The larger purpose of involving BridgeEnglish Denver students in the numerous field trips available to them during their stay at the school is to expose them to some of the cultural experiences local people may take for granted.
Whether it be skiing, ice skating, business networking events or the famous Western Stock show, such field trips give the students a glimpse of Rocky Mountain and American culture. They can involve themselves in activities and events that may just not happen in their home countries, giving them an appreciation of their stay at Bridge that is not simply limited to their school experience.
One such event was a January trip to watch the Denver Nuggets play basketball.
I headed out on a freezing cold night with seven students from a variety of countries to catch the bus and light rail to the Pepsi Center downtown, home to both the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team. It was a grateful group that finally made it into the warm arena just as the players were warming up for that night’s National Basketball Association (NBA) game against the New Jersey Nets.
We had great seats just behind one of the baskets and it didn’t take long for our enthusiastic group to get into the atmosphere as they tucked into some popcorn. It helped that three members of the student group hailed from Brazil and that one of the star Nuggets players, Nene, is their compatriot. Whenever Nene scored, there were enthusiastic shouts about Brazil in Portuguese coming from our seats.
The atmosphere was also helped by the decision of the game organizers to stage a 1980s theme night. All the Nuggets cheerleaders were dressed in appropriately bad taste clothes, the musical entertainment was from the era and there were retro style Nuggets t-shirts to win, one of which was enthusiastically bagged by Brazilian student Simone Romanholi.
Some of the students were surprised by the amount of entertainment provided at the game. As well as the incomparable Rocky mascot, who always buoys the crowd, not least when he is scoring half-court baskets at half-time with his back turned, it seemed bewildering at times to some of the students just how much entertainment was on show.
Takuma Sato, a wind energy executive who works for Hitachi in Japan, said he has been to professional baseball games in his home country where little, if any, entertainment is provided.
“The American sports have much better entertainment,” he said. “The eighties costumes were colorful, if a little too old for me but, of course, the entertainment is good. You want to join in that kind of activity if you can.”
Rafael Miranda, a Brazilian executive from Sao Paolo who works for hearing aids company Phonak, said it often appeared that the basketball game played second fiddle to the entertainment. In his home country, it would be unthinkable to have such entertainment during a game.
“I felt that the Americans liked the entertainment more than the game,” he said. “At a Brazilian soccer game, everybody just pays attention to the game and there is a lot of energy from the fans.”
There was, indeed, a lot of activity outside of the main sporting event. Rocky playing Musical Chairs during a break in the game with some younger fans, the Jumbotron big screen eagerly trying to pick out couples and getting them to indulge in a passionate kiss and kids and the not so young strutting their stuff to old 80s tunes when the camera was on them.
But it was the sport that mattered in the end, Takuma said. The Nuggets, who are a pretty diverse group themselves with a Spaniard, an Italian, a Brazilian and a Russian lining up with American players, powered themselves to a comfortable 123-115 win and are proving themselves a major force in the NBA this season.
Warmed by the atmosphere, the win and a heated venue, our group had to then force itself out into the freezing cold night to take the light rail back towards Bridge. Thankfully, the light rail train was waiting close by and it wasn’t too long before students were back in the Bridge area and on their way to their respective homes.
“Although it was very cold, this day was fantastic,” Brazilian student and proud t-shirt winner Simone said after the event.