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Are You A Real Sports Fan?

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Many sports fans say their team is more important to them than work, friends and even religion. Liz Waid and Adam Navis look at reasons why sports fans are so invested in their teams.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

“Four people are dead as competing fans riot at Honduras soccer game”

“It is a dark day in tennis as Monica Seles is stabbed on court”

“Fans Attack Baseball Coach On Field”

“Hundreds of soccer fans riot violently at game in South Africa”

Click here to follow along on YouTube

Voice 1  

These are real news headlines. They come from the past few years and around the world. They are all about violent sports fans. Fans are loyal to a team or sport. Of course, not all sports fans are violent or bad. But fans do many extreme things because of sports games. Millions of people say that being a sports fan is one of the most important things in their lives. Why do people love sports so much? And why do fans support their teams so strongly? Today’s Spotlight is on the reasons people become sports fans and why they act in particular ways.

Voice 2 

Loyalty to sports teams crosses every border. People of every nationality, culture, income level, gender and age love to watch sports. Sports are entertaining. They are easy for anyone to access, and do not cost much. And people like to watch athletes perform! Athletes inspire us with their strength, skill and hard work. Many people follow one sport, and one team in particular.

Voice 1 

But being a loyal sports fan can have negative results. At the beginning of this program we heard examples of sports fan violence. People can also feel depressed when their team loses. However, being a sports fan has many positive results too. Fans feel great when their team wins! Studies show that sports fans think better thoughts about themselves. They are less depressed and less lonely. Dr. Daniel Wann is a leading expert on fan behavior. He made a list of 24 examples of social well-being that come with being a fan of a sports team. He tells the Seattle Times:

Voice 3 

“There has been a lot of research in my lab and by others in multiple cultures. It shows that when an individual becomes attached to a sports team, there are pretty clear mental benefits of that.”

Voice 2 

Being a fan also produces complex biological reactions and social behavior. Imagine you are watching your favorite team or athlete play a game. Your heart starts to beat faster. You become very excited. You are not moving much but you begin to sweat. Studies show this happens to many sports fans. They react physically to the game even though they are not playing.

Football match violence worries Moroccans
By Magharebia – Football match violence worries Moroccans | العنف في ملاعب كرة القدم يقلق المغاربة | La violence dans les stades inquiète les Marocains, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24202432
Voice 1 

Chemicals in the fans’ bodies also change in the same way that the athletes’ bodies do. Experts call these “mirror neurons.” So sports fans experience a kind of mirror reflection of what they are watching. They feel tension. But they also experience the release of chemical substances in their body. These make the fans feel happy. Shankar Vedantam is a social science reporter for the news organization NPR. He says:

Voice 4 

“Sports allow us to feel intensely about something that really is not very important. The truth is, tomorrow, if your team wins or loses, you are still going to be OK. So in some ways watching sports is like watching a horror movie. You feel intensely but the risks are not that high.”

Voice 2 

Our minds, emotions and bodies respond strongly to sports. And we respond even more if we care more. The other main reason people care so much about sports is social. Many people like to watch sports events with their friends and family. But the social element of being a sports fan is much more than that.

Voice 1 

People like belonging to a group. Being part of a team makes us feel we have things in common with the people around us. We form groups naturally. People are also naturally very loyal to their “in-group.” They feel they belong and connect emotionally to the other members of the group. They also often share a dislike for people in an “out-group” – like an opposing sports team. Christine Emba reports for the Washington Post:

Voice 5 

“Studies have shown that for fans, being identified with a favorite team is more important than being identified with their work and social groups. And it is sometimes more important to them than being identified with their religion.”

This photo of a match in Lille shows the use of flares by PSV Eindhoven supporters in football hooliganism.
By Liondartois – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17058217
Voice 2 

Our attachment to sports teams comes from a deeper desire for connection. People want to feel valuable and important in the world. Some experts say we all want to be part of something larger than ourselves that will continue on, even after we die. Jeff Greenberg teaches social psychology at the University of Arizona. In the online science magazine Nautilus, he says:

Voice 6 

“The underlying importance of sports fanship is that need to feel good about yourself, the need for self-esteem and meaning. What is the point? Why do we need to feel valuable and good about ourselves and our place in the world? In a sense, that is what we are doing in our lives. We are trying to feel larger than our own lives, to feel higher than death. We want to feel that somehow we are going to continue on beyond. Sports are a symbolic version of the drama of life. Winning and losing feels like life and death.”

