The Addiciton of Professional Sports

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As a child/teenager, I used to follow a lot of professional sports. It was one of the few ways of connecting with my father, plus it put me in a lot of social circles with “the guys” as a teenager. As an adult I drifted away. I was living in Edmonton in the heydays of the Oilers hockey dynasty and managed to get free ticket every once in a while. I did enjoy the games, but making the Edmonton Oilers my reason for living was not on my life agenda.


There are two sports I like to watch on TV: the Canadian Football League, which is the most unusual game where Canadian cities compete to see who has the best Americans, and curling, which—to you people of warm climates—is a gigantic shuffleboard game on ice that moves very slowly. I can put aside a few household repairs to partake in these two recreations. But if something important is up in life, the TV stays off.


Then one evening in 2004, I seemed to have nothing to do. So I watched my first hockey game on TV in many years. It was the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Calgary Flames were on the docket (Calgary is about two hours away from my home town, so naturally there was some local affinity happening). I enjoyed the game immensely. So much so, that I watched another playoff game, then another, and adjusted my life schedule as to not miss one game. Four rounds at seven games each round at three and one half hours per game meant that I had spent 98 hours watching hockey—and not one good thing was done for the world!


I was puzzled by my commitment to this recreation that consumed me, which never really happened before or since. A friend of mine, who holds a B.Sc. in Biology, explained it to me: “It’s all biology.”


My friend then further explained that when we emotionally attach ourselves to a professional sports team, we set up our bodies for a lot of hormone imbalances. When our team scores, we get a release of serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, etc., etc. that gives us a high. We feel great and wonderful! And when the other team scores, we are deprived of our chemicals. But that deprivation only causes us to crave more, so we keep watching to get our next fix. And going from an extreme low to the usual high really gets our jollies rolling. We want even more! Nothing is better than watching our favorite team trounce the opponent—except maybe seeing our favorite team steal the victory away from our opponent is the dying seconds of the game. Man-oh-Man, do we feel good about ourselves when that happens! But if we are not watching, reading about the game in the newspapers the next day just doesn’t do the job.


If I were to concoct some white powder and promise my customers a biological high, then a low, then another high, and few more cycles and highs and laws, I would probably be arrested for something illegal. Yet the fabricators of professional sports are more or less doing the same thing. It’s a strange world.



Marty Koval Added Dec 17, 2018 - 7:09pm
Interesting article and I am happy for you that you enjoy the Canadian football, curling and hockey.
America (where I live) is a country that loves its sports. Sadly, this love has been declining in recent years. This decline has been caused by multiple reasons. Personally, my love for these games is virtually gone, especially at the professional level, and here’s why.
Loyalty has left sports: In the good ol’ days, players stayed in the city that they were drafted into. Yes, there are exceptions if the team or fans treat them unfairly, but players should stay put. There was no such thing as ring chasing 20 years ago, and now it happens during every free agency period. I’d love to see superstars stay put for their careers because it helps fans create bonds with the player. 
Games get heated: Spectators and players often go through sudden mood changes during a game, and these can sometimes lead to fights. What are they fighting over? Simply a game. The deadliest soccer match in history resulted in 328 people dead. Hockey players are often seen getting into fights, and verbal disputes happen all the time, at any level of sport. And why does it seem that the only time it is acceptable to curse at the television is when it is about sports? Personally, I absolutely love watching teams that have good sportsmanship, but those teams are hard to come by.  Sportsmanship has declined way too much in professional sports.
Sitting on the couch isn’t good for you: Sitting down on the couch every Sunday isn’t helping anything get done. The average American spends over five hours a day watching television. Plus, most people consume gobs of junk food during this time. Watching your team play doesn’t mean you can eat a bowl of pizza rolls in five minutes. This habit is unhealthy and it is simply just helping to increase America’s obesity problem. Not to mention if your team happens to lose, how are you going to feel afterwards.
Alternatively, you can help out your family by doing your chores for the day, or playing a game with your family.
It’s all about the money and fame: Every sport has been caught up in a scandal at one point. In figure skating, when Tanya Harding had someone attack Nancy Kerrigan. In baseball, when Pete Rose got banished from the MLB for his gambling.  You would think that professional athletes would be fine with their immense fame and huge pay checks. These scandals have really tarnished professional sports.
Players not respecting the American flag during the national anthem. This issue has caused millions of Americans from boycotting this sport completely.
