Our blog has never doubled as a column from the sports pages, but this seems like the week to change that. This Friday is the UN General Assembly declared International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, and while I’m not sure the GA had in mind that the week of April 6 usually falls on a great week for U.S. sports, I’m happy to assume they did.
With the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball tournament finals on Sunday and Monday, final jockeying for playoff spots in the NBA and NHL, the professional baseball season opening, and Major League Soccer in full swing, early April has something for any sports fan – and in 2018, fans from anywhere in the world. In every one of these leagues or events, a big part of this chilly spring’s story has been international.
The NCAA women’s tournament hero, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale, making two game winning buzzer beaters in the Final Four, while from Milwaukee, has a Nigerian father. One of the biggest personalities and outstanding players in the men’s Final Four for Michigan is from Berlin, Germany. Three of the most talked about young players in the NBA hail from Cameroon, Greece, and Latvia. NHL and MLS rosters are full of international players and have teams in both the U.S. and Canada (as do the NBA and MLB, of course). The biggest story of the young Major League Baseball season has been the debut of Japan’s “two-way” star for the LA Angels. (like a quiz, you can find the names of each referenced player in the links).
The globalization of U.S. sport, and sport around the world, demonstrates its ability to transcend language, overcome differences, and bring people together. My first job following college was to arrange international travel for university and high school athletic teams, so I saw first-hand how shared competition and interests can create powerful person-to-person diplomacy. As the saying goes, sport demonstrates that we are much more alike than we are different, and this work probably led me into “real” diplomacy – where finding common ground can seem challenging these days.
So, let’s enjoy these days of amazing sport in the U.S., and while we marvel at the abilities of the athletes, also take pleasure in knowing the world is watching with us – then get ready to join the world in viewing the year’s biggest sporting event – the World Cup in Russia.
Here’s to sport; to development; to peace. Let’s share them all.