The Madness of Sports

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Main Question or Discussion Point

Why do people get so attached to sports, that they must win, and killing and beating other fans as well?
 

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  • #2
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The drive in every psyche to compete would be my opinion. We all, at some level, want to compete and do battle. Sports seem to be an extension of that. Plus there's the "Be all I can be" kinda of persona of sports.
 
  • #3
FZ+
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Probably because what we see today as sports derive from the ancient and brutal hunts and war-games, where winning at all costs was a requirement of survival.
 
  • #4
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Originally posted by FZ+
Probably because what we see today as sports derive from the ancient and brutal hunts and war-games, where winning at all costs was a requirement of survival.
Exactly, it's your basic "Fight or Flight" reaction. The people that are attracted to sports are those that have a predisposition to "fight".
 
  • #5
Tsu
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Originally posted by Turtle
Why do people get so attached to sports, that they must win, and killing and beating other fans as well?
Are you talking about the recent altercation outside Dodger stadium? The latest I heard on the news was that they weren't arguing about the game - that it was something else. Was that later disproved?
Even if they weren't arguing about the game, there is almost always pretty serious drinking (usually beer - at least that was all they sold whenever I was at a game there) going on, and alcohol tends to make people more violent and agressive.
 
  • #6
hypnagogue
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I think the answer to this question is more complex than has been indicated thus far. I think FZ+ was on the right track, but I would like to extend his basic idea a little further by borrowing some ideas from The Lucifer Principle (a very interesting book by Howard Bloom that I'm in the process of reading).

A sports team is a kind of social/cultural phenomenon in itself, and it is human nature to seek to belong to such social groups-- numerous studies have shown that one's psychological and physiological health are directly correlated with one's subjective sense of playing a meaningful and valued role in a larger social context. According to Bloom, such large social groups take on a life of their own and become a sort of superorganism with its own emergent character and motives, including an evolutionary struggle for survival against rival superorganisms (a clear example of such a superorganism would be the classical 'mob mentality,' wherein the collective mob somehow emerges as a sort of single unified creature in its own right).

The average fan's identification with this larger whole is often plainly evident in the language s/he uses-- a fan will say of his/her preferred team, "We really need to make a trade" or "There's no way they can beat us." The superogranism's competition with rival superorganisms is thus experienced on the individual level as the 'us vs. them' mentality-- in sports, this effect is in fact invited and amplified by associated cultural/geographical identities, such as New York vs. New Jersey or Brazil vs. Italy. In general, the more distinct 'us' and 'them' are, the more these superorganisms stand in direct competition with eachother, and thus the more acerbic, vicious, and inhumane their attitudes may become towards eachother. Any historical review will show that the violence and competition that takes place within a social group is negligible compared to that which occurs between rival social groups, which Bloom explains in terms of evolutionary survival principles applied to the superorganism itself. (By way of analogy, an individual's immune system must be ruthless against outside threats distinct from the unitary body/organism in order to keep the individual alive, but if it begins to turn its destructive powers on the body itself, the individual is doomed to a short life.)

Fans of a team may have their own internal conflicts, but they generally get along due to their unifying interest-- they are all for the team, after all, and internal bickering only dilutes solidarity. On the other hand, they are much more apt to view fans of a fierce rival team with distaste, disdain, mockery, etc., especially if these rival fans have the audacity to show their rival colors on the team's home turf. If the competition is fierce enough, the distinctions sharp enough, and the animosities high enough, these relatively mundane behaviors can ignite into violence. Similarly, the home team's best players may take on a nearly mythological status to their fans while the rival team's best players may become reviled, villainous figures berated with merciless boos and insults.

In this way, the us vs. them mentality creates a sort of meta-evolutionary conflict which makes acceptable-- and even promotes-- attitudes and actions against fellow human beings that in 'normal' human activity would be considered anywhere from inappropriate to inhuman. (Note that sporting rivalries are just one example of this general principle of human nature.)

As for what enthralls people in sports so strongly in the first place, the sporting/athletic experience actually is deeply rooted in our natural spiritual and aesthetic sensibilities, believe it or not. Rather than expound on this further myself, I will defer to an absolutely fantastic article that states the case much better than I could:

http://www.esalen.org/air/essays/spiritinsport.shtml [Broken]

Some selected quotes:

The religious nature of sport is the subject of Michael Novak’s The Joy of Sports. Novak argues, eloquently and persuasively, that in American society sport is a kind of "natural religion." "I am saying," he writes, "that sports flow outward into action from a deep natural impulse that is radically religious: an impulse of freedom, respect for ritual limits, a zest for symbolic meaning, and a longing for perfection. I don't mean that participation in sports, as athlete or fan, makes one a believer in 'God,' under whatever concept, image, or experience one attaches the name. Rather, sports drive one in some dark and generic sense 'godward.'"

Sports satisfy our deep hunger to connect with a realm of mythic meaning, to see the transpersonal forces that work within and upon human nature enacted in dramatic form, and to experience the social cohesion that these forms make possible. Whether or not we so name them, these are religious functions. But our society so thoroughly secularizes sport that we can barely recognize, let alone express, what it makes us feel. Sport is, in Novak's words, "a faith without explanation."
Sports may no longer be about transcendence, but they still enact transcendence. They retain their power to intensify experience and awaken within us a larger sense of being. They continue to provide forms that make present to us the primordial forces that in other times were called gods, that today might be called archetypes, and which still constitute the primary themes and motifs of art, philosophy, and psychology. This is the hidden dimension of sport, its secret life.
In Second Wind Bill Russell [a Hall of Fame basketball player] mentions many of the qualities athletes may experience in the zone: profound joy, acute intuition (which at times feels like precognition), a feeling of effortlessness in the midst of intense exertion, a sense of the action taking place in slow motion, feelings of awe and perfection, increased mastery, and self-transcendence.
 
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