Evolutionary Psychology and Superbowl Sunday

i don’t like (watching) sports- i don’t see many reasons too. i always use the line from an old mafia/gangster movie A Bronx Tale. The script goes something like this:

Mickey Mantle? That’s what you’re upset about? Mantle makes [tons of money every] year. How much does your father make?

– I don’t know.

You don’t know. If your dad needs money, go ask Mickey Mantle. See what happens. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you. Why care about him? Nobody cares.

The dialougue between the old-school gangster and his youngbuck (nephew?) continue:

-Can I ask you something?


-Did you shoot that man over a parking space?

When you get older, you’ll understand.

[voiceover]: From that day on, I never felt the same about the Yankees.

Now every once in a while i hear interesting arguments about why sports are worthwile- like the fact that they bring groups of people together regardless their religion, beliefs, etc. i think it’s worthwile and fun just for the social aspect of it, since we’re social animals. This morning i read a great little post from a fan who explains the phenomena very well:

Tonight the New England Patriots will take on the New York Giants in the culmination of a six-month-long ritual combat known as the National Football League 2007 season. I am from the New England tribe, so I will be rooting heavily for my “team” – those who are defending by proxy my masculinity, aggression, and willingness to inflict pain on any and all rivals.

The form of this ritual combat, much like that of big horned rams competing for mates, is designed to display the masculine virtues of strength, courage, health, wits, and boldness while minimizing the risk of actual death. It involves teams of males defending their territory while trying to penetrate deeply into enemy territory. In addition to physical prowess, battle tactics are key to victory. Such tactics often involve deception and intimidation through aggressive display.

Like all successful tribes, our male defenders function in a hierarchy. At their lead is a fine male specimen truly worthy of hero-worship, a warrior named Tom Brady. He is being hailed as perhaps the best NFL warrior quarterback of all time, but like all alpha males he must continuously defend his lofty position. For while all males truly respect and honor his skill and prowess (even his enemies), and those below him in the hierarchy are proud to follow such a great warrior, all males, in part, also desire to replace him – to be him.

Brady has the opportunity to achieve what no other NFL warrior has before – a perfect season with 19 victories in a row and to top it off his fourth Superbowl victory. This would certainly elevate Brady to legendary status, so he has a great deal on the line in this conflict.

Supporting the warriors are older males, former warriors who are no longer physically able to fight but who have gained much combat experience over the years. Behind Tom Brady is a crafty and enigmatic old warrior, Bill Belichick. He is the master, the sensei, the brilliant tactician who has helped usher Brady to the brink of his legendary pinnacle.

While the rest of us vicariously enjoy the display of testosterone, we are simultaneously reminded of the rewards that await those who do well (win or lose, but winning is better) on the field of combat. For on the side lines there will be females, all superb specimens of youth, health and breeding prospects, cheering on the males. Their feminine virtues will be prominently displayed, as if there were any doubt as to the incentives for victory. In addition to access to females, power and social prestige will be showered upon the victors. Even the losers, if they perform bravely and well, will enjoy more prestige generally than the non-warriors of their tribe. But for those who display cowardice or who embarrass their tribe with incompetence or by violating the spirit or rules of the combat ritual – they will reap scorn and may even face social ostracizing.

So now I am off to bond with some males in my social group over ritualized violence and female objectification, while….

Oh, heck! GO PATS!!!!


3 thoughts on “Evolutionary Psychology and Superbowl Sunday

  1. Men, alcohol, football, and locker room talk is a dangerous combination. There is no cause for any man to spend so much time worrying about a blame ball game when there are more important thnigs to do.

  2. I don’t watch much sports on the TV myself. I keep up with what is going on by reading so I don’t play out as a complete social outcast at work. Even the Superbowl does not earn my attention – unless a good party is involved!

    go Pats!

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