Category Archives: Secret Lives of Sports Fans

Sports. The Worst.

A few weeks ago Deadspin published a piece on this video montage of distraught Toronto fans following the Leafs’ wrenching playoff hockey exit. The loss, both the game and the series, seemed so cruel that Tom Ley captioned it — seemingly perfectly and appropriately — with, “Man, sports are just the fucking worst, aren’t they?” Barry Petchesky, in a separate piece titled “This is How Hockey Hurts You,” opened with the line, “Why would you ever raise your kid to be a Leafs fan?”

As a Sharks fan who just watched my own team lose a heart-palpitating playoff series that they probably didn’t entirely deserve to lose (although the teams were so even I’m not sure they deserved to win, either), I agree, sports can just be terrible.

But there is, of course, a reason we stick around, and it’s not just the vague optimism that next year will be better, although it often feels that way. (“What right have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”) Continue reading

May 30, 2013

Filed under Secret Lives of Sports Fans

Sense and Sensibility and Sports Fans


“I am not wishing him too much good,” said Marianne at last with a sigh, “when I wish his secret reflections may be no more unpleasant than my own. He will suffer enough for them.”

“Do you compare your conduct with his?”

“No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

This is my favorite line of dialogue between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. Marianne, the emotional one, suffers disappointment and heartbreak loudly, weeps following a breakup because she feels it must be so, and ultimately drives herself nearly to death in mourning for her lost romance; Elinor, the sensible one, suffers equal heartbreak but always make the effort to govern her emotions, and Marianne comes to realize her conduct is an inspiration. It also ought, I propose, to be an inspiration to sports fans everywhere.

Jane Austen, to paraphrase Jonah Lehrer, was a neuroscientist. Elinor Dashwood anticipates the discoveries of neuroscience by a good two centuries. Continue reading

April 16, 2013

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The Emotional Logic of March Madness

For the Wall Street Journal Weekend, I wrote about why March Madness so captures fan loyalty. I mean, aside from that you can gamble on it. Which I think explains most of it. But not all!

From the point of view of a non-sports-fan, March Madness looks like the month when many people actually go mad. Fans parade by in crazy hats and face paint. You go to a nice cafe for lunch and some other diner screams “Go Orange!” for Syracuse University—and instead of getting escorted from the premises is joined by a dozen other fans who look up and chant in unison, “Go Orange!” Strangers on the street ask what you think about something called Florida Gulf Coast University. As the comedian Michael Ian Black wrote last week on Twitter, March Madness “is the time of year when I don’t understand anything that’s happening in my country.”

March Madness is fun even for the casual fan, of course, because of its action and drama and the chance of winning big in the office betting pool. But for the team fanatic, there is more: a very real and emotionally satisfying relationship.

Continue reading

April 2, 2013

Filed under Articles, Secret Lives of Sports Fans