Twenty people, five nationalities, four quarters, two teams, one basketball game. You probably wouldn’t think it that unusual, and honestly, it was the most American thing I’ve experienced since coming to Berlin. But the experience was surreal. We left in a group, taking the S-Bahn by storm, and approached the arena in the pouring rain. Once in, the familiar, homegrown smells of nachos and butter popcorn filled the air along with a sense of universal excitement. You could tell by the tone of the voices around you that everyone was ready for a good time. Filing into our seats, we folded our paper clappers decorated with a large picture of the Berlin basketball team, standing tall in yellow and blue. The players warmed up, the horns blared, and the game begin. We were seated directly behind the most loyal group of cheering fans. Decked head to toe in Alba Berlin gear, a sea of yellow that never sat down. They chanted and clapped in rhythm to their cheer songs, and the whole crowd followed, banging their clappers on their knees in an organized cacophony.
“Go Alba!” we yelled. “Ra, ra, ra!”
I could have been teleported back to my own college basketball games in the middle of the western United States. There was even a mediocre halftime cheerleader show reminiscent of high school football games, danced to pop songs from six years ago. Except that I wasn’t in California or Utah. I was in Berlin, surround by people from Germany, Syria, Afghanistan, and a host of other countries. The situation was familiar and yet unfamiliar in an uncanny way. I had never realized how internationalized professional sports can be, down to the hot dogs and the same cheers on opposite sides of the world. But for the first time, I shared the experience with people from all over the globe. We were not participating in the event from our couches and through our screens; we were in the same room, feeling the vibrations of the shouts through our folding seats and hearing the basketball shoes squeak on the court.
Televised international sporting competitions have been a uniting (and dividing!) event throughout the past several decades, but I found that they can be an even greater experience when we appreciate the similarities that they create among us. So keep on cheering your favorite teams! Enjoy the comfy atmosphere of your own living room or go to a game in person. But one of these days, see if you can’t make it to an arena in which you can find people from many cultures and countries, all sharing the enjoyment of the game.
This article is part of the new project RawafedZusammenfluss - connecting old and new neighbours in Treptow-Köpenick. Together we explore the district and portray it's diversity.
Melissa is studying Arabic and Linguistics at Brigham Young University. She is an avid lover of good stories, mountains, and any growing green thing. She likes people too, especially small ones - specifically, her ten younger siblings. Her biggest accomplishments are still in the making.