Tuesday Morning Football – Watching Sports and Living Abroad

I’ve always loved watching sports – my parents still joke that I went right from Sesame Street to SportsCenter, so watching sports has been one of my main hobbies all my life. Of course when Derek and I moved to Denmark, many friends asked me how I would adjust to life away from my beloved teams and the ESPN family of network. After two years of life in Copenhagen, I’ve completely adjusted the way that I enjoy sports!

No Sports Small Talk

In the US, small talk often turns to collegiate or professional sports, whether it’s about one of the local teams or some big game coming up. Beside Derek, I almost never talk to anyone in Denmark about my teams or any games at all. At lunch my colleagues may talk about their kids’ football team or their cycling training, but nearly no one talks about the game last night or how the local team is doing.

The closest exception to this rule is when it comes to certain Danish national teams. When the Danish Handball team was on its way to winning the 2019 World Championships, the team became part of the daily conversation – especially if coworkers from Germany or France were in earshot. We also heard about the women’s national soccer team as they did well in the 2017 European Championships and of course about Denmark during the World Cup. Still, none of these teams or their relevant games were close to daily conversations about sports in America.

People don’t wear or display logos

Whether on the street or in the office it is nearly impossible to know what teams a person may support. In the US it’s very common for people to wear clothing with sports logos or have some paraphernalia around their home or office. I myself would often have on a Red Sox or Villanova hat, but in Denmark, the only sports apparel anyone wears is a Yankees had (and that is more Jay-Z’s fault than Derek Jeter’s). Occasionally we’ll pass by an American tourist wearing some kind of team gear and give them a nod or a “Go Sox!”; once their surprise wears off we have a quick chat about the division standings, where they’re from and what we’re doing in Denmark.

 

Access is Hard

In Denmark we do not have any cable, so all the media we watch comes from Netflix, apps we cast to our TV, and watching via Slingbox. American TV apps don’t work unless you have a VPN, and even then you often need to have a cable account to be able to watch. Slingbox isn’t the easiest thing to use either, and the decade-old unit sitting at my parent’s house doesn’t have great resolution, making the video look more 8-bit than Hi-Def.

Further, it is a lot harder to casually watch sports in Denmark. There is not a big bar culture here to begin with, and very few bars have any TV’s.  In the US almost every bar and many restaurants have TV tuned to sports, so it is easy to stop in for a drink and watch part of a random game while scanning the bottom line for scores. In fact, it is a real challenge to find any place to watch sports in Copenhagen, with only a few Irish or British style pubs showing any sports.

| Tip: If you’re looking to watch an NFL game in Copenhagen, there is only ONE bar that shows American Football games – Southern Cross Pub

Games are Late

Even when we do get access to games, we have to contend with the time difference. Basketball and hockey are non-existent as even weekend games are usually played in the American evening. I still have MLB Gamecast, but often only watch in the morning to see the last few innings of a west-coast game running long. NFL Sundays are a completely different experience, since the early games now start at 7pm local time. As a Bills fan this has been very convenient (every game is a Sunday night game!), but with a 12:30am kickoff I have only watched one of the three Super Bowls since I moved here.

But the time difference also makes for some surreal experiences that I will never forget. I watched the Bills make the playoffs in the middle of our New Year’s Eve party (very much confusing our guests as I screamed in joy 30 minutes before midnight). I watched Villanova win the 2018 NCAA Championship at 4 in the morning on a laptop while laying in a hotel bed in Istanbul. I woke up to go to the bathroom in an apartment in London, and watched the final five innings of an 18-inning Red Sox loss in the World Series, only to watch them win the World Series on my phone two days later at 4am. We watched the Eagles win the NFC Championship at an English pub in Tenerife during pub quiz with the game on mute. The crowd of Brits didn’t know what to make of a shouting Derek in his Carson Wentz jersey and non-stop string of expletives and emotional outbursts.

| Related post: Why I Flew Home For the Super Bowl

Somehow our teams win!

Did you notice how many of my teams won in that previous paragraph? Perhaps the most surreal thing about living abroad has been how successful our teams have been! Since we moved to Denmark the following things have happened:

  • Villanova won the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. And three straight Big East Tournament Championships.
  • Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series
  • Philadelphia Eagles win Super Bowl LII
  • Buffalo Bills make the playoffs for the first time since 1999

And on top of this our hometown Sixers and Phillies have returned to success after trusting the process for years when we lived in Philadelphia!

We Follow Teams Old School

Since I can’t watch many games, I have to follow my teams the new ways with online articles and YouTube highlights. Instead of watching games and following the natural ups and downs of a game or season, I start with the final score or standings and have to dig into the details. This is a very different experience, and means that I miss the opportunity to forge my own opinions and are reliant of beat writers and key people on twitter.

Ironically, being so far removed from watching games has actually been an asset for my bank account! Since moving to Denmark we have enjoyed legal betting on the World Cup and NFL with pretty good success, I won a NCAA Tournament pool, and I even won my Fantasy Football for the first time!

 

But I Don’t Miss It!

With the late games, access issues, and winning teams I can’t watch, you might think I am frustrated to lose such an integral part of my life, but instead it has helped to change and reprioritize sports in our lives.

Surprisingly, I really don’t miss watching all my old teams and sports so religiously – if anything it might be a little liberating that I don’t feel obligated to carve out several nights a week to watch Villanova or to turn an entire Sunday into an NFL marathon.

I find myself rooting for Danish athletes and teams, and I have discovered how much fun it is to watch handball. We’ve enjoyed introducing American football to our friends, especially after adopting an Aussie bar as our home for football Sundays, complete with 100 kr ($15) buckets of Carlsberg!. This still makes for a different experience with the Game of the Week – we trade Jim Nantz and Tony Romo for two Danish commentators who we can’t fully understand. For example, the Danish words for “throws” (kaster) and “girlfriend/boyfriend” (kæreste) sound very similar to our non-native ears. This led to some confusion and laughs the first time we heard Danish-language commentary and had to ask a stranger what they were describing. “Why do they keep talking about Tom Brady’s girlfriend and Rob Gronkowski?”

What experiences do you have watching sports abroad?

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3 thoughts on “Tuesday Morning Football – Watching Sports and Living Abroad”

  1. “People don’t wear or display logos”

    My guess is: DK is not a big sporting country in general. As is the case with Belgium. In Belgium, those who sport sporting logos outside sporting context (e.g. a match), are probable of migrants’ descent. People from the Maghreb or Eastern Europe love teamwear.

    When I’m in the US – and I will be in June – I’m still amazed on how sporty people dress. Especially those who obviously don’t work out or play sports. Why would you wear a sports outfit outside a sporting context? 😛

    1. Agree with that. If I get all sociological, I think it has to do with identifying with a tribe when you either feel foreign (say a migrant) or live in a broad and diverse place (like that US). As Americans, our sense of place can be weak since we are so transient or have shallow roots, so sports is an easy way to build and share community. And honestly it’s not that different than wearing a shirt with a big brand logo 😜

  2. Could be. In Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), we have an expression: ‘Staying under the church’s bell tower’. We’d rather stay close to mommy than move. We’d rather commute every day than moving closer to work. So maybe we don’t feel the need to assert our geographical identity. My sister has been living abroad for some 10-12 years and she’s now more Belgian than in Belgium. Baking waffles and crêpes.

    (We also experience 5 km (3.1 mi) as 100 mi in the US. But that’s another story).

    And yes. Sporting big brand logos is not that different than showing team colours.

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