What happens in your brain when you watch sports? Why do so many people return to something that so often leaves them heartbroken, angry, and even violent? The Secret Lives of Sports Fans by Eric Simons, out this month from Overlook, turns to neuroscience, psychology, endocrinology, evolutionary biology — and one sensitive man in an Oakland Raiders gorilla suit — in a search for the roots of a universal passion.
In The Secret Lives of Sports Fans, journalist Eric Simons poses a very simple question that millions of people have asked themselves at some point in their lives: “Why am I a sports fan – and why do I have this apparently irrational passion for something that the rational part of me says is ridiculous. And why does watching my favorite team make me hyperemotional?”
From surging testosterone to firing neurons, the science suggests that sports fans cede emotional control to our reflexes. And yet, critically, we retain a remarkable ability to influence and even control, the way those reflexes work. To explain that strange dance in the brain, Simons explores research on relationships, love, addiction and groups, concluding with a close look at what evolutionary theories can teach us about how and why people act tribally, and why culture matters.
Eric Simons recently lent his expertise to The Wall Street Journal to write about why March Madness in particular captures the hearts and minds of sports fans. Quoted in The Washington Post, he unpackaged one of the tournament’s more memorable moments, in which sports fans across the country temporarily forgot about their individual loyalties after a traumatic incident involving Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware’s ankle:
“Sometimes, you have an event that makes people realize that there’s something more important than the tribe, than the colors we wear. The story of sports fans that is really underappreciated is that we do shut off our red colors and our blue colors.”
Simons has also recently investigated his own sports addictions through interviews with SF Weekly and Smithsonian Magazine, and lent some helpful advice to baseball fans via The Boston Globe in preparation for the 2013 season.
“An intriguing ride through ‘all the wondrous quirks and oddities in human nature.’” – Kirkus Reviews
“Adroitly mixing research with feature reporting, Simons unveils some intriguing discoveries … Simon’s affable writing style—and his great eagerness to profile actual people, including himself—infuses the data with heart and soul.” – Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating glimpse into why sports culture is what it is. Sports fans will find this a powerful tool for self-examination.” – Booklist