Posts Tagged merchandise

Sport culture shock: America vs. Australia

Posted by Laura on Friday, 10 September, 2010
Footlocker Belconnen: This isn't the USA

This is the Footlocker in Westfield Belconnen. Notice the lack of Australian sport team merchandise and the presence of American sport merchandise.

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I think, after four and a half months in Australia, I’ve finally developed a bit of sport culture shock.   Before hand, I could enjoy the differences between American and Australian sport.  I could discuss these differences with out getting irritated.  At the moment?  Not so much.  This particular area of spot is where I have the biggest problems.  Food?  Driving?  Politics? The educational system?  Public transport?  Newspapers? The price of certain things in shops?  The quality of shopping?  I can deal with these and appreciate/live with the differences with out thinking the US is superior. Sport is my problem.

I feel the need to blog about this issue as I need to vent and better learn about my own problems.

A lot of my issues with Australian professional sport revolve around sport related clothing.  Part of the fabric of my life in the Chicago area was going to the mall, going to the shops, going to the park, going to the city and seeing people wearing jumpers and t-shirts and jackets and hats for local sport teams.  Yes, there might be clothing worn for non-local teams but the local teams always dominated.  About 2/3rds of the time, the clothing related to the sport in season.   In Canberra (and to a degree Melbourne and Cairns though I haven’t spent as much time there), I don’t see sport related clothing as much.  When I do see it, I often don’t see it for local teams like the Raiders, the WNBL teams, the local footy (all codes) teams.  I sometimes see AFL shirts and NRL shirts.  I most often see Brumbies shirts.  (The Brumbies aren’t playing right now.)  When I do see baseball hats, they often are for American MLB teams. The AFL grand final is coming up soon and I’m not seeing any increase in club support on the streets of Canberra.  I like that sort of support and passion.  I like to know that people feel proud of their teams enough to wear a shirt.  I love to know that people support Chicago teams, even if they suck.  It just reaffirms our local identity.  I like wearing a Cubs shirt on the train coming back from a Cubs game and having the conductor ask me about a game.

Related to clothing, not since the World Cup have I seen any shops encouraging their staff to wear gear to support their club.  In Chicago, during the NFL season when the Bears play the Packers, a lot of stores (well, my local grocery stores) encourage their staff to wear a jersey for their team.  As a customer, I love this as I can take the piss out of a Packers fan and have fun conversations.  This also feels like it reaffirms our identity as midwesterners and specifically, as Chicagoans (in the greater regional sense).  It makes the area feel less like generic suburbia.

Even more with clothing, I like the fact that in the Chicago area, I can go into a grocery store and buy a Cubs shirt or a Bears shirt or a Blackhawks shirt or a Bulls shirt.  (It all depends on the season and performance.)  I like the fact that there are different pricing tiers so that as some one with no money can buy merchandise.  I like knowing I have the option to spend more.  I like the fact that I can think of ten different places with in two miles of my house at home where I can buy some professional sport related merchandise.  (All important when you’re going to a Sox game and you need a Sox shirt because you’re a Cubs fan.)  I like the fact that in Chicago, almost any tourist related shop you go into will have something related to some professional sport club from the area.  In Gunghalin in the ACT?  I can think of one shop where I can buy NRL  gear (for one team).  There don’t appear to be any places to get AFL gear, ANZ Championship kits, A-League merchandise, NBL or WNBL stuff.  I can think of one place where I can get maybe NBL stuff, and ANZ Championship stuff. I can think of about ten places total in Belconnen and Civic and buy the airport where I can get NRL, AFL and A-League gear.  I can think of maybe one place in those areas where I could get NBL gear.  (I can think of more places to get NBA kits.)  I can’t think of anywhere I can find kits for the Wallaroos or Hockeyroos. Finding merchandise is hard.  When I do find it, it is often at a price point I can’t afford.

Beyond this, when I do wear my limited Australian professional sport clothing out, I often feel like a giant advertisement.  The Raiders are playing this weekend in playoffs for the championship of the NRL.  I don’t see many Raiders shirts.  (Or other NRL team shirts.) (I see more Brumbies gear and that’s still at a low level.)  So when I’m in my loud green Raiders shirt, I feel like I’m sticking out in a way that I just wouldn’t stick out in the US.

I have some issues with that aren’t related to clothing.  One of them is what feels like love of the club you barrack for.  I went to Melbourne this winter.  I got off my train and was trying to catch a tram to St. Kilda right after the game had let out.  If this had been the Chicago area, I would have known immediately who had won.  In Melbourne?  Based on fan reaction of getting out of the stadium?  I had no clue.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  None.  For me, half the fun of going to the game is the utter dejection or utter elation of how your team did.  Random strangers who see you kitted up will ask you how your team did.  You’ll hear people talking about the club and their performance all over.  Making it better, I can be riding a train or sitting in a fast food restaurant and people generally don’t have a problem with me butting in on their sort conversation to give my own two sense.  I love it as it adds to a sense of community identity.  It makes me feel like I’m part of something greater.  It is a way of meeting new people.  I love following sport and feeling that way.

Australia’s major sport seasons appear to have ended for the summer.  I know of a few Australians who have teams who are out of it for the AFL or NRL.  They’ve now moved on to barracking for American sport teams in the NFL.  I just… the loyalties there boggle my mind and the lack of ways of expressing that loyalty in Australia also annoy.  I want to ask at times: Don’t you have Australian sport you (and I) can support?  Don’t you care about the finals of those Aussie leagues to wait until the finals are over before moving on?  And all of that feels really rude and wrong to think… but when my team in Chicago sucks and the time is to move on, I move on to another local team.

I’ve a few more issues with sport culture in Australia that are making me cranky.  I just can’t articulate them all.  A lot of my issues boil down to public passion, community support and willingness to express identity as a sport fan.  I’ve read a bit on dealing with culture shock but I’m not entirely certain how to do it here and be a casual sport nut in Australia like I am in the USA.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts