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American sports enthusiasm: A Chinese perspective

I have been in the U.S. since August 2011. Since then, I have been to two football games at Ole Miss and three NBA basketball games in Memphis.
I still remember the first football game I went to last September against BYU. American sports enthusiasm was beyond my imagination.
It is odd to me that people can spend several days driving across the country just to watch a football game. On the campground, many people got together, put up tents outside their RVs, set up TVs, drank beer and had parties several days before the game. Moreover, they put up a lot of tents in the Grove. That was the first time I saw so many trash cans in the Grove. So many tents showed up overnight, I was shocked.
Why are Americans so crazy for sports? Those things would never happen in China. This is because of three main reasons: the perception of sports, the U.S. athletic system and developed professional teams.
The most important one is people’s perceptions. Americans uphold sports and athletics. They cultivate their children to love sports from a young age. Parents are proud of their children’s achievements not only in studying, but also in sports.
I interviewed a Chinese mom who has lived in Rockville, Md., and was married to an American. At first, she worried that her son spent too much time playing sports and that his studies would be delayed, so she wanted him to stop. However, her husband was opposed. Fortunately, the Chinese mom found that her son could organize his time and do a good job at both.
The U.S. has a perfect system for selecting and cultivating excellent athletes. Different school levels have different teams. For example, middle schools have middle school football teams. High schools can select and recruit good athletes from watching their games. Colleges recruiting athletes do the same, as do professional teams.
Commercial operation of American sports is well developed and has a knack for creating stars and idols. Once they have created a star, a series of products around him or her can be produced to sell and make money. For example, NBA star Kobe Bryant’s shoes, basketball wear and other accessories make quite a profit.
In China, the sports industry is not as prosperous. To begin with, Chinese parents only pay attention to their children’s academic achievements. They just care about the score their children get and whether they get accepted into a good (preferably top) university. This stems from the culture.
After Jeremy Lin became a star last year, people asked, “If Jeremy Lin lived in China, could he still become a NBA basketball star?” The answer is absolutely not. With his Harvard economics degree, his Chinese parents would want him to get a job on Wall Street.
Ultimately, China does not have a good professional league. We have CBA, which is the Chinese equivalent of the NBA, but I have never watched a CBA game. However, I’ve only lived in the U.S. for a year, and I have already been to the FedEx Forum in Memphis to watch three Grizzles’ games, and I often watch NBA games on TV.
There is a clear boundary between ordinary people and athletes in China.
Chinese people who are born in my generation are often the only child in their families, so these children were given a lot of attention by their families. Their parents had high expectations for them. These parents put a lot of pressure on their children and their studies. Therefore, the majority of my generation has poor physical health and weak eyes.
Each individual should be developed in multiple ways rather than in just one dimension, which means Chinese people should change their bias for sports. They should pay more attention to build their bodies and personal health. After all, health is wealth and the foundation of everything.
After people’s perceptions change, China can be healthier and develop its own sports industry.

Wanfei Wu is a second-year integrated marketing communications graduate student from Yunnan Province, China. Follow her on Twitter @WanfeiWu.