On the Ball -- The sports blunder down under
As Americans, when it comes to sports, it’s so incredibly easy to get wrapped up in our lifestyle and what we think of as the norm. Highlights and news in football, baseball, basketball and hockey have become the daily routine for sports fans in the United States. But after taking a step outside of our world, it’s obvious that the games, sports and lifestyles that we perceive as strange are an everyday occurrence elsewhere.
After a few days passed during my once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Australia, I found myself yearning for the sports coverage I was accustomed to each and every day. And, sure enough, there was plenty I had missed.
In the NFL, the Saints got a hefty slap for their “Bountygate” scandal, Petyon Manning found a home in the Rocky Mountains, and the most talked-about athlete last season, the now-former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, will now be enjoying the bellows led by New York super-fan “Fireman Ed” as he orchestrates the crowd in the infamous “J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!” chant. Baseball’s spring training also continued to draw curious eyes in the MLB, with less than two weeks before the league’s opening day.
In college hoops news, my men’s NCAA bracket was slowly deteriorating as Michigan State, Missouri and Duke were upset in early rounds. A Kansas victory over the University of North Carolina earlier this week all but converted my bracket print-out into toilet paper – which does, in fact, spin clockwise when flushed down here!
The NBA postseason, now only weeks away, is drawing widespread speculation, as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls lead their respective conferences, and the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat follow hot on their heels, while, on the ice, the NHL teams’ quest to make the playoff cut begin to come into view.
But Aussies can’t be bothered by such inconsequential stories. In the world of sports down under, rugby is king, playing on all the pub televisions and soliciting a large following of dedicated fans. Netball is essentially a game of basketball played without a backboard. In Australian’s opinion, Aussie-rules football is far superior to our rendition of the game.
Soccer, or “footy,” is another popular favorite here, begging the age-old question of why the United States still hasn’t fully embraced the most widely played sport in the world. And cricket – a game that I will never fully grasp, no matter how many times I try to watch it – is developing into one of the most recognized sports on the planet (second-most popular, behind only soccer), with matches that often extend to days at a time.
There are still plenty of parallels between America and Australia when it comes to sports and games.
Some of the world’s best to step onto the tennis courts, walk the golf links and sit up at the poker tables are Australians. ESPN is still available here (thankfully), and other than some sportscasters sporting an Aussie accent, much of the daily broadcast is the same.
But as tempting as it is to watch the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks earn a try from a scrum against the New South Wales Waratahs (that’s rugby talk for you) or to indulge in watching the West Indies bowler try to find the wickets and dismiss the Australians before the batsmen reach the creases (cricket is a confusing game, huh?), I learned that sometimes you have to appreciate the simple things in life.
So for now, I will be basking in the Aussie sun – sunbaking, as they call it – along the shores of Byron Bay, dreaming of the stories and games that await my return to the States next week, while nearby the surfers spend their day in the rolling waves. Until then, g’day, mates!