What is it that causes us to invest ourselves in something we have no control over?
While this question has many applications, in this instance i choose to apply to sports, because the reality is (with a few notable exceptions) sports is the only thing that i choose to get emotionally involved with. The joy of success and the pain of failure only exist because we emotionally invest ourselves in the outcome. Why do we choose to do this when most teams don't win championships and most players fail to be remembered? The answer has several reasons.
1. There has been interesting research in something called mirror neurons, these are neurons that essentially cause us to picture ourselves doing something we have not yet done. These exist in evolutionary terms because instead of growing a coat of hair over hundreds of generations, you just see your parents kill a bear and wear its coat and you do the same. This is important to sports because they allow us to picture ourselves out there, thus even though we may never play on a professional sports team, we can still see ourselves out there succeeding or failing with those that are. (for those that want more info. see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mirror-neurons.html).
2. We care about sports because it exemplifies what we hate/love, and what we wish to be. Sports is home to some of the most inspiring stories i am aware of, from Magic Johnson's all-star game despite the fact that he had HIV, to Brett Farve's 399 yard 4 touchdown performance on monday night football despite the fact that his father had just died, to phillip humber's perfect game despite multiple teams discrediting him (please note all of the above performed 'despite' something, another beauty of sports), and these are just individuals success stories there are plenty of underdog teams winning against the odds. Yet sports is also home to individuals that we despise, from Michael Vick hosting dog fights, to the white sox world series betting scandal, to the patriots spying on other players to win. Sports allows us to see individuals on the extremes of the spectrum like no other occupation does, due to the constant media attention and the fact that they do not have to gain your approval to perform.
3. Finally we watch sports to see others succeed where we have not. The phrase "Any Given Sunday" exists because it imports one fact, that your team could win any game. Many sports stories that we cherish deal with the fact that the team beat the odds to win. This allows us to hope that our team may win that next game, or championship. This hope can then transfer to ourselves, if we haven't won yet we still could, or inspite of ourselves, even if i don't win my team can. This is the root cause that many of us watch sports, because in a world where it increasingly seems you can't win, sports allows us to think that we still can
I spend countless hours reading papers, boxscores, watching sportscenter, and the games themselves, yet despite all the disappointment and the losses, i still love it. Even if i won't say that sports "has always been there for me", it has always seemed to be around, from games as a little kid to watching the most recent OKC, Dallas game and Durrant missing the game winner (despite what sportscenter says). Sports is one of the extremely few illogical/emotional things i enjoy. Both its beauty, Ray Allen's jump shot is prettier than most women, to its lack of beauty, Meta World Peace elbowing a guy in the face (yes his name is meta world peace). And now as the NBA season draws to a close, it just reminds me of how thing were, when the the jazz were fighting for a playoff spot and played pheonix, back before i realized how much i would miss it as soon as it was gone.
I love sports and so should you.