What makes sports fans like me so crazy?
I am about to reveal something that will probably alienate at least half of the people reading this. I am an avid Oregon Ducks fan. That's right, I bleed green and gold and revel in the millions of dollars that Nike founder Phil Knight has pumped into athletics in Eugene. I have shouted myself hoarse in Autzen Stadium and purchased more Duck apparel than I can count. Shoot, even my cellphone text alert is a quacking duck.
Any Beavers fans still with me? I thank you â€“ and my condolences on your chosen rooting interests … sorry, couldn't help myself. Please keep reading â€“ I'll try to be nice(r).
Because this isn't one of those times where I'm trying to prove superiority in my chosen athletic program â€“ that would be too easy and unfortunately take up way too many column inches. Instead, I would like to focus on the whole notion of fandom and how odd it truly is.
Consider for a moment, the typical sports fan. They take time out of what is likely a busy and productive day to either plop down on the couch or pay admission to enter an arena or stadium and watch people who are otherwise complete strangers play a game. Not only do we watch but we experience emotional highs and lows during the contest that few other life events inspire. One moment you're cheering and exchanging high-fives with your fellow fans and the next you are ready to throw your beverage across the room or put a fist through your drywall.
Why do we do this? Why does it matter so much? I mean, let's face facts here â€“ the outcome of these sporting events has virtually no impact on our day-to-day life. If our team loses, most of us will still have loving families, a decent home and steady employment â€“ unless of course your actions while your team was losing compromised those comforts. We should be able to smile and go about our day and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
But I'm not sure a lot of us sports fans do that. I'll admit that I stew a bit. I want to throw things. I might inadvertently enhance my children's vocabulary. I even grieve just a bit. A small group of college-age athletes lose a game involving a glorified playground ball, and I temporarily become an emotionally unstable mess. I entertain hypotheticals. I wonder how on Earth a wide receiver could suddenly develop hands of stone or why a quarterback can't manage to throw the ball to the right team. And what was the coach THINKING calling THAT play in THAT situation? â€“ Idiot!
And if our team is winning, I don't think our behavior is necessarily better â€“ it's just different. Anger gets replaced with unbridled glee. We yell, we hug, we leap in the air and spill drinks or foods on the carpet. We kinda lose our minds. And then comes that feeling of superiority, that feeling that the stars are finally aligning â€“ that you picked the PERFECT team to support. Fans of the opposing team watch out â€“ the gloating and needling will soon commence.
I sometimes wonder what it's like for the athletes. Take a basketball game for example â€“ 10 guys on a court working together to put an orange ball through a 10-foot-high metal cylinder the most times in a set number of minutes … and thousands of live spectators and thousands more viewing at home hang on their every move. Hey, I appreciate our readers, but none of them are crowding around our building cheering as I type or conduct an interview â€“ frankly, it would be really weird if they did.
So why do we do this? Why is our emotional fulfillment so connected to the success of a sports team? Are we vicariously partaking in their success? Perhaps it's validation that we have a talent for selecting superior teams. Maybe it's hardwired into our genetic code, passed down from the gladiator days of old.
Whatever it is, it has spawned an industry worth billions, with coaches and players making millions and entire television channels with highly paid analysts talking about it 24/7. Adults participate in fantasy sports leagues â€“ what other profession inspires productive grown-ups to play make-believe together?
We tailgate, we set big bonfires. Where a kid with athletic gifts chooses to attend college is newsworthy and something to discuss around the water cooler.
We aren't fans, we're fanatics! We are hopelessly addicted to a mascot, a color scheme and the athletic prowess of a gifted few.
I suppose I should try to change. Maybe my emotional well-being should be more rooted in â€“ oh, I don't know, things I have personally accomplished. Maybe I could take a page from my wife and just cheer for whichever team is on offense. No matter what, her team is winning! Or maybe I should borrow an idea from another non-sports fan friend of mine and just root for teams based on their team colors. Who cares what college or city they represent?
But I don't think it would take. I am too far gone. My Duck allegiances are cemented, here to stay, forever toying with my emotions and sucking away my precious free time. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse â€“ I could be a Beavers fan.
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