Most folks are familiar with the term “armchair traveler,” usually depicting a voracious reader who dreams of visiting exotic locales or someone who lives vicariously through films set in faraway destinations. Moreover, fascinating as this image may be, I might suggest an even more enticing one: that of the armchair athlete (not to be confused with the couch potato!)
Particularly true of New Englanders, it seems we often gauge the seasons, not merely by the calendar or daylight savings time, but rather by the plethora of sporting opportunities provided throughout the year. Perhaps this is especially evident when we long for a reprieve from winter’s onslaught, or, maybe it is the sheer joy of affiliation with a winning team.
Fortunately, the media outlets as well as national, regional, and local coaches are more than willing to oblige and satisfy our fantasies. Normally, pre-season NFL games begin even before the boys of summer have relinquished the field; baseball season stretching into autumn’s falling leaves and early morning frost. Football’s diversion extends into frigid January, climaxing with the national sporting spectacular: the Superbowl (not to mention the seemingly never-ending supply of bowl games!) The NBA is well underway by this juncture, yet it is often the college stars of March Madness stealing the show. What elite or Cinderella teams in each bracket will actually make it to the final four or, for hockey aficionados, the Frozen Four? Such tennis tournaments as Wimbledon and the US Open compete in the summer for viewers with the PGA schedule which culminates in the awarding of the prestigious green jacket at the Masters. Soccer, lacrosse, NASCAR, Olympic tryouts for summer and winter games, the Triple Crown of horseracing, and many more, all add to a full year of sports entertainment.
This, of course, was pre-COVID 2020.
Stadiums, arenas, convention centers, nearly any venue housing these forms of sports entertainment events have been forced to reinvent itself. Television programming is bereft of a primary revenue source and has resorted to rebroadcasting “vintage” or “classic” moments in sports history. This summer, some creative new competitions have attempted to fill the void and have gained traction and viewers: cannonball (my personal favorite), the Titan Games, and the return of Ninja Warrior, all of these quench our thirst for sports entertainment.
While many individuals may not be true sports enthusiasts, studies have actually shown the positive reciprocity between sports and their fans. Certainly, players receive monetary benefits, confidence, a heightened sense of purpose, and adulation from their fans. Similarly, according to numerous sources such as CNN Health and the Washington Post, true fans may have better emotional, psychological, and social health as well as experiencing higher self-esteem. Fans see teams as extensions of themselves, part of their own uniqueness, as cited by the Seattle Times. Therefore, they identify with the positive attributes of their teams and their winning records. At the most grassroots level, sports teach important lessons — teamwork, the importance of practicing and honing skills, how to lose or win gracefully — life lessons at any age.
In short, in 2020, fans (despite their customized cardboard cutouts in the stands, seats, or bleachers) are at a loss. And, while fantasy football is now in full swing, it is still only that, a fantasy. We are all ready for a winning season in 2021.
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