Some may call it acceptable addiction: the screaming, the uncontrollable weeping, the teeth gnashing, the drooling, the wild mood swings, the crazed stares, the sudden episodes of panic, the breathless desperation for more, the raving hysteria.
But is it an addiction? The American Psychiatric Association describes addiction as “a complex condition … that is manifested by compulsive substance abuse despite harmful consequence.”¹
Who the heck cares what a bunch of psychiatrists think? There’s a game on tonight! And besides, sports addiction doesn’t involve any substances (that is, if you exclude the chipotle and lime roasted potatoes, the artichoke dip and roasted garlic dip with flat bread crackers, the ham and swiss sliders, and baked jalapeno poppers). It’s just a healthy—perhaps fanatical—devotion to a particular sports team, the sports addict sheepishly declares.
However, you define the terms, zealous devotion to your favorite team or ravenous addiction to the activities of a group of athletes, it is a mainstay of American culture. And a relatively harmless one at that. Except, of course, to the poor, disillusioned loved ones (those unenlightened life partners who fail to grasp the rabid appeal of modern sports).
But alas, how can you cope—especially as the football season gets underway, ushering 25 weeks of frenzy and frolic? The football season begins—at least by NFL standards—the week after Labor Day in early September and ends in February. What’s a non-sports fan to do?
How Do You Live with a Sports Addict?
Here are some tips to kick you off to a more stress free, joyous autumn as the exuberance gets underway:²
Join the party: It may seem challenging at first. After all, watching 22 heavily padded men run around on a field and stop every few seconds to listen to a man in striped clothes do weird hand signals doesn’t sound exactly like riveting drama. But once you learn the basics, it can get pretty exciting.
You can do some basic research to learn the rules, the scoring system, and the objectives of the game. For instance, football has four quarters, baseball has nine innings, and soccer has two halves. Most sports games involve the use of balls, which require kicking, hitting, throwing, jumping on, or striking with a bat.
It may take time to understand the personalities and the interplaying between the teams. But once you do gain a basic understanding, you may find yourself falling into the same addiction yourself.
However, if you just can’t muster the zeal, join the fun by embracing the emotion of the social gathering. Connecting yourself into the enthusiasm and passion may help strengthen relationship bonds. That alone deserves a hardy “go team, go!”
Learn a new hobby: If you simply cannot bear the animated drama of football (or the other sports), you can use the game time to acquire a new hobby.
Going to another room to learn a new activity might not be the best approach to maintain or build strong relationships. You may want to consider learning a portable hobby, one that you can carry with you. How about knitting or something with yarn?
If that sounds too 1950s for you, you can do some online research to find another hobby you can do with your hands. Or spend the time reading or surfing the Internet.
Contemplate the deeper meaning of sports enthusiasm: Why are people so passionate about sports? Obsession with sports could be an offshoot of upbringing. Sports fans were taken to games by their parents or grandparents, for example. Other sports enthusiasts gain a connection to a particular team for other reasons. Maybe they were born in the team’s city or went to college there.
Realizing that the “sports addiction” transcends mere enthusiasm helps you understand the underlying drive to cheer for the favorite team. Sports addicts are often embracing, in a manner of speaking, their identities.
Don’t get jealous: Recognizing and acknowledging that your sports addicts’ connection to their teams goes beyond mere allegiance to an “addiction” helps make for smoother and more robust relationships.
Issuing “us or them” ultimatums only serves to sour relationships and creates misery or coldness—on both sides of the sports divide. Allowing jealousy to germinate in a relationship is unhealthy. Develop an action plan (just like they do in team sports) ahead of time to manage schedules and other activities. Allow respect, not jealousy, to grow in your relationship.
Learning to embrace the passion of sports and the enthusiasm for the success of your favorite teams are good traits to nurture. Remember, both sides win in the long run when everyone learns to play by the rules.