The Irrational Passion for Sport

I consider myself a pretty rational and logical guy.   

I enjoy looking for patterns; I know my way around an Excel spreadsheet.   

I like to consider all the pros and cons and therefore take too long to make a decision in a Food Court.  

 However, as I suspect many of you are aware, this analytical, reasonable and reflective nature seems to fly in the face of my love for a certain sporting team.   

 When the Parramatta Eels take the field, my careful consideration is reduced to naught. If irrational behaviour were against College rules, issue me a 2 Level Escalation and bring in my parents Pete and Jan for a meeting.  

 What’s worse, I know how ridiculous it all is.  

 I know how crazy it is to care so deeply, so passionately about a sporting team.   

 Jerry Seinfeld once said:  

“Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify, because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city.   

Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt; they hate him now.  

You’re actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it.   

You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.”  

Go the guys in the blue and gold clothes, I say.  

Each week from February until the end of September, I find myself desperately hoping these highly paid athletes who I don’t really know have a really great day at work. All I want is for those 17 guys to meet their KPIs. If they don’t, for some reason I will be sad.  

And this irrationality can really take its toll. Many times, in the darkened shadow of an Eels loss, as the predictable symphony of disappointment once again begins to play, I have actually found myself wondering whether or not my life would be better without sport.   

As a rational and logical guy, I know it’s ridiculous to have your emotional state so intrinsically tied to the outcome of an event you have absolutely no control over.   

To be so influenced by people you don’t really know.   

To put my gentle emotions into hands attached to arms that weigh more than my car.  

 Yet despite the insanity of it all, I know I’m not alone.   

 According to the Australian Government, an incredible 90% of Australian adults have an interest in sports. Furthermore, each year 13 million Australian adults and an additional 3 million children actually participate in one sport or another. Australia benefits financially too, with an estimated 128,000 jobs and $32 billion generated annually as a direct result of sports in this country. It has the capacity to inspire, spread hope and promote national pride, as well as champion acceptance of different ethnic groups, religions and disabilities, too.  

 And not just for the gander; sport is good for the goose, too.   

 It offers a range of individual benefits; promoting volunteering and better connecting us to our communities, whilst also being credited with improving our physical health. The sport takes more people outside, helps them stay active, develop new bonds and even allows us all to live a bit longer, too (although if it were me out there, you’d have to scrape my carcass off the field with a spatula)

I could go on.   

And I will.  

 Compared to those with no interest in sports, studies have found that, on average, people who consider themselves sports fans have higher self-esteem and feel more fulfilled in the life (I’d be more fulfilled if the Eels could just win a Premiership).  

 Research has also found that diehard sports fans are also better at thinking about conflict, maintaining relationships, letting go of stress in healthy ways and even mentally preparing for negative events that may happen in their life (some of us better prepared than others).  

 Although it may be tempting to think otherwise, the facts are there in black and white.   

Even if you happen to follow a team who plays like cabbage – sport is good for you, your community and your country.  

 So, raise your flags, cheer your favourite-coloured clothes, attend the games, and sing the songs.   

Research is clear – you and those around you will be better for it.  

 Do you know what else?   

We just used logic to rationalise the value of being passionate about your favourite sporting team; we just used research and studies to justify why all people should absolutely and desperately care about sports.   

 Our work here is done.  

 I can now spend the rest of the day buried in a spreadsheet, weighing up options ahead of my next trip to a Food Court. 


*This article was written as a part of Teacher Takeover.