An Immigrant Tries to Figure Out Football to Know more about the U.S.


By Esan Ayanna Fullington


Howard University News Service


Rachel Wu has adapted significantly to her new homeland over the past seven years. But, she will be the first to admit, her transition is not complete. She wants to learn more about football.


There are many people like Wu, a Taiwanese immigrant, who aspire to become a part of this pastime that is so identified with the United States.


“American football is the spirit of American culture. I like the way people get together during the season to look at the games and support the teams. The one thing that I really like about the teams is their spirit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sunny, rainy or snowy day, they work hard and never give up,” says Wu.

Wu, the rookie fan, already has comprehended an aspect of the sport that Howard University defensive lineman Rudy Hardie began to appreciate as a fourth grader.

“The hardest part about learning to play football is learning responsibility and being disciplined. You can’t make every play. It is hard when you realize you can’t make every play,” Hardie said.

Edge of Sports column writer David Zirin said the sport Wu has chosen to study is ideal for deepening her understanding of American culture.  ”Sports have always been the great Americanizer: the place where immigrant communities learn to eschew, or suppress their personal culture and become part of this country. Football is really the last sport that the United States has a monopoly on,” Zirin wrote in an email.

Not all people new to America are willing to invest time in learning to appreciate football.

Graduate student Jens Foerster, 28, of Bochum, Germany, prefers to follow the World Cup.  “I think if I was able to watch it more, I would gain interest, but right now it’s not possible. I think the game is too long.” he said, “I think soccer is more interesting to watch on TV because they don’t stop the game every 10 seconds.”


Foerster isn’t seeing football on television the same way as the millions of viewers who are fixated by the sport.


 ”Football lends itself very well to television,” Zirin said, “It is in many ways the perfect televised sport– once a week, episodic in nature. It has also been written €” and I am sympathetic to these arguments €” that football is like a boy’s fantasy of what war is like. We live in a society that glorifies war.”


Zirin adds that a good way to learn about football for those who are just starting to follow the sport is to “watch it in a bar and ask questions of the person next to you.”