Just a simple question: why do you watch sports?

It’s time for some reader feedback.

I’m wondering, what’s the purpose of a sports team? What roles does a sports team play in society and in an individual’s life? Why do we care so deeply about “transfers” and winning?

Why do we talk about sports? Why do we need to analyze formations? Why do we need to measure athletics? Why are sports so important that people can make a damn good living simply writing about the experience of the game for others?

Why do you watch sports?

Just a simple question.


39 thoughts on “Just a simple question: why do you watch sports?

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1(@woodysirish)

    for the love of the competition, and the opportunity to watch history as it happens, records broken, people pushing themselves to the limit’s in an attempt to be the best..
    And after playing/partaking in team sports,and solo-sports, just watching a team working together,pushing for 1 goal or 1 person pushing themselves to achieve greatness…
    And if it’s TV sport, the opportunity to watch the best..
    and possibly the greatest reason, is the David v Goliath situation.. where the minnows can win, the poor club that had to borrow jersey’s can beat the multi-millionaires, yes it sucks when it’s your team beaten,but in a sadistic way you still get over the defeat, as you have to love the whole story of it..

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    Why do I watch sports (football particularly nowadays, life is too short, you know): Fun. Emotion. The rush. Big games. Aesthetics. Expectation. Anticipation. Us vs. Them factor. Bragging rights. Sometimes true love for some players or managers. Sharing some beers while watching games with friends or family. Talking tactics before and after the match (why, I don’t know. Sometimes you just want to rationalize your not important at all hobby, or want to make sense of weird things, you even learn a lot by just watching). Nowadays the feeling that you belong to a large community of people that supports your team all over the globe. That.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Pazma

    In times of war, men fought. In times of no war men play sports. I think maybe way back in the day it was a way of showing you were a great warrior without fighting a war. The Greeks had their wrestling, the Romans had their games, the Celts had theirs etc . . . Bragging rites were more important then, it brings the p*ssy! Even the slaves were given special rites if they were good sportsmen. It’s just our competitive nature at play.

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

    I haven’t lived there for a long time, but I grew up in London. Moving around for various reasons since I was a kid. I’ve always supported Arsenal, but I didn’t watch them fervently until I was living on my own a long way from home.

    Arsenal reminds me of my home, of my childhood, and they give me something to be unconditionally passionate about. Sure, Arsenal can get beat hideously at home by a rival, but they’ll always be there to remind me of that Ray Parlour goal I watched on a sunny FA Cup final day. I guess that’s why the current state of affairs is so painful; I know no matter how bad we get, I can’t look away.

    Couldn’t care less about other sports, in truth. Even though hockey just re-started and everyone else is going batshit.

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Brahmabull

    There is a hierarchy of human concern; self, family, tribe, nation.

    Sports have their own appeal showcasing human abilities on a host of fronts. Sport at its best is a combination of strength, speed, stamina, agility, strategy, skill, creativity, courage, leadership, teamwork and all often portrayed aesthetically which satisfies something deep down inside of us to witness art being created.

    But cheering for a specific team and living and dying with that team and caring about transfers and losing some stupid game on the weekend and shelling out $200 for a ticket… that is where tribalism intersects with sport.

    In my opinion that’s why allegiance to teams has largely survived despite free agency and mercenary players, because so long as a player pulls on the jersey of our tribe, he’s one of ours now. And he’s going to war against the representatives of that other tribe. This satisfies some deep evolutionary desire in us, especially men, to see OUR tribe defeat THEIR tribe.

    So watching sport is one thing, but being a follower of a specific team and caring how they do one week to the next, that’s tribalism. And it’s a better outlet for this instinct than the other well established outlet for tribalism – war.

  6. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    Because I got nowhere else to go.
    I got nowhere else to go.

    But seriously. I used to fence, and I was quite good at it as well.
    Then in my 20s I started playing basketball. Then I began to watch a lot of NBA. And I mean a lot. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with a bucket of coffee for my own personal 3am kickoff experience.
    The Kings-Lakers playoffs were one of the most thrilling sport experiences I’ve ever had. And I still despise Robert Horry for that last second 3pointer that ultimately brought them the title.

