Sports and Culture: the Impact of Athletics on Society

Walt Disney Television via Getty

Maya Gincherman , Staff Writer

Many know the feeling of your heart racing as the final seconds tick down of the championship game. You watch your team, eyes glued to the television screen, counting down the seconds until the horror ends or the sweet celebration of victory begins. Throughout history, sports have served as a source of pride as well as a demonstration of dominance for nations. Through the sports industry’s economic benefits, political demonstrations, and most importantly emotional connections, sports have become a significant part of many nations’ culture. As these connections have grown stronger over the years, there have been more and more moments in sports that have written themselves into the history books for years to come. 

In 1980 one such event occurred when the underdog United States hockey team beat the heavily favored Soviet team at the 1980 Olympics. This historic event came to be known as The Miracle On Ice. An excerpt from the History article, “U.S. hockey team beats the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice,” demonstrates the shock of the result saying, “In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators.” 

Personally, my mother was being raised in the United States at the time while my father was being raised in the Soviet Union. When I interviewed them both separately about the event, I realized how different their perspectives were and how much of an impact sporting events like these can have. I began by asking both of my parents what the miracle on ice was. My father began by just explaining the event in terms of facts before he said, “it brought quite a sense of pride in the United States and quite a sense of impending disaster and doom in the Soviet Union.” I found this quote to be interesting, as it demonstrated the emotions tied to the event on both ends and the complex importance of the game. When asking my mother about why she watched the event, considering the fact that she was not a hockey fan, I found that her answer seemed to go along with this quote quite nicely: “Well, it was just the whole story behind it that was just so inspiring.” This reaction demonstrates the sense of inspiration and pride felt in the United States. As I interviewed them both, I found it interesting how even all of these years later, my father could recall his emotional reactions and said he still felt the same sorrow today, though he has not been back to or lived in Russia for over twenty years. 

This strong emotional connection seems to have lasted throughout the years and throughout many different types of sports. Lucas Gimeno, a Sandy Spring Friends School Student and native of Spain, described such connections in the world of soccer or “fútbol” in Spain. When I asked him why he thought soccer was so important to Spanish culture, he responded, “El fútbol es importante en nuestra cultura porque une a mucha gente y es un sentimiento muy bonito el ver a tu equipo jugar.” In other words he is saying that soccer unites many people in Spain together in the feeling of pride of watching your team play, again demonstrating this unifying emotional connection that sports can have within a culture. 

Outside of these two examples, one can find many others reflecting this same special connection that sports provide and the true impact they can have on a society. From badminton to tennis, sports truly unite people and allow them to have something in common, regardless of any other traits or beliefs they may have. I hope that everyone at some point will have the opportunity to go out to a live game and experience this thrill and special connection games can provide.