Wednesday, October 07, 2009
There is no logical explanation for supposedly grown up men and women getting so excited about a football team (or hockey or baseball or basketball or whatever) for which they have no direct connection.
The vast majority of fans (99.9%) of any given professional sports team have no family members on the team. They have no friends on the team. They are not neighbors with anyone on the team. In fact, most fans have never even met or had any contact whatsoever with someone on the team. They have no financial interest in the team. Their own connection to the team is that somewhere in the team's name there is the name of the city in or around which they live.
So how is it that these fans invest so much emotionally on whether 'their' team wins or loses a game?
A team winning (or conversely, losing) does nothing for the fan. It doesn't make them richer (excepting those who bet on their team). It doesn't make them more secure at work. It doesn't make their kids listen to them more. It doesn't make their city better - by any measurable standard - than the city of the team 'their' team beat (how could it, given that probably none of the players on the team actually grew up in the area?).
The only people who have a legitimate reason to really care about whether a team wins or loses are (in order): the players and coaches on the team (and especially so if their livelihood depends on whether they win or lose), the ownership of the team, those with a financial interest in the success of the team (vendors, retailers nearby, etc.), family of those on the team or related to the ownership and friends of those on the team or ownership. No one else has a legitimate reason to get so tied up emotionally in whether a team does well. And doing so, apropos of Jesse Ventura's crack, is evidence of 'a weak mind'.
The same holds true of college teams. What does it say about someone who graduated 30 years ago from State U that they still dress in the school colors every Saturday? The school isn't the same as when they went there, their professors have long gone; the only thing that remains are the buildings, and that is if they weren't torn down for something more modern. How does 'their' team winning make one iota of difference in their lives? And I ask the same question of current students: just why does it matter so much to you whether the hired talent your school brought in to play football or basketball wins or loses? It doesn't boost the value of a degree from that school. The professors aren't going to give everybody an extra 10 points on the final exam because State U won the conference title. Their tuition bills aren't going down if the team wins. Most students don't know anybody on any of the school's teams, they certainly don't hang out with them and they're certainly not friends with anyone on one of the teams. Yet I've seen kids who freak out more that their team lost than they do when they blow an exam. It makes absolutely no sense.
And yet people still go crazy.
I, playing amateur psychologist, figure it is because.... heck, I have no idea, the whole thing makes no sense.
Mind you, I'm not blasting sports... as entertainment. I can be just as happy watching a football game on TV as I am going to a good movie. I enjoy watching the games... but as entertainment and not as something that actually matters. With very few exceptions, I watch without caring which team wins. I want action, I (usually) want scoring, I want the excitement of not knowing how something is going to turn out.
Where I make exceptions are the situations where a team has somebody affiliated with it that is, how to put it, trash. Trash is trash and trash shouldn't get the glory of being adored by millions of (mindless) fans. I couldn't root for the Dallas Cowboys as long as Terrell Owens was on the team, with him moving on, I can't root for Buffalo. Ditto for Michael Vick and the Eagles, Dan Snyder and the Redskins, Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers, wherever Allan Iverson ends up playing and so on. Those guys I root against. And there are players who seem to be nice guys - Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Jimmy Johnson, to name but a few - where, all other things being equal, I'll root for the good guys. But even then, not to the point where I am going to lose any sleep if the game doesn't go the way I'd like.