Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ohhh! And He's Hit by the Old Bean Ball!

It's Sunday. That means football. Well, at least for the US that means football. For the rest of the world... uhhhh, I don't know what that means. Probably means they worship Marx and Lennin. Damned communists.

Ok, politics aside, my friend loves, and I mean loves the New York Giants. I don't know why, since he's only ever been to New York to watch their games. Still, he owns their swag, he watches their games, he's one of those guys who even watches people watching the game. I can't even begin to describe how much I hate John Madden.

I know all about the psychology of sports, namely that males in competition experience massive fluctuations in their hormone levels. The winner feels a massive boost of testosterone while the loser experiences a massive drop. After watching him flip out over a touchdown pass, I realized how this was all possible. It's actual as simple as reinforced behavior.

Why do people watch games religiously? They're hoping for the high that comes from their team winning. The connection is so great, that people just watching the game experience similar fluctuations in hormones. When the home team wins, the fans get a big high. It's like a drug.

My friend is actually positively reinforced to watch the games! This may explain why he loves a team he'd never been anywhere near. His first experience with the positive high from a sports win may have been with some Giants fan. Lord knows who. I know none of his family like the team. He then actively watched another game and experienced the same high.

Only adding to the iron grip of sports fan-ism is the schedule of reinforcement. The fan gets small hits during the game, after great plays or big scores, then gets a huge hit if his team wins. As all you psychologists know, intermitant reinforcement is the absolute strongest kind, since the subject never knows when the next hit may come, they just keep on trying.

This is a great perspective from which to look at sports. The sports with the biggest hormone hits both during and after the game are the ones that are most popular. Both football and soccer are big on action and plays, and low on points. That means that for every point comes a huge hormone hit. Not a perfect theory, I admit. It fails to explain why hockey is so unpopular. I bet I can explain it away by the need for ice and lots of expensive equipment.

This is quite a revelation for me. Perhaps if I had opted to take that class on sports psychology I would have simply read this in a book, but then my sense of mental achievement would be deadened. Gimme' a break. I don't like sports. I need to get my highs from somewhere.

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