Chase McBride @mcgroom

Around the world, sports provide a unique lens through to study culture and identity. Many sports, like football (soccer), tennis, and Formula One racing, are popular worldwide. However, each region around the world tends to have its own specialized sport with historic roots.

In Japan, there’s sumo wrestling; in Norway, there’s cross-country skiing; in Thailand, there’s Muay Thai; and in Scotland, there’s the caber toss. Despite the US’s rather long list of sports only found in North America, the continent’s population helps diversify and legitimize relatively smaller sports like NASCAR and the WNBA.

From sports analysts offering competitive wagers to spirited fantasy leagues for diehards, fans of all stripes can find their niche—especially considering there are over 100 active sports broadcasting groups in the US alone. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the US’s most interesting sports.

NASCAR

Short for National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR is actually a company rather than a sport. The sport, as the moniker hints, is stock car racing. Unlike Formula One, which specializes in a specific type of engine that can deliver high speeds, stock car racing focuses on turning a standard car (stock) into a racing machine.

Stock cars can drive up to 200 miles per hour and typically race on an oval-shaped track. Unlike Formula One, NASCAR cars aren’t outfitted with high-tech machinery. Instead, drivers are exposed to strong g-forces at every turn for races that last between 200 to 600 miles.

Though it may sound like a fringe sport abroad, NASCAR is incredibly popular nationally. In 2019, over 9 million viewers tuned in to the Daytona 500, which is the sport’s biggest annual event. And, unlike most other sports worldwide, NASCAR isn’t limited to men. Over the years, 119 women have qualified and started in NASCAR races.

WNBA

Opinions abound about the US’s all-female iteration of the NBA, the Women’s National Basketball League. Worldwide, female tennis players take the lion’s share of attention for women in sports. Nationally in the US, the women’s national soccer team also enjoys the limelight due to their impressive record—though the USWNT and WNBA support one another.

In recent years, the league has seen an upsurge in airtime on major networks like ESPN and CBS Sports Network. Alongside an increase in engagement and a successful merch campaign, WNBA fans have also shown support for the league’s social justice movements, vocalized by individual players and teams as a whole.

A recent study by Zoomph found that WNBA fans are between two to six times more likely to be interested in politics, including issues like women’s rights. In other words, the WNBA is one of the world’s most politically active sports leagues. And fans like it that way.

Going forward, the WNBA will likely look to piggyback on NBA games. By streamlining broadcasting times, the women’s league can find footing with fans of the NBA, who are more likely to stay tuned in for another high-octane basketball game.

Super Bowl Halftime Show

Internationally, the Super Bowl is known as the championship game that concludes the NFL season each February. Nationally, the big day is often known as ‘Sunday Funday’ and is treated as the crown jewel of sports broadcasting and entertainment in the US.

Each year, the big game draws in over 100 million remote viewers. However, international fans new to the American football league may not realize that some viewers are only there for the half-time show.

In fact, major broadcasting groups gauge the Super Bowl and its halftime show separately when looking at hard numbers. The peak halftime show in 2015 saw a record 120 million viewers tune in for the show alone to see Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz put on a show.

In addition to the highly-produced spectacle from the world’s top musical talents, halftime is also when top brands put on their Super Bowl ads. While music fans may tune in for the show, many more also tune in to see what sort of witty, inspirational, and downright intriguing ads the great minds of Doritos, Budweiser, Amazon, and Toyota have come up with in the past year.