Today, it’s the sports fans who are keeping sports alive with their pure passion. Everything else, performance, promotion, and profits are secondary. Without the enthusiasm of avid sports fans, the economics of the big games would collapse.
What makes a sports fan a sports fan?
It almost goes without saying that every sports fan knows that DIRECT TV rules in the world of sports, especially on Sundays after a great barbecue lunch, but when you and your friends sit in the den watching your favorite game why do you feel so intensely alive? Why is there an almost instinctive camaraderie and tribal bonding? And why do televised games meet your deepest social needs when you hunker down with your family and friends to watch millionaire-athletes fiercely compete for points on a scoreboard?
In an attempt to probe some of life’s deepest mysteries, let’s delve into the sociology psychology and philosophy of fandom:
An Ancient Root Word
The word “fan” originates from the Latin word “fanaticus.” As you may have guessed, the word means someone who is both insane and divinely inspired.
Fans are insane enough to get tattoos and sing out of tune in large assemblies.
They are also divinely inspired enough to start a version of their own religion complete with team clothing, hats, banners, and other forms of iconic worship. Often a few star players to serve as their patron saints to guide them through the confusion of life’s passages, acting as role models on how to live the good life.
Should this unconditional love for their team or their patron saints be met with a rash of bad press, they will defend their champions with all their heart and might. In the event that the evidence against their sports team or sports stars becomes indisputable, there will be a dark night of the soul, a wailing and gnashing of teeth over the dastardly temptations that beset the best of men.
When dating, it’s not a good idea to be open about your fanaticism, unless, of course, your date happens to be as besotted by your favorite game and its star players, in which case it’s a match made in heaven. The thing is that most non-sports fan don’t quite understand what it’s like to be infatuated with a sport, and to live on the balanced edge of the triumphs of victory and the agonies of defeat during every game.
Sports fans are often maligned as fat, dumb, moody, and alcoholic. Non-sport’s fans don’t understand that watching games inspires you to be more athletic and to feel more alive than most human beings. It also requires a lot of smarts to remember all those game statistics and all that historical and biographical information.
There is actually quite a bit of science behind how people become sports fans by Dr. Jeffrey James. Here is a quick breakdown of the psychological development of a fan:
- As a child, when you were about 8 or 9, you developed what child psychologists call “concrete operational thinking.”
- During this phase, you are emotionally open to the suggestions of a father or elder brother who is a committed sports fan.
- You first get interested in the sport, then in a team, and then in a few players.
- Your socializing agents expand from your strong male models to include mass media like radio, television, newspapers to participating in sports with other kids at a school or at a local club.
Even if you don’t grow up to be athletic enough to play in a major game, your love for the sport continues because it has now become a shared experience with other people just like you.
Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, eloquently explains the psychological imprint of watching a game in a blog post: “Think back to the first professional sporting event you ever went to. It was probably a parent taking you to the game. What do you remember ? Do you remember the score? A home run? A jump shot? A pass play? Or do you remember who you were with? I remember being with my dad at a Pirates game. My dad and my uncle at a Steelers game.Think about your fondest memories at a sporting event. Again, what do you remember? Hanging with your buddies? A first date? A last date? How you felt after the team won or loss?”
Even if you are only an amateur player or just a spectator, you can learn many life lessons from sports.
Here are 7 sound philosophical principles about how to live the good life that you can learn by watching a great game:
- · Focus on results because that’s what affects the score.
- · Be a team player so everyone wins.
- · Practice makes you better than you used to be before.
- · Play by the rules and play fair.
- · Respect authority because they enforce the rules.
- · Win with humility even though your superiority was evident.
- · Lose with dignity even if you thought you got robbed.
A Misunderstood Minority
As a sports fan, it’s bewildering why most people have such poor appreciation for demonstrated human excellence, but stay strong. One fine day, they’ll get it.