In most countries, people learn English as a second language to better engage in business, or some other personal endeavour. However, there is a language that is much more important to the world than English: sports.
Every country has sports that they idolize: in America, it’s football and basketball. In South America, it’s soccer. Parts of America and Central America value baseball. The list goes on. Sports are a kind of universal language.
One major example of an international sport is the game of basketball, which has evolved dramatically since James Naismith created the sport in 1891. The love of basketball has evolved as well, growing its reach far outside of the United States. Players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden have become worldwide celebrities, because of the now International nature of the game. Nowadays, kids no longer say, “I want to shoot like MJ” or, “I want to shoot like Kobe.” They say, “I want to shoot like Curry”.
Part of the global hype is the fact that brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are now major sportswear brands all across the world. Since James, Harden and Curry are the face of these brands, then that only adds more hype for the players and for the sport.
There are basketball leagues all over the world. Players across the globe aspire to play in the NBA one day, but there’s not enough space in one league for everyone. There are seven billion people in this world, and only 494 of them are in the NBA. Therefore, leagues have been created in six of the seven continents. But basketball is not the only sport to have gone global.
Football has been praised as an American sport, but the NFL has found ways to expand the interest and impact of the sport. Every year, the NFL has one international game in London to expose the sport to other countries. When players do not make it to the NFL, they can try for either two leagues: the Canadian Football League, and the Alliance of American Football. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman trophy winner from Texas A&M and ex-quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, is now a quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL. Ex-NFL Wide Receiver and Ex-Olympic Runner, Marvin Bracy-Williams Jr., is now a wide receiver for the Orlando Apollos in the AAF.
But if there is a sport that is even more global than American football and basketball, it’s soccer. Soccer is much more prominent in nearly every country that isn’t the United States. Many professional soccer players play in more than one league. Just like basketball, there are leagues for soccer in six of the seven continents, and the events of these games have even impacted political events throughout history. It is a massive way for the world to connect, all over one ball.
Even though baseball is from America, it’s still considered an international sport. In most Spanish-speaking countries, if a child is not playing soccer, they are likely to be playing baseball. Major League Baseball has many superstars that are not even from the USA. About 40 percent of the players in the MLB are not American. 143 players in the MLB are from the Dominican Republic.
Another thing about sports, is that most rules are the same all across the world. In basketball, a free throw is worth one point, a jump shot is worth two points and a shot behind the three-point line is worth three points, and those rules are the same internationally. In soccer, which most other countries consider to be the original football, a goal will always be worth one point. The positions are the same in soccer and basketball in every league in every country. The style of play, however, is different between countries. European players are more fundamental, as they value teaching the game properly, while American players are more physical, because they value being a better overall athlete.
Then, we come to the Olympics, the unifying sporting event for humanity. For the 2020 Olympics, there are expected to be 33 sports. The only five sports that have been in every Olympics are athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics and swimming. America only shows their love for those sports when the Olympics come around, while European countries admire cycling with the Tour de France and other races throughout the year. It is much more closely related to their culture than it is to ours.
Sports are a constant through nearly every continent, with players getting involved from all over the world. They have long been a unifier that doesn’t involve politics. Sports have brought joy to spectators and players from all of the world, and they likely will for generations to come.