I think I have at least a partial answer to why men get so worked up over spectator sports. Women, and a few men I suppose, often react by saying something like “Why are you so upset, it’s only a game?” Well, no it is not, and I’ll explain why.
Sports are symbolic, a metaphor for justice (or injustice), success and failure, even good and evil. We want desperately to believe that we can triumph over adversity ourselves, succeed through hard work, and vanquish our own demons. Increasingly, men are feeling disempowered and seek symbolic justice through spectator sports.
We believe, these days at least, that we are at the mercy of employers, bosses, banks, government, and maybe even spouses. Real or imagined, we feel powerless to change our own circumstances and have largely lost faith that the “good guy” can finish anywhere but last. We rail against “America’s team,” the franchises and universities rolling in wealth and entrenched in “tradition,” as they represent the evil overlords of our own jobs, careers, and personal finances.
When “our” team wins, we feel vindicated, hopeful, and energized by association. When that team loses, we sink further into despair and hopelessness. It doesn’t seem rational, you say. It doesn’t have to be. It just….is. It is about respect, or lack thereof, and we feel disrespected much of the time in our personal lives. We are disgraced, humiliated, and repeatedly dismissed when we attempt to advance in the workforce. We bring home smaller wages, driven down by “illegal immigrants.” Our jobs are shipped overseas, not unlike professional sports teams that abandon one city for greener pastures elsewhere. It isn’t fair, and that is the bottom line.
I guess that is what irritates me the most. I don’t get people who respond to the disappointments, trials, and tribulations of others with comments like “life isn’t fair.” Maybe not, but why the hell aren’t you working to make it fair? Why is that not a priority with you? Why is it not a priority with our society, and why are those who want to make life more equitable for all labeled as “socialists” or “communists?” Why is that a bad thing?
We won’t talk about any of this, of course, engage in meaningful dialogue, or God forbid take action to change the status quo. We may not even have voted on Tuesday. No, we will turn up the volume on the TV so we can better hear the sports announcers. We’d rather be at the game in person, but the team owner jacked up the ticket prices to pay for those new luxury boxes at the stadium.