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Large crowds attend Australian rules football matches to see spectacular play, and spectacular marks for which the sport is known like this one.

A spectator sport is a sport that is characterized by the presence of spectators, or watchers, at its matches. For instance, baseball, basketball, cricket, football (association, gridiron, and rugby), NASCAR, and ice hockey are spectator sports, while hunting or underwater hockey typically are not. Spectator sports may be professional sports or amateur sports. They often are distinguished from participant sports, which are more recreational; golf and tennis can be either.

Spectator sports require venues or sometimes stadia in which the fans may observe a game or event.

The increasing broadcasting of sports events, along with media reporting can effect the number of people attending sports due to the ability to experience the sport without the need to physically attend and sometimes an increasingly enhanced experience including highlights, replays, commentary, statistics and analysis. Some sports are particularly known as "armchair sports" or "lounge room sports" due to the quality of the broadcasting experience in comparison to the live experience.

Spectator sports have built their own set of culture and traditions including, in the United States, cheerleading and pre-game and half time entertainment such as fireworks, particularly for big games such as competition decider events and international tests. The passion of some sports fans also means that there are occasionally spectator incidents.

Notable spectator sports events where events regularly sell out well in advance and are broadcast to large audiences include the Cricket World Cup, FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Ashes series, Heineken Cup, Indian Premier League, Six Nations Championship, FA Cup Final, Super Bowl, Grand Slam tennis, World Series Baseball, Rugby World Cup, The Ashes, Kentucky Derby, Melbourne Cup, PGA Tour, AFL Grand Final, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, Daytona 500, and Rugby League State of Origin.

The Sydney Cricket Ground at the 4th Australia vs India test, 2004

The North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) devotes much of their annual conference to research addressing the psychology behind a desire to view spectator sports, and how it might be leveraged to increase demand. Much of the research focuses on exploiting a need for vicarious achievement, and a desire within the spectator to project a public image through a declaration of team allegiance.

Separation of the active and the passive, the line between sport and spectator, gives rise to the paradox of the spectator--described by French philosopher Jacques Rancière; which is to seek an opportunity to passively contemplate engaging in an activity, and in doing so, forfeit that life moment one might have used to actually engage in the activity.

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