Sports fandom, a cure for many ails?

We talk a lot on this blog about what a given activity does for your health, physical and/or mental, from more obvious things like walking, to more subtle actions like cooking good food.

What about sports? Not playing them, which we know is good physical exercise. Watching them. Following them.

Two weeks ago a lot of Canadians were feeling the pressure; not just because of the looming federal election, but thanks to the Blue Jays, who for the first time since 1993 (also the last year they won the World Series) had entered baseball playoffs, and, for a while there, were doing very well.

Blue jay

Die-hard fans celebrated and many other proud Canadians jumped on the fan bandwagon. Social media exploded. It seemed as they everyone was talking about the Jays. On the Dundas streetcar in downtown Toronto on election night, passengers alternated between talking about vote day and updating everyone on the latest home run Donaldson had hit.

The happiness that the Jays’ playoffs success brought to cities and town across Canada was contagious. They eventually lost, leaving a historic season nonetheless. And the question remains: was this pressure, this happiness, this rallying around a common cause good for our health?

In his 2001 book Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, psychologist Daniel Wann says that because of our human need to belong, being a sports fan could improve our health on several different levels. Perhaps it makes us feel simultaneously more secure and more hopeful. It is nice when “our” teams do well, but following sports allows teaches us that failure is a necessary part of life. We must learn to process feelings of disappointment with grace, to pick up and move on while trying to look at the bright side.

And keeping up with professional sports this winter? We’re great at that. We can always follow the Canadian teams who qualified for the Major League Soccer playoffs, or keep an eye on the Raptors who start their NBA season tonight, or the ongoing hockey season.

Even though baseball has ended, with the NHL and NBA (We The North!) seasons underway, there could be more heartbreaking moments for fans ahead – or maybe more surprisingly heartwarming times!

Once in a while it would also do us some good to leave the screens off and play around outside, or cheer on some local teams while they play.

And the Jays will be back next year.

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