As my time in Germany sadly comes to an end, I thought it might be interesting to talk about some aspects of German Culture different from those of US Culture.
One aspect that I found intriguing was the perspective on sports, and staying active. Before you can understand this topic, it is important to know that in Germany, Sports and other Extracurricular Activities are not parts of school, but instead clubs that take place completely separate from Gymnasium.
Now, the main difference in Sports has to do with practices. In the US, most sports have practice five to six times a week, and if you miss a practice, your coach usually wants to know why you weren't there if he even allows you to miss in the first place. In Germany, it is a bit more relaxed, with most sports having practice only two times a week, and a majority of the coaches are lot less strict on missing practices.
At the beginning of the year, I wondered how anyone could possibly improve at a reasonable rate with so few practices. In the US, I run cross-country and it is absolutely critical that we get in our daily run if we wish to be competitive.
The impression that I have received is that the focus here is more long term, focusing more on getting better over the course of a few years instead of just focusing on a single season. Granted, I have a very narrow range of experiences in the subject, having only done Cross-Country or Track in the US and Basketball here.
I think it is interesting to note that most people here in Germany have more activity worked into their daily lives anyways, as a result of bikes as a method of transportation, walking more due to public transportation, and more integration throughout the day rather than being idle for 23 hours of the day and doing intense sport for one hour.
Photo is of my exchange students committee on our ice skating excursion. The rink is in the Planten un Blomen park where in the summer you can find a tremendous array of flowers.
*Please remember that I am talking about my experiences and am making generalizations. Everyone in a country can never be characterized with broad expressions, and there will always be exceptions to such statements.*
I have engaged in this discussion more times than I care to remember - by most estimates at least thrice a week for the past seven years. So this is a topic close to heart but also very well debated and honed. A look at the Dutch disease and the fallacy of composition can help us understand why India needs her cricket team to fail spectacularly, and regularly, for Indian sport to truly flourish.
The cricket world cup is less than two months away and it could turn out to be one of the most important sporting events of this decade - even bigger than the triumph in the previous edition in 2011. But only if India fails. A victory, even though it will be much celebrated, will see (even) more money being poured into the sport and (even) more kids seeing cricket as the only viable professional sport option in this country. The popularity of the game itself has never been the chief concern - till it has reached the current scale. This popularity has led to investment, talent and a country's sporting vision being squandered on a game which holds limited appeal to most of the world, doesn't earn a single Olympic, Commonwealth or Asian games medal, a game which doesn't foster a "sporting culture", a game which doesn't require its players to be athletic or fit, and most importantly a sport which has grown so big that it dwarfs all others, much to the detriment of every other sport.
The Dutch disease is a curious economic phenomenon. A mineral rich country sees its manufacturing sector battered, because all the exported minerals make the country's currency stronger (because of higher demand for the country's currency), thereby facilitating cheaper imports (as the relative cost of local manufacturing has gone up). Adam Smith's invisible hand is at play here. What this also does is shrink investment in the manufacturing sector and sees more money being poured into the commodity unearthed and its ancillary industries - setting up transportation, refining/processing and marketing activities around that commodity.
The parallel with Indian cricket is there for all to see. Without even discussing the most brazen brainchild of the governing body of Indian cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Indian Premier League which has sucked in large amounts of investment, the realization that a sporting Dutch disease has afflicted India is quite clear. Take the BCCI Corporate Trophy for example. This is an almost unheard of league, but serves as a traditional curtain raiser for the Indian season. The aim is to involve promising local players, discared players from an erstwhile rebel league (the ICL) and a few star players in order to showcase the "employability" of cricketers to corporates. The winning team bags INR10million. The runner up nets INR5million. That is 15 million rupees that have just been "awarded" to showcase "employability". A gargantuan waste of money in a country where the total amount of investable funds for sport doesn't grow much year on year. To help you put the plight of the nations "other sports" in perspective, the national football team earned INR28mn in sponsorship in 2013 - and sponsorship, along with broadcasting rights are two of the largest streams of income in sport.
A provincial cricket league which dwarfs all of Indian football