Voice 1 

People have found many ways to belong to groups. Sports fans form a strong bond with other group members. In this way they satisfy the need to belong. And they fill the need to be part of something larger than themselves. When their team loses, they feel as if they have lost. And when their team wins, they celebrate victory.

Voice 2 

Lastly, there are some outside reasons to be a sports fan. Sports are a multi-billion dollar global business. It is good for people in this business when sports fans are loyal. Many people make a lot of money from sports that people watch. Sports are an important part of the global economy.

Voice 1 

Most people cheering for their team are probably not thinking about all these things. But it helps us to understand why sports are important to so many people around the world. Are sports important to you? What team do you support? Do you think it is because of the reasons in this program? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on YouTube, At youtube.com/spotlightenglish1.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Are You A Real Sports Fan?”

Voice 1 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you have a favorite sports team? How do you feel when that team wins? Does it affect you if your team loses?

Join the discussion

12 comments
  • Actually, I don’t have any favourite sport team . However I have my favourite footballer, he is Z. Zidane. He always motivates me to be more stronger and hardworking.

  • it is so nice podcast i liked beacuse of interested in soprt especially football and my favorite team named Itthad from Saudi Arabia it a big club in Asia, so i wanted to say Thinks for everyone works in this website Sooplight”s team is great team

  • 1. of course, i am a great real Madrid fan .
    2. be happy and celebrate victory.
    3. unfortunately yes i feel sad and depressd

  • Hi dear sir /miss
    I don’t have a favourite sport team , I just enjoy watching sports as entertainment.
    I have been doing various sports ,in case of being healthy in mind and body.
    so it doesn’t any affectionately on me if a team loses or wins.
    As you mentioned nicely besides advantages being a favourite of sports team there are some disadvantages.
    Being a sports fans most of the time is harmful and sometimes hurts , they goes to extremes and do things that mustn’t do in normal way.
    I do not just blame them but also, propagandas are playing the excessive rule on people’s emotions or behaviours ,which is uncontrollable .
    Money ruins many.
    lastly I am truly excited to be in here and impressing by your programs explanation .
    You explain in details. that to be here means to me not only learning english also getting or receiving my answer to my question, which has been caused me to be a fan of spotlight.

  • at the beginning I want to thanks and admiration for spotlightenglish
    and second I wish that talking about middle east in the future
    as for the question No I don’t fans any team at now because I don’t have any time
    but in the past I was fans REAL MADRID team .

  • Topic of great interest is cheering. It is true that victories bring joy, defeats cause sadness. Among the various sports, football, more than others, is a metaphor for life. Sometimes the best wins, sometimes the luckiest wins, sometimes who deserves more, sometimes who deserves less. I noticed that the conversation between supporters of the same team is fantastic. They understand each other even if they speak different languages, even if they do not speak any language, while between supporters of opposing teams, dialogue is not difficult, it is impossible. Also, the fans are bad judges, because they know that the players of their team are always right, while the players of the opposing team are always wrong. I admit, I also have a favorite team, it’s Juventus, which is going through a mixed period, with ups and downs. In two days there will be the most important match of the year with the main opponent: Inter, there are hours of waiting, hours of fear and hope! We will know if Juventus have won, because fireworks will be seen on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Long live Juventus! P.S. fans who use violence are not fans, they are simply criminals.

  • I don’t prefer watching matches or any sport events , but sometimes when l feel boring , l watch football matches with my father .As a result, l encourage my father’s favourite football team which is Liverpool .When Liverpool wins , l feel happy as the team deserve that victory .On the other hand ,if the team lose , l don’t care because I only watch matches to entertain myself and to enjoy time with my family .

  • Fanning from sports teams is usually an emotional need that develops in a person’s personality from adolescence. This condition may be accompanied by temporary happiness or sadness. The severity of these conditions depends on the degree of interest in a particular team, but although I am interested in sports But so far I have not supported any particular team and it does not matter if the team wins or loses

  • My favourite sports teams is national team. When my team win I feel very happy and proud. But if my team lose,I feel little bit unhappy and disappointed. By anyway, with me that feeling doesn’t last

  • I don’t watching any sports team so i don’t care if they wins or loses.
    But sometimes i watch a match because my brothers are a loyal fan for AL HILAL CLUP.

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