The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession

Eric Simons, Author
Eric Simons. Overlook, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59020-864-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-4683-0877-8
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-7156-4527-7
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Simons (Darwin Slept Here), a fervent supporter of the Univ. of California’s football team and the San Jose Sharks, examines the passionate, sometimes intense, behavior of sports fans, whether it’s voluntarily enduring another season of a team’s futility or dressing up for a game like it’s Halloween. Adroitly mixing research with feature reporting, Simons unveils some intriguing discoveries. That sense of dread you get watching a play unfold? That comes from the brain’s mirror neurons, which make seeing an action feel similar to performing an action. Fans not only identify with a team, but with the values of its fan base, which Simons shows by talking to the docile, charitable members of Raider Nation. And the reason why Cleveland fans keep subjecting themselves to their teams’ endless misery, Simons argues, is because they know “that short-term negative costs have long-term positive benefits”—otherwise known as pride. There’s a lot of science to digest, but Simons’s affable writing style—and his great eagerness to profile actual people, including himself—infuses the data with heart and soul. “Sports,” Simons writes, “can be a kind of laboratory for exploring the way we’re constructed and why we operate the way we do.” (Apr.)
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