In America, I believe that professional sports are going down the drain. Yes, there will always be fans that would die for their teams and pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to the game; there will always be people willing to watch games all weekend while binge eating potato chips; and of course, there will always be athletes willing to make millions from professional sports. However  professional sports are losing fans like myself.
Yes, there will still be many fans that get an emotionally high by following their favorite sports teams. But for I and many other fans, we say no thank you to professional sports.
Dave Volek Added Dec 17, 2018 - 7:22pm
I have another theory. The drama in Washington is draining spare and energy from professional sports these days. Foxx and CNN are skillfully and deliberately playing to different audiences and reaping extra advertising revenue for their efforts. Too bad for the NFL and MLB. 
As for the lack of team loyalty, anthem kneeling, free agency, or too high of paychecks, consumers have the right to stop attending/watching at any time for any reason. I would say they are exercising their free market choices--and we should just leave it at that! 
I was in party politics for six years, working the back rooms. That too has its own kind of highs and lows that require a fix to keep loyal party workers keep the system going for the rest of you.
It's a strange world.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 17, 2018 - 7:43pm
What will rightists do if the NFL is removed as part of the military.  You know, those troops on the benches expressing a political opinion, non violently?  What will "Fans" do without their favorite branch of the military?  Dave V is humping to actually get his TDG stuff prove it's worth the time, so complains about existing systems in the political realm.  Hey, Dave, I know you get angry for me asking, but isn't it the long time your method takes the "why" of people NOT trying it?
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 17, 2018 - 8:14pm
Nice article Dave. When I did sports as a young man, the idea was character. There is so much money on the lines now, character means nothing. They're going to pay college athletes who  have worked hard and waited all of their lives to make it into the professional sports arena. Money, the root of all evil, destroys the character of sportsmen. It's a business now, and it's very man (or woman) for himself/herself.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 17, 2018 - 8:16pm
Oh yeah, every once in a while I buy one of the sponsor's products, but not often.
Dave Volek Added Dec 17, 2018 - 9:12pm
Good question Jeff, and thanks for opening the door for another TDG plug.
I've been at this TDG project for 21 years now, so another round of rejection on WB is not going to deter me.
I have several hypotheses as to the reason for the rejection of the TDG. As you are reading this list, you can put your favorite WB contributors into these categories.
1) The world is going to hell regardless. So there's no point in putting any thought, let alone effort, into a new system.
2) Far too many people still believe there is a political messiah or messianic political party that can fix things for us. Of course, it is in the messiahs's best interest to continue sell us this bill of goods.
3) The TDG requires effort from its early builders. I figure about 5 to 10 hours a month. Couch potatoes will not be interested.
4)  The TDG requires effort from its early builders. I figure about 5 to 10 hours a month.Those who enjoy posting their ideologies on internet forums seem not to be interested in new ways.
5) The TDG requires effort from its early builders. I figure about 5 to 10 hours a month. People who are out in the community making a difference are already too busy. Yep, I got a big marketing problem here in that I cannot reach my target audience. Until I figure out something else, I guess I'm stuck with internet forums.
6) The TDG requires people to start thinking differently. For starters, the early builders will have to cast aside their presumption that they are much smarter than the people they disagree with. This is not easy. I'm not sure people want to go in this direction, given that the don't even want to spend 2-3 hours on a free read.
7) Americans have been brainwashed into voting for D or for R. They cannot see any other possibility, even if they hate both the D's and the R's.
8)  And people, especially political junkies, like the drama of politics. Write a good book about the drama of the current White House, and one never has to work again. Write a book about a system that will never produce the drama of the current White House, one better find a job to pay one's way in the world.
It's a strange world.
Dave Volek Added Dec 17, 2018 - 9:15pm
Sports still develops character. All sorts of great life lessons to help young people move into the adult world. One need not become a professional athlete to get those benefits.
I too really don't buy any of the products that are propping up my CFL and curling TV games. But the advertisers must be making money somehow.
Ryan Messano Added Dec 17, 2018 - 9:17pm
Insightful and enjoyable article, Dave.  I can totally relate.  I grew up a sports nut, though I didn't have a hellivision, and the 49er's, Warriors, and Giants were my teams.  Finally, in 2009, when I decided they weren't doing anything for me, and I needed to focus on other things, they started to do amazingly well.  The Giants won 3 World Series, the Warriors recently had the best record in NBA history, and won 3 championships, and the 49ers went to the Super Bowl and barely lost.  Thankfully, Trump and Kaepernick showed me how worthless sports really are.  Pro athletes haven't got a solitary clue about the Constitution or history, yet, like most entertainers want to run their mouths.  I haven't watched or listened to a game in at least 3 years, and my interest was strongly waning from 2009 on.  I no longer pay attention to the sports page, and with rare exceptions, am uninterested in sports at all.  I completely agree, as I usually do, with Marty Koval.  Agree with Jeff that money corrupted the character of sports. 
