Sports teams play a special role in people's lives during hard economic times, like the Depression of the 1930s. Fans fasten on their teams, which seem less dependent on harsh, uncontrollable forces and more in the hands of the players.
The playing fields are relatively even, compared to the economy. I don't think this is escapist; it's more like finding solace in the sight of grace under pressure. Even fantasy Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, such as Astaire-Rogers films, display that.
Take the line "Let's face the music and dance" from Follow the Fleet in 1936; it's explicitly about confronting financial despair with elegance.