With the exception of a few sports, such as soccer or certain types of gymnastics, US teams in any sport or discipline have a long history of being up there with the best of the world – if they do not dominate the competition entirely, that is. Just think of the past successes of American athletes like Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, or Michael Johnson in the Olympics, or the nearly insurmountable force that is the US basketball team in most competitions it partakes in. American boxers, among them such legends as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, have been very successfully testing the levels of punishment the human face can withstand for decades.
But it is not only international tournaments in which the performances of American athletes are enjoyed around the globe. Events such as the Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League, which routinely attracts more than a billion viewers worldwide, are testament to this.
More than once in the history of the US, sports and sports competitions have also had a political dimension. While we can only name a few examples here, they should drive the point across rather clearly. While it was only one of many Cold War games between the USSR and the USA, the 1980 Olympic medal game (dubbed “Miracle on Ice” in popular culture) resulted in the upset of the insurmountable Soviet hockey team – on home ice in Lake Placid, no less – and thus boosted the morale of a crisis-stricken America.
Jesse Owens dominated the competition in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, in a host country where he was discriminated against, earning four gold medals for his nation, in which he was also discriminated against. Muhammad Ali famously took a bold political stand for the civil rights movement and the peace movement when he publicly refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War.
It should be obvious after the above paragraphs that as an expat, you will hardly be able to escape sports. One of the very first topics that will almost invariably pop up during your first few chats with your new colleagues or neighbors is whether or not you like sports.
If you answer in the affirmative, you can look forward to many more chats and, once you get to know people a bit better, passionate discussions of the topic. Getting together in an apartment or one of the ubiquitous sports bars to watch sports on TV over beers and snack foods is a favorite option for socializing, so chances are that you might get invited.
It is a tried and tested (and true) cliché that around the water coolers and coffee kitchens of the nation’s offices, “the game” (you will only rarely hear it called “match”) is always one of the biggest topics. Which game the discussion is about can sometimes be elusive to newcomers or those not into sports. In most cities and towns around the country, the conversation probably focuses on the previous night’s match ups in one of the four major sports leagues. Teams in the minor, college, and high school leagues often enjoy huge popularity on par with those in the professional leagues.
If you are not content with simply being a spectator, there are countless possibilities for getting active as an expat in the US. Gyms and sports clubs are widely available throughout the nation, and chances are that many of your colleagues might be interested in playing some sports with you on weekends.
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