If the way to a man’s heart is through food, then the way to an American’s heart is through the success of their favorite sports team. And, perhaps, a bit of food. According to the National Football League, more than 200 million families across America and throughout the world tuned into CBS last night to watch the Super Bowl. Chips and dips were bought, decorations were put up and party invitations were sent in preparation for the big game. But what is so significant about a mere sporting event?
Sports symbolize some of the fundamental aspects of our country: hard work and patriotism. Athletes spend vigorous amounts of time training in their respective fields, and America’s capitalist society runs on the idea that if you work hard enough, you can make it to the top. Sports are an avenue that provides the opportunity for people across socioeconomic backgrounds to make it to the top of their industries based on their work ethic.
Of course, many factors are at play outside of how hard an athlete works. Financial means play a key role in the availability of competitive sports for many young Americans. Furthermore, many athletes are born with biological advantages and disadvantages. For example, many positions in volleyball and basketball require significant height in order to play at a high level.
Aside from competitive pursuits, many Americans participate in sports for leisure. Whether it be a casual game at the Saturday night Pickleball Club, or a competitive round of beach volleyball on the shore of Lake Michigan, leisure sports are popular amongst the American masses. Participating in such events can be known to improve physical wellness due to the physical exertion of sports participation. This idea of casual competition can be an easy way for people to incorporate exercise into their schedules because it mixes it with socialization.
The strengthening of social wellness through sport is not just limited to leisure competition. Oftentimes, specifically on campus, a simple, social structure, like a team can provide endless opportunities for socialization among not only the players but among the coaches as well. Hope College’s Offensive Coordinator Andrew Hawken reflects on his love for football by connecting it to the people he shares his passion with. “My favorite thing about coaching at Hope is definitely the people,” he says. When he’s not in his office watching film, Coach Hawken spends his work days with his fellow coaches and players. “I get to go to work each day with great people and the players that we get to coach are unbelievable.”
The inspiration for coaching goes back to Hawken’s childhood days. When asked what initially drew Hawken into the sport, he confirms that his “Dad got [him] into football at a young age.” Many families across America relate to the Hawkens. Parents and siblings develop stronger bonds by sharing their love of sports with one another. This is the heart of culture itself – sharing a way of life with the next generation by cultivating it through family. Hawken’s Dad made sure to share his love for football by being active in his son’s life. They often “played in the backyard” and “he coached [Hawken’s] teams in rocket football growing up.”
But, families aren’t the only social unit that cherishes the art of sports. Appreciation for sports is most obviously shown in athletic teams and the fans that support them. Hope College is a great example of a community that is continuously cultivated from the gift of sport. The impact of athletic involvement can most obviously be shown in fan attendance at athletic events. The statistics speak for themselves: in the last academic year across NCAA Division III attendance, Hope’s records placed us first in men’s and women’s basketball, second in women’s volleyball, third in women’s soccer; and ninth in men’s soccer. Whether it is a sold-out rivalry event or a season opener, Hope Athletics reels in fans throughout campus and beyond.
So as we transition from the NFL Super Bowl to college basketball’s upcoming March Madness, revel in your American pride. America is the land of the free, where culture is to scream your heart out at the TV. To root for your team. To play catch in the backyard. To put in the hard work to be one of the best. To assemble at DeVos, sporting orange and blue, and chanting “Roll Dutch!” Be an athlete. Be a sports fan. Be American.
*Note featured image source: Immihelp