Select Page

slam dunking the city

S

ports are really important in Tampa. Actually, I think they’re really important in every city, town and burg in this country. They are important to the national identity. It goes hand-in-hand with the martial nature of this land, the old The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton thing: competition, war, victory through struggle on the football-baseball-basketball-hockey-track field, no less than the foreign field of imperial conquest. It is a defining metaphor for swathes of American life.

Car decals and bumper stickers, banners on fences and in the windows of private homes, all proclaim fierce allegiance to sports teams. These are almost as prevalent American flags, another form of patriotic fervour, I guess.

As a Canadian, I don’t really get the “rah-rah patriotism thing”. Few of us do. And I’m ambivalent too, when it comes to following any professional sport. So it is very odd for me to see places and institutions defined primarily by sports and to realize that the lives of many people here are lent significance, value and aspirational impetus by sports teams and sporting events.

When you drive into Tampa on any major artery, the road sign that greets you lists sporting events hosted in Tampa (see photo). A school I walked by defines itself almost exclusively by its football team (see photos). As if the sum of the parts of a city was solely comprised of it sports franchises and an educational institute, was not a place of learning and knowledge, but rather a clubhouse for a football team.