Emotions of Sports

Emotion is everything for sports fans. We watch spectator sports for how they make us feel. We cheer for our teams and celebrate their victories just for the feeling it gives us.

In Boston this week, people are deliriously happy after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, professional hockey’s championship trophy. What have they gained? The reward for being loyal fans, for the commitment of hours of watching and large sums of money by those who buy tickets, is just a feeling.

Sports is entertainment, and what is most entertaining are our strong positive emotions. It feels great when our side wins.  When we lose, we get to commiserate with others, which makes us feel personally closer to them. Watching sports with others and talking about it afterward gives us a sense of camaraderie with other fans. We feel connection that is at the heart of the emotional system. In Boston this week, complete strangers are celebrating together. They are using this occasion to share emotion with folks they’ve never met before and may never see again. What fun!

There are other emotional benefits of spectator sports. Sports divert us from pressing life issues as feelings of struggle are temporarily put aside so we can focus on the game. We rest from other challenges. Those who once played competitively themselves but don’t any longer are reminded of the intensity of competition that was so exciting in earlier times.

Sports is a vast industry that involves huge amounts of money and consumes great swaths of time, even for ordinary fans. At the school or recreational level, sports can be all about fitness, identity, discipline, teamwork, personal development and a host of other values. But spectator sports are about one thing only. Emotion.

A championship is special. With a championship comes the fulfillment of hope, in this case a hope of victory unrealized for 39 years. But unless you sell t-shirts or own a restaurant near the stadium, the reward is still purely emotional.

I’ve  been saying for a while now that you should get to know your emotional system because it is central to so much of your life every single day. Sports is one more example of how that plays out. Emotion is a giant force in our lives, well worth the effort to come to understand.

I went to my first Bruins game when I was 11 years old. I remember when they won it all in 1970 and ’72 with the incomparable Bobby Orr. This week, it’s a great time to be a Bruins fan again. What a feeling!