Sports are not only a source of lively entertainment and competition; I believe they bring out the best in humanity. Rivals ultimately show respect for each other despite their differences. Teammates band together through thick and thin. And we all shake hands at the end of a game, win or lose.
As a more global society has evolved, sports have also worked to break down racial, cultural, and political barriers. I always think of Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 became Major League Baseball’s first African American baseball player. One of my first heroes was an athlete (Jerry Rice), a person different from me in so many ways, and I doubt that is a unique experience. Sports force people to focus on the merits and not on the differences.
There are still barriers to fall though. To borrow a term from Thomas Friedman, the world of sports is becoming flatter and flatter. Some minor examples are the many athletes from the former Soviet republics that play in the NHL, or the American college basketball stars that don’t make it to the NBA and have lasting careers in Europe. Sports today have an incredibly wide and interconnected diaspora of diverse talent that bring the world together, and not just at the Olympics.
I always remind myself sports are more than just games. Sports allow for an expression of identity and culture, and with each expression a chance to share with other identities and cultures. With that I challenge blog readers to be global citizens by getting involved in the interconnected world of sports. Find an international superstar to root for, a foreign team to follow, or an interesting new sport in another country. The world is full of obscure sports to explore, and perhaps even play with another global citizen or two.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how sports can help youth embrace the more interconnected world. Leave a comment or follow me on Twitter @GeorgeOWYP.