Psychology of a Sports Fan

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Ego
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Post by Ego »

For years I've been a believer that being a sports fan is not a particularly healthy activity for several reasons:
1) It is a substitute for actually playing a sport or exercising.
2) Commentary is full of war analogies as descriptors. This desensitizes fans to the gruesome nature of real war.
3) The term "pass-time" is often used to describe what a fan is doing. Literally passing or wasting time.
4) It is one of the few times in life when it is socially acceptable to eat the unhealthiest foods and drink the unhealthiest drinks.... during the day.
5) Gambling. Anyone who has been touched by it knows the devastation it can cause.
Today the Atlantic has an article titled, "Why Being an Obsessed Soccer Fan Can Make You Really, Really Happy"
http://www.readability.com/articles/qtb4pvbr
A few quick quotes from the article:
-(T)he more passionate your fandom, the more positive the impact is on your psychological health.
-(F)ans of a local team can feel part of something grander than the self.
-"It is an unavoidable, immemorial, hardwired instinct. Since modern life has knocked the family and tribe from their central positions, the nation has become the only viable vessel for this impulse. To deny this craving is to deny human nature and human dignity."
Thoughts?


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny »

I have to make this quick--it's halftime of the UEFA game ;)
It can be all of the bad things you describe, but there are positive things as well.
1. It can really unite people. I lived in Philly during the Phillies 1993 world series run. The city had gone through some terrible times (MOVE episode), and that really seemed to reunite the city and help the healing process.
2. It can be uplifting. Think of the Japanese women winning the world cup last year. Or the NO Saints run (on the road) after Katrina.
3. I think learning to be loyal to a team, even when they stink, is an important concept.
4. On a much smaller scale, it is something I have in common with my teenagers at an age when it's hard to find common ground.


sshawnn
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Post by sshawnn »

Ego
1. It can be...or...... a happy medium between play and watch to further knowledge (or skill) about his own sport.
2. I agree and also dislike the everyday need to weave facts into either a DizzyKnee story or suitable for COPS
3. True, but if your play the sport (see # 1)
4. All day too. again moderation
5. For the masses, you are exactly right. Gambling is not "pass time" if you can be statistically successful.


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Post by jacob »

Overall sports fans scare me less than nationalists, religious fanatics, gangs, and political activists ... And sports-watching might be less problematic than trying to buy into a lifestyle group through branded products.
It's a reasonably safe public diversion.
Bread and circus.


aussierogue
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Post by aussierogue »

Ha - nice thread
Interestingly i have become more obsesses with my local football team here in australia since i have given up full time work.
I find myself really looking forward to the 3 hours of weekend time when i can yell and drink beer with male friends without being seen as a wierdo.
What is a bit scary is that i also now look forward to innane things like the naming of the teams every thursday night, blog topics regarding the mertis of various players and i even watch most football related tv shows....especially if my team is playing well.
It gets worse
Last night - hows this for a a treat for an aussie sports fanatic....
COme 9.30 in the evening the cricket was been shown live from London - a match lasting 8 hours between England and Australia. Similtaneously the tour de France was being shown on another free to air channel....Just as both were finishing the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy started (4.30 am my time) and i managed to catch 45 minutes before i fell back asleep on the couch.....
It get worse - the olympics start soon.....
Then it will get better.....my wife will have had enough, I will be sick of sport, my children will wonder what up with dad and then maybe I will remove the tv from the house for 6 months...
We lived without a tv for 2 years back before children....dont like my chances (kids will freak) but i may see if i can negotiaite a deal....
aussie (trajic and not proud)


dot_com_vet
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Post by dot_com_vet »

Are ERE folks not into watching sports so much? I think it's generally a waste of time, although it's a good way to induce a nap.


jzt83
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Post by jzt83 »

It's just another outlet to socialize and be a part of something else that builds camaraderie. I was into watching sports as a pre-adolescent, but I just stopped caring about watching sports. I can't relate to rooting for the home team because it just makes no sense to feel passionate about something so absurd in my mind. A team that's loosely affiliate with the metropolitan I live in that is on a winning steak means little to me. I suppose being a neuro-atypical, I just can't relate to feeling that sense of connection while rooting for the home team.


