Due to the recent Super Bowl, I have lately been thinking about sports and sporting events and have found myself wondering why everyone makes such a big deal about them. As someone who loves playing sports, getting excited about watching them has never been a big thing for me; I just see them as yet another source of televised entertainment… Sorry
What I find striking, though, is the fact that many fans develop such strong associations with their team(s) and become genuinely happy or upset depending on the outcome of a game they aren’t involved in in the slightest. For instance, when football-watchers at the bar cheer loudly in celebration of a touchdown or curse their way into oblivion after a botched play or shed real tears after a tough loss, what the hell is that? How can such real emotions be linked to something we are not at all a part of? It’s as though we are living very seriously and vicariously through the players. Mind you, these are players we have likely never met and have only ever seen on television and maybe a few times at the stadium; these are not necessarily people that make a real difference in our lives. Of course, many of them influence the community by working with charities and furthering meaningful causes, but that is not why we follow them so ardently and to the point of reverence. We admire them for their athletic abilities, style and wins.
So, why all the intense hype around sporting events? It may all come down to connection and community more than anything else. Above the odd feelings of love and adoration we have for certain players and their teams, I would argue it’s not about them at all, really. When an entire city wears its team’s colors, talks about the game at work, and throws football-themed parties, these are all demonstrations of different forms of connection, all of which use sports as a foundation to bring a community together.
One could reason that we need to use things like sports to provide a viable excuse for simply talking to random people or even hosting an office party. Perhaps we feel so disconnected from each other with our lack of time and far too busy day-to-day lives that we desperately cling to anything that will allow us to connect; or at least anything that will ease the horrid tensions of a silent elevator. Maybe the act of watching sports as a way of keeping up with popular events is a method of accessing supposed common knowledge, giving us the information necessary to communicate and connect with the rest of the community.
Think about it, as someone who doesn’t follow sports, how will you chime into that same conversation everyone is having about the Super Bowl? They will all be talking about it and expressing their city pride but what will you bring to the table if you don’t really care? You’ll probably either watch it, pretend you did and just Google the highlights, or, if you’re brave enough, you’ll tell people you aren’t going to on principle. Regardless, everyone will be talking about it, so if you want to be at all in the loop, you should probably at least know which teams are playing and who won.
Maybe it goes all the way back to evolution and that inherent desire for the best of our species, a title which would be easily arguable for successful athletes. We lust after their talent, their abilities, their muscular able bodies, and their general superiority as human specimens. From Roman gladiators to the surprisingly intriguing 90s television show ‘Gladiators’ to the contemporary sports of today, gathering to watch the strong and beautiful is an ancient pastime that may even be considered human nature. But is it the simple act of watching these events or the deeper reasons behind why we watch that is truly in our nature? Do we value sports because we enjoy them and seeing others compete, or because we have been conditioned to use them, second nature, as tools to connect with the general populous?
As Seattle is my hometown, there has been many a saddened fan sulking about the last few days. I like to think they’re tears of sadness are being cried not over the heartbreaking loss but over the fact that they will no longer have good reason to talk to and celebrate with complete strangers. It’s all about that connection baby!
I’d love to hear what you guys think. Leave a comment below!