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Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America


The Smithsonian’s Hometown Teams traveling exhibition examines the many roles that sports play in American society. Hometown sports are more than just games—they shape our lives and unite us and celebrate who we are as Americans. We play on ball fields and sandlots, on courts and on ice, in parks and playgrounds, even in the street. From pick-up games to organized leagues, millions of Americans of all ages play sports. And, if we’re not playing sports, we’re watching them. We sit in the stands and root for the local high school team, or gather on the sidelines and cheer on our sons and daughters as they take their first swing or score their first goal.

Thanks to our never-ending appetite for competition and games, Americans now have a wider selection of sports to play and watch than ever before. Football, baseball, and basketball—America’s traditional hometown sports—share space on our calendars with soccer, hockey, tennis, running, wrestling, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, sailing, and many other sports. What has occurred in our hometowns is nothing less than a sports revolution.

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This exhibition is no longer touring.

The Hometown Teams Exhibit has revitalized the spirit of what once was and hopefully will be again, pride in our small towns and support for the home team.


--Greg Messenger, Rowlesburg, WV, exhibit co-coordinator, host of Hometown Teams

This exhibition covers many themes, including:

The Home Team, Our American Spirit and At Every Age

Sports play a big part in the lives of many Americans. They leave an indelible mark on us all, whether we play or watch. The essential qualities of sports—competition, fair play, and the zeal to win—embody the American spirit. No part of American culture so colorfully and passionately celebrates American life as does sports.

Sports and Commerce

Sports are an American obsession. We play to stay in shape, to quench our thirst to compete, and to have fun. We watch sports and connect to our favorite teams. When they win, we win. When they lose, we share in their defeat.

Sports and Culture

Sports have also penetrated art, literature, and film. The dynamism of sports—the excitement of a game, the grace of an athlete’s performance, and the drama that occurs with the triumph of victory and the agony of defeat — inspires artists, authors and filmmakers. Classic films, such as Hoosiers and Field of Dreams, are, for many fans, as significant a part of our national sports memory as famous sporting events.

Equality in Sports

Although sports have always been a part of American culture, equality in sports, as in society itself, was not easy to come by. African Americans and women, in particular, struggled to gain the same athletic opportunities enjoyed by white males. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, paving the way for other African American ballplayers to realize their dream of playing in the major leagues.

The Future of Sports

Whether we enjoy traditional sports or develop new ones that reflect our cultural and athletic diversity, the thrill of competition and the drive to win are stronger than ever before. Athletes will continue to view sports as a means to achieve their goals and pursue them throughout their lives. Fans and spectators will never let their teams down, cheering and supporting their favorites from the start of the game to the finish.

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