If you’re not a sports fan, you’re probably on the wrong website. Sports are awesome—the action, the drama, the socially acceptable excuse to get drunk on a Sunday afternoon—what’s not to like?
Unfortunately, all those gawky nerds the jocks hospitalised in high school gym class are getting their revenge—science has some bad things to say about your love of sports. We’re not suggesting you quit being a sports fan and take up needlepoint or something, but the next time you sit down to watch football for an entire day you should keep in mind that…
It’s Making You a Fat Alcoholic
If we have to tell you there’s a correlation between sports fandom and drinking, then let us be the first to congratulate you on emerging from the isolated cave that was your lifelong home. For the rest of you, the relationship between sports and booze is stronger than you’d think.
For starters, a study of college students found that sports fans are more likely to binge when they drink. Colleges with a greater number of sports fans were also more likely to experience the side effects of binge drinking: alcohol related injuries, vandalism, panty raids, etc.
Off-campus, another study found that eight percent of people leaving a football or baseball game will be legally trashed. That may not sound like a lot (and it actually seems kind of low for baseball, the country’s official drinking game), but once you factor in the stadium size you’ve got, say, 5000 wasted people. Not coincidentally, drunk driving accidents skyrocket on game days.
But let’s assume you drink responsibly. Congratulations! You’re still probably a fatass. Hardcore sports fans exercise less and have poorer diets than non-fans, and by extension are more out of shape. We wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that stadiums sell food like hamburgers with Krispy Kreme donuts for buns?
All this binge drinking and nacho scarfing contributes to another health problem sports fans face: heart attacks. Multiple studies have found that heart attack rates soar on big game days—and the closer the game, the greater the chest pains. So the next time the Super Bowl comes down to a last second goal line stand, keep in mind that an equally important battle is being fought between your aortic valve and a hunk of bacon grease.
It’s Making You Dumb
No, not in the stereotypical “people who like sports are dumb jocks!” sense. Although if you binge drink enough that might become true.
This is more in the logical reasoning sense. Do you ever wonder why teams that have sucked for years still have legions of loyal fans? They’d have to be some seriously diehard supporters to put up with a team that terrible, right?
Well according to science, they may just be incapable of realizing how much their team blows. A study took hardcore football fans, asked them to predict results for a season, and also asked what their favourite team was. For every correct prediction, they got a little cash.
On average, fans predicted their favourite team would win 10% more often than any other team—even late in the season, when their club was playing like crap. Their mistakes were costing them money, but they couldn’t help but believe their 2-10 football team was due.
See, if you really, really want something to happen, you’re more likely to believe it will happen, regardless of what the odds are. (It’s the same reason people buy lottery tickets.) This mental inability to accept that your team sucks is also why hardcore fans tend to blame losses on bad luck or biased refs instead of colossal ineptitude. There’s a block in your brain that prevents you from thinking logically about your own team, costing you money both when you bet and when you shell out for front row tickets to watch your beloved Kansas City Chiefs get stomped 40-3.
And God help you if statistics become involved. Sports fans are terrible at understanding statistics, especially if they’re about a player on their team. Fans either misinterpret or ignore any stats that don’t fit with the image of a player they have in their head, which is why “Who’s the greatest player in the history of X?” debates will take longer to solve than the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It’s Making You Moody
Hormones are a big part of sports, and we’re not just talking about the growth variety. Researchers that measured hormonal levels in fans found that, during important games, the most zealous fans experienced hormonal spikes as strong as those felt by the actual players. In less important games, the spikes were merely equivalent to the reaction they’d get from viewing “erotic photos or pictures of animal attacks.” Which, if our interpretation is accurate, means sports fans get off to field goals and bear maulings.
This has side effects—fans whose teams won were more confident in their ability to complete mental and physical challenges, and they also felt more optimistic about their sex appeal. It’s like wearing a Tom Brady jersey and thinking it means you can run the two-minute offense.
But on the flip side, a crushing defeat ruined fans’ self-confidence, making them think of themselves as ugly losers. And even the victories have their downsides—it’s been suggested that the testosterone surge created by a big win produces traffic accidents, as crashes are more likely to occur after close games than blowouts. Although that might just be because everyone’s drunk.
All those hormonal swings probably contributed to the results of this study, which found that people think their sports fan significant other is less pleasant to be around after their team loses a game. They also think they’re more fun after a win, but the bad outweighs the good. So we can conclude that A. after a big loss you might want to avoid your girlfriend for the night, and B. a lot of Houston Astros fans are going to get divorced this year.
It’s Making You a Douchebag
We already know sports fans can be douchebags. Five seconds with a Red Sox supporter will make that obvious. But there are other, more subtle ways that rooting for the home team makes you a dick.
For one thing, you’ll judge people based on what team they support, not their actions. Science says so, you judgmental bastard: a study took a group of college basketball fans and asked them to read one of two stories about a fan’s behaviour at a game. In both stories the fan yelled, swore and threw stuff at the ref after some lousy calls—but in one version the fan was from their college, while in the other he was from their biggest rival.
The participants were then asked to judge the fan’s behaviour. If he was supporting the rival team he was called on his crap, but if he was backing the home side he got off alright, especially if the person taking the test was a really hardcore fan. Basically, you’re okay with people acting like raging dicks if they’re raging in the name of your team.
Dickery is also at the heart of the phenomenon of bandwagon fans. Remember how your self-esteem takes a hit when your team loses? That’s why casual fans hop off the bandwagon—they don’t want to be connected with a bunch of losers. They only got on the bandwagon in the first place so they could wear the uniform and let everyone know they’re associated with a winner. If you don’t believe us, start asking your friends how their favourite team did in their latest game—we bet you’ll hear “they lost” but “we won” when they describe the results. Science calls it “Cutting off reflected failure” and “Basking in reflected glory.” We call it unconscious douchebaggery.
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