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What science can tell sportswriters about why we love sports

https://archives.cjr.org/full_court_press/science_sportswriting.php

archives.cjr.org

What science can tell sportswriters about why we love sports
Freaks! Studies show that self-esteem of sports fans, like these watching the World Cup final, is bound up in their team's performance. (Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos) This summer was tumultuous for the mood of nations, as you may have read in the sports section.

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Sports Fans

Sports Fans

Sports is a big deal across the world, with die-hard fans who are extremely emotional towards their home teams. It is hard to pinpoint the motivations of a sports fan, and why a win or a loss of a team matters so much.

Sportswriters have to be careful to navigate the complex emotional landscape, writing about sports in a way politics is written about: Avoiding verbal minefields.

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Why We Love Sports

Sports psychologists have a list of why people love sports:

  • Sports carry self-esteem benefits.
  • Commercial reasons (money bets etc.).
  • Peer pressure of being part of their group.
  • Sports are exciting.
  • Sports is an aesthetically pleasing activity.
  • A venue for emotional expression.
  • Sports is an escape from real-world problems.
  • Sports provide a sense of connectedness and belonging.

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Explaining Sports Appeal

  • Talent-Luck Theory: Sports appeals to a lot of people due to its ability to balance skill with randomness.
  • Mirror Neurons: Many fans are able to feel what the player is feeling, and experience the excitement first-hand in his mind, with no barrier between the self and the outside world.

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Us Vs Them

Human beings have always been motivated by being a part of a certain group, while automatically being at ‘war’ with the other group(s). 

This basic ‘us vs. them’ attitude is hard-wired in most of us.

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The Fans

The Fans

Sports fans are like us only, having a common set of values, beliefs, and life experiences. 

Sports is like a thrilling emotional roller coaster ride for them, a movie to which they have surrendered themselves.

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The Sports Of The Business World

The Sports Of The Business World

Organizational and corporate performance is often likened to sports metaphors, as both share similar factors like leadership, communication, teamwork and achieving a certain goal.

Sports And Business: Shared Goals

Individual performance is generally considered important, but if the goal is shared, and the entire team is having the same objective, then one person cannot be bigger than the team.

This corporate lesson taken from sports provides humility to the individual star performer, who has to work for the team, and not for selfish reasons.

Sports And Business: Resiliency

Successful athletes and teams demonstrate the trait of resilience, and is supported by five psychosocial principles that guide the team towards excellence: Transformational leadership, shared team leadership, learnings, social identity and happy emotions.

Non-sports fans

To Non-sports fans, caring about sports seems pointless.

  • To them, there's a bunch of strangers getting paid to play games against each other.
  • Ther...

Sports fans

Sports fans are sports fans because it’s entertaining.

  • The high drama. Because so many people are involved, it creates drama, which makes it a big hit.
  • It’s fun to watch greatness. People have a fascination with greatness. Sport is a place to watch the top .001% against each other while you who rank much lower can sit on a couch and judge them.
  • It taps into our creepy side. Part of people wants to sit in the ancient Roman Coliseum and watch people fight to the end, destroying their dreams in front of 20,000,00 people.
  • It’s aesthetically pleasing. This is a huge appeal of many of the Olympic sports.

Sports connect 

  • On a micro level, sports connects family and friends. Sports are a talking point that can add a level of closeness to friends or family that would otherwise not be there.
  • On a macro level, it gives the greater community another thing to bond over. Sports create an "us versus them" feeling, which allows people to be part of the collective "us."
  • Sports can give two people that find each other awkward, something to talk about.

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The Motivation Behind Extreme Sports

One of the most powerful motivators is the satisfaction that comes from succeeding at a hard sport and from the grinding it requires. Although some are looking just for th...

Extreme Sports And Risk

Researchers found that extreme sports athletes often don’t consider their sports risky, and dedicate a lot of time studying and minimizing risks. They believe they have done all they can to mitigate risks through hard work and focus.