These are just a few of the biggest teams in sports. While these teams may not appear to have anything to do with travel, dig a little deeper. Sports are not just competitive events between teams or individuals in their quest to win titles, trophies, and championships. Sports have a way of connecting with people and culture beyond tourist attractions and museums.
If the history of a city broadens the mind then sports is the soul and heart of its people. A museum can teach you what people have learned and how a place evolved – art, war, politics, and education. Sports allows you to experience who people are – raw, spontaneous emotion and passion passed down through generations through relationships, shared moments, and culture.
Like peeling back the layers of an onion, sports gives you the true flavor of a city and can even bring a few tears along the way. The easy thing to say is that sports are just competitions. Yet for many people, they are so much more. When people can’t express when is deep inside, sports have that way of connecting to the emotions, feelings, and passion that lie deep inside.
For those that travel, sports unites passion and culture and gives us a unique insight into people.
5 ways sports and travel unite people around the world
Sports are a great way to connect with locals when you travel – while checking out museums and taking a tour of castles can teach you about history, sports are a great way to connect with people when you travel.
Sports bind communities together – Rooting for the local team can go beyond the sport itself. Two great examples of this are Green Bay, Wisconsin and Barcelona, Spain.
In Green Bay, the fans own the team. They are invested in the team because the team is a vital part of their community. Even players who have played for Green Bay say that playing for the Packers is different. Players are a part of the community and live in the same neighborhood as many of the fans. To understand the community, you must understand how much the Green Bay Packers are a part of the town.
During the reign of General Franco In Fascist Spain, Catalans weren’t allowed to wave the Catalan flag. Franco wanted a unified Spain, a Spanish Spain, and he wasn’t going to allow any division in the country. To wave the flag could mean imprisonment or even torture.
The Catalan language was banned, the Catalan flag stripped from FC Barcelona’s logo, and the name of the club was changed to Spanish. There was only one place Catalan was spoken – inside the football stadium. So the people chose to wave the FC Barcelona flag to celebrate their Catalan heritage and pride. That flag symbolized the only heritage and pride they could show – without being arrested. Sports united the people of Barcelona and kept their culture and language alive.
I had the privilege of sharing in the passion for football in Barcelona and experiencing how the city and its people love their team.
Sports can alter the course of history - In 1936, Germany hosted the Olympics and put on a show to try and show Nazi Socialist Germany in a positive light under Hitler. A black man named Jesse Owens from the United States stole the show as an African-American was on center stage in front of the world – being hosted by a man who hated his very presence. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball – many years before the Civil Rights movement in the US.
Baseball in northern California has a rich heritage in places like Sacramento, Fresno, and Modesto along with the major league teams in San Francisco and Oakland. Many people will tell you where they were the day the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants were preparing for the World Series in 1989. Around 5 pm on that October afternoon, the earthquake struck. Because many people were excited to go home and watch the two local teams play in the World Series, thousands of people, normally on the road during rush hour, had their lives spared thanks to a baseball game.
Sports can have a a dramatic effect on the course of history.
Sports help us appreciate other people and cultures - If sports could be given a title, ambassador for the United Nations might be a good choice. While athletes are far from perfect and fall short as role models, many athletes are ahead of many other people in terms of tolerance and acceptance of other people and cultures.
Long before whites and blacks were integrated in the US, baseball players were a part of this process all the way back to the late 1940s. While Jackie Robinson was despised by some and treated cruelly at times by players and fans, many people saw past the color of his skin and became friends with a man of color. Barriers were broken.
All across the sporting world, athletes constantly interact with people of different races and cultures. Blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos play together on baseball’s field of dreams. There is no game more global than that of soccer where the poor and destitute play on the same pitch with the rich and privileged.
The fields, pitches, courts, and playing fields for athletes have long been a place where culture, acceptance, and tolerate meet in the spirit of competition. Even learning about sporting events unique to a specific culture (like the Scottish Games) can can teach you a lot about a place. While relationships among athletes are far from ideal, the rest of the world can learn a lot from the tolerance and acceptance athletes show to one another.
Sports are inspirational - For anyone who has traveled to see a sporting event, one realizes it is as much a cultural exchange as it a competition. New foods, local history and culture, and passion – many of these serve as the inspiration for something else.
When I was young, college football inspired me to travel. For many men, sports is their passion and many people will travel around the country to support their favorite team. While many may see this just as a sporting event, think of the opportunities to learn about new places by following your favorite team – eating local foods, meeting fans from other cities, and learning about local culture and history for the other team.
Interact with locals and fans of teams to understand their experience. Many times, you can’t learn this from a tour, a an exhibit, a museum, a popular restaurant, or even a tourist attraction.
Canadians have a passion for hockey. It’s not just a sport they follow but it has become part of their culture and heritage. Canucks gone wild profiles this love of hockey in Canada. And with the recent hockey riots in Vancouver, you take the good and bad that come with sports and passion.
Sports and travel can change the world
While travel opens the door to new experiences and places, sports opens your heart to new people, cultures, and passion. Travel can make a difference in the world – so can sports. When you combine sports and travel, you get new worlds that intersect through the passion of people. There is no better way to connect with locals than through sports. In some places, attempting to understand a place without knowing about the local team is nearly impossible.
While many people see sports as that thing men love to watch and talk about, dismissing it as a ‘guy thing’ would mean missing out on something that means much more to locals, communities, and people of all ages. While sports may be irrelevant in some places, they can be the key to understanding the culture in others.
While the significance of sports on society can’t possibly be explored here, one thing I know – sports and travel have a way of connecting culture and passion around the world.
Has sports changed the way you viewed the world? Have you attended a sporting even when traveling? How did it change your perspective on the place you were visiting?