Sports: a vehicle to teach life skills
Written by: Alexandra Pasternak-Jackson
“Why are sports so important in the US?” was a question asked by a Finnish university student at a lecture I recently gave. I had suggested sports as a good small talk topic in the US and she rightfully asked, “why?”
Those of you who have worked in the US know that small talk around sports is a common Monday morning practice, especially after a big weekend game. Although I don’t follow sports myself, I often check sports scores and read coverage when I’m in the US to help smooth interactions when the topic is inevitably brought up.
When asking about sports, other than a genuine interest in it, people are looking for common ground. They are looking to start the day, the meeting, or interaction with a shared experience. After all, the United States of America is a country with a complicated history of racial, ethnic, generational, and geographic tensions, but it’s common knowledge that support for a favorite sports team transcends it all.
A love of sports, or at least a feigned interest in it, is an effortless and very American way to embrace and celebrate a common identity as an American. In fact, helping to remind people of their common ground, sports come up in conversation all the time in the form of language expression. Sports analogies and metaphors are frequently used in business life in the US. Sports metaphors like “Full court press,” (Basketball), “Down for the count,” (Boxing) “a hail mary” (American football) or “in your wheelhouse” (Baseball) integrate sports in everyday conversations.