This is not the case for sports fans, however, at least according to researchers at Ohio State University. In a study that was published last December, the researchers monitored the emotions of fans watching a sporting event. They determined that if fans, at some point in the game, think their team might lose, they enjoy the victory more than if the contest was never in doubt.
Put more scientifically, “You need the negative emotions of thinking your team might lose to get you in an excited, nervous state,” said co-author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick. “If your team wins, all that negative tension is suddenly converted to positive energy, which will put you in a euphoric state.”
With the NHL and NBA playoffs in action, and baseball one month into its season, this behavior can be witnessed in homes, sports bars, and stadiums across the country. Being a fan of the New York Mets and the University of Michigan basketball and football teams, part of me feels that I should take a win any way I can get it. (After all, my favorite teams haven’t been all that successful the past few years.) But I can’t deny that I take more enjoyment from a thrilling victory than I do from a blowout win.
To use another well-known sports saying: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” To fans, that’s certainly not true.