Sports Goes Cross-Atlantic to Bridge Gaps

    This column is for all of my loyal readers out there who have been wondering why my clever quips on topics in professional and collegiate sports have vanished from the pages of the Guardian. Who am I kidding? I am honest enough with myself to realize that I have no loyal readers, so this is really just a grand reopening of “”The Sports Retort”” since its fall quarter hiatus while this writer was studying abroad in South Africa.

    Many of you readers who have decided to stay with me through the lead may be wondering, “”Why South Africa?”” The answer is too complicated and boring to delve into fully in a sports column, but one attraction for me was the chance to see foreign sports that aren’t given a chance to attract attention in the ESPN-led war to exclude real coverage beyond the spectrum of the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA and PGA. For instance, while I was in South Africa, no one could care less that the Tigers made it to the World Series or that the Steelers were stinking up the NFL coming off a Super Bowl win while the Chargers had bolted their way to the top. Instead, the things commonly heard in conversation or on television were the latest rugby highlights, the schedule for the next cricket five-day test match or the results from international soccer, especially the English Premier League.

    At first, this alien environment threw me off, because as a sports nut with many fellow sports-fanatic friends, many of my casual conversations concern the football playoff races or the latest MLB free agent to land a record contract. If I brought subjects like these up with my South African friends, I might as well have been talking gibberish. So I decided to try to adapt to my surroundings and I started to watch Arsenal games on TV and attend cricket matches in my spare time. I learned a lot about both cricket and soccer – that cricket is a slower and less interesting version of baseball and that soccer deserves more attention beyond that of youth soccer leagues.

    Almost all countries outside the United States are fascinated by international soccer, but South Africa was an especially interesting place to grow fond of the sport, since it is the planned location of the next FIFA World Cup in 2010. While South Africa does not host the level of competition one would find in England or Spain, it does have a very competitive league and the majority of the country’s 44 million people are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the best soccer the world has to offer. I thought that the guy who goes naked to Broncos games in Denver in December was crazy about his team, but the people in South Africa make him look like a fair-weather fan freezing his ass off. They are extremely excited to host the first World Cup on African soil, even if the South African national team doesn’t even make it past the preliminary round.

    This obsession with sports that I encountered halfway across the world from my familiar home made my love for everything sports-like grow even larger. Even when language, culture and background prevent two people from interacting, sports, whether American, African or international, provide a common denominator. Now that I am back on U.S. soil, I will have no problem talking shop with other fanatics, as I have stayed up to date with American sports from the Allen Iverson trade to the Giants signing Barry Zito. But I plan to return to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup, to travel the country again and to see if the U.S. national team can fare any better with a mature Freddy Adu, and when I get there, I know exactly what I’ll be talking about: sports.

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