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Sports Psychology?


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This is a copy of a "note" I wrote on Facebook about a year ago. It didn't attract much attention then, and it may not now. But since we're all talking about THAT football game, I figured I'd pose the question here:


In days past a home team may have been comprised of local folk. Folk that you may have even known yourself, in our smaller societies. In those times winning a competition could be seen as a source of pride. After all home grown talent, talent that perhaps you helped through second grade, had prevailed. But today athletes are bought sold as commodities even as sports marketing assures us that the home team is "your team." Athletes are the best that money can buy, or the result of conscripted labor agreements under "the draft." They come from somewhere else, and spend the off season off somewhere else, and whine about their contracts. But somehow, you are supposed to identify with these athletes as if there were some connection to you, to your community, as if now, buying their service in some way reflects upon your worth as did nurturing a local hero in the days of yore. Yes, it's your team.


I have noticed, however, that when a better deal beckons, your team is quite likely to become someone else's team. It has also crossed my mind, enfeebled though it may be, that I have never received any share of the profits from one of these enterprises, nor had much say in how things are run. Sometimes I begin to wonder if the home team really is my team, in any meaningful sense. Often, it seems, such musings enter my mind when I see the price of tickets, jerseys, and other licensed logo items, or hear about the value of contracts, see the bidding for rights to a venue name, and such. It is then that I notice that money doesn't seem to be coming my way.


On another front, I can't quite understand the idea of wearing an athlete jersey. This form of hero worship has simply never quite jelled in my mind, which as I note, must be quite without the usual attributes of sense and propriety. What does such a donning convey: Adulation and admiration; a claim of similarity or equality; an expression of desire to be like that athlete? I don't know. It seems a bit crass to me.


In the end, sports today are governed by agreements that purport to promote "parity." No one in their right mind can possibly believe that prevailing in a modern sports competition today even represents the triumph of so shallow a victory as the successful application of free market forces.


Why then do we get so excited when our team wins, so dejected when our team loses, so ready to empty our wallets when the entertainments begin?

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Do you see a difference in wearing an athletic jersey vs. a NorthFace jacket or Tommy Hilfiger sweater?


Should cities have a home town circus instead of a sports team? Aren't sports teams really just paid entertainers?


Have most teams priced themselves out of a hometown following? No, they wouldn't be selling those tickets at such high prices if people weren't buying them.


Are college sports any different?




Okay, that's my share of questions.



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Dave McReynolds

It's a huge industry, providing jobs for people from the stadium builders to marketing to players and support staff. What would happen to all those jobs if people lost their interest in watching sports? I can imagine more useless things they could do with their money, like gamble in Las Vegas, but that's just my own value judgement.


Probably more important than asking why they do it is to observe that they do. The conclusion I draw from this observation is that it's a basic human trait for the majority of people to spend their excess money on things that are of no particular benefit to themselves or to society in general.

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Too many points in the above for one reply, but, the "no benefit" argument I disagree with.

On a national level, many see the Plympics as a positive item. Many small nations see participation as a ticket to brighter days.

There is a perceived benefit to the observer who chooses the affiliation.

There is a tangible benefit to the community.

Around here a home football game generates @ $10 million dollars.

There are benefits to the school.

Too many to enumerate, but how about scholarships, money for libraries, office and classroom construction paid for by sports revenues and booster contributions freeing up other money for chemistry and accounting expenditures.

All for now.


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I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one...


For years, when people would talk at the office of the stupor bowl, I'd comment that I didn't follow bowling.



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They come from somewhere else, and spend the off season off somewhere else, and whine about their contracts. But somehow, you are supposed to identify with these athletes as if there were some connection to you, to your community, as if now, buying their service in some way reflects upon your worth as did nurturing a local hero in the days of yore. Yes, it's your team.


Tell that to John Stockton or Karl Malone or maybe Jerry Sloan, the only coach in NBA history to win 1000 games with one team. Stockton and Malone were one of the greatest duos ever in professional sports. Pretty sure most of Utah's citizens appreciated having them on "their" team.

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I think he just signed an extension.



Back in the day, "stars" played for one team the majority of their professional career.

Free agancy changed the way it is done.


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I have often succumbed to the phenomenon, but I agree that being the fan of a professional sports team is, ultimately, irrational. After all, what you're doing is cheering for a business enterprise that's intent on sucking money out of your pocket. There's perhaps more logic to the idea of supporting an amateur team of fellow citizens who hail from your home, but the idea of cheering a collection of highly-paid employees who, for the most part, have no allegiance the city or state they "represent" is pretty nonsensical.


Like I said, I admit falling into the trap myself . . . it's just interesting to me that we allow ourselves to be sucked in.


On the other hand, the world of amateur sports has some incredible traditions, true to the spirit of sport, such as the Palio di Siena.

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I think it was Seinfeld that did a routine on rooting for the uniforms (more or less) as the faces changed so often.

