The Brain Science of Fan Behavior in Football, Basketball and Team Sports

Seattle Seahawks prepared for Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks prepared for Super Bowl.

This is that time of year we football fans go into withdrawal. First it was college football ending its season. Now, we await next Sunday’s Super Bowl with the NFL’s final game. I love it too for its brain science, brain wave entrainment, and the inspiration it provides in our modern lives. Team sports can bring the best and worst out of its fans too. Whether it be your child’s little league team, local high school, or favorite college team, many fans act out an alter-ego of their personality and have been found to dress up in team colors, and even commit acts of violence (usually with the help of alcohol). Where group viewing enhances brain wave entrainment, alcohol depresses cognition. And a natural consequence of decreased cognition is frustration, anger, and sometimes violence. However, most fans are very civil and games like the College Championship Game between Ohio State & Oregon two weeks ago, brings the best out of viewers. This game was a super-charged brain wave entrainment experience, and it broke ESPN’s previous viewership record of two years ago. The sub-stories were inspirational too.

Ohio State football fans go crazy during 2015 Championship game.
Ohio State football fans go crazy during 2015 Championship game.

Next Sunday, we finish up NFL football with the Patriots vs. Seahawks Super Bowl. But it won’t mean as much to me. These two teams, it seems, are playing more for bragging rights than community and love of the game. There’s an emptyness in their rhetoric too, severing our entrainment built up over the season. For me, the brain science I find most enjoyable in team sports is the connections you develop with players and teams. I love the personal stories of overcoming odds, and relate it to my adversity with illness and everyday life. I draw upon that inspiration and use it as teaching tools to help better myself and those around me. Still, I yearn for truth.

The brain and sensory system during cognition.
The brain and sensory system during cognition.

Football is perhaps the best brain science sport because it is so team-concentric and detail oriented with instant replay, and affords considerable brain wave entrainment via television, news, and social networking. The resulting connectedness along with enumerable opportunities for discussion via news and local conversation, heightens the connectedness around a common interest. The connectedness, the repetition, the extraordinary use of statistical information – is very healthy for the brain, especially if you suffer from any form of cognitive disfunction. Though the Super Bowl is still to play, I have already turned my attention to NBA basketball, where I am following the league ambassadors. I was watching LaBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, and was reminded that basketball play, the “it,” is not about basketball. It’s about a group of people coming together in pursuit of a common good, a “Pay it Forward” paradym, for team, family, community, nation, and game. Enjoy your emotional roll-a-coaster as we shift our attention from the ending of football, to basketball, hockey, or whatever fires you up.


One thought on “The Brain Science of Fan Behavior in Football, Basketball and Team Sports

  1. #SB49 was won by the Patriots. These two teams may be the two best coached & sneaky teams in all the NFL, if you’re OK with clever. I think Seattle won the battle of the lines, and coaching, except for their final play & interception.

    Despite an unresolved DeflateGate fiasco, the 2014 season is over. This Super Bowl could have gone either way. Seattle chose wrong in passing in their final play. But, so did Green Bay’s special teams. They should have beat Seattle! For the Patriots in this game, the refs also missed a penalty on the kicker in the 1st quarter. Both sides had their opportunities. When time ran out, the Patriots were on top.

    Are you ready to move on? Do you have other interests and activities to fill the void left by the close of this 2014 season?


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