A few weekends ago, we spent a lot of hours in the car. San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona for Spring Training baseball and then onto Las Vegas, Nevada for the International Rugby Sevens competition. It was a three states in a day type of weekend complete with dust storms, trips to Subway and accents the world over. There was time to play and time to think. There were hours of throng-filled crowds and others of shared silence between a couple in a car. No matter the moment, there was far more than sport.
Yes, there were hours of baseball and rugby, but the soft skills or colour commentary that played out amongst the spectators spoke far more than the chants for their home teams. It all told a story of something much bigger, much greater than a country’s pastime or a people’s favourite sport. Here, in these stadiums, life was being lived. Louder than chants or jeers, there was a spirit that filled the air. People, from all walks of life had driven, bussed, or flown to a spot to spend an afternoon or a few days to purposefully bring out their happy. There was so much unspoken wisdom in those stadium seats and bleachers, so many untold stories that played out on fields and screens – it was a pleasure to be a part of it all.
The baseball stadium in Goodyear, Arizona was filled with reds and oranges of Cincinnati Reds’ and San Francisco Giants’ supporters. The young in age and young at heart melded together with a blend of peanuts, nachos and beer. Some came early to tailgate. Many slathered on sunscreen while some waited for autographs of their beloved heroes and all spent the day enjoying life with loved ones and friends. Pastime, maybe, but day of enjoyment for certain. People came together to spend a few hours in the Arizona sunshine, celebrate sport and enjoy life. I’m certain everyone had some other place they may have ‘had’ to be on a Friday afternoon, but they chose this – now that says something in itself.
The University of Las Vegas Nevada Sam Boyd stadium was an even a bigger story. In a sea of colourful jerseys from places all around the globe, there was camaraderie, sport, celebration, fun, song, enjoyment, music and an experience to remember. I sat next to Samoans and Brits, behind South Africans, in front of Aussies and surrounded by Fijians, Kenyans, Kiwis and more accents than I can name. Every fourteen minutes two new nations ran through a tunnel and onto the field to play out their hearts for their country and fans. The outside section was filled with food from around the world. British fish and chips, Kenyan samosas, South African bunny chow, and an international beer tent drew spectators in while others got their face tattoos, awed at 3D artwork, snapped photos and shopped the Rhino Rugby® tent.
Everywhere you looked there were supporters. Some came from far and wide while others showed up for the day to cheer on their team. Kids of all ages eyed their favourite players, new fans asked for further detail to help with their comprehension while all watched finesse, speed, strength, brawn, courage and grace play out in front of our eyes. Citizens of the world sat next to each other in peace. As we’ve all watched Olympic Games or Commonwealth Games in the past, sport often shows the world more than politics…average people doing extraordinary things, disagreeing on who should win without any sort of violent words or actions and watching national pride exude from field to bleachers.
There was far more going on this weekend than sport. Athletes came to play, spectators came to watch, children came to cheer and all came to enjoy. Sport teaches. For me, it’s the other bits that come to light when I sit amongst thousands in a stadium. Not only are those experiences something I won’t forget, but the bigger picture, the global understanding, the international camaraderie…..that’s what I’ll long remember.