Let’s talk about emotions. Somewhat contradictory to the common perception that sports spectating trends toward a masculine pastime, emotions are what make sports so great. Emotions are what make a fan care about what happens in athletic competition—what make a fan share in the elation of victory and the disappointment of defeat.
Why do people love sports so much? It’s because of the emotions, ya’ll. They are invested. Often, like, really invested. Whether it’s time, betting wages, pride, energy… we fans invest a lot into our teams and sports. If you aren’t invested and aren’t feeling any emotions related to the outcome of the game or the performance of the players, then sports are, well, boring.
A friend of mine recently made the surprisingly apt comparison between sports news and celebrity news. And it’s not just the fact that SportsCenter repeats with the same content throughout the day as does E! News, nor the increasing intersection between TMZ and ESPN.
To extend the comparison a bit further, let's relate sporting events to television shows -- specifically reality shows. We like following sports and following celebrity/reality shows because they resonate with what we want. For the typically more masculine pastime of sports entertainment, we share in the the desire to be a champion — to be strong, confident, respected. For the typically more feminine pastime of reality tv shows and celebrity gossip, we share in the desire to be at the top of the social ladder — to be beautiful, admired, loved. These desires are really quite similar and are prevalent for all regardless of masculinity and femininity. They all stem from the desire to be appreciated and to live a life with significance.
Now, it’s difficult for me to say that watching basketball is like watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians… but I’m happy to compare sports viewing to watching The Voice, The Bachelor[ette], and The Apprentice to name a few. On one hand, these pastimes are a way to unwind, to let us partake in other people’s triumphs and squabbles without facing any consequence ourselves. But once you are invested, it is much more than that.
As a sports spectatorFor some reality shows as well, but the rest of this piece focuses on the sports perspective., we get to see people strive for something. Go for broke. Athletes and coaches who have spent their whole lives training, believing they can achieve their dreams despite the overwhelming odds against them. We sympathize with the players emotions, with their struggles and successes. In that way it's like any sitcom or movie, but this is involving real people. The chance to see real people overcome tremendous odds, come together as a team, and achieve greatness.On the flip side, that's why blowouts are often boring. Especially when the losing team has conceded defeat.
Professional athletes are the elite at their craft, and no matter what natural talents they possess, they work damn hard to get there. As a fan we get to see the best of the best lay it all out. A few will triumph, but most of them will face defeat in front of an audience of millions. This public defeat is something most of us never have to imagine dealing with.
The passion and dedication of athletes is easier to resonate with as we get older and the day-to-day often becomes more repetitive. Many of us do not find a true passion to invest in, or we do not have enough time because the passion does not coincide with our full-time job, or we are too scared to go for it.
As I’ve followed sports more deeply over the past few years, I can’t help but feel sorry for the players that don’t get the victories they’ve worked so hard to achieve. But I still have a lot of respect for these athletes. And when they do win, it’s time for some emotions. Flip the bat, scream your heart out, and let the world know.