Dr. Rupert Green Added Dec 17, 2018 - 9:51pm
There is an element to using sports as a tool for social control. Give the fools sport to prevent them from seeing how their rights are being taken away and how prices are being raised on them.
Dave Volek Added Dec 17, 2018 - 9:52pm
Gee Ryan, it sounds like you should sell yourself as a bad luck charm: "Let me stop watching your team, and it will do better." You could make a small mint.
The societal emphasis on professional sport is far too great. We need to wean ourselves from this addiction--or perhaps better said, give professional sports a more rightful priority. Pro sports still are good diversions to help us unwind. My town has a college level baseball team (again mostly Americans who will never get in the pros). It's a nice relaxing evening for me. Doesn't hurt to attend a few games a year.
Mark Hunter Added Dec 18, 2018 - 2:22am
I'm not much of a sports fan, but I'm amazed at how addicting curling can be. My wife and I caught it during the Olympics (she hates sports) and were fascinated. Maybe it's the idea that it's something even non-athletic people could do, although that's clearly a deceptive idea.
Stone-Eater Added Dec 18, 2018 - 4:00am
Sports are relaxing. I like to watch Champions League (soccer) or ski races. Why ? Because it's not worth a discussion....
Dr. Rupert Green Added Dec 18, 2018 - 4:53am
In defense of sports. We are allowed to kill or crush the opposing team. Replace the opposing teams with opposing nations and we would be crushing opposing nations with war. Sports allowed for the removal of that bloodletting of yore. It would be interesting to see the response of those high paying sport -thespians if the head of the victorious teams were to be severed, as was done by the Aztecs to show high honor for the victors.
Marty Koval Added Dec 18, 2018 - 8:05am
Dr. Rupert Green:
That is an unique way to get out of all those high paying salaries. Did they later on use the severed heads as if it were a soccer ball?
Dave Volek Added Dec 18, 2018 - 8:40am
Dr. Green
Professional sports is one part of the old Roman order: bread and circuses. There is a large degree of social control, although I'm not too sure is as deliberate as the Roman order. 
I remember an old movie about a football coach trying to motivate his local football team. He was trying to explain to his players that their job was to make their fans feel good about themselves by winning football games. Again, there is a lot of truth to this.
And on another note, I think it is preferable that young men are on the football field than on the battlefield. THere will always some men that need to prove themselves in this way, which channels negative energy into a more neutral direction. 
Dave Volek Added Dec 18, 2018 - 8:42am
I curled in high school and sometimes as an adult. When the rules changed circa 1995, it became a much better game to play and watch. 
And yes, it is deceptive. In my town, many seniors are curling. But it is more social than competitive, albeit some senior curlers like to think they are on the world circuit. 
opher goodwin Added Dec 18, 2018 - 10:51am
Dave - I think you are right - it's the adrenaline buzz!
Dr. Rupert Green Added Dec 18, 2018 - 11:46am
@ Marty. Thats a laught. I would have to go reread Joseph Campbell. 
Steel Breeze Added Dec 18, 2018 - 12:19pm
good read.....i rarely miss a football or baseball game,but, i dont do TV, only radio where i can enjoy a game and still get shit done............and also dont have to watch mindless and idiotic ads....
Jim Stoner Added Dec 18, 2018 - 12:34pm
Sorry, I didn't get the TLA (three-letter acronym).  I tried Google on "meaning of TDG"; I got "Transportation of Dangerous Goods", "Three Days' Grace", and "Too Damn Good".  None of those seem to be a philosophy of life. 
Sports:  When I was very young, I listened to baseball on the radio (there was very little on TV, "Game of the Week" with Diz and PeeWee seemed always to have the hated Yankees on).   I "fell in love" with Pete Rose, his hustle, love of competition, played every position, no fear.   Later I saw what a jerk he was and changed my tune (but not on the Reds, that will never change).  He is a good example of what our mania for professional sports produces. 
I still follow baseball, basketball (born in Kentucky, parents from Indiana, I really had no choice), volleyball, summer Olympics, and I picked up a liking for soccer along the way (though I "played like an American"--hated to head it).  Soccer is a good case for that adrenaline rush addiction you describe.  Basketball is different because it produces a little buzz every 30 seconds.  That can be a little numbing, until someone does something extraordinary. 
