What sport will America embrace next?

What sport will America embrace next?
March 1, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Team Handball is one international sport yet to pick up popularity in America. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the United States is still a world leader in manufacturing, innovation, work ethic and exports.

One key area that America maintains a dominant global position is sports. There is no shortage of leagues in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave(s).” American sports fans support hundreds of franchises across leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NBDL AHL, ECHL, NCAA, MLS, NASCAR, IRL, NHRA, AFL, PGA, LPGA, USGA, WNBA, WWE, UFC, WBA, MSL, UFL, USARL, AVP and many others.

No matter how crowded our spectator sports scorecards have become, there are a number of sports from across international date lines that are eyeing the 50 states as fertile ground for expansion. Here are a few:

TEAM HANDBALL:
Here is what the honchos at USA Team Handball want you to know: “This sport represents one of the last sporting frontiers in America. The immediate goal of USA Team Handball is to restore hope, dignity and traction to the sport's faithful, energize a growing base of players, and create an all-new model for international success.”

USA Team Handball is simultaneously working to support and grow:
1.    The national club structure, culminating in National Championships in April-May 2013
2.    College clubs and intramural programs pointing to the College Nationals in April, 2013
3.    Institute grassroots programs at Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA's and public schools.
4.    Support and grow senior men's and women's national teams with the goal of competing internationally and qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games.
5.    Ongoing Development of youth national teams.

Handball, widely known as Team Handball in the United States, is played in 159 nations by 39 million people. Called "ripe for an American invasion" by TIME magazine, many people link elements of traditional American sports such as basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and track & field. It is fast, physical and exciting.

Not a big fan? Here’s a quick overview of how the game is played:

Two teams, composed of six players and one goalie face off on a court approximately 66 by 131 feet. Players dribble, pass and shoot a ball into a goal. Men's and women's handballs are about 21-23 inches in circumference. They are easily gripped in one hand and look like small soccer balls. Although about 40 feet longer than a basketball court, a handball court is similar in appearance: half circles on both ends of the court mark the "goal area," a zone that extends about 20 feet in front of the 6-foot-7 tall and 10-foot wide goal. The 12 court players are not allowed to enter this area, which results in NBA-style leaps over the line to shoot while in the air. Successful scoring attempts result in a single point. Defensive play is fierce, however, and allows aggressive person-to-person full body contact to prevent the offense from shooting.

Final scores in this action-packed game are often in the 30s. A regulation game is played in two 30-minute halves with one team timeout per half. The clock stops only for team timeouts, injuries and at the referee's discretion.

FORMULA ONE:
Formula One racing’s history and future in the United States is nothing if not fast, furious and frustrating. There have been more caution flags thrown by F-1 car czar Bernie Ecclestone than at your local Demolition Derby.

In 2000, the United States Grand Prix took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a crowd estimated at 225,000, only three weeks after 9/11. Many teams and drivers featured special tributes to the USA on their cars and helmets.

In July of 2007, Formula One and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that the U.S. Grand Prix would be the last one held at IMS for the foreseeable future as both sides could not agree on the terms for the event.

In August of 2009, Ecclestone went on record that he had no immediate plan to return Formula One to the U.S. Nevertheless, shortly before the first race of the 2010 F-1 season, he announced plans to bring a Formula One race to New York City in 2012. Plans emerged for a track to be built in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, but they were abandoned shortly thereafter.

In May of 2010, Austin, Texas was awarded an F-1 race as part of a 10-year contract, as Ecclestone and event promoter Full Throttle Productions agreed to a deal beginning in 2012.
The track near Austin opened to rave reviews and on Nov. 18, 2012, Lewis Hamilton won the U.S Grand Prix before capacity crowd of 117,429. The series had been absent from the United States for five years after struggling to find its place in America despite more than half a century of effort. The return was helped by the races taking place at the first customized F-1 circuit in the United States.

A second race is scheduled for the 2014 season called Grand Prix of America which will be held on a 3.2-mile street circuit in Weehawken, New Jersey. The circuit is located within sight of the New York City skyline. Due to financial and preparation problems it was taken off the 2013 calendar and tentatively rescheduled for 2014.

SUMO WRESTLING:
The California Sumo Association and USA Sumo were established in Los Angeles in 1988. The 2012 U.S. Sumo Open took place in Los Angeles' "Little Tokyo." Byambajav Ulambayan, the six-foot, 346-pound Mongolian took the Heavyweight gold. I’m just guessing that you might not have been a big fan of Ulambayan.

In light of the pending end of wrestling for the 2020 Olympics, maybe sumo will catch on in this country and all those young wrestlers can gorge instead of starve.

CRICKET:
The United States national cricket team (yes we have one!) represents the Red, White and Blue on the international cricket stage. The team became an associate member of the International Cricket Council in 1965. The United States Cricket Association (USACA) was suspended by the ICC for failure to hold office-bearers elections under the terms of a new constitution. That’s not very cricket!

As of April 1, 2008, the necessary reformations were made under the supervision of the West Indies Cricket Board and the ICC has welcomed USACA back into the council. Cricket still remains a more than minor sport in the United States, failing to gain any fan traction. There are only five proclaimed cricket pitches in the United States and only one of the players on the U.S. National cricket team was born in the United States.The only professional cricket grounds in the the country is near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Can I see your sports passport? What else might be on the way?
Tug of War
The International Synchronized Swimming League
Cliff Diving
Sepak Takraw
Buzkashi
International Heli-sking

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