Sports have become a popular medium of social expression, and are used to construct national identities. As a result, they can serve as powerful symbols for both established and marginalized groups. In particular, they can illustrate the politics of national identity. Although the aesthetic element of sports still exists, its role in the modern world has become more quantitative.
In addition to being a popular medium of social expression, sports are also widely covered in the media. Print media devotes substantial space to sports-related articles, profiles and analyses. Many of these articles are collected in books, such as the Best American Sports Writing series. Other forms of book publishing include autobiographies and biographies of famous athletes, reflections on fandom, and various coaching manuals. There is also an increasing body of academic sports writing.
Early sports began in prehistoric times, although no one knows for sure when the first sports were played. But we do know that children have played sports ever since. Sports started as games and evolved into autotelic physical competitions. Prehistoric paintings show hunters chasing their prey with joyful abandon. Ancient civilizations began to treat hunting as an end in itself, and sports evolved from this.
The evolution of sports is a complex process. In addition to being a highly commercialized activity, sports development is also influenced by global processes. While the development of sports in Western societies continues to be dominated by the dominant powers, other cultures are resisting and maintaining their indigenous recreational pursuits. One example of this is the growth of martial arts in Asia. These global sports processes involve a multidirectional flow of people and a shifting power balance, and often have unintended consequences.