In the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the emerging popularity of sports in the 1920s is referenced extensively throughout the text. From the beginning, the reader is informed of Tom Buchanan’s former prowess as a professional football player as well as Jordan Baker’s abilities as a golfer. These sports serve to establish each character’s ethos as they further support the idea that these two characters are members of the upper class.
The 1920s can best be described as a time of growth in prosperity in America, particularly with the emerging popularity of sports and sporting events. During the 1920s, school teams were formed for the first time which quickly expanded the grip of sports over American society. At the same time, various accomplishments and developments were achieved by sporting heroes who became symbols of the so-called new American culture. Gertrude Ederle became the first American woman to cross the English Channel. Her swim managed to break the previous all-time record and later Ederle went on to break several more records. She participated in several Olympic events and managed to win three gold medals in her time as a swimmer. Likewise in baseball, Babe Ruth broke the all-time homerun record by amassing a whopping 60 homers in one season. In tennis, William “Big Bill” Tilden became the first American to win a Wimbledon trophy in 1920. Not only this, but Tilden was later crowned U.S. champion on seven different occasions. Meanwhile, Helen Wills became the first American woman to win a Wimbledon title in women’s singles. Along with two gold medals, “Little Miss Poker Face”, as she was known at the time, went on to collect a massive nineteen singles championships. The 1920s also saw the emergence of new sports such as water-skiing, which was invented by a man named Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota in 1922. All of these famous men and women athletes grew to epitomize America’s newfound pride and glory.
During one part in the novel, the characters discuss a supposed fixing of the 1920s World Series, which was actually a major issue during this time period in the U.S. Eight athletes from the White Sox were accused of throwing the series and the story itself made front page news—though no one was ever formally caught. The reader soon realizes that the emergence of sports is extensively referenced and plays a huge role in The Great Gatsby