Dave Volek Added Dec 18, 2018 - 1:02pm
Sorry: TDG is for Tiered Democratic Governance. Here is the link to my website.
While I think we put too much emphasis on professional sport, if all sports fans took my approach to consuming this recreation, we probably couldn't afford to put teams together and entertain us with high quality play. 
I'm sure the free market will find an acceptable balance if we decide to give professional sports a lower priority in life.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 18, 2018 - 8:28pm
Give Dave's website a read, Jim.  It's not that TDG won't work, it well could, but takes a lot of time and some changes in some people's outlook and a lot of time, and we don't have a lot of time to invest.  It's "All about the Ball," basket, base, foot, you know, the Ball.  Cities spend millions on the ball, but don't have enough funds to deal with poverty or homelessness, therein lies my rub.
Mark Hunter Added Dec 18, 2018 - 8:40pm
Dave, when I was in high school I curled ... into a ball under the bleachers, to get away from gym class. I didn't come to appreciate fitness until a few years later.
Leroy Added Dec 18, 2018 - 9:28pm
I've never been much into professional sports.  As a kid, I knew the famous players such as Joe Namath.  I do enjoy watching my alma mater play, especially when it is doing well.  I am a sunshine fan.
I do on occasion watch professional sports.  If I happen across a good game while flipping through the channels, I'll watch.  I don't get a rush watching one team crush another.  It's more emotional if it is a close game that goes back and forth.
If it's my alma mater, I like a close game as long as the game is out of reach for the opponent ...LOL.  
Sam Nowaczynski Added Dec 19, 2018 - 8:25am
Based on what data are you concluding we’re addicted to professional sports?  After all, an addiction suggests something unhealthy and I don’t see anything unhealthy about sports, whether it be at the professional or amateur level.  Of course some people are addicted, name anything and you will find some people addicted to it. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Dec 19, 2018 - 10:22am
Right now, I'm reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir about growing up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. It was hilarious when she went for her first confession and admitted wishing that all of the opposing players in the National league would break a leg, or sprain an ankle, or have any manner of injury that would just last through the season. She had a baseball fan as her priest, and he let her know that this was not a mortal sin to wish for, but she might want to wish for her team to win without supernatural support.
The conflation of sports and religion (and patriotism) is still going on. If we allow it, sports defines us and our community and our nation. That is why so many cities allow themselves to be blackmailed by sports franchise owners to taxing themselves for the opportunity to be in the game with a brand new arena or stadium. It is quite a racket (and also fun to watch the games).
Dave Volek Added Dec 19, 2018 - 11:09am
About 15 years ago, the Alberta Government conducted a study on the level of volunteerism in Alberta. The main question was: "Have you volunteered in the last month?". And the study defined "volunteer" quite loosely. Serving coffee at a church brunch or helping an elementary school with a field trip was sufficient to answer "yes" to this question.
The study said that only one out of three adult Albertans volunteered in the last month. This means that whatever spare time comes after work and family went straight into recreation. I believe this study still applies today in Alberta as well as most of North America.
In 2004, I spent 98 hours watching the Calgary Flames play hockey. Some of that time could have gone into my community. About 10 years ago, I watched every CFL game of the season: 432 hours! And I'm not an ardent sports fan. Imagine all that time that could be put into volunteering in our community----if we shifted our priorities.
So when we have made a choice to spend much more time on watching professional sports (which won't make our lives or communities any better) than on volunteering (which will have great impact on our communities and the people in them), I would say that is a good sign of a societal addiction.
Dave Volek Added Dec 19, 2018 - 11:21am
You remind of a friend who used to be two-pack-a-day smoker. One of her greatest thrills was to follow a smoker on a sidewalk and breathe in the second-hand smoke. In this way, she got her nicotine fix, but really wasn't smoking.
As you have mentioned stadiums, you are alluding to part of the addiction. Stadiums seem to have a 30-year life span to them. They are torn down despite being structurally sound and functional for sports. It seems teams need the new technology to remain competitive. And it seems that multi-function stadiums are no longer viable.
And somehow the team owners manage to convince the tax-payers to put up much of the cost of these new buildings. Another sign of "we need our fix".
On another level, I was trying to promote my TDG on another forum. One of the participants read Chapter 3 and figured out that it would cost the USA $500,000,000 a year to run this new system of governance. So his logic was that the TDG was far too expensive to ever be viable. I told him that his calculations of the TDG expenses were still less than the NFL: it was a question of societal priorities.
