This past weekend many of Boise State’s international students witnessed their first college football game. For some it was a distraction from study, while for others it provided an insight into the biggest youth religion in America: college sports.
The NCAA causes people to do crazy things, like don outrageous outfits and scream until their voices sound like Christian Bale’s Batman.
To foreign students, this can be an overwhelming phenomenon. In many countries, Australia as an example, college sport has no equivalent.
“My first college football game was actually crazy, ridiculously fun but so outside my idea of normal,” said Maddy Fletcher, Australian exchange student. “This is one thing that Australia has been doing wrong.”
Still, for many international students, college sporting teams have larger fan bases, bigger home stadiums and more media coverage than the biggest sporting teams from their homeland.
It is difficult to fathom how a team comprised of one’s university peers, who are paid nothing, can induce such hysteria.
“They’re so passionate about their sporting teams and the traditions,” Micaela Amabile, another Australian exchange student said.
To understand, you have look at what sport means to a country and its people.
In Australia most people are quite knowledgeable about current sporting events. They are a large part of the country’s culture and as a nation Australians are very proud of the place they occupy in international competition.
Australia has embraced the “underdog” tag. Despite its smaller populace, it is quite successful on the world’s stage.
Americans, while equally proud, are less aware of current sporting events in general. Attributing this to ignorance would be easy, however, the real issue seems to be the abundance of sporting competitions throughout the year.
“There is so much sport in America. It is very easy to watch TV all weekend but only see a small segment of the weekend’s games,” said Anders Fløjstrup Jessen, exchange student from Denmark.
Americans can become tired of keeping track of everything, so your average person might only follow a single team or sport.
For each country there are of course the extreme individuals who follow sport at international, pro and college level. For an American to achieve this they would have to commit a far larger amount of time than an Australian.
“I think that Americans are so into sport because of the fact that they meet their family or friends for each sporting event,” said Mohammed Aljuhani, a Boise State student from Saudi Arabia. “I’ve found some people really care about specific teams and keep track of everything about the team.”
Sport in Australia has sectioned followings. The three major codes of football: Rugby Union, Rugby League and Australian Rules Football (AFL), are followed closely and draw the majority of their participating teams from different parts of the country.
While most Australian states have teams in Union, League or AFL, the fan base for each code is confined to one or two states.
For example, AFL is very popular in the states where it originated and has a much smaller following in the other states, despite them hosting multiple teams.
America is a large nation, however, the majority of states have representatives in at least one of the pro leagues and almost certainly in some kind of NCAA competition.
In both America and Australia, sport is a religion. It brings people together as supporters and friendly rivals regardless of wealth, status, where they studied, their beliefs or other differences. For that reason alone, we can never have too much sport.