    And then I went to a friend of mine who had Winning Eleven 5 or 6 on his Playstation.
    That was the first time I ever played on a Playstation as well, and somehow I chose Arsenal.
    I remember beating him in my first ever game with a goal from Henry in a 1:0 game.
    After that I started playing PS, and also started watching Arsenal as well, who were at their most successful period in their history.
    And the thrill of scoring, compared to basketball, was very different. You didn’t have the moment of seing a point being scored every 30 seconds, and somehow the build up and the waiting for that goal after a prolonged period of time made it much more exciting. That and watching a team dominating like Arsenal did got me seriously hooked up.
    I guess what I’m saying is football to me is like sex.
    Thank you very much, Dr. Tim. I believe my hour is up.

  7. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Ray

    “Sports is man’s joke on God, Max. You see, God says to man, ‘I’ve created a universe where it seems like everything matters, where you’ll have to grapple with life and death and in the end you’ll die anyway, and it won’t really matter.’ So man says to God, ‘Oh, yeah? Within your universe we’re going to create a sub-universe called sports, one that absolutely doesn’t matter, and we’ll follow everything that happens in it as if it were life and death.”
    -Sam Kellerman quoted in Sports Illustrated April 17, 2006

  8. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1David

    Great question. I have been asking myself this for some time especially in light of the pain the club put me through about 8 to 4 years a go.

    Back then my mood was affected by the performance of Arsenal. I lived and breathed them and I was miserable. I had to take a step back and and ask myself why I would let something out of my control affect me so.

    I decided that it is simply that I am so damn competitive. I am older and injuried to the point of not being able to play much anymore. Arsenal then became my competitive outlet. Winning is something that is hardwired in my system.

    It is illogical to care that much about something I can not control so I have since settled down tremendously. I still care but not as much to ruin a day. Instead I coach children (very successfully I might add) and that gives me real perspective.

  9. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    It might be simple question but I’m not so sure if it’s a simple answer. I’ve always watched sports. I think I’m genetically pre-disposed to like sports. There may be a bigger force at work here that I don’t understand. I do know that Maradona is responsible for steering me towards football and later Bergkamp got me curious about Arsenal. They are both my heroes and regardless of the class act Maradona puts on every time he is in front of a mic, he will always be one to me.

    Maybe it just provides me with an escape route from the daily malaise or maybe I just like watching men in shorts.

    I don’t know Tim. It’s just one of those questions like: why does pork belly taste so good or why do we see so many hot girls with utter douche bags?

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1carpe duvet

    I think sport is ‘funny war’. It’s a ritual, a rite, a lynching, a killing, a scapegoating, a ‘taking away of sins, ‘an offering to the gods’ to stave off disease/death/starvation/defeat, which has developed over time until the killing/lynching/sacrifice no longer happens literally, but the trappings of the sacrifice remain.

    Football, like cricket and rugby/american football have town versus city overtones (a green field in the city representing ‘the land’ over which we fight). They also have more modern themes of class, history and culture ingrained.

    They are an imperfect ritual, we neither experience complete cartharsis/victory or complete humiliation/defeat and our gods/heros never become real gods. They never become the chief cause of our problems or the chief cause of our satisfaction once they are dispatched (sacked).

    Our rituals are pretty dumb. But we (all here) are pretty much hooked.

    Hang the manager etc…

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Probably for a number of reasons: my family valued sport, I’m a guy (there must be a gender bias that’s explicable here), I’m competitive, and I like drama writ large.

    But given Arsenal’s woes of late, I’ll change the rhetorical angle of your question, such that the answer must be, “fucked if I know!” Maybe watching sports–or, more specifically, following a certain team–is no different from gambling (“next year will be our year!” (there’s always another chance to roll the dice)). The beautiful thing about this perpetual gamble, though, is that you get to do it with others, all in it together, all against a common foe (Ashley Cole).

    In short, nature and nurture.

  12. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    Sports fills the voids in my life. Following the Arsenal makes me feel alive, lately it’s been a case of “I feel pain, therefore I must be alive.”

