a strong community that has built a culture around the game, further grabbing the attention of the media and thus constantly expanding. The media’s attention is great for awareness and accessibility, however, this attention is first come, first served. As big sports take over the media, they only grow bigger, leaving little to no room for establishment and growth of less prominent sports. Therefore, the first sports to grasp this attention have succeeded the most at being popular. Human attention is naturally finite, making it so that sports have to jostle for position among society. Therefore, from the viewer’s perspective, it becomes hard to join other sports communities and be deeply vested. Although sports are networks that bring people together, some that are underrated or underrepresented by the media face a steep mountain for popularity formed by the behemoths of famous sports and their well knit cultures. Given a chance, underrated sports offer a hidden world of joy for sports fans.