Dave Volek Added Dec 19, 2018 - 11:24am
Thanks for the endorsement. And you are right, we need to change our priorities.
Sam Nowaczynski Added Dec 20, 2018 - 5:36am
The Alberta Study says nothing about society being addicted to professional sports.  In lieu of volunteering, people may be working, studying, playing tennis, spending time with their families, watching amateur sports, watching professional sports etc. etc.  Again, you’re making the argument that people are addicted to professional sports, so you'll have to come up with a study that shows that specific link.  I wouldn't waste your time as I doubt there is any evidence to support your theory.  
I get the fact watching all 80 professional hockey games is a time consuming endeavor, that’s why few people do it.  Furthermore, I think it’s perfectly healthy to cheer for one’s team in any sport and at any level (professional or amateur).   For those addicted to anything, they should seek professional help.  For the majority of us, there is absolutely nothing you bring up to worry ourselves over, but it couldn’t hurt to volunteer more often. 
Ward Tipton Added Dec 20, 2018 - 8:19am
When I was young and played sports, I enjoyed it. Living my life vicariously by watching others play? 
Booooooooooooriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. Wake me up when it is over. 
Dave Volek Added Dec 20, 2018 - 2:31pm
Maybe we are debating the semantics of "addiction." If we are talking about an overwhelming compulsive desire to return to a destructive activity, then professional sports would not fit that bill. I think nearly all NFL fans would forego watching the Super Bowl if there were a family emergency to attend to.   But a true cocaine addict would probably be looking for a fix within a few hours after the last fix.
If we define an addiction as a strong, but not compulsive, desire to return to certain activity, which may be destructive, possibly destructive, or just not constructive, then professional sports falls into this category. A similar addiction would be shopping, where some people get a big buzz after making a purchase of some kind.
I have to question my time watching CFL football. I do enjoy it, but it should not cut into family time or building relationships. The game can be cast aside. I am hoping to return to the volunteer sector as this is more important than my CFL.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Dec 20, 2018 - 4:43pm
I must confess that I never cared. I cared about doing sports and occasionally watching friends, but professional teams never really drew my attention. I like watching martial arts, though, but that is because I'm a sadist.
Thomas Napers Added Dec 21, 2018 - 4:54am
Just one question, why single out "professional" sports?  Are college sports addict free?  What about those of us that play a sport at a non-professional level?
Ward Tipton Added Dec 21, 2018 - 5:18am
"I like watching martial arts, though, but that is because I'm a sadist."
A little bit of pain applied at the right point in time, can create immense pleasure. 
Dave Volek Added Dec 21, 2018 - 11:19am
All things in moderation.
Professional sports is one of many minor addictions that keep us distracted. Shopping, movies, celebrities, CNN & Foxx, etc. all take time out of our day. That time could be used for other things to help build a better world. 
Stephen Hunter Added Dec 21, 2018 - 11:57am
the Canadian Football League, which is the most unusual game where Canadian cities compete to see who has the best Americans, 
Dave this is too funny and so true!
Dino Manalis Added Dec 21, 2018 - 12:20pm
 Professional sports intensify the competition!
Ward Tipton Added Dec 21, 2018 - 12:32pm
Playing sports intensifies the competition. Competing vicariously? Isn't that like betting with monopoly money? 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Dec 21, 2018 - 1:14pm
"A little bit of pain applied at the right point in time, can create immense pleasure."
True. Our safe word is "You get the kids and I take the car."
Ward Tipton Added Dec 21, 2018 - 2:03pm
Hahahahahaha Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Tubularsock Added Dec 22, 2018 - 5:27pm
Dave, interesting thoughts on sitting on one’s butt and getting an adrenaline high holding your third cold beer.
Tubularsock has NEVER had an interest in WATCHING sports of any kind.
Tubularsock views watching sports much like Tubularsock views watching pornography, Tubularsock would rather DO IT than watch it!
Tubularsock has always been a runner and was rather fast at it.
However Tubularsock never liked crowds and the noise they make so the best solution was “Cross-Country” in where you leave the stadium and run a distance.
Tubularsock loves running even today and still does 3 miles a day.
Which in today’s sports world is considered a sprint.
Tubularsock has slowed down a bit once the question was asked, “What’s the hurry?”
Ward Tipton Added Dec 22, 2018 - 5:31pm
"Tubularsock views watching sports much like Tubularsock views watching pornography, Tubularsock would rather DO IT than watch it!"
Or the fracking food channels ... what kind of masochist sits down to watch other people eat? Insane.

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