Sports creates sense of belonging


Being a sports fan is not a marker of identity, unlike nationality, race and religion, sex and sexuality.  But it can create a common sense of belonging and  a passionate engagement.

When I was eight, my mom and I immigrated to the United States from Guatemala to live with my dad. I remember my dad picked us up at LAX and when we got to my aunt’s house he was watching a 49ers game on his phone. They were playing the Cardinals and won 27-13. Over the following weeks and months I had to change my lifestyle, adjust to a new culture, and learn a new language. To say I felt out of place was an understatement.  Guatemala and the U.S. were day and night. The streets looked different; the houses looked different. Even things that you would think are universal like trees and clouds seemed different. 

In the next two months the 49ers made a playoff run and would play in the Super Bowl. Watching the 49ers play with my dad and his friends made me feel like I belonged somewhere. Watching the Super Bowl, knowing that people from across the country were watching and hoping for the 49ers or Ravens to win made me feel American.  And watching the national anthem being played at the beginning of the Super Bowl made me feel like if I worked hard enough I could do anything I wanted in this country.

I learned that sports teams matter. I learned that fans care about sports teams because of what they represent: cities, states, regions and countries. Sports can bring together people from different walks of life because when you go to the stadium it doesn’t matter if you’re Black, white, brown, male, female, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, America, Mexican, Canadian or anything else, the only thing that matters is you want the same team to win.   

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