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Gromotka: Keeping sane at Kinnick

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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After a tough last season, roughly 3,000 student season tickets have gone unsold this year, according to a Daily Iowan report from August. The outlook is similarly bleak for Hawkeye football this year — it’s probably going to be a rough season. But there may more to the football experience than wins and losses.

It isn’t just a fun thing — getting sloshed and watching football — it’s a huge psychological vacation. If the season goes sour, don’t sell your tickets for chump change on Facebook. You’ll miss out on a useful therapeutic experience.

Fandom has been likened to an almost religious occurrence by a number of psychologists, including Daniel L. Wann, a sports psychologist at Murray State University. As summarized in Psychology Today, he and his colleagues note how being fans of a sports team allows people the opportunity to escape the expectations of real life and become part of a community. 

When you don the Black and Gold, you aren’t just showing off your school’s colors. You’re becoming part of a seemingly greater purpose. Even negative experiences, such as participating in the group groan because of lost yardage, can add to this sense of belonging. Church also gives people this feeling, but you’re not allowed to stand up and scream your emotions during a service. At the very least, it’s not as encouraged as it is during the game. Even if your team is losing, you’re surrounded by a support group, one that understands your pain and shares your rage.

In fact, there’s a corollary benefit of rooting for a bad team: loud and frequent swearing.

Sure, students get emails reminding them to be good and polite fans, but football allows you the socially accepted opportunity to talk like a sailor. Swearing lets you feel empowered. It also lets you release anxiety you might be feeling from sources outside football. The sensation helps you feel more in control of your situation, which would make it easier to handle more than just the numbers on the scoreboard. Stressed about a test next week? Go to the game and let it all out.

According to a 2009 study published in the journal NeuroReport, swearing has distinct physical benefits in response to pain and stress. Getting this surge of adrenaline without stubbing your toe can be fun. It’s OK to occasionally let the ref have it — just don’t throw anything at him.

Finally, if you don’t like football, go people watching. Thanks to tailgating, you’re bound to witness levels of silliness you wouldn’t see elsewhere. A football game is a unique setting, so the behavior exhibited by attendees is hard to match. Plus, you might just witness the birth of a star as she tries to climb onto the field.

Surrounded by so many people acting a fool, you just might reap the well-documented self-esteem benefits of downward social comparison.

See, there are a number of reasons to attend a football game, even when the product on the field is dismal. Whether you care about the sport or not, consider getting to Kinnick. If things get spotty on the field, the benefits you and the community will receive will still outweigh any notoriety football season might draw from an outside crowd. Become part of a large, energetic community or just let off some steam. It’s worth getting your hands on, or keeping, a ticket.


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