It isn't just a game. In 2006, NPR ran a piece on the psychology of a die-hard sports fan. Though the piece was done six years ago, its relevance seems to increase daily. I've always tried to articulate to people why a Stanley Cup moved me to tears, why I get chills walking up a beer-soaked tunnel, and why every time leaves begin to change color, I picture an immortal figure with one finger in the air jogging back to his sideline. A figure that is enough proof in itself to lay the debate to rest; God most certainly does exist. So why do sports move people to such strong emotional feelings?
Often, sports seem to polarize men and women. Society stereotypes (correctly) that men are the ones so invested in the outcome of a game. A study done by a Frostburg State Professor showed the testosterone levels increased in a male by nearly 20% after his team won a big game. In contrast, testosterone levels decreased when that same game was lost. He concluded that part of the reason men find sport so attractive is that the "high" received upon victory is comparable to that of a gamblers', a natural bodily high that is addictive. But unlike the gambler's high, another study shows that some fans almost enjoy losing.
Another study showed the apparent idea of the masochist side of fanhood. "A large part of shared fan experiences, is suffering through years, sometimes decades, without tasting victory. It's really painful when you invest in a team that's ultimately a loser." The study goes on to say that in a fan's mind, losing proves loyalty, no matter the pain.
And with this, comes the sociology side of fanhood. In Darwinian terms, sports fans identify with certain teams to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The study points to early in human history, people joining "tribes" to feel a connection to others holding similar interests (though early on the only interest they had in common was hunger). In 2012, that hunger has grown even more insatiable and the only thing to satisfy that appetite is a Championship.