Chad
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Post by Chad »

I will make another point breifly mentioned by sshawnn. As someone who has played and coached a lot of football (American for those of you outside of the U.S.) I really enjoy watching the strategy and creativeness some coaches and players demonstrate. This includes watching some games where I have no emotional connection to either team, but just an interest in some strategy or player.
@ego

While there are negatives that go along with being a sports fan, I think the ones you list are rather minimal and rare. I don't think 1-4 are that big of a deal.
1) I highly doubt these people would exercise if there were no sports on.
2) While true, it seems a little far fetched to say it desensitizes people from war. If it does it would have to be dead last on the list of things that desensitizes or prevents people from understanding the effects of war.
3) I don't see anything wrong with wasting some time. Not everything has to be productive.
4) If the rest of the week is quality food then a bad meal or two during one or two sporting events isn't exactly horrible.
5) Definitely an issue for some poeple, but not the majority.
I do think some people take it too seriously. Philadelphia being a prime example when they actually put a jail and judge on the premises during Eagles football games, because there were too many fights and other issues during the game. I don't think they still do that. It's interesting that Philly is both a positive (jenny's) and negative example. Very passionate town.
I have also seen very high quality fan interaction between different team fans. Go to a Nebraska college football game some time and you will see some very classy fans. They always cheer for the opposing team when they run onto the field and have been known to cheer for the opposing team on a good play that goes against Nebraska. If this could be taught to the rest of the sports world, watching sports would not be a waste of time.


aussierogue
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Post by aussierogue »

@chad - nice perspectives. Yes i enjoy the strategies aswell. Having played sport at a decent level that side of things always interests me.
I think what sport also does (at its best) is produce hugely dramatic scenarios...where we see individuals, against amazing odds do something 'in the moment' that can give the watcher a huge buzz. Like an athlete who after 20 years becomes an olympic champion, or a basketballer who is known for choking, sinks the final baskett to win the NBA chapionships. So for me the backstory helps and in comnination with a highly charged competition the results can be amazing.
For most of us our 'days' just arent that exciting.
It is interesting that how in some cultures / countries the boundaries between support and fantasism get blurred.
I remember the columbian soccer goalkeeper who got shot at an outdoor cafe for letting through an easy goals the week before.
Europe and soccer hooliganism is also out of control.
Aussie


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

Funny, I wrote this because I sat down in front of the television in the common room for a moment while waiting for a tenant, got sucked into the Tour de France and ended up missing my ride.
Chad, as a recovered Eagles fan with siblings who still hold season tickets, a regular spot in the parking lot and a cousin who spent time in that cell (and tells everyone with pride) ... perhaps my view of sports is skewed for the reason you mentioned. In Philly it can be taken about four steps too far.
Explains why I am in SoCal where the visiting team perpetually has more fans in the stands that the local team.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny »

Ok, ok, so Philly can get a little rowdy. As long as nobody gets hurt I don't see the harm. All of that energy also gets put into some classic events like the bike race every June, the Penn relays, and the various regattas. C'mon, you have to laugh--booing Beyonce during the NBA playoffs--priceless.
I don't know if this still holds true, but among large US metropolitan areas, Philly used to have the largest percentage of people who were born here and also died here. I think that has something to do with it.
I've always wondered if other places were like this. I guess not. I've been in Philly over 20 years. Before that I grew up in Springsteen's hometown, and you can tell from his music that people in that part of Jersey are also very proud of where they are from. Maybe I just got lucky living in those two places?


