Teacher, Professional Phila DOOPer, Expat-in-training

Stadiums as Cultural Icons

on May 21, 2012

I would like to introduce you to two of my new favorite tumblrs of all time: Stadium Porn and Stadium Love. Quite simply, they take you on a glorious visual journey of different stadia from around the world, sometimes in varying degrees of construction. I tell you the truth when I say I have spent several hours at a time looking through both of these tumblrs, often imagining what it’d be like in person or what I’d do with it if I could.

It’s also given me a new thesis: Stadiums are as important to the culture and history of a people as, say, Independence Hall or the US Capitol building.

Think of how many people that care about the halftime score at the Champions League Final in Munich this past weekend. Or the millions of Americans who watched the Super Bowl this past winter and those last two minutes of the game. Now compare that to the number of people who care about the poll numbers for the 2012 presidential race. Or Senate race. Or their Congressional district race. Admittedly based on instinct, I would guess that more people care about football scores than poll numbers.

PPL Park

Sports are as important to people’s identity, culture and history as any major event, institution, or landmark. Baseball phrases have incorporated themselves in American English (like “out of left field”). American football is practically a religion to some Americans. Around the world, billions of people held their breath to see who would win the English Premier League. Just as the Capitol building is where the institution of Congress does its work (or in some cases, not), stadiums and arenas are where the institution of sport plays out.

In most cases, building a stadium is an act of faith and love. It says that someone loves a game (or games) so much, that they are willing to invest a significant amount of money and time to be able to invite others to watch in person. They may never fully recoup the money they invest; in fact, odds are they probably won’t. But in that moment with a cheering capacity crowd hoping for a win, there’s something more important than money: joy.

Wembley is the epicenter for English soccer. Camp Nou is a cathedral to youth and vitality. PPL Park, my home stadium, is a symbol for the hope, rebirth, and sustained growth both of soccer and the cities of Chester and Philadelphia. And those are just a few of the soccer stadiums; think of Yankee Stadium, the old Veteran’s Stadium (before it was demolished), or Lord’s Cricket Ground (for those of you of a cricket persuasion). They are buildings that we fill with our teams, our hopes, and our dreams.


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