Why do sports fans feel sad when "their" team loses or happy when "their" team wins?

So you live in a town. A group of professional sports coaches and owners who happen to be based in your town have spent millions of dollars, collected from both ticket holders and television broadcast rights, to select and train athletes. These athletes then do battle in a game with strict rules that tests for the extreme right edge of the bell curve in physical ability and coordination.

The outcome is mostly determined by luck and the budget of the host team, as the process of picking players for a team uses both a “draft” where luck and guessing determine which teams get superior players, and a bribing system where teams bid to pay a single person hundreds of millions of dollars to manipulate a ball around in an arena with their body.

For some reason, when I tell 3 of my bros “hey, you are rooting for heads!” and 3 more “hey, you are rooting for tails”, and then flip a quarter, the winners don’t get hammered to celebrate and the losers don’t get hammered and trash things in anger. What gives? Don’t sports fans understand that they are essentially waiting on the outcome of a dice roll when they watch an event (a biased die, obviously, as most sporting matches are not 50-50 for either team to win)

You have emotional connection with your team. Just like if you watch a good movie and are invested in the characters. You are emotionally invested with the team. Many times it’s a generational thing. Since the vast majority of teams do not win the ultimate championship, you are actually rooting for your father, and grandpappy. Your team winning will make you happy, but also make them happy too.

For me, I’m more a fan of NFL football than a certain team. Watching football is what I did with family on Sunday and Monday nite, it was way more fun to see a competitive game, particularly since our “local” teams weren’t very good. Watching an ultra competitive game is really one of the biggest sports related thrills I get in my life. It’s a nice escape, just like watching a good movie or reading a good book.

Crazy hoo-mans. You’d think they had millions of years of evolution favoring tribalism or something!!

It is part of bonding with your fellow citizens. Otherwise, as the OP suggests, it makes no sense.

When I was in HS, the school’s colors were crimson and gold. At the beginning of ninth grade, we were arbitrarily divided into two moieties, crimson and gold and whenever, teams had to be chosen for any purpose, they simply had a crimson team and a gold team. You were supposed to bond with your colormates. Something similar happened in ancient Rome with fans of, I think, green and blue chariot racing teams.

One reason to root for the local team is repeated exposure. You learn more about the players, and their struggles and triumphs. You see areas their working on, a batter who has been struggling for 2 weeks at the plate has a break out game, and that’s exciting. You tune in the next game to see if he can keep it going or whether he’ll struggle again.

You know more about your local team (probably) and thus can really get much more into the drama. For Seahawk fans, for example, you are watching what the offensive coordinator will call each play and praise or criticize his choices, given last year’s “unpleasant” ending. You wonder if the O-line will stand up and give your quarterback time to throw. That un-drafted free agent from Michigan taking Lynch’s place captures your imagination. All this kind of stuff is happening with other teams, but you’re only generally aware. You know your team and you care much more about what they do, because you understand much more what is going on below the surface.

But, of course, it’s still a bunch of millionaires playing ball for a living, and we shouldn’t care. It’s fun though.

Sports are live-action, un-scripted soap operas. Do you understand why people would find this engaging?

And no, the outcome is not close to a coin flip. These are real humans with super-human abilities who are the best in the world at what they do (or close to it). There is a lot of human element to sports.

Elite millionaires playing for a living, even elite-r millionaires (and some billionaires) owning the teams/franchises, millions of fans cheering them on–all the while, thinking that these elites actually represent and care about their cities and communities. Meanwhile, the elites profit off playing these fans like harps. That’s pro sports in a nutshell.

This, amongst other reasons, is why I think there should be community non-profit/non-elitist “parallel” leagues for each sport, made up of residents of the city/community the teams rep. Ensure the teams are an inclusive, compassionate, charitable part of said communities (this is where most school teams fail the sniff test–they’re elitist as hell, too). These would be teams I could find myself cheering for. :slight_smile:

Perhaps that kinda thing already exists; I don’t know. I don’t care for sports enough to really look into it.