Chad
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Post by Chad »

@Aussie

Yes, the drama really helps. When you watch something epic and unbelievable like Tyson getting KO'd by Buster Douglas, Usain Bolt destroying a world class sprinting field at the Olympics, Michael Jordan refusing to lose time after time, Kerri Strug winning gold on a badly sprained ankle, US beating the Soviets in hockey in 1980, etc. it really pulls you in. It's always impressive to see someone become better because of the pressure.
@Ego

Awesome, that you know someone who has been "jailed" in the stadium. Definitely gives you a different perspective.
@jennypenny

I agree. As long as no one gets hurt I don't see the harm. Philly is just an interesting example.
"Philly used to have the largest percentage of people who were born here and also died here. I think that has something to do with it."
I would imagine there used to be more places like Philly, where a lot of people were born and died. That has changed a lot because of the economy. Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania is similar. Almost no one moves to that area, though a ton of people have moved out. DC is loaded with former Pittsburghers, as the stands at sporting events show when they come to town.


sshawnn
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Post by sshawnn »

Chad
http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8 ... nfl-rewind
I think Cincinnati had this rowdy,Philly like pride during the Big Red Machine years.


Chad
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Post by Chad »

@sshawnn

Thanks a lot. That looks awesome! The "tight" copy (from the endzone) is great to watch as a former lineman.


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Post by Dezdura »

I don't really watch much typical "guy" sports, but I enjoy Horse racing, and there was nothing like the recent 19/20 winning streak of the beautiful Zenyatta who just recently foaled her first colt. I've always been a horse crazy girl. I also will sit for hours watching the Olympics ice skating, and gymnastics. I also live in a town obsessed with their college team, the Nebraska Huskers. I've never lived in such a team crazy town.
I feel that sports has the benefit of socializing people to act in support of a common cause. It has a teaching effect of showing people especially the young what behavior is expected by society (trying hard and accepting both winning and failure with grace), I feel it should motivate activity, as the young become determined to excel in whatever sport their "heroes" excel in.

I feel also that sports encourages family gatherings,community building, and also "male bonding."
I am wildly behind the curve because I do not sit around watching bowl games. I don't know about the food issues. I think what people choose to put in their mouths is a personal choice. A person can eat a low fat salad just as easily as a plate of pizza hot wings. Whether a person exercises or gambles is also a personal choice. The choice of your behavior for a few hours on a Saturday during the sports season is not necessarily your behavior for the entire year.


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

I knew it was bad but this article about Sports Welfare is absolutely unbelievable.


Beaudacious
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Post by Beaudacious »

@Ego Relevant documentary on the finances of sports professionals.
Broke:

http://espn.go.com/30for30/film?page=broke
Also, a discussion on the Manchester United/City rivalry, getting to its initial roots.
http://www.reddit.com/r/soccer/comments ... ty/c7ffrhi


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

That story about the history of the Manchester teams was really interesting. It is amazing how far an organization can wander from its roots.
As for the players in Broke, it is hard to feel sympathy for these overpaid artificial heroes. Someone here posted a comment in another thread about how our system overcompensates the clowns in our distraction-bread-and-circuses-consumption-machine. Are they victims? Are they tools? Are they accomplices? Maybe all three.


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Ego
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Re: Psychology of a Sports Fan

Post by Ego »

Reviving this old thread because there was a story on npr this morning with the exact same title.

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/01/228026292 ... ports-fans

A few interesting points:

-Mirror neurons activated when we watch players. We feel like we are them.

-Terror management theory: We are looking to be a part of things that will outlive us because we are terrified of our own mortality. A sports team is something that will outlive us.

-Pattern recognition: Human beings need to find patterns. Being a sports fan provides the subject for supposed patterns to emerge. Taken to extreme this becomes apophenia or type I error: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia

-Watching sports allows us to feel intensely about something that isn't important.

Dragline
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Re: Psychology of a Sports Fan

Post by Dragline »

So what you are saying is that its a lot like porn. ;-)

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