Volleyballs and cheerleaders flying through the air

Before arriving in Honolulu to study at the University of Manoa, Hawaii was like a country on its own in my head. Of course, I knew it belonged to the United States, nevertheless I was surprised to what extent it resembled the cities on the mainland, that I’ve already visited. Mostly because it is very car-dominated. However, what flabbergasted me the most was the way sport events are carried out here. A sport event here is not just a game between two teams in a discipline, it is a giant celebration on its own.

In my first week of university, I attended a volleyball game with some fellow students. If I remember it right, it was Hawaii against San Francisco. The event took place in a huge stadium just next to campus. With our student IDs we were allowed to enter for free and there was a particular section in the stadium reserved for students. When we walked in, we heard loud music from enormous boxes. The sound filled the whole stadium and I felt as if I were in a huge club. People equipped with fan gear and wearing shirts from the Hawaiian team were filling up the station. In the middle of the stadium, over the playing field giant screens were hung, advertising food, activities and presenting the players. They all looked like stars. We sat down in the student section. Suddenly the club-like stadium turned into a silent and respectful atmosphere. Everyone stood up and listened to the hymn sung by a Hawaiian musician. After this short moment of emotion and calmness, again the stadium turned into a wild mess of sounds and images. The student orchestra played songs, cheerleaders jumped on the playfield and flew through the air and volleyballs from the players getting warm were juggled through the air. Then it begun. The game itself was the most normal part of this whole spectacle. Tension and relief alternated. As soon as one game was decided the entertainment from all sides started again. Cameras scanned the publicum for the best shaka. This is a special greeting by hand which is very common here in Hawaii. The best shakas were then presented on the big screen. Everyone wanted to get there, wanted to be seen on this giant screen. A winner was core and then there was the dance cam. Everyone danced and tried to get on the screen.

It was incredible how much effort everyone made to get on the screen. I think this is very representative for the culture in the United States. A more individualistic culture, based on performance and the strong wish to get attention to put it in a simplistic way. After the dance cam there was the paddle cam, then the “who needs a haircut cam” then the “flex cam” and so on. At the same time cheerleaders performed eye-catching choreographies and the orchestra played full force. I think how a sport event is carried out shows very well the value this culture gives to sport. It seems to be something of an enhanced importance. This might also explain why sport students in the United States are treated as very important students. They receive more funding and get more easily into limited dorms on campus. They seem to be very important for the nation.

By reflecting on this event I realize that this is non-stop entertainment for the viewers, like an endless Instagram scroll. It might feel overwhelming, but it is also fun. I have to say that I like going to these sport events because they are so different from the sport events I’ve seen in Switzerland. Sometimes I feel a little bit as if I were in one of these high-school musical films. And I have to say, it’s exciting!

Larissa Puma

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