What do you notice in the images above?
The images above are profoundly shocking. Look at the mass amount of people circling around a small field to watch… what? People throw a ball down a field? Yet, if that ball miraculously makes it through a hoop then that, that could be a life-changing experience for players and spectators alike.
Today on the Neuro Bureau we will discuss sports teams, why you lose your voice cheering for them and why we are so obsessed.
Reason #1: Self Esteem
The desire to cheer for a sports team actually is not about the team itself – but ourselves. When we associate ourselves with a sports team, they become a part of our self-worth and identity. When our team wins, it is like WE won the game and that makes us feel good about ourselves. In other words, when we associate ourselves with successful people, we feel successful ourselves.
Reason #2: Sense of Comradery
Secondly, we cheer for our sports team because of the sense of belonging of comradery it grants us. Imagine this – you are in a huge stadium and everyone is cheering “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Well, that makes you feel strong, gives you a sense
of national pride, and connection with others. Cheering with a whole stadium is a lot different than cheering “U-S-A! U-S-A!” in a stadium of silent people watching the game without comment.
This not only applies itself to watching the game but at schools, workplaces, in foreign countries. Let’s say you are living across the world and see someone wearing a Red Sox hat, immediately you feel a sense of comradery with them because you both support the same team. Maybe they are American too? Maybe you can communicate with them in this new country with a new language?
Reason #3: Sense of Self
The third reason we may love sports team is that it provides us with a sense of self. For example, supporting the Patriots of Eagles may show that we are athletic, “manly”, and bravery. Additionally, supporting teams has an association with where you are from. For example, if you support the Patriots may also mean you are a Bostonian. That could mean you love Dunkin Donuts and say ‘wicked good’ for example.
#4: The Neuroscience
Now that we understand the broader psychological reasons for loving sports team, what is occurring simultaneously in the brain?
In short, Iacoboni found neurons called ‘mirror neurons’ are responsible. Mirror neurons act when they observe an action performed by another human being. The observer, can then mirror and mimic their behavior.
Mirror neurons are actually responsible for empathy. When I see you frown, I mirror that and it makes me frown too. When I see you happy, I mirror that and I smile too. The more active your mirror neurons are, the more empathetic you are.
When you watch sports, you mirror the players and watchers. When everyone is cheering and yelling, so do you and that provides you with joy and a sense of connection with others. You are seeking a thrilling miracle victory to feel a rush from the joy of everyone around you.
In conclusion, the reason you love sports is that it fills a need to have meaningful connections with others, gain a sense of self-worth, and identity.