Crazy for the Game

sports psychology

You all know I’ve been waiting for this moment all year. More than Black Friday sales, presents on Christmas morning, or a kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve -The Alabama Crimson Tide are in the playoffs!

My love of college football is well-documented around these parts, as is my love of the Tide. And when it comes to competition, well…I can’t help but get a rush from a sense of competition. Getting to see my all-time favorite team in the playoffs this year is just the best holiday gift ever.

I thought it might be the caffeine from the all-day Christmas shopping runs, but I’d been feeling super great when my team was doing great. And when the Crimson Tide had a setback, well, let’s say all the caffeine in the world couldn’t make it better. Desperate for answers, I turned to Dr. Google. And what I found there shocked me.

According to the New York Times, sports can do more than just cheer us up or bring us down. Researchers at the University of Kansas have found that sports fans are physiologically different from the rest of us. (Something I’ve long suspected – who doesn’t love football?)

The theory goes all the way back to our caveman-and-woman brains, grouping up in small tribes and warring for resources (or fun.) From the colors we wear to attending games, in many ways, sports fans are our own little tribe. I know there’s nothing like finding another Crimson Tide fan in the wild – I know I’ve found a friend! “We really are tribal creatures,” says Dr. James Dabbs, a psychologist at Georgia State.

Fans that the study called “highly identified” – meaning that they fly the colors of their chosen team loud and proud, ahem – are happier, more connected, and less likely to abandon their chosen team when they’re doing poorly. These are more than just observed behavioral changes – it affects us all the way down to our hormones. A group of Italian and Brazilian men in Atlanta subjected to having their testosterone tested by Georgia State University before and after 1994’s Italy-Brazil World Cup match.

Believe it or not, after an Italian victory, the Italian men’s testosterone raised by 28 percent, and the Brazilian men’s dropped by 27 percent. Which, unsurprisingly, affects…well, everything, including sports’ fans desire to make little sports fans! But people – there are limits!  Please don’t name your child Krimson Tyde.

Win or lose, I’m happy to have my fellow Crimson Tide fans by my side, in part because they make hilarious videos like this:

sports psychology

Happy Monday, (Roll Tide!)