Localizing team spirit and other impossibilities

Rugby is not that popular in America, the land of college sports. Like soccer, it’s sort of relegated to the shadows, played by club teams and European transplants. However, it has, at least in the Stateside circles I know, gained a bit more steam in recent years. I went down to a Rugby tournament this weekend that featured teams from at least three states to cheer on my brother, until a few months ago an American football player to the core.

Here’s the tricky thing about localizing sports: if you forget which one you’re playing, or fall back on instincts that used to work perfectly in the old sport ethos, it can kind of hurt. Sam spotted someone about to score and went in for the kill, smashing him, as he used to do in football, skull-to-skull, full steam ahead.

He forgot that neither of them wore a helmet. He woke up staring at his hands, wondered at the blood on them, and stepped out to get his face bandaged (and be lectured by two sisters to stop giving himself concussions). The other guy went to the hospital and got 20 stitches.

I’m really not sure if this kind of damage can occur with cross-cultural instincts elsewhere, but I’m willing to bet so. I’m also willing to bet that localizing your instincts might be one of the hardest things to do, short of learning the hard way.

Katie Botkin
Katie Botkin is a freelance writer. She has a master’s degree in English with an emphasis on linguistics and has taught English on three continents.


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