Saturday, June 12, 2004

In the U.S., Korea, and the World

A few days ago I watching ESPN's "Outside The Lines" that featured Mississippi State's head football coach Sylvester Croom. It chronicled his early days as a black athlete since he was one of the first under Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at the University of Alabama, and then profiled his career as a coach in the NFL and collegiate ranks.

At one point during the show, he was discussing the impact of sports during the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation. He said if it was not for sports desegregation would not have been successful for another 100 years. Croom explained that sports is the great equalizer among people of all colors because it brings respect and unity to each other. Some might hear this and quickly brush aside the insightfulness or validity of this statement, but I believe there is some truth to Croom's perspective.

We can easily turn to the movie "Remember the Titans" for a documented example. You can also look at your own life's examples whether you grew up in organized sports or have your children playing in various leagues, and identify the bonds created across race and social boundaries while you sweat and push during practice, cheer for your teammates, or win a close game. You learn the importance of teamwork and how important it is to support one another to accomplish a goal through sports.

When I lived in Korea for four years, I had various criticisms of the society and especially the education system. One criticism I had was the lack of support and teamwork that was intertwined into the corporate culture. I theorized that this was due to the lack of balance between high school students' studies and their extra-curricular activities. Students in Korea only study and do not have time for anything else. There are no organized sports for the majority of students. Those that participate are considered poor students or a select few with a possible future in the professional realm. I believed this lack of infrastructure and support for extra-curricular activities, especially team sports, had a negative effect on Korean society. One change they should implement in the Korean education system is to provide structured non-educational programs for youth.

Beyond America's cultural imperialism of its entertainment and consumer goods industries, the love and desire to play sports should be exported to the youth in nations where there can be a positive impact. The value and bonds playing sports create can change lives and impact societies. Just ask Sylvester Croom.

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