By Roli S
The image of Harleen Deol of the Indian women cricket team flying in the air and taking that spectacular catch on the boundary line is making Indian sports lovers jump with excitement.
Not long ago the same frenzy was witnessed when Deepika Kumari had hit a few bulls’ eyes to clinch victory at the World Archery Championship.
Last Sunday, the whole world watched Wimbledon and Euro Cup Football and the congregation of humanity, energy and fanaticism in the stadiums made all of us forget about the pandemic and Covid 19! Such is the power of sports!
The IPL in India continued till it was absolutely impossible to carry on; the World Test Championship Final of Cricket was played in England and now, gradually, all the other sporting events around the world are opening up albeit with very different conditions and in controlled bubbles! The mother of all sports, the Olympics, is ready to roll on and the whole world is eagerly waiting for the show!
What is it with sports that it binds the whole of humanity together? On the surface of it, it looks like the sports fandom is just about entertainment but one looks deeper and realises that it is more than just entertainment. It boosts self-esteem and makes people happier as one does not have to only root for the winning team to reap the benefits. No wonder the sporting events are such a gain, especially when the self-esteem of the entire human race has taken a hit!
Being a sports fan and following sports is a “very psychologically healthy activity,” and it is proven by research undertaken on the psychology of sports fans.
Sport fandom connects one to other like-minded people, which satisfies the human need for belonging and, during these trying times of pandemic, sports is providing just that.
Watching sporting events and following one’s favourite sport, raises the levels of self-esteem and lowers levels of loneliness. Sports fans tend to be more satisfied with their lives compared to those who are not interested in sports. They have more access to social support. When people have support from their communities and other groups of people, they have better health.
When the sportspersons play on the ground, the sport fans get to enjoy the psychological benefits of winning, even if they have nothing to do with the players or the games. Sports fans feel that the fan interest (in this case a team or sports personality) is a part of them. When the team is winning, they feel like they are winning even though they are not playing. So, when a Djokovic wins a grand slam, or a Messi lifts a cup, sitting in our living rooms we enjoy the positive effects of that win as it makes us happier.
It is a well-known fact that, when a sport fan watches a sporting event, there is only a fifty percent chance that his team or her sports person is going to win, but the fan voluntarily gets involved in something that he knows has a pretty good chance he is not going to like when it’s done. Still, she continues to put her faith behind teams and sports persons. This act makes a sport fan a strong person as well, because fans feel a strong psychological connection with their teams especially when the teams are having a losing streak!
Often, a sport fan has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, but it is so central to people’s identities that people are willing to accept defeat and continue to be loyal to a team. It also helps people cope with loss.
There are other things that following sports brings with it, above and beyond the ability to bask in the team’s successes – it is the advantage of watching sports that can be a way to relieve stress or spend time with family and friends. Just talking about sports at work and spending time with people who share a common interest can make people more excited to go to office.
These days, when many are still working from home and others are struggling to find normalcy in their lives, sports and sporting events have not let the pandemic dampen the spirit of humankind because, for sports fans, sports are the epitome of hard work and dedication.
Yes, we watch sports for the excitement, but even more so for the drama. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a team come back to win a game 4-3 when it was down 0-3 for most of the game! It is the comeback that gives the kick. The incredible moments where sheer human will and desire overcomes the odds. These are the moments we remember.
An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head. Champions keep playing until they get it right and they keep their fans engaged, upbeat and bright.
On this note, I want to take the opportunity to wish the Indian Olympic contingent well for the forthcoming Olympics starting 23 July.
“Tokyo, watch for the Indian spirit that comes riding on purpose, sporting true grit!”
(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane)