Travel traditions, do you have one? I have a few, such as trying McDonald’s when traveling abroad or going on an annual trip during Thanksgiving break. In addition to those traditions, each year I go on a “sports-themed” trip with my friends. I find it is one the best ways to immerse myself in the local culture.
Why a sports game?
My love of sports came at an early age, being from St. Louis, Missouri you are born into fandom. The city has one of the biggest fan bases around. I’ve rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals (baseball) and Blues (hockey) since I was in the womb. Even now that I no longer live in St. Louis I see die hard fans rocking memorabilia around the world and it doesn’t matter where I am I will call out to these fans with a friendly (but mostly shocking) “Go Cards!” or “Let’s Go Blues!” What I love most is I usually get a “hell yea!” or “BLUUUUES!” yelled back at me.
There is something about seeing someone representing your team in a country miles from home, you have an instant connection with that person.
See more than the tourist sites
Sports arenas usually don’t make it on the “Top 10 Tourist Attractions in ________” list. Sometimes they can be off the beaten path and take you into new neighborhoods that you wouldn’t have found. You know what is usually by stadiums? Sports bars. And we all know what sports bars have…BEER! You know who loves beer (aside from me)? Most everyone. Grab a drink before heading to the game and watch as the home and away team fan converge before the match.
Feel the ups and the downs with the fans
In 2007, I lived in France during the Rugby World Cup. That year France hosted the exhibition and the French citizens were rugby crazed. Viewing screens would be set up in city squares to broadcast the games. With the mixture of warm beer, enthusiastic sports commentators, and an ever growing crowd, the usually reserved French came out of their shell and became animated, slightly rowdy, and more welcoming. With every play of the game, you could feel how much a win would mean to the French.
Chat with the locals
When visiting Japan last April my travel buddy and I went to a baseball game. Japan is known for loving baseball. Guess who else loves baseball? ME! We took a day trip from Tokyo to Yokohama to watch the BayStars home-opener. After settling in our seats a young kid, all of 11, sat in an open seat next to us. Glove in hand, he was there by himself to watch his favorite game. This was the most well-behaved boy I’ve ever met, he was polite and eager to speak English. Throughout the game, we chatted about his school life and his love of baseball.
Learn local chats and sports traditions
While walking the streets of New Orleans you will notice the city’s love for their football team, the Saints. The black and gold fleur des lys Saints’ logo is plastered everywhere. This city loves their football team. The fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are THE loudest I’ve ever heard, it might have something to do with the massive amounts of concrete used in the stadium that echo the chants. When they cheer on their team it is deafening. Do as the locals do and cheer as loud as you can!
“Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”
Stadium food, it’s not all hot dogs and nachos
There is something about woofing down a foot-long dog while watching a sports game. Even if I am not hungry the smell of those glorious wieners gets my tummy grumbling. I feel like sports and stadium food goes hand in hand. I can’t have one without the other. Make sure you check out the local cuisine being offered at the concession stands; the Saints sell seafood nachos, in Japan, you can get a bento box full of sushi and veggie tempura, and one of my favorites is the phallic looking chocolate dipped strawberries on a stick that is sold at Coors Field in Denver.
Next time you are traveling check out the local sports scene and head to a game!
Have you been to any sporting matches while traveling? What did you find to be unique about your experience? I’d love to know!