Monday, February 24, 2014

Sports and Emotion

It's no secret that I love sports. I'm no great shakes at actually playing most of them any of them, but I love them all the same. I think that part of it may be the emotion involved. I don't really get super emotional about a lot of things. I'm a pretty laid back guy, and I think one of the trade offs with being laid back is that you (or in this case I) don't feel emotion as intensely as a lot of people do. That said, I do feel intense emotions when it comes to sports. Maybe the reason I'm constantly turning to my blog to try and work through sports-induced emotions is because I don't often deal with those constant peaks and valleys and I'm still trying to come up with ways of dealing with and working through emotions.

These thought are spurred on largely by an article that I just read on It's entitled: Why Is Everyone So Angry This Year? The impetus for the article is Jim Boeheim's explosion over the weekend.

(This has spurred some fantastic memes. I do love the internet culture sometimes.)

This article gets at the fascinating question of emotion, but then disappointingly leaves it on the table without exploring it. Rather than try and summarize the issue, I'll let the article do the talking:

It's all led to a lot of interesting and necessary debates, but at the crux of it all is the far more complex issue of emotion. It is the fuel that every game, every athlete and every fan runs on and yet the lighter fluid that can turn a brushfire into an out-of-control inferno.

How do you contain it without killing it?

Because we want emotion. Fans want their players and coaches to care as much as they do: to show their passion, not play like robots or drones...

A basketball arena is nothing if not a cauldron for concocting chaotic cocktails. Students sleep in tents and paint their chests to inspire their classmates; grown men and women wear the jerseys of teenagers; they all chant and scream and boo and clap. Every play can feel like a stomach-churning roller-coaster ride; every shot carries the weight of the world on its trajectory.

Emotion can carry a team, a coach or a player to unbelievable heights.

As I read this, the article had me gripped. This discussion of emotion and the role it plays in sports and how it's important that we learn to keep it in check is fascinating to me. And not just fascinating, but important. Vastly important. And not just for the sports world, but for the world world. Learning to deal with emotion and use it productively is one of those lifelong projects that we're all doing unknowingly as we go about our lives, and I feel like if we made that project a conscious one we could probably make more and better progress on it. So as I read this article I was keen to see what insights it could give me.

Unfortunately, there were no such insights. The article's conclusion on the matter of emotion in sports is this:

But [emotion is] a double-edged sword that cuts deep when left untended.

That's the lesson so far this season. The common denominator in those acts of uncivil disobedience is that everyone lost.

That's it. Get too emotional and you lose. I'm sorry, but no. There is a time and a place for emotion, even extreme emotion, and I feel like sports have the potential to give us a unique insight into better understanding how to judge and act in all times and places. 

But if emotion is a double-edged sword that needs to be tended, How do I tend it?

If riding the wave of emotion can the be the catalyst for such amazingly good things, both in and out of sports, then, as the article itself asks, How do I contain it without killing it?

I don't have any hard and fast answers for those questions, so now for the rest of the afternoon I'm going to be distracted thinking about this rather than focusing as intently as I ought as I'm doing the other things I'm supposed to be doing. But is that kind of distraction just another of the many emotions that I need to be learning to "tend" and "contain without killing"? (fascinating metaphors, by the way.)

So ultimately, I guess I'm left with these questions to ponder:

1) How can we rein in our emotions so as to be empowered rather than diminished by them?

2) What role can sports, both in participation and spectation (that act of being a spectator), help us to answer question 1?


  1. I feel like sports taught me to reframe my anxiety and nervousness and relabel it as excitment and anticipation.

  2. Truly fascinating. It made me think how Bronco had become more "emotional" over the years.