This post is on the video – Why Do People Obsess Over Sports? – by ASAPScience.
- Simply watching sports releases the hormone testosterone, which is linked to dominance in social interaction, brain power, spatial awareness and muscle growth
- After watching your team win, levels of testosterone skyrocket
- When your favorite athlete wins, a surge of dopamine is released as well – activates pleasure centers in the brain and increases memory and learning
- Mirror neurons – cells in the brain – are activated not only when completing an action, but also when viewing it or hearing it
- These neurons are the reason why we experience a similar emotional and physical reaction to someone winning
- Mirror neurons help us empathize with others and explains why we feel excited when our favorite team/athlete wins
As someone who has obsessed over sports recently, I have wondered this question at times. Why should I, who is far from an athlete and would rather read a book or watch a movie than practice/play a sport, be so addicted to watching sports?
From being a mere onlooker, I have turned into a devoted fan. Tennis, cricket, soccer and my latest obsession, basketball have all led to repeated obsessions, sometimes so much that I repeatedly check a person’s stats and want them to win.
For example, in cricket, I wanted the Sri Lankan team to win this year’s World T20. They’ve been through 4 finals and 4 losses (’07 WC, ’09 WT20, ’11 WC, ’12 WT20). It would have been their first ICC trophy in 18 years, but I also wanted them to win it for two of their most senior and star players, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jay. I watched the finals, stuck with the ball-by-ball commentary when the video lagged, and even prayed for a Sri Lankan victory. And they did win it! I didn’t win anything but I felt an odd sense of victory.
Sometimes though, I am able to empathize with the opposing team and want them to win. In the NBA Finals going on right now, I’m a fan of the Heat (#3peat!). But at the same time, I empathize with the Spurs who have put in a lot to get to the finals in the considerably tougher Western Conference, two years in a row. It would be pretty disappointing to see them lose to the same opponent. And I love their teamwork, how they pass the ball around so well and score freely.
There was a time when Roger Federer was facing a much lower-ranked tennis player (can’t remember his name). And I’m a huge Federer fan. But for some reason, I wanted the underdog to win. It just felt great rooting for him and although he got very close, he did not defeat the Fed Express. It was a strange feeling, that even though Federer won I did not feel the same satisfaction that I felt before, because I supported the underdog.
I think personally, sports has taught me a lot in life. I don’t play for sports except for tennis, but I do a lot of watching. Now, I can understand why (thanks to science) I am so addicted to sports and have an ardent desire to see a player/team win and at the same time, become down and distraught when I see them lose.