As much as many sports are universal at this point, there are also plenty of them, and plenty of specific leagues, that are highly localized. This can make seeing sports in a country or city not your own a surprisingly foreign experience. Imagine, for instance, the average American attending a cricket match in India. Some Americans know the sport, surely, but by and large it is not played on any major scale in the United States. Baseball is the closest alternative, and while there are similarities (star West Indies cricketer Kieran Powell even worked out for Major League Baseball), they’re ultimately entirely different sports. An American seeing cricket in India is basically walking into an unknown environment, in everything from the rules of the sport to the style of the stadiums or the culture of the crowds.
This is a single example, but there are others like it in all sorts of combinations. To many in South Africa, the rugby of Asia, Oceania, and Europe might be strange; to some people from Africa, American football might be completely unfamiliar; the Chinese might be awestruck by British horse racing competitions, and the Brits in turn stunned at the nature of competitive badminton in China. The list goes on and on.
The point isn’t that it’s impossible to enjoy sports abroad though. Actually, it can be particularly interesting to pick up something new, or to get more familiar with something you only know loosely. And there are some specific steps you can take that might help to turn it into one of the better experiences you have while traveling.
1. Pick The Right Experience
Picking the right experience sounds like a very obvious thing to do; you clearly wouldn’t pick the wrong one intentionally! However, you should consider what all goes into sports contests in a universal sense. That is, no matter where you are or what sport is under consideration, there are certain things that can make the experience more enjoyable. A great stadium goes a long way, a fan base with a strong reputation can be a great deal of fun, and a rivalry matchup, or one that matters in a given league format, usually produces a good contest. You don’t always have control over all of these factors, but to the extent that you do, you should consider them.
2. Play A Relevant Video Game
It’s actually amazing how much a video game can teach you about a sport. Depending on the game you might learn basic rules and strategies, league organization and specific team rosters, and even the tendencies of some star players. At the very least, you should get a vague feel for a sport. And you don’t necessarily need to buy an expensive video game either. The best mobile sports games cover a huge variety, from football, basketball and baseball to table tennis and archery, and just about everything in between. Finding one relevant to the sport you’re going to see shouldn’t be too difficult, and it may end up being a huge help.
3. Attend With An Expert
It doesn’t really have to be an expert, but attending with someone who knows the sport – and more specifically the teams at hand – can really make the experience. If you happen to have any sort of friend or connection wherever you’re traveling, and you can work out attending alongside him or her, you’ll likely have a better time for it. There’s something to be said for learning a new sport and soaking up an experience on your own, but you’ll simply learn more if the person or people you’re with really understand what’s going on.
4. Make A Wager
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but if you’re comfortable with it, putting even a small wager on the contest can give you an emotional tie to what’s going on when you wouldn’t otherwise have had one. And in most cases – that is, where betting is not prohibited – this is easier to do than you might guess. Betting sites online have listings for sports markets from all over the world, which means you’ll likely be able to find a way to place a bet on whatever contest it is you’re seeing, unless it’s particularly obscure. Again, this isn’t a recommendation to bet heavily – just a little bit so you have a reason to root for a given outcome.
5. Stay Attached
Provided you enjoy yourself, you can actually enhance the experience after the fact by staying attached to the relevant team, league, and sport. That may sound odd, but when you think about it, it’s more or less how these things go. If for instance you attend Wimbledon in London and then decide to become a tennis fan, the experience will mean that much more in your memory. You’ll always recall that first time you came to enjoy the sport, as well as the fact that you may have gotten to see something more special than you realized at the time!