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ChitownArsenal

    Like a lot of other activities, I like to watch and follow sports as a distraction from our impending mortality. But really it’s a whole cadre of reasons behind my interest in sport. There’s certainly an artistic element to it; I often think of each Arsenal season as a novel of sorts. Many characters – heroes, villains, fringe figures. Many plot twists. Additionally, sports is a terrific avenue through which to connect with the outside world. With soccer particularly, it’s a way to connect with the world outside the U.S. If you want to venture into more abstract territory, you can discuss sport as metaphor for life and other things, but I’m too hungry to get too much down that path. In general, I think a great deal of us humans are fascinated with human potential, possibility, levels of excellence and so forth. With sports, we can marvel at those who are the very best at what they do on earth, playing a sport that many of us enjoy playing ourselves, doing things of varying degrees of difficulty many of us that have played the various sports can have an appreciation for. Being too inward, focusing only on oneself can be maddening and enervating. Sports is just one of many ways to look outward.

  14. +3 Vote -1 Vote +111 cannons (@11cannons)

    I’ll qualify this by saying I almost exclusively watch football [soccer].

    I watch in some part because I played for many years and learned a lot about myself by playing. The challenge of perfecting individual technique, combining with teammates, overcoming adversity, learning to lead, and competing against good/great players.

    As a supporter I watch for the love of those things above, for the appreciation of those who do it way better than I ever did or could hope to do. I’m amazed at the balance of balletic skill and physical power that can be seen over a span of 90 minutes, at the light-speed thinking and creativity required on a pitch with 22 players swarming in constantly changing patterns, all focused on a singluar point in space—that little round dot that everyone wants to put in the goal. I watch for the poetry, the joy and the despair. It’s an emotional release and an escape from the day to day grind.

    I also watch because of the people I watch with, at the pub in person, or virtually through this incredible digital network of fellow Gooners, and in some part the rival supporters who share an appreciation and passion for all of these things. My love for the game continues to grow deeper with these relationships. Through following the Arsenal I have met people like the author of this blog and others, folks on twitter with amazing writing and artistic talents, all who inspire me no end.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

      Are you taking demographics of your readers?

      I know! You’re writing an ultra-conservative litany against the socialist workings of AFC and want to gauge how many leftist readers you might lose!

      But yes, I would imagine lots of us are at least somewhat ”political”, as you say.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Hmmm….interesting question.

      Do you mean:

      a) Are we neo-cons, neo-liberals, or neo-Canadians?
      b) Are we actually occupying a political office, like MInister of Culture and Conservation of the National Monuments?
      c) Do we read the Foucauldian narratives that flourished in the 1990s, written by douchebag lit profs with pretentious titles like “The Politics of Discourse” or “The Politics of Language” or “The Politics of the Restoration Stage”?

    3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

      I did notice how the Occupy Wall St. movements came about the same time the popularity of football was rising in America. Coincidence? I think not.

    4. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

      Dem belly full
      but we hungry

      A hungry mob is a angry mob
      Rain a fall, but the ground be tuff
      A pot I cook but the food no nuff

      I say
      Dem belly full
      But we hungry

      - Bob Marley

      Yes, I’m political. And that also describes Arsenal vs. the “haves”. Which is part of the beauty of sport.

  15. Vote -1 Vote +1Brett

    For the beauty and display of human ability from an end to end, tic tac toe passing movement that brings even the untrained eye to go “wow, that was impressive”. That’s why I always loved hockey, that’s why I’ve gotten into soccer the last few years and never cared for basketball or baseball. That’s pretty much it for me. It’s great to be able to celebrate a victory, especially when you can also say “hey I was there when they sucked too” but that’s not the only reason. Guess that’s why I don’t see the point of “we have to win!” or “show some fight!” … I’d rather just see some good technical displays and a good effort and what happens happens. You can never win them all otherwise why play?

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    it’s something i, like almost every human being, started to participate in as soon as i could walk: racing, hide and seek, to sports with lines, and finally to games with rules and lines!professional sports echo this purity, but combine it with the gamesmanship (etymology!), craftiness, and hustle and grind one has to learn as one grows up as this is not utopia, and normal wage structures do not resemble those as thrive at AFC! i retained this interest into adulthood, and, hence, i am a sucker for FSC, ESPN, Las Vegas, and am not saving nearly enough money as i should!

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1Gombak Hillbillies

    That’s a good question. And I think all the answers here are in some way or another, legitimate. But it’s funny that we only ask such a question when our team is doing badly. In which case, it’s good to support Arsenal now, for the sake of our spirituality, and putting things in the right perspective. It is when we are winning, that we are deluded … oh no! We must really be shit right now!

