Lonely sports fans

Added: Dimitrios Nightingale - Date: 13.11.2021 09:06 - Views: 49728 - Clicks: 8195

Imagine an avid sports fan in the throes of a nail-biter. With seconds left in the tight game, the jersey-wearing fan jumps up from the couch, muscles tensed, and barks some final orders to the athletes. Blood pressure rises, no doubt. What else? What is happening in the brain, and how are hormone levels changing? The zealous admirer of hockey and football tries to get to the bottom of a question he and other sports fans often wonder: Why am I so hooked?

I care very deeply about the outcome [of their games]. But, then I think about all the things that are just horrible about me loving these teams. It is kind of sick. College football may be the worst of all, and I love college football. They are not even getting paid to destroy themselves. This is ruinous to their bodies. I question the entire enterprise. We should stop doing it. The urge is so powerful that even when we know that this le to a lot of bad consequences, still we stick around.

Speaking of sticking around, what is the strongest evidence to explain why sports fans continue to be loyal fans to teams, even when there are no rewards in it for them? The book is kind of a confirmation for human beings of the primacy and importance of interpersonal relationships and love. There is a lot of really cool science coming out of psychology labs about how our brains perceive relationships and how they operate with relationships.

The way that relationships work, your brain often has trouble distinguishing between you and the other person. In the case of sports, there is compelling evidence that this is basically a real relationship in your brain. In a very real sense, the sports team becomes a part of you. You just feel like whatever success it achieves is a personal success, and whatever failure it has is a personal failure. To do so is to give up on a part of yourself.

I think that I am a passionate sports fan. I love my teams very much. I think that I am also a little bit of a lonely sports fan. I kind of wanted to understand that connection. In just seven questions, the test determines how much a sports fan cares about his or her team. How do you fare? But, how important is it to you that they win? And, how much do you identify as a fan of the team?

Those sorts of things are pretty high. I score somewhere in the 40s. It is out of It is seven questions on an eight-point scale. I am 43 on one team, Cal football, and 42 on the other, the Sharks. How much of this is beyond his or her control?

I would argue, actually, very little. One of the lessons for me of this book was that self-control is really quite powerful. Look at something like hooliganism in England. If you make a cultural change, where hooliganism is not expected or tolerated, you can really reduce it. If you set people up to have an expectation that they will exert their self-control, they usually will. Very few of us are actually like that.

Most sports fan do it just fine. The people who are acting out you almost have to treat individually. Is this person a low self-control person? Is this person just a jerk to begin with? Is this person just really drunk, in which case the alcohol is inhibiting his or her self control? In some sense, you have been your own lab rat.

All of us feel like something has taken over a little bit when we are watching sports. With men in particular, your hormones are changing. There is pretty good evidence that when males are directly competing, their testosterone goes up when they win and it goes down when they lose. There is also pretty good evidence that it just goes up in response to a challenge of any kind.

It can go up at the beginning of a competition, and it could go up even more if he wins. I found out that it is actually not that hard to test your own testosterone. You just spit into a test tube. I drooled into a test tube before, during and after some important hockey games and sent it off to a lab that analyzed my testosterone. My testosterone just went up every time—whether the team one, whether they lost.

Even though one person spitting into a test tube is not science, it turns out that in any individual it [testosterone level] is really hard to predict. You take men and you show them all a game that they are very invested in. You can be pretty sure that the testosterone in the winners will go up, and the testosterone in the losers will go down, averaged out among all of them.

Again, that gets back to this idea that self-control and some other things do play a role in governing this response. Most researchers who study testosterone will tell you that fans are having the same hormonal response that the players are. Basically, whether you played the game or watched the game, if your team won, your testosterone is probably going to go up.

There is this famous study that Steven Stanton did at Duke, where he studied hormonal responses to the presidential election. He found the same thing. For Barack Obama supporters, testosterone went up or at least stayed level, which Stanton says is as good as going up. For McCain supporters, testosterone went down. There is pretty compelling evidence that you have a ificant response whether you are directly involved or not. I think what scientists would argue is that a lot of what testosterone does is regulate social status. For all animals that have a social hierarchy, it is really important to figure out where you are in this hierarchy.

Your testosterone level is kind of an indicator of where you are. If you think that fans of winning teams have a vicarious social benefit, which I think you could argue, then, yeah, actually there is an evolutionary reason that your testosterone goes up. Your social rank has increased as a result of this competition. Biologically speaking, what is different, if anything, about how males and female fans react to sports?

Testosterone affects mostly men. Scientists are really unclear about women—whether they just have a smaller change or whether it is delayed. One of the difficulties with studying hormones is trying to figure out all of these other variables. How much do you care? How important is this to you? Women cared about the election just as much. Researchers measured their cortisol levels. They were just as stressed out about it. You can get into a pretty lengthy discussion about why that happened, and I am not quite sure scientists know.

Some people are sports fans, and some people cannot care less. Is there something different, at a biological level, between these two groups? I was really interested in this question too, because it is not just my wife, but almost all of my friends [who are not sports fans]. I spend most of my life hiding this side passion that I have. I am out at dinner trying to check my phone beneath the table and trying not to be mad when we are having a nice dinner with our friends. People have these setups to do this, to have these relationships with sports teams, but you could be perfectly satisfied with your personal relationships.

You could have other passions that you find rewarding. People get ificant rewards from sports. It just makes you feel good. More importantly, I think the magnitude of the reward goes up the longer you spend with it. So, for people who have been hopelessly hooked since they were little, like me, there are too many memories of things that I have done with my family for me to be able to give it up easily.

Here we are, in March Madness—three weeks of basketball that, for some people, have mind-altering affects. Tell me this: How are sports like drugs? So, we have this general reward system that is set up to make us feel good when we get something useful—food or sex, basically. What scientists have found is that this system is co-opted to be used for a lot of different stuff.

For example, there are some researchers who think that very intense, romantic love is processed in the same area of the brain. In an fMRI scan, it is the same area of the brain that lights up very, very intensely when you take cocaine. And, it probably is the same area of the brain that lights up when your team wins—particularly when your team wins in a way that is unexpected. I think part of why everybody loves March Madness so much is there is the chance for these big upset wins. When the 12 seed beats the 5 seed in a game, everybody is going nuts.

The magnitude of this reward in your brain is greater for an unexpected win. Your brain thinks you are getting something evolutionarily useful and wants you to remember how to do it. For a drug addict, the motivation to seek the drug again becomes so powerful that it overrides self-control. Megan Gambino is a senior web editor for Smithsonian magazine. La Salle fans during March Madness. Associated Press Imagine an avid sports fan in the throes of a nail-biter.

How would you describe yourself as a sports fan? How much do you feel like part of the group? How often do you wear team stuff? Is there an evolutionary benefit to this? Is sports fandom an addiction? Post a Comment.

Lonely sports fans

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