Nathan Overlock is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A professional writing and information design major at Cedarville University, he is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Nathan talks about sports in Dublin and getting involved in the Super Bowl celebrations even while abroad.
Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan. I’ve played baseball, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, fencing, and tried my hand at football and volleyball once or twice, but stuck with none of them. Even my eight years of soccer came to an abrupt halt when I discovered there were more exciting things to do with my time in high school.
While I still play the occasional game for fun, not even the greatest boredom has made me enjoy actually watching sports. I thought I’d escaped the craze of football and fandoms when I came to Ireland. Even though I knew sports are a big part of Irish culture, I figured I could just avoid it. But the shouts of “Go Falcons!”, NFL memorabilia decorating the local pubs, and invitation to the Student Union’s Super Bowl party quickly taught me otherwise. When I visited Croke Park earlier this semester, I half expected it to be an American football stadium.
So, seeing how big sports are to campus life, and knowing there was no way I was going to join a club, I decided I had to start somewhere. So, I double checked which teams were actually playing, bought my ticket at the Griffith College Student Union, and headed out for an obscenely long Sunday evening at Copper Face Jack’s, one of Dublin’s quirkier late night hangouts.
While plenty of those watching seemed to be enjoying heckling the obvious Americans in the crowd and mocking the teams, the Irish don't mess around when it comes to the Super Bowl. At 11:30pm on a Sunday night, before the ball had even left the ground, Copper Face Jacks was filled with people cheering for or against the Patriots. While the free food and the wall-sized TV were an obvious draw, it was clear everyone (well, everyone else) was just there to watch the game. Even the typical night-out banter and conversations went on hold whenever the ball was in play. In hindsight, the night where everyone is glued to the TV screen probably wasn’t the best time to get to know students from outside my study abroad program, but it didn’t stop listening to cheers and obscenities yelled in Irish accents from being any less amusing.
The Super Bowl hoopla was surprisingly familiar, but I can’t help but envy the attitude towards Ireland’s native sports. I haven’t had the chance to watch either of the Gaelic Games--Hurling and Gaelic Football--yet, but I’m already fascinated by how deep the ties between these two sports and Irish culture run. As our tour guide at Croke Park told us earlier this semester, “Gaelic games are as much a part of Ireland’s culture as literature and painting.”
I would have laughed if you'd tried to tell me the same thing about American sports, but I can’t help but see the truth in it when it comes to the Gaelic games. The rules of hurling date back millennia. The same field we walked along the sides of, where Gaelic football (not soccer, not American football, just too complicated to explain) is still played today was the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre less than a hundred years ago.
But it’s not the history, or even the seemingly bizarre set of rules that elevate the Gaelic games above American sports to me; it’s how the Gaelic games reflect the Irish culture. When it comes to Gaelic football and hurling, you don’t just cheer for whichever team is doing better in a season: you cheer for where you’re from, whether they’ve ever won a tournament or not. Likewise, people don’t play for huge paycheck: they play because they enjoy the game. Outside of the stadium, the biggest star could be an elementary science teacher. One of them is. To quote our tour guide again, “it’s just ordinary people doing ordinary things.” Almost inspiring enough to make me sit through a whole game.
So, while bonding with my classmates over the Super Bowl wasn’t quite a success, I’m looking forward to just jumping into student activities, and learning about the Irish way of life, even from things as simple as sports.
Nathan's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.