Last week my Dad and I were talking about the final NBA Championship game (I'm a Miami Heat fan, so I was rooting for them), and Dad and Mom (and the rest of my Texas family) were rooting for The San Antonio Spurs. And, I mean, hello, I was born in San Antonio, it's kind of like blasphemy to be rooting for a team who is playing against San Antonio, so my family was a little disturbed... When my response to my Dad's question, "Why do you like the Heat?" was, "I like the players," he then asked, "Well, which players do you like?" I'm pretty sure he was shocked that I could rattle off 5 of them with reasons for each as to why I like them! I mean seriously, it was kind of strange for both of us. Since when did Lindsay start paying any attention to sports because she was interested in them?? Aside from the Olympics of course (because who doesn't get excited about the Olympics?).
My brother played soccer as a little kid, and I attended quite a few of his soccer games, but aside from that, soccer really wasn't on my radar until 4 years ago during the last World Cup.
While that World Cup was going on, I was in Ecuador for 2 weeks as team nurse for a senior high mission trip. I'd been to Ecuador as a teenager on a similarly formatted trip with the exact same host missionaries (David and Monica Proaño with Open Air Campaigners). The ministry we do down there is gospel presentations in parks, schools, marketplaces, plazas, etc. The first time I was down there, we saw kids playing soccer on the numerous soccer fields in basically every town we went through, but it was April, and there were no championship games going on, so soccer (correction, "fútbol") didn't have any impact on our itinerary. But 4 years ago, our itinerary literally revolved around the World Cup. If there was a game going on (and it didn't matter who was playing), there was no one at the market, in the park, or the plaza. So, we would hunker down in a coffee shop or restaurant and watch the game too.
It was a very, very cool experience being in Latin America during the World Cup. And, really, the intentionality of setting aside everything to watch a game (no matter who was playing) was what made the greatest impact on me. I mean, fútbol meant something important to the Ecuadorian people. It's a HUGE part of their culture. Much more than our seasonal sports are here, I'd argue. So, now when I hear about people taking off work to watch the games or planning their lunch break around the game schedule, it doesn't surprise me. There's something about this very international sport that speaks to people and unifies a lot of us.
Side note: I'm always impressed by the referees... Some Eastern European country will be playing a Latin American country, and I can't help but wonder, "Why is that player even talking to the ref? He probably doesn't speak their language!" To which David replies, "They know what a yellow card means."
Another international sport I enjoy is Formula One. I'll watch a whole race and dream of watching the Monaco Grand Prix while basking on top of one of those yachts. I actually got into Nascar first, and it was about the same time I was starting to work as a nurse. One day I was taking care of a special needs patient who was in her late 20s/early 30s, holding a stuffed animal as she woke up, and she was scared and disoriented. One of the OR nurse's had told me that this patient was a Nascar fan. Well, when she was awake enough to respond to questions, I told her I liked Nascar too. She groggily asked me who my favorite driver was. My answer, Carl Edwards. She asked me what I thought of Kyle Busch, and I made a disapproving face, "I don't like him. I think he drives dirty." From that moment on, I couldn't get her to stop talking about Nascar. She was so happy when she rolled out of that recovery room because she had someone to talk with who knew something about a sport she loved. I remember thinking as the techs wheeled her away, "She might be the only reason I ever got into Nascar."
I think sports are interesting like that. It doesn't matter where you're from or who you are or what you believe about life or the universe or even what language you speak, sports transcend all boundaries. And, I'm really glad I'm starting to appreciate this world. I'll give all the credit to my husband, who patiently explains every call, rule, and off-the-wall question I have. I'm sure our future kiddos will be sports kids, so it's a good thing I'm learning so much now before they come along! Who knows how sports will create a connection of unity between them and new people they meet or cultures they're exposed to. As I think about our future, trips to World Cup games, the Monaco Grand Prix, and an NBA Championship game between the Heat and some contender seem like very enjoyable vacation options. Who ever would have thought this girl would be considering such locations as vacation destinations? Not me. But, I also never thought I'd live in Arkansas. ; )
There's a whole wide world out there... It's kind of cool that something as simple as a game could connect so many of us.