After work yesterday, I decided to mix up my usual Tuesday routine- it doesn’t take a whole lot- and venture downtown Ann Arbor. I didn’t check the World Cup schedule before I left, but I had my fingers crossed that a game would be on. As I walked into a pub, I was happy to be greeted by a slew of brightly colored soccer jerseys and even a few flags. Most people were clad in red and yellow, but I spotted a few traces of green as well. Spain was playing Portugal. Considering the less than even ratio of fans in the room, it was probably a good thing Spain won. (Although post-game analysis revealed the sole goal-scorer was actually offsides. A huge upset for Portugal.)
After enjoying my post-game high, despite my lack of enduring investment in either team, I stumbled upon a USA Today article that talked about the effects of watching sports on mental health. I thought that this clip spoke to the- often surprising- interconnectedness of health issues and other topics, which was highlighted in a previous blog. In public health, looking carefully at this interconnectedness often brings to light health risks. While this is undoubtedly important, I feel like health assets aren’t always given enough attention.
The article points out that those who watch sports, particularly fans who are committed to a specific team, experience a heightened sense of social support and camaraderie. Whether you’re a well seasoned fan or like me- happy to cheer for a random team and slap hands with strangers- you reap the benefits of being connected to a greater social network. As an added bonus, fans of a winning team experience a boost in their own self-esteem as well. And while it’s true that we can’t always be winners, those who stick by their teams take pride in their loyalty and can empathize with other die hards. On a larger scale, events like the World Cup can bring countries together to deliver social justice, health promotion, and other positive messages and efforts to a large population.
So if it’s futbol or football that gets you going, get out, catch a game, and make some new pals! (And, of course, kick the ball around a little yourself too.)