Fanship flames good feelings

    If you’re watching lots of World Cup soccer this week, there’s no need to feel guilty. Being an avid sports fan can contribute to confidence and well-being.

    If you’re watching lots of World Cup soccer this week, there’s no need to feel guilty. Being an avid sports fan can contribute to confidence and well-being.
    (Photo: flickr/Shreyans Bhansali

    Being a super fan serves an important function beyond a reason to buy beer and team jerseys. Researchers say fanship is a social glue much like church membership or military service.

    Edward Hirt is a social psychologist at Indiana University, where he has studied basketball fans.

    Hirt: A basic human needs seems to be one of feeling a sense of connectedness or belongingness to other people. We satisfy that through a number of different things in our lives, but for many people being a sports fan and being connected with that group of people, who share that common bond and allegiance is an ample way to satisfy that basic fundamental need.

    Hirt says even commiserating over a losing team has mental health benefits.

    A note, though, to you Johnny Come Latelys. The benefits of fanship only register among true sports buffs, not fair weather fans.

    Hirt says after a win true fans are more optimistic about their ability to do all sorts of tasks: puzzles, throwing darts, even getting a date.

    Hirt: The Laker fans are probably are going to be people who would be thinking right now: ‘The world’s in my favor, we got another championship and I kinda do anything, I could ask out a model, and they’d say ‘yes,’ things like that.

    In another study, researchers found that 1994 World Cup fans experienced a small spike in testosterone when their team prevailed.

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