People who truly love teams in professional sports are intriguing. I can hardly wrap my mind around how much money people filter into watching sports on TV or going to live sporting events. I mean, maybe I approach sports from too logical of a perspective, but I find it difficult to comprehend the cult- like following that I observe in the United States. I can’t picture myself being significantly emotionally invested in the outcome of a game that is being played by a group of guys who I don’t even know.
Don’t get me wrong, I like sports. I play most sports recreationally and especially enjoy golf. I like going to live sporting events. I even like watching the occasional football or basketball game on TV. I do not, however, like sports enough to fork out thousands of dollars for season tickets or spend countless hours memorizing player statistics. I don’t enjoy spending most of my day talking to anyone who will listen about new coaching staff members or a player’s possible injury.
I encounter young guys my age all the time who can talk sports for hours. I see these young men with a true passion for multiple teams in different sports and can not hardly wrap my head around how they can care so much. I realize that growing up in the town or even the state of a team or going to a D1 school gives people a better reason to love watching a particular team. As a student at the University of Nebraska, I realize that the sports teams give you a competitive outlet to demonstrate your school spirit by cheering for an entity that is exemplifying your school. This is old-fashioned fun, and I enjoy the high morale that I see in my peers during football season. It is invigorating to feed off the fire and excitement of the masses. I assume that a similar phenomenon occurs in big cities that have one or multiple professional sports teams. Everyone wants to show how much they love their city and their team. I can even come to terms with loving the teams from your state because you feel they represent you in some way. With all of these examples, I can understand how people can grow to love a team and invest themselves in a team when they grow up surrounded by rich sports culture.
What is harder for me to grasp are the millions of sports fans from all over the country that love teams from other states or other countries. I understand that sometimes this is a result of family tradition or wanting to like the best team or a team with an especially talented player. However, how do these fans eventually become the people crying or breaking their possessions when the Vikings miss the playoffs? How do these people become the men screaming at their TV and remaining depressed for weeks after the Lakers lose in Game 7? I suppose it’s somewhat irrational behavior, but I believe the culprit can be pinpointed. Based on what I’ve personally experienced, I believe that most of the people who love sports played sports and devoted themselves to them at a young age. By putting a lot of hard work into bettering themselves, they developed an appreciation for the difficulties of the game. They also came to know the empowerment of a sweet victory. For many people, the early periods of their lives spent playing sports are their happiest memories. For this reason, they emotionally invest themselves in these teams in search of feeling the joys of victory as they did early on in life. To truly live vicariously through another team, you have to consciously or subconsciously build a deep connection that is somewhat irrational. How are people able to do this?
I have a couple ideas. I assume that people probably try to find out all they can about their team’s city, its coach, and the lives of the players. By gaining knowledge about the personal details of the team, people can feel that they have devoted themselves more fully and have the right to care a lot about the outcome of the team’s games. Another thing that people do is find other fans of the team to watch games with and discuss the team. They also seek out fans of opposing teams to argue with about whose team is better and who is going to win it this season. By finding people to share in the glory and by creating a competition with opposing fans, people are able to further their passion for a team.
When people destroy things, cry, or look genuinely depressed because of the loss of their team, it’s a good sign that they have emotionally invested in the team to a significant extent. I realize that this strong negative reaction to losing is probably accompanied by an equally powerful positive feeling after victory. However, fans unanimously care most about the post-season and championship games, leaving very few people to ultimately celebrate at the end of the season. Loving sports is kind of like participating in an emotional lottery every season. A select few people live vicariously and are rewarded with pleasure when their team wins the big game. The majority are left feeling crushed by defeat, disappointed in the team and coaches that they had believed in.
I suppose this means that a legitimate amount of risk is involved in becoming a diehard fan. Most diehard fans probably don’t consider that the odds aren’t in their favor. More likely than not, they will be disappointed season after season for years at a time. I wonder if an eventual championship season compensates for all the time spent moping or raging over a loss in a key game? I’ll have to ask one of my friends, many of whom happen to be diehard sports fans. I guess I prefer gambling with my money rather than my happiness. I’ll continue to cheer for the Huskers to support my school and enjoy the festivities, but a loss will never ruin my day. Luckily for all of those over-payed professional athletes, a whole bunch of people really do care about them, so they keep getting the big checks. It seems that people are most drawn to entertainment that can potentially give them the most emotional fulfillment. In my life, I feel that other activities are a more consistently rewarding than a life of fanaticism.