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Like I said, I admit falling into the trap myself . . . it's just interesting to me that we allow ourselves to be sucked in.


Exactly, me too. So why? That is the question. I don't understand it at all, although I do recognize that there is a multi-billion dollar advertising and marketing industry helping me along. I suspect they know the answer to the question. It's big money to them.

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Like I said, I admit falling into the trap myself . . . it's just interesting to me that we allow ourselves to be sucked in.


Exactly, me too. So why? That is the question.


Some thoughts on the answer(s).


I think that this probably extends to the whole notion of BMW vs. Yamaha vs. Honda vs. ???, though I can rationalize my preferences for consumer products by observing that BMW (or whoever) happens to produce products that better match my preferences. As far as the whole question of why BMW owners band together, I'd opine that it's because we like hanging out with awesome people like ourselves.

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"Psychologists have long suspected that many die-hard fans are lonely, alienated people searching for self-esteem by identifying with a sports team. But a study at the University of Kansas suggests just the opposite -- that sports fans suffer fewer bouts of depression and alienation than do people who are uninterested in sports."


This has been my anecdotal experience.


But I can also relate to the hormonal swings and tribal warfare aspect.



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John Ranalletta

From a much earlier thread re: NASCAR fans.


Likely, somewhere around half the population has a personality trait that can be described as the need for affiliation and belongingness. In their work and family lives, they seek to form close associations with others, like a family. The best popular example of this behavior can be seen in the old Cheers series. The bar wasn't just a bar. It's characters appreciated the predictability and sameness of the bar, sitting in the same chairs during every visit, and "where everybody knows my name".


At work, they have a work family as they have a family at home. Junior's fans wear Wranglers and jackets with Junior's name and number because they have a need to belong to that group around Junior. They gather in their RVs at races around the country, re-uniting just like families reunite at holidays and celebrations. A NASCAR driver dies, the entire NASCAR fan base mourns like a family member died.


This need to be connected to others manifests itself in unions and most of the other social groupings people enjoy. IMO, it also explains why some BMWST'ers will attend ride events for the riding and keep to themselves during the social events while others enjoy the "groupness" and the riding is secondary. HD has capitalized on this for decades while other mfgrs enjoy the benefits only tangentially.

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It's one of those things where if you have to ask that question, you're probably not very into the sport to begin with. And that's perfectly okay, by the way. There are lots of reasons not to like professional sports. I choose to ignore most of them because of my love for [fill in the blank].


I've never bought a sanctioned, licensed NFL/MLB/Etc. jersey, but I like it when other people do and wear them to the game, whether it's the jersey of my team or their opponents. It does annoy me, however, when some jackass wears a Seahawks jersey, for instance, to a game when the Chargers are playing Denver (hello Mr. Irrelevant!).


On the other hand, I probably own at least two dozen MSU t-shirts and sweatshirts. Am I sucker in the eyes of the Alumni Association? Do they take my adulation for Bobcat athletics for granted just because I went to school there? It's hard to say. But I keep buying and wearing new ones.

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It's not just the players on the field we identify with, but also the ownership and managers, too. We like to place ourselves in their shoes and survey the marketplace for available players to see who we can pick up and who we can jetison to make our team stronger. That's why we care where LeBron James is going to play or whether Brett Favre is going to retire (I know, and I don't care about these 2 either, I'm just sayin'). In the eyes of ownership and management, they are just uniforms -- that's exactly the point! Now lets collect enough of the most productive ones that we can afford and see how optimal a team we can produce.


The other appeal in this is that it does mirror our own working lives. Do any of us think we're more than just a suit or a cubile to the management and owners of the organizations we work for? We, too, can be fired in a heartbeat, traded for foreign labor, and are often expected to perform miracles. And we too can do wonders today and get laid off tomorrow. Same thing, but with a lot less pay.


And to an even lesser degree (although I often wonder if it's to a greater degree than we have the guts to admit to ourselves) so is our love life! When we were single, we were "shopping" around for the best "uniform" to play a key position in our lives. We didn't think of it that way, but that's the reality of the situation. And even if you weren't doing this, that doesn't mean you weren't drafted by your significant other because of you were the best acquision to be had at the time. And lets face it, sometimes we, too, "trade up" or get traded :smirk:


So maybe pro-sports is simply a microcosm and a model for real life. Where we identify is when an individual, a team, and an organization can come along and navigate the system well enough to win the championship in their sport. That gives us hope to believe that maybe, we too, can win a championship of some sort if we can just assemble the right set of suits, and of spouse(s), to assemble the optimal team :grin:

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"And lets face it, sometimes we, too, "trade up" or get traded"


Like I said, free agency is the ruination of western culture.




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I dunno, I don't watch sports. The point to sports is to p-a-r-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-e.



Exactly what James Naismith (inventor of basketball) thought.

Dr. Naismith said "I'd rather see 10,000 playing and 10 watching, instead of the other way around."

The Doc was into fitness.

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