Sunday, November 4, 2007


Stanford Football StadiumAmericans love sport. They simply define it differently than the rest of the world. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, sport is defined as:
Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.

In American popular culture however, the idea of physical activity does not really exist. For most Americans, sports are somet/hing you watch not something you do.

This relates to the true aim of US colleges and universities: To house sports teams for people to watch. Research is what they do behind people's backs when they're busy watching sports.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, yesterday I decided to go to the pool I heard was open at Stanford. I looked through Stanford's athletics website and found no relevant information. You see, the athletics website is for people who want to watch sports. So, there is information about events and how to buy tickets. Even when you do locate the page about the pool (or "aquatic center") there is no information about using the pool. Why would there? Athletic facilities are for varsity athletes and people coming to see them.

Anyway, after finding the much more obscure site for Stanford recreation and wellness, I found the very limited opening hours of the pool, and headed there yesterday afternoon. What a mistake I have made. Stanford was full of cars, all parking lots in the north side of the campus were full, a high school located just off campus sold parking for $10. All this on a Saturday. Why? Because there was a football game, and when I say football, I mean the strange American sport similar to rugby.

So, I decided to try again today (Sunday). I arrived and parked my car and headed at first in the wrong direction. It seems Stanford has stadiums for many strange sports, and they are all used by the few select athletes who compete in that sport. Same goes for the aquatic center. It is clear that is was designed for training and competition, and not for recreational use. One pool is surrounded by audience seating and the only open pool is also designed for competition. It is deep almost all way across, with no shelf in the deeper end, and with ladders only in the shallow end. On the other hand, there are jump boards all around the pool and a big scoreboard. There is no clock anywhere around the pool, but there are many timers all around the pool.

So, after a few laps of swimming, I head back home. I'm not sure if I'd be returning there any time soon.


  1. what an interesting experience:)
    seems that the best way to learn about the american culture is to try fitting in:)

  2. American colleges focus on sports because it's a great way for them to bring in money. Not just TV rights, but alumni who buy season tickets to the games, and who contribute to the schools on these events. It's not like the Technion's alumni club.

    As for football, you'll learn to love it. I hated it when I moved here, now I watch it every week. Stanford usually sucks, but they have a tendency to beat their big rivals (e.g., USC this year). So people now watch them.

    And yea, you wouldn't find a pool that's not also used for competitions anywhere on an American campus. Though in our school they use it for a swim-and-porn party every semester.

  3. Thank you for your reply. Where is "here"? Anyway, it's highly unlikely I'll be interested in football or any other spectator sport any time soon. Sorry.