  18. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1alabamagooner

    Late to the party, but for some reason the computers at work block silly websites like sports blogs. :)

    As a lifelong resident of the Southern US, I have usually followed college sports – mostly college football. But, not really religiously, or tribally as it were. Mostly because everyone else does, and you can’t have a conversation with anyone during football season if you don’t speak the language, especially in Alabama. I follow teams for the usual reasons: because i grew up watching them, because my spouse follows them, because you “have to pick one”. I enjoy it, but I don’t live it.

    On the other hand, I have never really followed professional sports. Especially in the US, professional sports are just one big show, to me. And the players? I can’t stand them. Except for a few notable exceptions, most are egotistical, arrogant jerks (Tom Brady, I’m talking to you). And I can’t follow a team if I can’t stand the players – that just does not work for me.

    So, why Arsenal? I’m damned if I know – and I can’t explain it to anyone else, either. I think I was drawn in because it is such a pure sport – professional, but not over the top like NFL or NBA. But I think I stay, and I care, because of the players, and because of the community of people that follow the team. A gender thing, maybe, but I don’t buy into the war analogy. It’s more of a people thing for me. There’s just something different about the overall ethos of this team, and I think it starts with Wenger, and the type of person that he is. Hope it doesn’t change when he leaves (whenever that is).

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Gombak Hillbillies

      Although I have been a fan of Arsenal since 1990, I agree with you on Wenger. I admire him for insisting on being different. I could get stoned for saying this, but I don’t think that it’s only about winning. It’s about winning in the right way. Unfortunately, neither are we winning these days, nor are we playing beautiful football like we did between 2001 to 2011.

  19. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ignatzuk

    Why do I watch sport?
    - I watch football, some rugby, some athletics, a little cricket and boxing and that’s basically it. Although I loved almost all of the Olympics.
    - It’s only really fun for me to watch a team / athlete that I love, or at least that I like or I’m interested in.
    - I love the way normal rules of time get suspended for 90 minutes and I get transported. – I love the drama of watching a real-life, real-time contest unfold, a drama you get from nothing else. Fiction, film, tv, theatre drama is all contrived. TV news drama is all contrived.
    - I get joy from a good result, but I get a lot of satisfaction if my team works hard, plays well, or even from watching a couple of great individual moments. This applies to my own play as well. I get home, the wife asks “how did you do?”, I might say “we lost, I didn’t score, but I had three moments of genius: once when I turned a defender, one sliding tackle and one reverse pass.” And that’s more than enough for me.

    Am I political?
    - I live and work in the Occupied Territories. My wife works in Human Rights. I first got into blogging through Daily Kos in about 2005, looking for Americans online who were anti-Bush and anti-war, just to reassure myself that there was some sanity in the world. I’m interested in how capital has captured all of our economic growth over the last 30 years. I’m interested in development. I’m interested in system dynamics and how institutions distort democracy. Yeah, I suppose I’m political.

    What about you, Tim?

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      I wonder if you’re political or if you’re trying to change the world. The two, in America, are diametrically opposed.

      I was political, but I lost my religion when Bush was elected the second time. I won’t go into it any more than that because it doesn’t do me any favors on here. But I will say that the astute reader will note my political tendencies.

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  21. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Lexington Gooner

    Why do I watch sports? For excitement. Nothing else delivers the same rush in the same way.

    Why do I watch particular teams? Tradition. I grew up near Cleveland and follow the Indians religiously. The other attraction is drama. I moved to the Boston area long ago and have gravitated toward great stories, like the Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots. I followed the Browns until they moved to Baltimore.

    Why do I follow Arsenal? I wasn’t a soccer fan until the early 2000s, when my son was playing the sport in youth leagues and I got interested in the 2002 World Cup, which I watched in China, where I was on a long business trip at the time. Not long after I got home, I discovered the EPL on Fox. Although I had lived in North London while a student and vaguely had followed Arsenal, I became an Arsenal fan in the early 2000s when it was impossible not to admire the team. I remain an Arsenal fan for the drama. Man U are the Yankees, who are impossible to like. Chelsea and Man City are plutocrats and impossible to like. It doesn’t matter if they make good or bad decisions. If they make bad ones, they’ll spend money to correct them. Arsenal, on the other hand, are truly interesting. They always have a chance but have to make good decisions to succeed. Bad decisions will kill them. That’s drama.

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