In America, sports are life. Abroad sports are really expensive, and kinda weird too.
Growing up in the United States, I was always surrounded by sports. I grew up playing soccer from a very young age. My dad was born and raised in Egypt which may have had a huge impact on him teaching both my brother and myself the skills and purpose of soccer while we were toddlers. As we got older, he taught us not to use our hands to touch the soccer ball, he taught us to work as a team, he taught us how every player and position on a team is important no matter what. These values were instilled in us since we were little and carried over into our youth, teenage, and adult sports lives.
It wasn’t just him though that taught us these values and lessons. It was all the coaches, senior players, sports channels and competitions around us going on that pushed us to be better. These skills we then took into our professional lives and incorporated into our jobs and friendships. We learned how to help others that couldn’t help themselves. We learned how to lead and take ownership when things didn’t go our way. We learned never to give up because of how “big” or “tough” our opponent was.
So what is the point of all this? It’s because I no longer live in America. I no longer live in a country where sports are a massive part of my life. I don’t work in a school that competes against other schools in several different sports like: basketball, American football, cross country, volleyball, baseball, and so many other sports. Yes sports are played in schools and there are competitions, but they last only a few weeks and that is it. The main sport is soccer, or football as it is called in the rest of the world including here in England.
This is the main sport that is really pushed for children to play. There are other sports such as rugby, general athletics, tennis, cricket and netball that is played, but the attitude and competition is not as heavily focused on. Hopefully this will give an understanding of why my worldview and opinion is what it is.
In America, I remember only having basic cable in one of my rooms from an old t.v. But I also remember watching American Football games and basketball games in the evening before I went to bed. On Sundays I remember watching hours of American Football after church with my friends at either someone’s house or at a sports bar. I remember spending countless hours watching Baseball and American Football or Basketball, or overlaps of those sports come playoff time for some. There was an endless selection to watch.
This was when we just had cable. It started with ESPN, then ESPN2 then HTS, MASN, and so many other sports channels were added. These were all included in our package. I am aware that now there is NFL Pass and NBA and NHL passes to watch your favorite teams and more games. But this is in addition to quite a few games already easily available and accessible. At the time (about nine years ago now) the cost was about $60 a month just for cable without the additional passes.
Living in England now, it is completely opposite. Yes there are sports and after the 2012 olympics there has been a push to get more clubs and different sports introduced to children, but it is not as televised. In order to watch similar sports like in America, you have to purchase Sky Sports or BT Sports. Depending on t.v. packages this can cost the equivalent to about $35 just for a few sports channels. Understandable as well is that because of the five hour time difference between England and the East Coast of America, games start anywhere from 8pm here to midnight. If a game lasts two hours, I would be awake until 2am and then have to wake up early for work.
For me the issue is the price paid for the amount of sports content provided. If my t.v. package was £50 a month, and add another £25, I’m spending more money just for a few more sports. There is an ESPN network here, but focused more on the British type sports as I mentioned above (with F1 and cycling included).
I guess I wanted more “free” sports to watch to push my children to be more competitive. I want them to have more options and a variety of sports rather than be limited. I want them to be pushed by coaches and teammates to better themselves. I watch an EPL highlight show with them called Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 with them. This is just focused on football (soccer) and I watch and analyse what goes on with them. These matches are aired on Sky Sports and BT Sports, and I am not paying the additional money just to watch matches on the weekend and occasionally during the week (unlike NBA, MLB and NFL games which are usually on daily from what I remember).
The push for sports is very different. Where we have sports bars, they have pubs that televise soccer games (rugby as well is starting to grow in our area). Where we have schools competing in numerous sports from a young age, they have the same, but on a smaller scale. Where we had free sports daily, the only free sports we get are cup games (in soccer) or athletics.
It is not the fact that it is so different, it is just that it is not what I am used to. I am not used to the sports that are aired, but it has taken me time to get into them and I will watch them, when they are aired for free at home. I could go to the pubs to watch, but I’m used to watching sports from the comfort of my own home.
Overall I’m indifferent, now, to sports being aired here and which sports I consume. I watch highlights on Match of the Day and Youtube channels for American sports. What I miss is the constant sports news about what I am interested in. If you’re just into soccer mainly and have the channels, great. If you grew up in a culture where sports was so prevalent in almost every conversation from middle school to your professional career, then you will notice something is missing. And that something is very expensive if you want to have it back.
In short, my kids will view sports as a smaller part of their lives than I did. Sports outside of America just aren’t as important to the general public. Sports figures in America have real power because they are seen and heard my millions of people on a daily basis. I miss watching sports, I miss playing sports, but living abroad it just isn’t as important to me anymore and too expensive to keep up with. Don’t take your sports for granted America… and to the athletes that play them, you have a real platform and real power, be careful how you chose to use it.