Why do we watch sports? Why has football become such a cultural pastime? Why is the Super Bowl a national holiday? Why are college football coaches some of the highest-paid public employees in the world?
It's a complicated question, to say the least. It's not one that could be completely answered by one blog post.
But understanding why we watch sports, why we spend an exorbitant amount of money for a shirt with someone else's name on it, why we pay $9 for bad beer, and why we'll fill a 70,000 seat stadium weekly for a 2-14 team is critical to understanding what we value, and why.
We say that we love sports for the entertainment.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Simple......because it's fun!— Ryan Knox (@Cassieper) October 17, 2013
Maybe we do.
I think that's a part of it. That's the easy part to admit, generally.
But pure entertainment isn't the full answer.
We love sports, often times, because it's all we know. It's become a part of us we can't quite explain, but we can't quit.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Grew up doing it. Just a lifestyle now— Aaron Knox (@DrMustache) October 17, 2013
The most common answer, though, and one that speaks to a broader issue among us, is that it's something separate from the rest of life that we can, for a brief period of time, pour ourselves into. And yet, when it's done, we can leave without (too much) emotional scarring.
"@ColtsAuth_Kyle: Why do you watch sports?" To get away from everyday life and something to Love— Kyle Mayhew (@k_mayhew03) October 17, 2013
@ColtsAuth_Kyle I watch football because in the end, the result doesn't effect my job, family, etc. It is just a game— Heath Matthias (@HMATTHIAS) October 17, 2013
@ColtsAuth_Kyle There's nothing quite like investing all of your emotions into something you have absolutely no control over.— Ryan Knox (@Cassieper) October 17, 2013
@ColtsAuth_Kyle It's an escape from everything else in life.— Rohan Bhasin (@NYKings) October 17, 2013
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Owners with Twitter accts. JK Its human beings on a chess board which allows a temporary escape from the stresses of life.— Michael Wallace (@MWally21) October 17, 2013
In the end, I think it comes down to one thing. One thing that can't quite describe everything that makes up fanhood, but encompasses much of it.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle I'm highly competitive and enjoy watching others be competitve. If I don't have a team in the game, I root for the underdog— LovinBlue (@LovinBlue) October 17, 2013
We are so competitive.
It's a cultural thing, really. You can point to capitalism, imperialism, natural selection or whatever else as the origin, but there's no denying that we are competitive.
When we watch sports, we can take on the identity of a team and live competitively through them.
Think of all the things we do, as fans, to associate ourselves with a team. We buy t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, scarves, and ACTUAL JERSEYS to wear and prove our loyalty. We buy coffee mugs, flasks, rugs, golf balls and flags with the team logo.
I mean, we can even buy Andrew Luck masks, in case nobody was fooled by the No. 12 jersey on the middle-aged, 290-pound guy from Fishers.
It gets to a point where we start talking as if we were a part of the team. "We" won this weekend. I can't believe "we" lost.
Why? Because we want to be a part of something. We root on a team and we feel like we are winning when the team wins. When Andrew Luck does something amazing, we are in awe, but we also have a sense of pride that OUR quarterback did that.
It's a wonderful thing, that competitive spirit. It's what makes wins so sweet, and losses so bitter.
But it also, in it's own way, is a horrible thing.
That competitiveness means that all of our focus goes to the result. We care about who wins and who loses, and little else. If a Super Bowl isn't won, a season is a failure. If a game isn't won, that week is a failure.
If a quarterback doesn't win a Super Bowl, he is a failure, or at least, appreciated much, much less.
We covet a certain result, and if we don't get it, the journey to get there lays forgotten on the wayside.
If you win a Super Bowl, a commemorative DVD gets made, detailing the season and the trek to becoming champions. If you lose... not so much.
That mindset has condensed the Polian/Manning era into an over-simplified number: one.
One Super Bowl. One ultimate victory. One success.
The rest? Lost in a sea of missed kicks, dropped passes and defensive miscues.
So, naturally, we ignore them.
How silly of us.
We're competitive, sure. We love the wins, and hate the losses. But what we truly love about sports isn't the winning. If that were so, we wouldn't have watched in 2011. Cleveland would have been overcome by riots years ago. Jacksonville, well, Jacksonville never would have had fans to riot.
