American football is one of the four most popular sports in the U.S.
The National Football League, which is at the top, boasts the highest box office revenue all professional sports. College football is equally popular and produces many future NFL players. The games are also often broadcasted on television, just like the NFL.
The Ivy League is a prestige college football conference. An all-star team made up of select Ivy League players recently visited Japan. The 51 players and staffs came to compete in “Japan-U.S. Dream Bowl 2023”, an international match pitting the team against Japanese all-star players from the X League.
Journal-ONE covered the Ivy League Star Team!
Here’s an introduction to Japan-U.S. Dream Bowl 2023 and a peek into how the players’ practice. We’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at the players during their stay in Japan, which was filled with a variety of international exchange events. The interaction between Japan and the U.S. that this sports provides is heartwarming.
On the team’s third day in Japan, the players conducted a tough morning training session as usual. They seemed to be getting used to the environment in Japan. Along with position drills, they practiced more plays to predict what the opposition might do during the game. The team was building up its momentum.
It was easy to see that the Ivy League players wholeheartedly enjoyed playing footballs. And, not just the players, the coaching staff were smiling, too. Such a sight of enjoyment is rare when Japanese teams train. It was refreshing to see players both giving it their all and smiling.
After practice, the players left the field in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Kawasaki and headed for the Yamanashi Maglev Exhibition Center.
In the afternoon, an experience with Japan’s latest technology awaited the players.
JR Central is constructing the SCMaglev or Superconducting Maglev, which runs along the Chuo Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Nagoya. The players visited the exhibition site.
On their very first day in Japan, the team participated in a Japanese history event in Kamakura. The team’s punter, Will Powers from Princeton University, and James Stagg told Journal-ONEus, “We’re looking forward to seeing the SCMaglev the most.” It was no exaggeration. All the players looked very excited when they arrived at the site.
Before an explanation about the SCMaglev, JR Central Vice President Akihiko Nakamura greeted the team.
VP Nakamura used to play American football at Kyoto University, a prestigious team in Japan. He talked about his connection with Riichiro Fukahori, commissioner of the National Football Association which hosts Japan-U.S. Dream Bowl 2023. The players smiled as they listened to VP Nakamura recall his senpai Commissioner Fukahori. It was that personal connection between these two former football players that made it possible for the team to get a glimpse of Japan’s latest technology. The bonds built through sports are amazing.
Next, the players were handed an informational brochure and translator earphones. They listened earnestly about how the SCMaglev structure and rails were developed.
All the players are from prestigious universities recognizable to anyone around the world: Yale University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Princeton University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Dartmouth University.
Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships for students just because they excel in sports, so these players must also be outstanding academically just to play!
These well-rounded students, both intelligent and well-mannered, were fascinated by the SCMaglev’s history and technology. They asked the JR Central engineers a myriad of questions.
The Ivy League All-Stars numbered almost 80 icluding the support staffs. The tour offered many activities to learn more about the SCMaglev, including an exhibition area where visitors can see the actual SCMaglev through a glass window, a platform for observing the train running at 311 mph (500 kph), and an explanation video. The players held their phones up to take photos and videos as they looked around each activity.
The wide-eyed smiling players looked like little boys, especially in the exhibition area, where they put their foreheads right against the glass to get as close a look as possible at the SCMaglev. Defensive lineman Michael Azevedo from Princeton University looked delighted too, telling his teammates, “Send me the photo later. This one with the SCMaglev will definitely be my favorite!”
The coaching staffs also enjoyed the SCMaglev tour. Head coach, Ali Bagnoli smiled as he took a picture with the SCMaglev logo in the background. What a great photo!.
During the test ride, the smiles weres even brighter!
As the train started moving, a JR Central engineer told the team, “The SCMaglev runs at a speed of 311 mph, but it has no seatbelts. Try it for yourselves to see if seatbelts are necessary.” Everyone’s eyes were glued to the speedometer and a screen displaying a realistic image of the front view of the train.
When the SCMaglev reaches 93 mph (150 kph), the wheels go up and it floats. The explanation of the SCMaglev’s features continued, but everyone was focused on what was happening beneath them. They clamored with excitement, “Wow! Did it just start to float?” “Yes, it’s floating! It’s floating!” Everyone was thrilled moment the maglev began to float.
When the train hits maximum speed of 311 mph, everyone got up from their seats, went to the front of the car, and took pictures in front of the speedometer. Their faces lit up. What an extraordinary experience! The JR Central staff were full of smiles, too. They took pictures for the players and politely answered their questions. This cutting-edge technology created a wonderful international exchange.
After the test ride which seemed to be over before anyone could blink, the air pressure fell and the heavy door loosened. Players exited through a boarding gate that looks like cockpit of a spaceship. Everyone disembarked safely at the station.
“I can’t believe we rode a train that runs 311 mph,” said Alex Felkins, the team’s kicker from Columbia University.
When told it will only take an hour to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, the players voiced surprise, asking, “Does that mean you could go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just an hour!? This is an amazing train!”
“The video we initially watched said the SCMaglev runs through high hills and makes sharp turns, but it ran so smoothly that I didn’t notice,” said defensive lineman Max Lundeen from Harvard University, who was surprised by the comfortable ride. Impressed by the road to its development also, he added,. “It’s wonderful how they continued to develop this technology for 30 years and succeeded in producing this amazing SCMaglev.”
The Ivy League All-Star Team left the Yamanashi SCMaglev site content and holding dearly their souvenirs from the day.
The site’s employees also seemed to enjoy their time with the Ivy League players, as they continued waving goodbye to the team for a long time. Yuichiro Tanaka, deputy manager of JR Central’s International Department, said, “I thought they would be more immature since they are still in university, but the players were very polite. I’m glad they were eager to learn about the SCMaglev.” Having previously guided many visitors from abroad, Deputy Manager Tanaka’s words show just how well-behaved the Ivy League students were.
In the future after they graduate, many of the Ivy League players will leave the world of football and enter the corporate world. Maybe in a few years, some of these future business leaders will board the Chuo Shinkansen when in Japan for negotiations on behalf of the United States. It would be enjoyable if they can look back and remembered their experience at the Yamanashi Maglev Exhibition Center..
As he said, “I want to travel to Osaka someday on the SCMaglev,” the smile of defensive back Mike Fluegel from Columbia University was unforgettable.
We hope the players share this experience with their families and friends in the U.S. It might prompt more people from the US to visit Japan and take a ride on the SCMaglev. That evening, many of the players shared this valuable experience with their followers on social media, along with pictures and videos.