Being a student at a university in the U.S. means taking part in school events, such as going to the carnival or movie nights organized by the school. There is, however, one much more important tradition connected with student life: being a proud fan of the sports teams representing the school. As an international student, I only saw this happening in Hollywood movies; at least until last weekend.
For the first time, I experienced an American football game. I even wore a red Aztecs T-shirt and painted the Aztec logo on my left cheek, as well as black-and-red stripes on my right cheek. This experience went far beyond what I expected from a football game. What surprised me most was I saw more cheerleading and ceremonies than I did an actual game.
In Europe, the notion of college sports is not as famous.
As a native Czech, with firsthand experience at a Czech university, Charles University, I can confidently say having sport teams at European universities isn’t common. Most Czech schools, from elementary to college, don’t have sports teams competing with other schools. Of course, there are some minor exceptions, for example, schools focused mainly on raising new football or hockey stars. Therefore, if you want to play any type of sport, either recreationally or competitively, you usually do it during your free time outside of school. It’s very similar in the Netherlands, where I currently study. Even though there are university sport teams, they don’t play in front of huge crowds with cheerleaders. They play on weekends and while some friends may cheer for them, that’s as far as it goes.
Never having experienced the college life most Hollywood movies portray, I was very surprised going to tailgate (I learned this word just last weekend) and observing the enormous number of students in red cheering for the Aztecs. Most striking were the ceremonies and dances before the game. Does San Diego State have three dancing teams?
Justine Fellahi, an exchange student from France said, “I was watching the dancing teams more than the football team playing.” I was disappointed my Shazam app wasn’t working during the game, because the game played many songs that could have extended my iTunes playlist.
Right now, I feel very knowledgeable about the rules (maybe I should have asked what they were before the game). However, one thing is still a mystery to me. I have watched professional American football a few times on TV, but I never thought much about it until now. Why is it called “football?” In European football (soccer to Americans), the ball is actually being kicked, thus the foot. However, I realized while switching my attention from the dancers to the game, there was only an excess of throwing the ball and running into other players.
I’m planning on attending another game. Because I have probably already seen all the dance team’s moves, I will pay more attention to the game now and perhaps then I will understand why students are so enthusiastic about attending every single game.