It’s exciting, because on any given Sunday, anything can happen.

It’s not a coin flip for them. I’m saying that as a sports fan, I can no more affect whether “my” team wins than I can affect which side a coin lands on when someone else is doing the flipping.

Amusingly, at least fantasy league players get to make decisions that affect whether their fantasy roster is successful or not. It’s still an enormous amount of luck but their decisions have some effect on the outcome.

It’s the original reality TV show with contestants that you’ve been following for years. Not all of them, of course, but teams usually change so slightly from year-to-year that you have definitely bonded with them, with their abilities, their skill, and ups and downs.

I’ve never understood it and never will. If every professional athlete on the planet dropped dead tomorrow I couldn’t care less…

Cool story, bro.

Huh. Except that when I see The Situation and Paulie D dispose of a grenade with a clever maneuver so they can fuck the hot chicks who come with the unattractive chicks, it’s something I feel I could use in real life. Or just sticking to the basics - GTL 4 life.

I can’t do any of the maneuvers that professional athletes do every day. I don’t know how to tackle or throw a football straight or slam dunk or even do more than just get lucky 1/10 shots at the free throw line.

People like sports and when you watch a team for long enough you feel emotionally attached to them and enjoy seeing them win?

“Why do people feel happy when they get what they want?”

Happy? Ah, yes, one of your human emotions. Highly illogical.

Well, there IS the WNBA… That is pretty close to what you are looking for… I mean, no one watches it, no one seems to like it, and yet, there it is… That is KIND of charity-like…

Wait. I am not sure I want to find out if the teams pass your “sniff test”


Jerry Seinfeld: We’re cheering for laundry!

Hey, I’m watching the Packer game right now, and I’m a huge fan!

…because I was born in Wisconsin.

If I’d been born an hour further south, I’d be rooting for… Da Bears.
It’s the Dope-- don’t we always have to link to xkcd?:

And I’ve always loved the Onion shirt shown in this article:

So obviously you don’t follow sports or its participants. In my experience there’s been a lot of community involvement on the part of both clubs and individual players. One of my and my son’s heroes was former Toronto Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, who was both a significant contributor to kids’ charities and a real gentleman that kids could look up to, or more recently, the Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban who committed $10 million of his own money to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation – and one needs to keep in mind that NHL hockey players make only a small fraction of what baseball players are paid.

I think the OP question has already been well answered – it’s the emotional commitment or some other binding tie that drives the enthusiasm, and I can say that as someone who isn’t normally a big sports fan and right now I couldn’t care less about anything that’s going on. But there have been times when I’ve been totally maniacal about it. It depends on how involved I am with attending live games, how closely I’ve been motivated to know and follow players and team developments, and how interested the kids have been at any given time. In this town that goes for both the Leafs and the Jays, though for sheer crazy this is a wild hockey town. One way or another, it’s all about being personally invested in some way. There are times I totally don’t care, and times when a game is so tense I literally can’t bear to watch.

I still remember the Jays vs. Braves 1992 World Series, when the whole of downtown Toronto was consumed in some kind of baseball magic that seemed to extend miles around the Skydome. And Game 6 in Atlanta that year, the first time ever that the Jays won the World Series. Game 6 was a must-win for Atlanta, and the ultimate prize for Toronto. David Cone pitched the first 6 innings, and at one point the crowd was chanting that weird eerie Indian chant and the whole atmosphere was just somehow unreal and electric with tension – the camera zoomed in on Cone’s face and I just had to admire the man’s composure under such incredible pressure. At some point you stop thinking about why it’s important because it just picks you up and takes you with it to a place where it’s just simply important and that’s all – the why is just a fading vestige of a different world. That’s sports at its very best. I personally find that even more with hockey than baseball because it’s so fast-paced and action-packed. As John Mace said, “crazy hoo-mans”. :slight_smile: