Illustration for article titled Why Exercise Makes You Miserable According to SciencePhoto: Clive Brunskill (Getty Images)

A seismic tremor hit the world of European football on Monday, threatening to alter the DNA of the world’s greatest sport. The Formation of a European Super League by invitation onlyIn which 12 of the continent’s economic powerhouses compete against each other and share lavish sums of money between them, the sport’s 4 billion global diehards are furious.

Although it marks a turning point in the sport’s nearly 150-year history of continental dominance, sports fans of all types, from long-suffering Marlins season ticket holders to those willing to defend the, should be familiar with the heated emotions created by the formation of the Super League are evoked Arizona Coyotes ice hockey team Year after year: Sport makes us miserable.

Professional sports leagues provide a place where broad circles of the public can unite for a common identity, which is not inherently bad. It’s just that the prevailing mood of so many sports teams and their immortal fans these days is an overwhelming collective agony.

Why are millions of sports fans in the agony of supporting teams that keep failing? And are there ways to break away from the cycle of disappointment while observing our cherished loyalties?

The science is clear: Sport makes us miserable

In a 2018 study, researchers from the University of Sussex, UK, looked at the links between misery and English football and found that bad feelings after losing a team were always felt more intensely than the joy of winning. Her methodology consisted of asking 32,000 respondents at different stages of the day about their emotional states and citing location data to determine whether or not respondents were in or near a football stadium during a game.

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Like in the Washington Post, The researchers soon found that losing had a far wider impact on fans than winning:

In the hour immediately after their team’s victory, the researchers found that a typical fan is about 3.9 points happier than usual – about as much as listening to music. This is more than offset by the 7.8 points of added sadness fans will feel in the hour after their team’s defeat. During this event, respondents feel about twice as sad as after working, studying or waiting in line.

This study signals grim news for sports fans everywhere, as your team is far more likely to lose frequently than the next iteration of the world Showtime Lakers. There’s a reason ESPN has what it calls Sports Misery Index Formula: There is only ever one champion in a given season, and most of the time it is a team that has won it before. often lately. The likelihood of your favorite team peaking is usually determined by a myriad of factors outside of the game itself: the size of a team’s home market, the types of referrals and sponsors it attracts, and the salaries it earns Can attract the best players: All of them influence a team’s success more than ethereal factors like team spirit or chemistry, and if only dedicated fans had made a difference, the Chicago Cubs would not have spent a century as underdogs.

There’s a reason Lebron James, who won the NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was an anomaly: a small market team with no previous title triumphed over a rising and well-heeled opponent in the Golden State Warriors, and such upsets are rare, which makes them all the sweeter when they occur. While the opposite result – a small market team with no prior titles who can’t win big – is what most sporting seasons are made of.

Human psychology means that we expect to be unhappy

You probably won’t hear much about Sigmund Freud at a major league stadium, but sports psychologist Tom Ferraro makes a connection between modern fandom and the forefather of psychoanalysis. He tells Lifehacker that joy is a fleeting emotion in everyday life, so some sports fans are more likely to be more at home and support miserable teams.

“It may be, as Freud would say, [that] Life is indeed a dark affair, full of pain and suffering. So we are ready to connect with these sad, fearful, miserable feelings, ”he wrote in an email. “Joy is a far rarer emotion, so it tends to carry less weight.”

Fans also identify with teams they can connect with based on their class. Ferraro points to the New York Mets and Yankees baseball teams as prime examples of this dynamic:

In New York, I noticed that fans who love the Mets tend to embrace the middle and lower classes, while those who love the Yankees aspire to or relate to the upper class [it]. It is cognitively consonant to connect with a team that you feel connected to in terms of status. This is Leon Festinger’s theory, although it has never been applied to sport.

In other words, people who want to be “winners” in a superficial sense could flock to more successful franchises because when they watch these teams lift another trophy, they feel personally triumphant.

How to remove yourself from the cycle

One way not to let a failing sports franchise define your happiness is to simply tell yourself that its performance shouldn’t matter to your personal life. But that is easier said than done for many fans. Ferraro explains that this problem is often caused by what Freud calls repetition obsession. This is the case when a patient tries to resolve a trauma by unconsciously returning to the source of the trauma over and over again.

So if a team keeps failing you, you may come back for years to watch that team to unconsciously resolve your negative emotions. Or, as Ferraro explains: “[t]The feelings of anger and frustration in the fan when they identify with the loser are their way of processing those feelings. So they stay loyal to the losing teams. ”

The easiest way to break this cycle is to simply realize that it exists. Exercising doesn’t have to make you unhappy, but when you find that they are doing just that, you’ve found your first, best chance to break their mood. Take a step back, step away from the seasonal roller coaster of misery, and start examining your relationship with your valued team with clearer eyes.