As is true of most nations, more people in Germany tend to be fascinated by sports than there are active participants. Armchair experts abound, with the airwaves full of sports shows, sports reports, and live broadcasts of sporting events.
As befits the nation that has appeared in more World Cup football finals than any other, and taken that coveted cup three times (only Brazil has claimed more World Cup titles), Germany’s greatest sports passions are focused on football (soccer). World Cup appearances by the national team can turn many German villages and whole sections of larger cities into virtual ghost towns.
A milder form of football fever spreads during important matches in the premier professional league (Bundesliga) or when the German side takes the field in the European Cup. Streets are a bit more populated at these times, but pubs and clubs not fitted out with TV sets invariably report noticeable drops in customers on evenings with big games.
But if Europeanized football (soccer) is not your cup of tea, you certainly won’t be left out in the cold sports-wise in Germany. The country has become a passionate pack of tennis-watchers and players, especially since the appearance of domestically-bred world stars such as Steffi Graf and Boris Becker 22 years ago. Golf has also become somewhat popular, though it still lags behind such hot numbers as basketball (both the local product and, particularly, the real deal from the NBA), skiing and ice-skating.
Delayed broadcasts of NFL and American college games are offered on the two sports cable channels, and American football junkies needn’t worry about Super Bowl withdrawal agonies: the Big One is broadcast live on the German national television station ARD although not in English.
But sport enjoys a social value over and above their own virtues: discussing sports is a good way to quickly integrate yourself into German society – or at least some parts of German society. Your colleagues in the office or the factory will often warm up to you faster if you display a working knowledge of the major sports events of the day.