Welcome to the yourLDSneighborhood News for Monday, 26 September
The Psychology of Men and Sports
by Russ Beck
Are you married to someone who just loves sports?
Does he spend hours in front of the TV, or planning his ‘fantasy’ team plays?
Russ explains in an easy and approachable way the reasons for this behavior.
The subject of men watching sports on TV comes up often in marital counseling. The wife will complain about her husband spending hours parked in front of the TV while viewing football games, basketball games, baseball games … games, games, games! Oblivious to the people around him, he watches the team players on the screen bounce, throw, pass or kick a ball of various shapes and sizes. When asked a question, the husband generally gives no response, or if his wife is lucky, she might receive a grunt. Even if he does say “What?” or “OK,” he won’t remember any part of the conversation later … despite the fact he can recite who scored what points in the game.
When asked why he watches sports on TV, the husband might become defensive, and the situation may escalate into an argument if he is pressed about his passion for the game. Since explaining feelings is not most men’s strong suit anyway, he may feel picked upon, cornered, or upbraided for doing something to which he feels entitled, and may have a difficult time expressing why watching spectator sports is so important to him.
The Nature of Men
Perhaps one way of helping women understand this aspect of a man’s nature is looking at the makeup of men as a whole. Men are raised to “Be tough,” or to “Man up”. They are the hunters, protectors, and providers. Inborn into this is a sense of competition against their prey or other hunters. In today’s world, where most men no longer hunt to provide sustenance, the competition may exist in the realm of, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” If a man doesn’t have a job, or if that job doesn’t enable him to provide sufficiently (in his eyes) for his family, he will easily become despondent, feeling like a failure. Even a man who earns a good wage may feel he’s not making enough to meet worldly expectations, or to match what is portrayed as “successful” on television. The masculine drive to compete is then reflected in the competition of sports teams battling each other on a field of contest. In other words, the individual may not be able to provide a million dollar home, complete with boats and cars, but he can be a part of a multi-million dollar team that has just won the championship. The vicarious thrill of being a part of a successful competition is often intoxicating.
The Nature of Men and “The Team”
Since being associated vicariously with “winners” has a strong pull, men are never far from their team. For example, the other day while I was at a clinical meeting in a hospital, the staff had just finished discussing a complicated case. As one of them stood up and started toward the door, he looked back and yelled, “Go Utes!” It was a particularly stinging reference to the University of Utah football victory over BYU the previous Saturday, and all the men instantly understood that. The BYU fans in the room shook their heads in disgust/dismay, while the Ute fans all cheered. On a subconscious level at least, the Ute fans felt they were the better competitors by virtue of the fact that their team had won.
Surprisingly enough, sports competition has a dual edge. On one hand, it allows men to vicariously compete and to become the victor over rivals. On the other hand, it helps male relationships. Because of their competitive nature, men sometimes have a difficult time relating to each other. Sports give them the opportunity to bond as they struggle together in a common cause. Even though a man may not be on the field of play, he feels a part of the team and therefore, helping the players to achieve victory. In football, credence is given to the concept of fan support being vital to team success. It’s called the “Twelfth man,” and has reference to only 11 players being on the field, but the fans become the phantom, 12th man.
This male sense of camaraderie expresses itself in punches in the arm, slaps on the back, chest bumps, and other assorted forms of physical contact. Where else but in sports could you see a group of extremely large, physically aggressive men standing ready to start a game and yet, holding hands and saying a prayer?
To sum it up, men connect with the primal part of their nature – that yearns for competition and triumph – by watching sports. It also allows them to bond with other males, which is not always an easy feat for men because of their competitive nature. It might be best summed up by the fact that sports figures call themselves warriors, combatants, and soldiers. By association, the male fans see themselves the same way.
Finally, there’s one last concept – a non-analytical and thoroughly subjective point on my part – men watch sports because to us, it’s just plain fun!
Russ Beck is a licensed, professional counselor with a Master’s degree from the University of Wyoming. He’s been involved in the mental health field for the past twenty-three years as a therapist and administrator, as well as doing family counseling for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for ten years. Russ blogs at http://russbeck.blogspot.com
In his spare time, Russ writes fiction, non-fiction, and is an award winning photographer. He’s married to author, Cindy Beck, and they have one son, a talented daughter-in-law, and two cute grandkids.
We welcome your comments.