Why do I spend good American money to attend football games between the Dallas Cowboys and anybody else? The participants are always changing. I don’t know and have never met any of the players, and I have no loyalty to any individual team member. Does the contest even matter?
Jerry Seinfeld likens professional sports to “cheering for laundry,” as the players wearing the uniforms are always changing. Only the laundry remains. It is not like cheering for your high school football team, where you probably knew some of the players.
Psychology-types suggest it is a collective “Walter Mitty” wish to somehow live vicariously through the “heroic” players, experiencing both emotional highs and emotional lows. Sociology-types suggest it reflects a longing for more heroes in a disappointingly complex society. Maybe, it is just an excuse for guys/dudes to get together, drink beer, eat chicken wings and act stupid? Maybe, sports allows us to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves? Maybe, sports satisfies some primeval male-bonding need? I remember reading somewhere that women talk face-to-face, while men talk shoulder-to-shoulder. Between cheers, I guess? A more existential view is that, as long as we are experiencing emotional highs and lows, we must still be alive.
An economist might look at professional sports as just one part of the vast entertainment industry. It is no more noble than a soap opera. But, it does contribute to GDP, employing thousands of non-players, and paying billions in salaries. Maybe, it even lessens negative social costs, such as juvenile delinquency, by keeping kids off the street.
Of course, the only thing that really matters is whether the Cowboys win or lose!