Sports Science Part III: Sports Addictions vs. Relationships


For sports fans, fall is the perfect time of year. The fall brings the start of the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons, while the MLB playoffs get underway. Whether it's actually attending the games in person, watching the games on your 52-inch flat screen, or streaming games online, it's all part of the fun of being a fan and witnessing your favorite players and teams any chance you get. But there may come a point in time when a fan's love for a sport or all sports in general, becomes addictive and obsessive and starts to interfere with relationships. What happens when someone's love for the game replaces their love for those closest to them? Whether you know it or not, seasonal love affairs with sports can threaten relationships and quality of life. What was once fan support and harmless participation, can grow into an obsession that can become dangerous.

According to Josh Klapow, a University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist in the School of Public Health, there is a sizeable difference between being labeled a dedicated fan and a sports addict.

Take football for example, which is considered by many to be America's most popular sport. Some people who watch football become obsessed with it, which can lead to behaviors that can be detrimental to their lives. An overwhelming importance placed on sports by obsessive fans can cause serious problems, especially in relationships. 

"It's not how much time you spend watching football that matters, it's whether or not that is causing negative behaviors in your life. Whether it's 10 hours per week or 40, the issue is its effect on your real-life obligations," said Klapow.

Is your love for football and sports just a fun pastime? Or is it an unhealthy obsession? Here are some erratic behaviors that a person demonstrates when they have an unhealthy obsession with sports, according to Klapow:

·         A person becomes irritated when a game is interrupted.

·         They think about football or other sports, while doing other things that are more important.

·         Missing time with family or bypassing important events to watch a game.

·         Becoming depressed, angry or violent when a certain team loses.

·         Obsessive sports betting leading to serious financial difficulties.

·         Poor work performance.

Klapow came to a conclusion that a person demonstrating these behaviors may very well suffer from a sports addiction, and should seek help before it damages relationships with the people they care about. People who observe these behaviors shouldn't be afraid to speak up about them. If it comes to the point where a person needs help trying to manage their obsession, they should follow these steps:

·         Keep a weekly log of time spent watching or listening to sports or playing them online.

·         Limit exposure to sporting events to one per week for two hours or less.

·         Ask family and friends to weigh in on decisions about whether or not to skip sporting events that conflict with important occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries and other gatherings.

·         Do something else. Rather than watch or listen to sports, exercise or socialize with family or friends.

·         Seek help from a mental health professional to help manage an obsession with sports.

In most cases, sports obsession can begin in a person's life when they are young. But the obsession of sports is generally not theirs, it's their parents. When a child starts playing sports at a young age, their parents may develop the strong urge to help them succeed, possibly trying to make them reach levels athletically that they were never able to reach themselves when they were younger. In other words, parents want to see their sports dream fulfilled through their children. Parent sports obsession can get so out of hand that they want their child to succeed under any and all circumstances, which causes them to push the child too hard.  

According to Sandra Sims, Ph.D., associate professor of human studies in the UAB School of Education, "Young athletes have two needs that should be fulfilled, and those are to feel worthy and have fun. When a sport is no longer fun - if the child feels the sport is more like a job - they will quit," she said. "It's sad to see them walk away."

Sims further notes that while some parents may not even mean to purposely take the joy out of their child's games, 'being overzealous about their abilities, effort or participation can do just that.' Attacking umpires, referees, or other parents, scolding athletes, and causing a variety of disturbances during a game are just a few signs of a parent with a sports obsession.

When analyzing the issue of whether sports obsession can damage relationships, I think that a very legit argument can be made that it does. Sports obsessions can come stem from three different aspects: fans, parents, and athletes at all levels. While it may not garner the attention of other well-known or common obsessions, sports addiction is becoming more common in its own right throughout our society. The reason being is that sports and athletics play such a prominent role in our lives. From childhood all the way up to adulthood, it can affect us all just like any other obsession. In the case of the obsessed fan, it's essential that those around them help them realize that their obsession is doing more harm than good in their lives. Relationships are being destroyed because sports are being put before some of the most important people and things in their life. They have to remember that they have a life outside of cheering for their favorite players and teams.

Sports obsessive parents never seem to understand how much their obsession is taking a toll on their child, until the child wants to quit the sport or starts to pull away from the parent. Living vicariously through another person, especially in this situation, can end up straining relationships and causing dysfunction between the two parties.  

From an athlete's point of view, things may be slightly different, especially for professional athletes because they play sports for a living. Therefore they dedicate a lot of their time to whatever sport they play. Still, there's always time that needs to be made to spend with the people you love. Sports may be one of the top priorities in your life, but family and friends are just as vital to your success as you are. Don't let that slip your mind.



Obsession Serious Issue in Sports:

Sports Addictions Can Ruin Relationships:

Are Sports Addictions Damaging Your Relationships?:

Are sports obsessions damaging your relationships?:



I just read this right after our game against Michigan tonight in four overtimes and just feel like I could understand why someone would be addicted to that haha. But, this is a really cool post because there was something I came across the other day on TV and it had to deal with a lie detector test between separated parents (yeah, that kind of show). What the guy was asked over the lie detector was if he loved his daughter more than his professional fighting career and it came up as false, he didn't. It was the cause of his divorce and he has spent almost no time with his three year old daughter, all because of his sport. It may not be an addiction from watching it, but it changed his entire life because he got carried away and pushed his family aside for it all. It's pretty crazy where some peoples priorities seem to be!

Haha, most definitely. There are games such as PSU's quadruple overtime victory against Michigan that would make ANYONE a borderline sports addict. In regards to the show you saw on TV, I can definitely see something like that happening!! I honestly believe that sports addictions, whether it’s with fans or professional athletes, is a major problem in society that goes unnoticed. However, it's a bit different for professional athletes being as though they play a sport for a living. With that being the case, professional athletes have to somewhat eat, drink, sleep, and breathe their respective sport if they want to make a good living doing it, perform at a high level for a long period of time, and be good at what they do. I'm not saying that gives professional athletes the right to neglect their families and personal obligations, but they do have to take it more serious than fans do. I'm a guy who puts family over everything (well, most things), so I wouldn't dare let an obsession over sports ruin my personal life so much that I don't spend time with my kids or my wife decides to divorce me. No matter how much I will always love sports, I think that's a bit extreme. There are times when you can go all out and root for your favorite sports team to the core, and there are other times when personal priorities come into play. The healthy way to go is to find that balance. But if it gets too difficult, you have to ask yourself what's more important and be REALISTIC.

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