Another clip that goes a long way toward explaining why we watch sports, go to concerts, read good books:
In this clip Louden Swain, a high school wrestler preparing for the match of his career goes to see why Elmo the cook who he works with took the evening off of work to go to his wrestling match. Elmo's soliloquy here about sports still strikes me as the best single reason why I watch sports.
I have never seen it studied, but it seems that there are several reason for why sports play a central role in society. The social elements are apparent and many people see themselves as a larger community tied to a particular team. I used to be New York Yankee fan, despite the fact that I did not set foot in New York City (or the state of New York) until I was about 26 years old. My father was a Yankee fan and so was I, so identification is important. Somewhere in my late 20's I realized that a certain team winning was no longer important. I started watching "This Week in Baseball" just to watch all of the best plays. I tuned in to see Nolan Ryan pitch. I watched the Tour de France and the Olympics to see the best athletes in the world compete. I can still remember my excitement as I watched Johann Olav Koss in the 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 meter events at Lillehammer. It was the first time that they had a motorized camera following the speedskaters. We learned that he had some last minute technical problems with the blade angle on his skates but Koss's form was perfect. I was ecstatic. I had become Elmo.
I have never seen a study that looked at the percentages of people who watch sports for the purposes of seeing a certain team win versus those who are looking for the best possible human performances. But for the later - there is no better explanation than Elmo's soliloquy in this clip.
George Dawson, MD. DFAPA