Sports and Culture: Common Grounds Between Brazil and the U.S.


 Why do countries thrive in certain sports?

Why do some countries rack up dozens of Olympic medals while others only win a few? It's not just an issue of rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped, or government or other institutional backing for promising athletes. It's not even an issue of a "national will to win," because, while some countries place a higher value on winning than Americans, a cultural emphasis on winning does not always result in the intended outcome.
Cultural values, societal forces, and media all have an impact on international sporting performance. We may see this by comparing the United States and Brazil, two countries with continent-sized populations and various physical and ethnic backgrounds. Although each is the continent's largest economic power, they provide revealing contrasts in Olympic success: The United States won 104 medals at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, including 46 gold medals, compared to Brazil's 17 and 3.
Americans' enthusiasm in sports has been sharpened throughout time by an ever-expanding media apparatus that produces a constant stream of games, matches, playoffs, championships, and analysis.
Cable and satellite television provide almost continual sports coverage, with packages for every major sport and season. The Super Bowl is a nationwide event.
The Olympic Games receive considerable coverage and draw large viewers. Brazilian television, in contrast, has historically provided less sports coverage, with no nationally televised annual event equivalent to the Super Bowl. The World (soccer) Cup, held every four years, is the only sporting event that continuously attracts large national crowds.
In international competition, a win by a Brazilian team or a nationally recognized individual athlete is thought to bring honor to the entire country, yet the Brazilian media is notoriously intolerant of losers. When the now-legendary swimmer Ricardo Prado swam for his silver medal in the finals of the 400 individual Medley (IM) during prime time on national TV in 1984, one news magazine wrote that "it was as though he was the country with a swimsuit on, jumping in the pool in a collective search for success" (Isto E 1984).

Prado's own sentiments were corroborated by the magazine: "When I was on the stands, I thought of just one thing: what they'll think of the result in Brazil."

After finishing second and breaking his previous world record by 1.33 seconds, Prado told a teammate, "I believe I did everything correctly. "I feel like a winner, but will they consider me a loser in Brazil?" Prado compared the situations of Brazilian and American athletes. According to him, the United States has so many athletes that no one person can sum up the country's hopes (1984a). Fortunately, Brazil appeared to value Prado's performance, which contributed to "Brazil's best result ever in Olympic swimming" (Veja 1984a). The media never tired of calling Prado "the man of silver," and describing his biggest event, the 400 IM, in which he once held the world record, as the most difficult event in swimming. However, Ricardo Prado's warm sentiments did not apply to the rest of the Brazilian team. The press criticized the "succession of failures" (Veja 1984a). (Cesar Cielo Filho won the 50-meter freestyle race for Brazil at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Brazilian athletes are considered as representing their entire country, and team sports are stressed, hence the Brazilian media focuses too much on victory. Winning, of course, is an American cultural ideal, particularly in team sports, as in Brazil. American football coaches are well-known for saying things like "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing" and "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." However, and particularly for individual sports such as running, swimming, diving, gymnastics, and skating, in which American athletes typically perform well, American culture also admires "moral victories," "personal bests," "comeback athletes," and "Special Olympics," as well as those who run good races without finishing first. In amateur and individual sports, American culture teaches us that hard work and personal development are just as vital as victory.
Americans are so used to hearing that their society overemphasizes winning that they may find it difficult to believe that other cultures appreciate it more. Brazil surely does. Brazilian sports fans are obsessed with world records, most likely because only a win (in soccer) or a best time (in swimming) can establish Brazil as the world's finest at something, even if only momentarily.
Prior to his Olympic race, Prado's previous 400 IM world record was frequently noted in the press. Such a best-time benchmark also gives Brazilians a quick reason to criticize a swimmer or runner for not going fast enough if he or she does not meet past times. One could accurately expect that sports with more subjective standards would be unpopular in Brazil. Brazilians like to blame athletes who disappoint them, and criticizing gymnasts or divers is more difficult because grace and execution cannot be defined as readily as time.

I believe Brazilians place a high emphasis on victory because it is so rare.


The United States has greater resources, more opportunities, and less poverty. There is plenty of place for winners in American society. Brazilian society is more stratified, with the middle class and the small elite group at the top accounting for around half of the total population. Brazilian sports exemplify societal lessons: victories are rare and mainly reserved for the privileged few.It might be difficult for Brazilian sports fans to watch the Olympics and see countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom consistently dominate the podiums. Despite the fact that 2021 was our best year in the Olympic Games, Brazil finished 12th in overall medals, while the United States took first place. The fundamental reason for this, and why the United States performs so well year after year, is that America invests more in sports overall than Brazil does. As a result, the athletes are not only provided a place to exercise, but they are also encouraged by their own country to continue training and chasing their goals.In the United States, athletics can assist children get into college. By awarding sports scholarships, many students who are enthusiastic about a particular sport or rely on physical activity to balance their scholastic life are able to graduate while still doing what they enjoy. This demonstrates a growing obsession with sports investments, as sponsoring these programs undoubtedly helps young athletes flourish in their area and become the best versions of themselves. In Brazil, however, athletics are mostly regarded a kind of recreation, and it is uncommon (and therefore considered harmful) to find children who are eager to devote their life to becoming professional athletes. Although we have free universities, unlike in the United States, they are more difficult to obtain and competition is fiercer; thus, it is reasonable to assume that if sports scholarships were implemented here, many children who cannot afford the education required to gain admission to public universities or the tuition of private universities would be able to pursue a college degree.


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