Your Brain on Football: Physical and Psychological Effects of Sports Fandom

physical and psychological effects of sports college football

A year ago, I wrote a post about how and why absurdly addicted I, and most of the world, am to sports. Here are the physical and psychological effects of sports fandom, with a few updates…

Football Fandom Runs Deep and Affects the Brain

My Texas A&M football fandom began at a young age, and it’s progressively worsened into a serious condition. Symptoms include irrational beliefs that “this season will be different” (every season); uncontrollable emotion anytime my team scores, recovers a fumble, or intercepts a pass; low-key stalking high school players to learn where they’ll commit; and owning enough maroon clothing to outfit a small village.

Though my addiction might seem absurd to some, I know I’m in good company. Across the globe, sports enthusiasts do seemingly crazy things in the name of fandom every day. It’s as if our critical thinking skills are hindered by an addiction to our team.

And, that’s it. We’re addicts- looking for our next high. We sacrifice reason and logic for a chance to feel that flood of dopamine when A&M beats Clemson (hey, it could happen; we’re only 11 point underdogs).*

*Update: remember how I said it could happen? Well it basically did, but it’s part of the tragic hero nature of Aggie football to get screwed by refs:

Your Sports Addiction is Scientific: Physical and Psychological Effects are Real

There’s science to support the potentially addictive nature of fandom. We have very measurable physical effects when watching, or even discussing, our team. Elevated blood pressure, increased adrenaline, and changes in posture or speech are just a few of physical characteristics that accompany game time behavior.

If you listen to a die-hard sports fan, you’ll notice the abundance of the word “we.” In this, the fan is grouping himself with the players, coaches, and fellow fans. It’s our mirror neurons that give us the ability to place ourselves in the shoes of the actual players. Though we’re not in the game, we still feel like we have a part in the outcome. Our addiction is both physical and psychological.

Personally, I think this addiction to sports is both wonderful and terrible.

Humans crave connection. We’re built for community. For many, sports offer the chance to be a part of something. For me, being an Aggie is belonging to a cult community of individuals who share a passion for something bigger than any one of us. But, it’s not just an Aggie thing.

For a large portion of the world, soccer is an integral part of culture. The passion and community of soccer fans is an incredible sight to behold. For millions of children and adults, soccer isn’t just a sport, but it’s the escape from an often challenging life. Watching a game offers a momentary reprieve from the stresses of life.*

*Update: this year’s Women’s World Cup was massively controversial for Americans. Political speech from players dominated and divided the country. As a result, some Americans rooted for England to win the title…before the game began. But, fandom and patriotism took effect shortly after the first kick, and by the end, most Americans were proud to once again beat the British.

Athletes and Coaches Can Do No Wrong

The dark side of fandom is our ability to rationalize away sins for the players, coaches, and schools we love. I’m going to call out Ohio State University here because it’s the most recent, most egregious example of ignoring blatant misconduct for the sake of winning. When we let our addiction to the game supersede our morality, we set a dangerous precedent. Sure, Urban Meyer is a phenomenal coach, but he’s also a jerk. And, what are we saying to the up and coming generation about accountability when we let Coach Meyer off the hook because he wins games? I don’t think these are the values we should be teaching. Our addiction has clouded our judgement.

OSU isn’t the only administration to permit poor conduct. Every fan base has moments in its history we’d like to hide. We’ve all justified bad behavior from our favorite players and swore, “he’s really not a bad guy… he just made a mistake.”

From the outsider’s perspective, the amount of energy and emotion we dedicate to teams and players almost seems like lunacy. It’s just a game, right? They may just be games, but for many, they’re also community. They’re part of our identity. We feel successful when our team wins- a sense of failure when they lose. When our coach receives criticism for misconduct, we feel personally attacked.

For me, the addiction is well worth it. I’ve made some of my best friends at those games. I’ve cried tears of joy and frustration at those games (if you’re an Aggie and didn’t cry when we beat Alabama in 2012 and when we lost to UCLA in 2017, you’re a monster). The community and connection I find as a fan is unbeatable… even though my team is usually very beatable.

I have no doubt I will continue to do ridiculous things in the name of fandom; and I know I’m surrounded by good people who’ll be doing the same.*

*Update: this is a personal note, but the last few dates I had were with guys who didn’t know or enjoy football. As a football addict, I wondered if this meant my life would be spent pining for an Aggie natty alone. But this article’s posting last year convinced another Ag that there are women who might be as obsessed about recruiting as he is. And I hear wedding bells set to the tune of the Aggie War Hymn.

2019 College Football is Almost Here

Here’s to another season of turbulence- high highs and low lows. God bless Jimbo Fisher, Aggie football, and the community we sports fans need to survive the physical and psychological effects of sports.

Hot Take House: Game 163, Brees GOAT, Jimbo Fisher Fail, CFB Worst Calls Ever

Game 163

These are hot takes and fun from the weekend. Send us your hot takes to, and they may make the next week Hot Takes House. Do not read any further if you are easily offended. If you do, share with a friend.

Game #163

If the NFL can figure out the field playoff in 16 games, NHL and NBA in 82, why can’t the MLB figure it out in 162? How on earth do they play 162 games in the MLB, but still need one game tie-breakers to decide who wins the division? Game 163?

There are about 62 meaningless games in baseball. Teams and players are going through the motions. If those games were more important, we wouldn’t need a 163rd before playoffs.


1. All the garbage roughing the passer penalties are actually increasing the NFL fan experience. They add one more thing for you to talk smack talk about in your fantasy leagues, with your friends, and be outraged about. We love outrage.

2. My question is why won’t they just put flags on the QBs? They would rarely hit the ground then. Guys would be able to grab the flags, and that would be a sack. Guys are losing thousands of dollars just doing their job. Something has to change.- Richard Sherman

3. The Khalil Mack trade looks worse and worse every week. Mack is the runaway NFL defensive MVP at this point. The Raiders have no pass rush, and the two first rounders they get from the Bears will be 12-16 because the bears no longer suck.

4. Josh Allen is back being to who we thought he was. Don’t be mad Bills fans; facts are facts. Swing and a miss

5. #FitzMagic is dead, and VF Castro doesn’t like it. LOL

6. Drew Brees will need 201 passing yards next Monday night at home against Washington to become the NFL’s all-time passing yards leader. Why is he not in your top 10 quarterbacks of All-Time? I’ll wait…

7. Remember a long time ago last week when Tom Brady was old and the Patriots sucked? They are bullies for what they did to the Dolphins.

8. The Steelers will cave in on LeVeon Bell. James Connor is a good back, but he’s the FitzMagic of running backs. It was fun for a little while, but it’s a novelty.

9. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper May Change the NFL by signing Eric Reid.

College Football

1. “Kelly Bryant has an opportunity to extend his football life & actually control his own future… and you think it’s selfish??? Give me a break.” – Joel Klatt

2. Holding on the running back? WTH!


3. The original worst football call of the day was Louisville up by 3 with 1:56 left in the 4th quarter on the Florida State 21 yard line calling a pass play instead of a run. The pass was intercepted, and Louisville lost in regulation.

4. The actual worst football call of the day belongs to James Franklin and Penn State. They had two timeouts on 4th and 5 to run this play:

5. Jimbo Fisher needs to be suspended. If the player were to do this to Jimbo, he would be finished in college football!  There is no reason any coach should be getting physical with a player to get his point across.

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