Healthy Living

The Secret to Loving Every Sports Game—No Matter the Outcome

Sep. 5, 2023
Find the “Healthy Why” and You’ll Never Lose

Maybe you live and die with every one of your favorite team’s games. Maybe you wear your lucky socks and jersey to make sure the Bills win on Sunday.

And maybe, a loss ruins your whole week.

Why do we feel so strongly about our teams? Is there a way to avoid the deep letdown of a loss?

Craig Cypher, PsyD, CMPC (Certified Mental Performance Consultant), an expert in performance psychology at UR Medicine Orthopaedics and Physical Performance, shares his great insight into the emotions we feel as avid sports fans—and a great idea to always enjoy the game, even when it ends badly.

Why do we get so emotional when our favorite team wins or loses?

The emotional rollercoaster we feel when our favorite sports team competes is a testament to the powerful way we personally connect with sports. Just like the athletes on the field invest their heart and soul into the game, we invest our emotions, passion, and time.

When your team wins, it's a moment of shared triumph and validation of your loyalty. We experience a surge of adrenaline and dopamine along with that feeling of joy.

When your team faces defeat, it's natural to feel a sense of disappointment or sadness. This emotional response stems from the deep identification you have with the team's goals and struggles, as well as the emotional investment you have put in. When your team loses, it feels like a personal setback.

It’s important to remember that these emotional highs and lows are part of the beauty of our engagement with OUR team—your heart is truly in the game.

What causes superstitions around sports? (e.g. Why do I wear my lucky socks when the Bills play?)

Superstitions in sports are a fascinating psychological phenomenon, driven by issues of control and a little bit of magical thinking. Wearing your lucky socks when the Bills play or engaging in other rituals creates a comforting illusion of influence over the outcome.

As a fan sitting at home, the reality is that we have no control if our team wins or loses. Superstitions are our mind’s way of trying to find some sort of control of a difficult situation: we are extremely emotionally invested but have no direct power. Superstitions become a source of comfort and a way to feel connected to the game, the team, and the outcome.

In our hearts, we often know that our lucky socks won’t really make the Bills win, but we can still have fun and wear them with pride.

What can we do to minimize depression when our favorite team loses?

Experiencing a sense of sadness or disappointment when your favorite team loses is completely understandable. It's a reflection of the emotional investment you've made. That’s why it becomes important to connect ourselves to what I call our “Healthy Why” around our fandom.

Why do you love your team and the gameday experience? Is it about the thrill of competition? Connecting with friends and family? Is it about the atmosphere watching with fellow fans? Showing pride for your community?

If we can take a step back and gain some perspective, we can appreciate the positives in even the toughest of losses. Because even when our team loses, we still experience all the reasons why we are a fan.

We can also take some time to appreciate the lessons we learn from sports and sports fandom. After all, who knows more about things like resilience and loyalty than Buffalo Bills fans? Even in defeat, there are qualities that we can build in ourselves through those disappointments.