Why being a football fan is good for us

Yes. That’s right. I said it. What is it about football (all sports, really) that so totally hooks us? That drives us to dress like cheese or chickens or bulldogs? That expects friends and families to keep those game dates free?

Of course games are fun and exciting but there is so much more going on. Our human race thrived because we are biologically and psychologically built to connect. To hunt in groups. To know who is in – and who is not – so we can be safe. We not only feel more powerful when we belong to a group, we are more powerful. Over millennia we have mastered rituals and superstitions that rev up our excitement and commitment to one another. We get ready for battle.

Need I say more?

It turns out that acting out these instincts can be good for us. Sports fans have higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of loneliness and generally feel more satisfied with their lives – compared to non-fans. They support each other socially. And, for you guys, supporting the winning team can show a 20% increase in postgame testosterone levels.

It also turns out that sports provide us with a rare, safe and acceptable way to celebrate the joy of walloping an opponent. To trash talk. A little schadenfreude (German word for “harm-joy”) can be more gratifying than we thought. I’m not proud.

So, bring on the season. Rally round the fire. Hoot and high-five. All is good.

What do you most enjoy about being a football fan?

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