Based solely on the number of fans, gridiron is the most popular
sport in the United States. You may know it by its other name: “football.”
The other “football” — called “soccer” in America — is the world’s
most popular sport. Measured by financial value and the amount of
revenue generated, the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports
franchise domestically; worldwide, however, it is a British football
organization that’s ranked number one.
Manchester United Football is called the “World’s Team” just as
the Dallas Cowboys have long been nicknamed “America’s Team.” The
Manchester “Red Devils” are treated like rock stars wherever they
tour, with an estimated 333 million member fan base. This exceeds the
entire population of the United States by 20 million.
Built in 1910, the home stadium of the Red Devils is called Old
Trafford. It is as beloved as America’s Wrigley Field or Yankee
Stadium. German raids reduced Old Trafford to rubble in 1941 but
didn’t even dent the nation’s love of their “Theatre of Dreams,” which
was reconstructed after the war. The Royal Mint issued an Old Trafford
Stadium commemorative medal in 1997.
World coins and medals by the millions have been struck to honor
football and a few are quite elaborate. A rectangular dragon medal
issued in 1989 and signed “greetings/compliments of the president”
celebrated a European Cup win. That year, FC Porto, a Portuguese team
symbolized by a dragon, triumphed over Flacara Moreni, the Romanian challenger.
The American export of basketball is ranked ninth on the list of
the world’s most popular sports, but is climbing fast. One reason is
space — you don’t need a large, open field; a driveway or alley will
In 2011, Lithuania issued a cleverly designed, basketball-shaped
1-litas coin. That was the year that this European nation hosted
EuroBasket 2011, the 37th annual Men’s European Basketball
Championship. The top two teams, Spain and France, won spots at
London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Baseball, a sport also known as “America’s Pastime,” is enjoyed
the world over — a fact that the nation of Liberia recognized in 1995.
Liberia’s commemorative dollar of that year celebrated the 100th
anniversary of the birth of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the legendary
New York Yankee hitter.
Ice hockey fans in Canada are extremely devoted to their sport,
both the men’s and women’s teams. Organized women’s hockey has been
around since the 1890s. Canada has issued many sports coins including
several different mint-colorized circulating commemoratives. A
2009-issued Canadian 25-cent coin honors the 2002 Women’s Hockey team.
Among the team’s many accomplishments was winning the gold medal at
the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.
What began life in Canada in 1977 as “Murderball” is now referred
to as quad rugby in the United States and wheelchair rugby by the rest
of the world. It is a prime example of a hybrid sport, this one being
derived from ice hockey, basketball, handball and rugby. Unlike
wheelchair basketball, played by people with paraplegia, this sport is
designed for people with quadriplegia — technically, damage or loss of
function in all four limbs — who have some loss of function in at
least three limbs. It is a fast-paced, full-contact sport played in 24
different nations consisting of teams with a combination of male and
female players. In 2011, the United Kingdom honored the sport with a
Ringed-bimetallic gaming tokens, nicknamed silver strikes by
collectors, are issued by casinos in limited editions mainly as
advertising instruments. Few, if any, casino machines continue to
accept these large tokens. In 2006, the Four Queens Casino in Las
Vegas created a series of gaming tokens with the theme “The Four
Vices.” They decided these should include wine, cards, horses and
sports. The multi-sport gaming ringed-bimetallic $10 tokens are
available in a clad version and as one having a 99 percent pure silver center.
There is more than one way to define “popular.” If you set aside
the fans and look at participation alone, the world’s most popular
sport is, and always has been, running. Humans do not begin life as
runners, and seldom end our life spans as such, but in between, we
love to run. Fast or slow, whether for competition or exercise, we put
one foot in front of the other. A 1978 Samoa dollar captures the joy
of running. ■