When it comes to health, science can often seem like the wettest of blankets.
Every day, we’re hit with a fresh deluge of statistics and studies apparently designed to erode our pleasures, or at least an excess of them: beer, pizza, late-night couch-potatoism.
That’s not to say that, once in a while, science doesn’t come to our rescue. Say, in identifying the cancer-fighting resveratrol found in red wine, or the benefits of regular sex (“It’s good for my heart, honest!”).
And now comes something that goes a long way to restoring our faith in white coats everywhere. Turns out, one thing we can’t get too much of is . . . wait for it . . . being a sports tragic.
Oh yeah, baby!
Yes, armed with measurements of wellbeing and testosterone, researchers in the US have determined that being what they call a “highly identified” fan helps us live longer by warding off killers like depression and alienation.
The catch? As our story in this issue (“Are You Fan Enough?”, page 94) spells out, being a net-surfing Manchester City fan doesn’t cut it. To truly cash in on the benefits, you’ve got to support your local team. That way, you get to soak in the feeling of community, of shared highs and lows, that comes with walking among fellow colour-coded fans.
It helps, too, if your team wins more often than it loses. After a victory, testosterone-charged subjects in one study rated themselves a good chance to win over hot women. That same confidence was noticeably absent in testosterone-depleted losing fans.
You might call it a win-win or lose-lose equation.
Of course, tragics understand that they can’t choose their teams on win-loss ratios. Just as they understand that, even after a loss, Monday’s pessimism can be quickly replaced by Tuesday’s optimism. This, too – the sense of purpose provided by an unfolding season – is another beneficial force that propels you forward, say the researchers.
I’d just add one rider. Being a sports fan might be healthy; healthier still is actually playing sport. Manage both and you’re absolutely backing a winner.
Ian Cockerill, Editor