September 29, 2016

The Sportsaholic: How sports will improve your life

 

Webster isn’t the easiest place to be a sports fan. This is something that I suppose I have always known but tried to deny for as long as I could. For me, the breaking point finally arrived on February 3 2014 — the day after the Super Bowl.

I, like 111.5 million other people, watched the game on Sunday night. But when I went to my classes the next day, I found that I was one of the few in the building who had bothered to tune into the most watched television event in American history. A handful of people had seen the commercials, and someone had watched the halftime show online, but only one fellow student knew who had won the game. It was a frustrating, but not entirely atypical experience.

On a more local level it can be difficult to be a Webster sports fan. Geographically, Webster teams play in areas around St. Louis ranging from all the way out in Fenton, Mo, to Webster Groves, to Sauget Ill. This is not a small distance to cover for parents, and students who would like to watch Webster’s teams play.

SportsAreas (3)The impression I’ve always had is that sports do not take a high priority at Webster. Maybe this is understandable, and maybe this is prudent of the faculty and the student body to place other things ahead of sports in their lives. Maybe, I was the one who was crazy to watch the Superbowl.

I’d like to think I’m not though. Sports have always played an important role in individual and societal life. According to an article from a lecture delivered at Georgetown University, the ancient Greeks thought sport was important to higher mental facilities. Aristotle once said that sport “is the closest thing most human beings come to contemplation, to the highest of all human activities.”

I would think most people who don’t like sports would say they don’t really matter, that they are insignificant and in the end engender more distress than happiness. After all, it is just a game. The fact is though, playing sports is good for you. Both mentally and physically, playing sports make you happier (by releasing endorphins in the brain) and healthier through exercise, but not all of us have the skill or the time to play sports in college. However, merely watching sports can be beneficial.

In a book published in 2009 called “Soccernomics”, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski chronicled how material things like increased wealth don’t make people happier. (The exception is for people who live below the poverty line and who live without basic necessities.) But hosting a world cup (or another major tournament like the European Championships) does make people happier. People living in the host countries of five major European soccer tournaments between 1984 and 2000 “reported a higher level of happiness the year after the tournament than they had before, and they reported more happiness in the autumn surveys (that is, after the tournament) than in the spring surveys (held before the tournament).”

In the chapter entitled Happiness, Kuper and Szymanski referenced studies done over the past decades, which show a correlation between watching sports and being happy. The correlation is so strong that Kuper and Szymanski devote a chapter to how lower than average suicide rates in European countries coincide with major soccer tournaments.

Clearly, sports have power to alter our lives in amazing ways. The unfortunate thing about the current state of things at Webster however, is that the accomplishments of the sports teams here can be lost in the shuffle. The Gorloks have won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All Sports Award nine years in a row. Last season, men’s and women’s soccer won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), the volleyball team won the SLIAC tournament and the men’s basketball team reached the NCAA Tournament. Furthermore, the baseball team achieved Webster’s first ever number one national ranking in any sport on their way to another SLIAC championship.

By no means are sports a cure-all to society’s problems. They can however, produce genuine and lasting elation. In the book “Fever Pitch,” author Nick Hornby describes the appeal of sports fanship. “We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.”

 

 

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