After watching a highlights reel from last night’s Timbers/Whitecaps match here in Portland, it got me thinking about the role of sports in society.
In ancient times, sports had a clear dual role in society. On a small scale, they brought people together in communities, villages and towns. Games could be played for fun, to settle wagers or just to pass the time. On a grander scale, the Romans (for example) would invite athletes from other nations to come and play in their Colosseum for bragging rights.
Americans today rarely give much attention to sports that extend beyond the borders of our fine nation. Basketball and American Football are great, but don’t include teams outside our 50 states. Soccer, on the other hand, is a sport of international acclaim and respect that spans the globe.
When I see our own Portland team playing against our Canadian neighbors just to the North and people are excited and involved – it gives me hope. Hope that we as a nation can finally start to break down the many cultural barriers we have placed on ourselves. Hope that we can find singularity as a human race with the rest of the world.
All through something as simple as a sport.
A ball kicked around a field and into a goal.
That, my friends, is the simplest form of connecting cultures that I know.
Today more than ever, the need and urgency to connect with our international neighbors is there. This nation has been decidedly introverted through an era of unfettered prosperity and independence. As we shift into a new era of limited prosperity and economic adjustment, I believe it is accurate to predict that our success as a nation hinges more on our ability to relate and interact with the world more than ever.
So, kick around that ball. Encourage your kids not to become the next basketball star – but the next international representative of our country. The future is, without any doubt, as much in their hands as it is yours.