We like the winning, and we tend to over-value it, but that's not what we truly love.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle The thrill, the comebacks, the teamwork. Football had been called the game of life for a reason.— Rick Tapia (@rtvision3) October 17, 2013
@ColtsAuth_Kyle The cultural phenomenon, the transcendent plays/playmakers, the culture defining moments.— Matt Shedd (@sheddmatt) October 17, 2013
It's all the little things, the little things that make up the journey. There's a journey within every play, plays that make up the journey of a single game, and a string of games that make up the journey of a season.
Without the journey, what good is the result?
Even if the result isn't the one that was desired, the journey isn't useless. It's something to be savored, especially when most of the journey is more up than down. The Colts had one of the most positive decade-long journeys in NFL history. There were far more smiles than frowns during that period, and even the frowns and the tears helped shape Colts fans and Indianapolis into the football haven that it is today.
In the end, it's not the one Super Bowl that made this moment so emotional, it's the 14-year journey that we all took together.
So don't forget to appreciate the journey while it's happening. The perfect throws, the not so perfect throws. The close wins, the lopsided wins. The interceptions, the sacks. The losses, the disappointment. It's all part of the journey.
Once it's done, that journey will most likely be forgotten. Of course, that's under your control too.
Even though we (the Colts) didn't win the Super Bowl last year, it was one of my all time favorite Colts' seasons. Kinda' like the movie Rudy or Hoosiers. I am a Lehigh University alum. When Lehigh (15th seed) beat Duke (2 seed) during March Madness leaving Coach K speechless, that was my all time favorite BB game. Similarly, when Lehigh (64th overall seed) hung close the entire game and was not blown out by Georgetown (overall #1 seed) in Patrick Ewing's senior year with Lehigh's center a non- full scholarship, non-athletic 6' 5" guy who couldn't jump, that was my second favorite all time college BB game.
Few things sting as much as ingratitude.
I think you nailed the question, Kyle. We, the fans, love the journey, the process, the moments both before and after the highlight of bringing home the trophy. But Irsay, one of a handful of people who get tangible gains even if the Colts lose -- money -- only seems to care about that one number. At least, that's what he said.
The crazy implication there, and the message he's sending to his players, is that he doesn't value what's happening with his team right now. Last season was phenomenal; one of the best unexpected results I've seen as a football fan ever. But... damn, no Ring. Guess it didn't mean anything after all.
And what about this year? Irsay's team is very unlikely to win it all this season, as I suspect this Sunday's game will show in detail. But does that make what Luck is doing as a second year pro any less amazing? Or Reggie climbing the record books and still looking great past his reasonable prime? Or Mathis being as good as he ever was across from Freeney, against all odds?
Of course not.
Last year and this year and all the other stuff leading up to it are what will make the Luck era's Super Bowl win (or wins) a transcendent experience. Just like how those devastating playoff losses to the Pats and Steelers made 2006 so great, when it finally happened.
Loved the post, Kyle, and it has impeccable timing too. In my case, like gizzardfanny, I can´t say I recognized myself in the descriptions above. For me, it´s mostly because sports offer the promise of a fair game, a field where the same rules apply to everybody and where merit, talent and luck create an alchemy that is literally irreproducible. Contrast that with what happens outside of the field, where rules are so stacked in favor of a few that the outcome is heavily predetermined in most of the cases, and so giving it your all doesn´t balance the scales. This gives sports, in my eyes, what amounts to a certain kind of nobility.
That´s why when this premise is violated, when a team is proven to have cheated, or when players act in a deliberately dirty way, it feels like my very covenant with sports has been called into question. Sports lose their entire meaning if wins are more important than triumphing in an equal fight. Titles acquired in those conditions become tainted in my mouth ever after, like journeys where my principles were discarded piteously (it has happened).
So for me, I love sports because it is synonymous with hope, a hope that blooms anew every week. Wins are the reward, not the meaning.
As I said yesterday, I simply don't know. I don't think any of those mentioned is it for me. It might be a mixture of all of it (except for the growing up part, I was +20 before I watch a snap of football). At this point, though, I think a major part of why I watch football is the connection to the online Colts community.
@pierrezombie Perfectly said, and seeing it couched like that, even more devastating.
Great point about the level playing field. I think that's what makes watching the players that are truly the best of the best so amazing. It demonstrates human potential, in a way that we can vicariously inhabit while resting on the couch.