. 5 ways sports and travel unite passion and culture around the world : Budget Travel Adventures

5 ways sports and travel unite passion and culture around the world

Sports and travel FC Barcelona Camp NouNew York Yankees.  Dallas Cowboys.  Los Angeles Lakers.  FC Barcelona.  Manchester United.

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.

Scottish Highlands Games Sacramento professional athletesSports 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.

College football South Carolina Gamecocks Clemson TigersSports 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?

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  1. Liz says:

    Totally true, I also think it’s a bonding experience. I honestly can’t think of anywhere it is easier to strike up conversations with strangers than at a sporting event. I was at the Red Sox on Friday and spent a lot of the game chatting with Brewers fans who had flown in from Wisconsin. If I’m in a new city, especially solo, I always always look for a local sports bar, not only can you get into some playful banter about teams, but learn some stuff. Last time I was in England I sat and watched a cricket game for a while. I had no idea it was such a social event, in the middle they all stop for tea and snacks! So I totally don’t think its a guys only thing, especially being from Boston where sports is huge for everyone.

    • For me, I cheer on sports teams because I have a vested interest in them. However, the more I travel the more I realize how sporting events are social and cultural. Whether it’s a pub, a stadium, tailgating, or even on the streets, there is something that brings people together when big sporting events happen. I saw this in Vancouver – both the good and the bad. I think for anyone who has experienced a sporting event, especially outside of where they live, they understand what a cultural phenomenon this is. It really is about the people and the passion and for those who can tap into that, they really get an understanding the people.

  2. Laurel says:

    I love how sports bring people together from all over the world, even if they are rooting for different teams and you’re right about Canadians and our hockey. I used to spend hours playing street hockey with my brother and his friends after school – it really is our national obsession.

    • Canadians are definitely passionate. I think that is a good thing. Unfortunately, we saw both the bad and good side of passion in Vancouver. While this isn’t indicative of all the people or the fans, there is something about sports that really stirs up something in people.

  3. Rease says:

    I totally agree that sports unite people. I had the privilege of being in Argentina during the 2006 Soccer World Cup. It was such an amazing experience that I scheduled my move to Buenos Aires around the 2010 world cup!

    • Rease, my first real experience with soccer was the 2006 Champions League Final with Barcelona and Arsenal. I was so excited about the World Cup and have watched every one since then. There is something about football/soccer that is different than fans of other sports. It tends to unify people in other countries similar to what we see here with the Olympics. There is a national pride that is contagious and it is a fantastic thing to experience. These moments are the embodiment of what sports and travel are all about.

  4. I think being in South Africa just before World Cup showed me the uniting power of sports. But this event meant something! I don’t get the average sports match though. Why are people so fanatical about teams is beyond me.

    • Ben, I think the fanatical aspect has something to do with the cultural and relational aspect of sports. If you take towns and cities and Europe, some of their identity is tied to the local team. It’s a cultural and social experience built on shared relationships and passion. That can be demonstrated in so many different places around the world. While I don’t pretend to understand how someone can be so passionate about cricket, I can relate my experience and passion growing up with college football. Our culture and experiences drive our passion and fanatical following.

      As an amateur psychologist, I saw that the emotion and passion that men often express through sports are the feelings and emotions they often suppress in other relationships. I may be wrong but sports can often be an outlet for areas of our lives we may express in other ways or relationships.

  5. Great article…Sports does seem to be the universal way to bridge what divides us. Recently in Austin, I found a pub to watch the Champions League final. Hundreds of people, none of whom I’d ever met, suddenly were my new best friends. I look forward to traveling to DC, to watch the rematch of those two great clubs in July…Man United!

    • I can’t put my finger on all the reasons why sports can unite us. It is a shared passion and relationships and experiences have a lot to do with that. I’ve experienced what you have with that instant connection with others through sports. I loved your comments on this – right up to the Man United part! Go Chelsea!!! :)

  6. you know im loving sports! hopefully one day you can add the melbourne demons (afl team) to that list of teams at the top!
    totally agree with you on the uniting aspect. unfortunately though, i sometimes see some de-uniting (is that a word?). seems every year at the aussie open there is some sort of race based anger. hopefully one day this minority that display ridiculous aggresive behaviour gets back on track and its nothing but unification!

    • Australian rules football would be another one of those cultural sports I would love to see. So different than anything we have here so I would definitely do it if I made it there!

      And while you are correct that there is a lot of negativity that happens, I hope it unifies people more than divides. I believe that is the minority and not the majority. And that is where the travel part of sports can improve relationships and connections with people and cultures.

  7. robin says:

    A passionate post! So, I’m picking up that you quite like sports…

  8. > Sports are inspirational.

    Absolutely. We love watching football and are BIG Sounders FC fans. However, I get really disgusted with sports. I think people are far to identified with sports, which leads to things like the riots in Vancouver.

    • The Sounders are really popular. However, I have to disagree with you a little about sports. I think for some people, sports is that outlet for emotions and passions that they may hold back in other areas of their lives. I am not sure that the riots like in Vancouver are true sports fans but a different mindset completely. It’s a mob mentality. I think true sports fans are passionate yet respectful. And I think adding travel to that makes a person even more well rounded.

  9. When I first arrived in Buenos Aires, a college rugby team from California was staying in my hostel. Their coach told me that the team travels internationally every year for a week to play against another team. Such an incredible experience for the young men to have.

    I definitely agree with your point of view with sports and travel.

    • That is awesome that a rugby team got to do that. Honestly, I think anyone who travels when they are young can really get a better perspective on life by doing so. If sports is a way of doing that, even better!

  10. Johnny says:

    I’m someone who finds anything more interesting if it has a sports angle to it, so sports are definitely a gateway to a lot of subjects I wouldn’t otherwise give a second thought. I’ve also met a lot of my best friends through sports and minored in Sport, Commerce, and Culture in college. There are countless examples throughout history of how sports influenced social change (Jackie Robinson), drew attention to social issues (Sandy Koufax), and were affected by non-sport events (the Civil War’s effect on the growth of baseball). A good example right now is how Ozzie Guillen’s comments about Fidel Castro are sparking discourse and interest in topic.

    • Major League Baseball just celebrated the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson yesterday and I am proud to see how so many players embrace it. You look at all the crap going on in sports and a day like yesterday can make you smile. You see recent comments like Ozzie Guillen and the reaction to it and you realize that controversy, division, and tension exist today between people and countries (obviously with Cuba it is for different reasons than race). So I love sports where I can watch people of all races come together, have fun, and celebrate together.

      I know a lot of people don’t like sports but many don’t look beyond the event itself to see how people can bond and connect over these events. Those moments and experiences transcend the game itself.

      I love your point about conflict causing games and sports to expand to other people and countries. These things don’t always bring good to people but sports is one of those things. I love how sports can heal countries and bring people together. We’ve seen this a lot in our own country.

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