The image is imprinted in all of our minds, be it through movies, television or pop culture. 50,000 fans, packed together in one massive stadium, jump to their feet to celebrate the same result. They are wearing the same colours. They are chanting the same words. They are cheering for the same team. These people are no longer 50,000 individuals; they have become one mass of emotion. They celebrate together and they mourn together. This is the all-too-familiar experience of being a sports fan.
Few social phenomena are able to bring groups of people together quite like sports. And while religion, music, and holidays all share similarities with sports, this trillion dollar industry provides an unparalleled mixture of characteristics. It’s as tribalistic as religion, but incites far less violence and death. It’s as creative and expressive as music, but also more strategic. It’s as universal as holidays, but far more omnipresent. There is something about sports that makes them unique: they are an incomparably powerful social tool.
Using Sports to Become Closer to Family & Friends
Most, if not all of us, have relationships that we would like to improve. One way or another, we just do not see eye-to-eye on most things, and struggle to put aside our differences with these people. The solution? Watching sports together.
Take the first step on your own by choosing a sport that interests you and follow this up by inviting the other person to watch a game, either on TV or in person (if you can afford it). As a human with tribal tendencies encoded into their DNA, it is inevitable that the person watching with you will choose a team for which to cheer. This will cause them to invest emotion into the game, and you will finally share something in common. It will likely take time and several attempts, but this is one of the most effective ways of bringing two diametrically opposed people together.
Those who ride together, die together. Sharing the heartbreak of an overtime playoff loss, or celebrating the joy that comes with a buzzer-beater game-winner are small and insignificant events in the grand scheme of life. But they bring people closer together than one could imagine, and that’s why they matter.
Personally, some of the best friendships I have forged, to this day, have stemmed from a mutual love for hockey. It served as a great starting point between strangers and removed much of the awkwardness involved in the initial stages of friendship. Years later, these relationships have transcended their dependence on sports. Now, a hockey game merely serves as a great excuse to hang out, watch the sport we love, and catch up. What more could you ask for?
The story of the parent-and-child duo that loved a sport and watched religiously together for years is certainly a cliché, but this familial archetype has stood the test of time because it is undeniably effective. You may find your parent, child or sibling difficult to get through to and communicate with, but nothing bridges a gap between people quite like sports.
The fact is that religion, music and holidays just don’t measure up for people of radically different backgrounds. Religion requires a subscription into a particular set of beliefs, rendering two people with completely different philosophies of life unlikely to be of the same creed. Music requires an active listener to find songs that match their exact tastes and interests, decreasing the chances of two people loving the same genre or artist. Holidays only come around so often and are culture-dependent. Sports are something else, something marvellous. They are not only wonderfully inclusive, but also refreshingly lacking in rhetoric. Being a sports fan doesn’t just give people a break from politics, ideologies and work, it makes them happy. It entertains them. And, most importantly, it brings them together.
“Sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also – and above all I would say – a tool to communicate values that promote the good that is in humans and help build a more peaceful fraternal society.” – Anonymous