There’s no doubt that America is the biggest country for sports. With such a wide variety of sports, there are the long-lived traditions that come with them. For those outside of the country who haven’t grown up around these traditions, they can seem strange. Here are five traditions that I will explain from my point of view as an American.
Two years ago, when I had an internship in London, I was asked what tailgating was and why it was such a big deal to Americans. To me, I see it as a way for families and friends to get together before the game, like how you might meet at a pub before a match. Tailgates usually take place in the parking lot (car parks) and involve food, beer, games and each other’s company. Some bring their grills to grill hamburgers and hot dogs or bring food to share. The name comes from the fact that these meals are mostly served in the back of the vehicle. In larger universities or at professional games, there are designated tailgating spots that are very competitive to get a space.
Homecoming is an event I get asked about a lot because of how it is portrayed in American movies. Homecoming is usually held in fall and happens for a week. It is called homecoming because it is a tradition for alumni to come back to the school for the “big game” or to have reunions. It is different for every school/state, but this is how my high school and undergrad celebrated homecoming.
In high school, during the week each day was a different dress-up theme. We also had assemblies each day to increase school spirit and compete against each other for “spirit points”. There is the tradition of having a homecoming king and queen usually voted by the student body. My senior year of high school I was on homecoming court. Friday night is when the “big game” would happen (American football, naturally) and it was important that you win homecoming. Some years there would be a homecoming dance after the game.
At my undergrad, there weren’t as many events going on, but my school hosted a large outdoor cookout for students, parents, and alumni. There were sports matches that went on during the week, but the largest turnout would be for the Saturday American football game. There would also be a dance that evening on campus.
3. Athletic Scholarships
One of the ways to ease the burden on the cost of higher education is through athletic scholarships. In the United States, this can be a goal for high school athletes who want to continue their sporting careers as well as their studies. There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining your scholarship (showing up to class, attending all practices, keeping up grades, etc.) and being eligible to play. However, not all schools give out athletic scholarships. My undergrad school was NCAA Division III and Division III schools are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships. Despite this, over half of the campus population are athletes.
4. Superbowl Culture
The Superbowl is the main event of the NFL season, to crown the world champions of professional American football. The Superbowl could be very confusing to someone who hasn’t grown up with the Superbowl being a part of their life. This year’s Superbowl was different for me because 1) I was six hours ahead of when I would normally watch it, 2) I wasn’t with my parents or my friends with a big spread of food, and 3) I couldn’t watch the advertisements as the game was going. I still cooked some of my favorite foods to eat while watching it with my boyfriend and spent most of the first half explaining the positions and rules of the game. People who I have talked with over here find it to be a huge spectacle and more of a show, rather than a sports event. I personally cannot imagine life without the Superbowl every February.
5. National Anthem
The final tradition in this list that can be seen to be a little strange is the fact the national anthem is played/sung before every sporting event, no matter the size. This was something I didn’t realize was strange until talking with others. The national anthem was always played before every sport in high school and it is the same through college and professional games. I personally think this has to do with America’s strong ties to nationalism and patriotism; sports go hand and hand.