By Candice Lingam-Willgoss
Without doubt Sunday afternoon was the most stressful of my married life……. The All Blacks going into half time a point down to Argentina changed my husband from the usually pretty relaxed Kiwi I married into someone who actually started to shout at the TV.
I guess it started when the Haka singing Kevin the Kiwi arrived from my parents in law last week and all talk and planning of our social life over the next 6 weeks was adapted to ensure that all games could be watched in full.
While both from an academic and personal perspective I am aware of the passion and reaction that is often associated with a sporting contest on the international stage, I was still left wondering why it means so much? There is such a strong emotional connection between fans and teams that tears of joy or sadness are common place at many games – Argentina being a great example.
What causes this emotional link between athlete and fan? Even I felt ‘something’ watching New Zealand play (and not just the worry of a potentially grumpy husband for the next few days). Some findings report this connection is developed as early as when children are 9 years old in that “they’re capable of developing an emotional, long-term attachment to a sport, team, or particular athlete”. This level of attachment may also be permeated into adolescents and adulthood by the concept of basking in reflected glory. As human beings we want to be successful and that in turn means being associated with success and as such phrases such as ‘we won’ or ‘they didn’t stand a chance against us’ are common place following your own teams victory.
While these are more psychologically driven explanations of fandom, other scientific explanations reveal that it could be the pleasure seeking side of us that craves success as whenever a fan’s team experiences a win, that individual’s “pleasure centers” will be ignited via a surge in dopamine.
What is clear is that there is unlikely to be one clear reason why people love sport or why individuals feel so connected, this is likely to be different for different people one of the leading sports-fan psychologist in North America, Daniel Wann sums this up nicely – surmising that there are potentially eight different motivations for why people love sport:
“People like sports because they get self-esteem benefits from it. People like sports because they have money on it. People like sports because their boyfriend or girlfriend or family member likes sports. People like sports because it’s exciting. People like sports because it’s aesthetically pleasing. People like sports because, like the theater, it is a venue for emotional expression. People like sports because they need an escape from real-world troubles. People like sports because it provides a sense of belonging, a connection to a wider world.”
So perhaps for me, my connection was because of my husband, whatever the reason I know that an All Blacks win guarantees a happy home!