by Alex Seife
My beloved New York Yankees lost to the lowly Cleveland Indians in the ALDS of the 2007 playoffs. I was devastated, humiliated, and most certainly horrified. Eight months, 162 games, countless nail-biting nights spent alone, glued to the radio beside my bed – and all for what? To swiftly lose in four games? I couldn’t go on. I felt terrible and needed answers, so I did some research…
Perhaps my endless absorption with Yankees had psychological facets. I grabbed the New York Times and scanned through it. A James McKinley article struck me as particularly appropriate. He wrote, “Some researchers have found that fervent fans become so tied to their teams that they experience hormonal surges and other psychological changes when watching games.” Yeah, this sounded like me. The pouncing off the couch after an A-Rod homerun, a pump of the fist after a Chamberlain strikeout, sweat dripping off my temples when the Red Sox’s “Big Pappi” (David Ortiz) comes to the plate. I was feeling a surge of the hormone testosterone and a rush of adrenaline (epinephrine) a hormone released during stressful situations – increasing the heart rate, and dilating the blood vessels.
Testosterone levels commonly rise when human beings win or excel in competition and plummet when they lose (or in the sports fan’s case when their respective team wins or loses.) In one study, in fact, Georgia State University researchers went to various sports bars and collected saliva (a good indicator of testosterone levels) from soccer fans after watching the World Cup final, in which Brazil won. The Brazil fans’ testosterone levels raised an average of 28 percent, whereas the losing Italy fans’ testosterone levels fell a similar 27 percent.
So guys, the next time your wife, girlfriend, or mother is baffled by your inexplicable enthrallment with ESPN, tell them that it’s not, in fact, so inexplicable. You produce a lot more testosterone then they do, about eight to ten more times. Being a fan is making you feel better, more attractive, more manly. It’s healthy and invigorating. Tell them, we need to watch the pre-game, post-game, and live analysis. Just watch out when they hurl a chair through your brand new LCD TV.