As mentioned a few blog posts ago, sports might be one of the defining features of the American cultural landscape whose significance can be a little surprising to a foreigner. Of course, there is not a single modern civilization where sports don’t play a big role, but the impact of sports on people’s lifestyles seems more pronounced in America than anywhere else I’ve been to. My conversations with fellow students confirm this observation. As one of my friends put it, “Sports are even more popular than politics.”
Besides media presence (which I don’t feel entitled to discuss, as I generally isolate myself from TV), signs of this can be seen on college campuses like Rochester. So many people wear athletic apparel to lectures. It is not uncommon to see one third of people in the classroom wearing sweatpants. Some of them just want to feel “comfortable,” but it still leaves a numerous water bottle-carrying, headband-wearing crowd of gym and training goers. This sight is as foreign to most European universities as serious, semi-professional sports teams (even if Polish universities have their own teams, no one has ever heard of them). Consequently, little or no consideration is given to athletic achievements in admission processes in Poland. I have recently met a fellow student from a European country who, being an accomplished athlete, had decided to apply to American colleges partly because his sports career would give him an edge that he couldn’t enjoy in his home university-level school system.
Ancient Greek educational ideals live on!