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Sports, Fans and Stress

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

About fifteen to twenty years ago, this avid sports fan turned away from watching baseball and football never to look back again. It’s an amazing and true story and most incomprehensible. Just think about it. How can anyone, male or female, turn their backs on sports? It’s the very life-blood of the nation. After all, any red-blooded American follows sports. We’ll come back to this in a while. By the way, this is a true story.

Over the years, several studies have shown that sports fans of teams that lose actually suffer physical and psychological consequences from the fact that their team lost a game. For example, watching sports has, in some cases, caused reckless driving, heart attacks and even domestic violence. This most recent study examined the eating habits of National Football League fans whose teams lost. The study was published in the Journal of Psychological Science. The findings revealed that fans:

1. Ate around 16% MORE saturated fat when their football team LOST a game, compared with their usual consumption of food on a Monday.

2. Ate 9% LESS saturated fat when their football team WON in comparison with their standard Monday eating.

The researchers stated that “People eat better when their football team wins and worse when it loses, especially if they lost unexpectedly, by a narrow margin, or against a team of equal strength.”

The researchers suggested that, for those whose teams have lost, writing self-affirmations helped a lot to prevent these harmful physical reactions. As part of this strategy, they suggested down what is what is really important to you in your life.

To return to the beginning of this blog, I was the individual who turned his back on sports. Why did I do this. Long before any of this research was done, I realized how upset I was getting when my team lost, especially in a close game. For example, decades ago, the Chicago White Sox baseball team was expected to win the world series for the first time in years. In the end, they lost and I could not get over it. Another example of self-inflicted suffering was when the football team, the Washington Red Skins were picked to win a championship game and most. Again, I couldn’t get over it. It’s no exaggeration to say that I suffered a brief depression when this type of thing happened.

In any case, I one day woke up to the fact that, while I was mourning the loss suffered by my team, the players went home with handsome salaries. Those salaries were higher than anything I could ever hope to earn in a lifetime. I was mourning? I was suffering? What for? None of this affected my life in anyway at all. From that moment on I decided I had enough of sports.

I do not mean to imply that any of you sports fans should give up either watching the games on TV or going to the ball park. However, it’s important to keep these things in perspective. Unless you have bet lots of money on a game, something that can become a serious addictive problem, keep things in perspective. After all, what is really important in your life? Shouldn’t it be health, happiness and success? By the way, always be careful about what you eat. Win or lose, avoid those saturated fats.

One more factor to consider in this blog is that there is a big difference between watching games and playing in them. Joining friends to play against other teams offers an opportunity for competition, exercise and comaraderie that is both fun and healthy.

Just remember, there is enough stress in life without having to add more. The emphasis in all of this needs to be fun, not stress.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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