So far in this column, two of the three parts have been focused solely on the sports culture in the UK. I haven’t been exactly kind to the US sports community, either. That, however, is not reflective of my actual views.
Let me set the scene for how I got into US sports. Cue the Proclaimers’ ‘Letter from America’, and imagine an Indiana Jones-style map with my face flying from Edinburgh to Dublin, Dublin to Chicago O’Hare and then finally to Piedmont Triad International. I was 17 and had to do an extra year of high school. Great, I thought. I get to experience my very own High School Musical. Sadly, there was no dancing.
There was, however, all of the sports mania that is portrayed in the timeless Zac Efron classic. I had never understood American Football, and I had never understood the appeal of basketball, despite playing both back home. However, my version of American Football had been played without pads and inside a hardwood gym. I’d never actually seen a real game. That all changed when I was completing my extra year of high school in the U.S. at East Forsyth.
It was an entirely different atmosphere at this game. It was very relaxed, very mellow. It was almost like a theater performance. The audio was provided by the band and the crowd, with the visual aspect being provided by the game itself. It was an all-night event. It was warm, and it didn’t seem like anyone really cared that much for the outcome, because, after all, it was just high school football.
Juxtapose this with the average experience of a night of Scottish football: It kicks off at 3 p.m. as opposed to 5 p.m. The football lasts until 4:30, as opposed to the gridiron, which lasts until at least 10pm, maybe a tad earlier. You’re encouraged to dress up in a theme. The teachers are there, and the JROTC provide help with parking. It is a community gathering, a place where everyone gathers to a backdrop of sport. The game isn’t noisy; people are there to enjoy their being together.
In the many assignments that I have been on for the Carolinian over the past year or so I have written for this paper, I have experienced a lot of what US sport has to offer. Some, like volleyball, were tough to understand, and some I rather enjoyed. For example, the Carolina Cobras, Greensboro’s local arena football team, offers a rollercoaster of fun. Everyone is there to have a great time and to yell at the other team and the referee. UNCG Basketball is also a ton of fun, but mostly because I enjoy watching my team win. However, I can’t seem to find any true meaning of culture behind these sports.
Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. Sports don’t have to be ingrained into your country’s history in order to be important. They don’t need to be a part of your national identity. Sometimes, sports are just being a way of getting away from the grind that is life—that is something that is universal, and that is why attending US sporting events is a much easier way to understand them as opposed watching them on the television. You don’t experience that carefree escapism on the T.V.
I haven’t been to a baseball game. My fellow writers are aware of my distaste for the sport, but writing for this column has made me think. I haven’t actually been to a baseball game. I didn’t like football, but I liked the atmosphere of it. I should attend a baseball game just for the atmosphere. Who knows? Maybe I will.
Love your sport, whatever it may be.