Study: It’s More Fun To Lose (Seriously?!!!)

A new study from Ohio State shows that sports fans actually have more fun watching games when they feel negative towards their team’s prospects.  Seriously.  And no, I didn’t find this on The Onion website.

Don’t be happy, be worried: Sports fans need dose of negative

For sports fans watching their favorite team play, the greatest enjoyment comes only with a strong dollop of fear and maybe even near-despair, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied fans of two college football teams as they watched the teams’ annual rivalry game on television.

tudents from Ohio State, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University participated in the study. Before the game, they completed questionnaires about which team they were rooting for, and how committed they were to their favorite team.

They then watched the game on television from wherever they wanted, and logged onto a website during the 24 commercial breaks to answer questions about the likelihood that their favorite team would win, how suspenseful they thought the game was, and how positively or negatively they were feeling at the moment.

The results showed how important negative emotions were to enjoyment of the game.

“When people think about entertainment in general, they think it has to be fun and pleasurable. But enjoyment doesn’t always mean positive emotions,” David said.

“Sometimes enjoyment is derived by having the negative emotion, and then juxtaposing that with the positive emotion.”

In other words, if you think that your team won’t win, you have more fun?

Riiiight. I wonder if this team of crack (smoking) researchers ever took a few minutes to visit the Scout or Rivals forum associated with the team that was losing, you know, the team whose fans were supposedly having more fun.  If they could decode the emotion of posters through the bad grammar, misspelling and pseudo-curse words, they would have had a very clear impression that those fans weren’t having any positive emotions…in fact they might have come away with the idea that a few of them might need to be insitutionalized while others might need therapy for anger management issues.  The rest would probably be evenly divided between saying the coaches needed to be fired immediately and those simply venting their immense displeasure.  It is like that everywhere.

And I do mean everywhere.  Happy fans don’t riot like some English football soccer fans are wont to do.  Happy fans don’t boo their head coach for his latest bonehead move.  They don’t put For Sale signs up in a coach’s yard…when he isn’t planning to leave his job.  They don’t get on websites like this one and vent immense displeasure with their team’s athletic director because…they are happy.

Truth is, when your team loses it can ruin your day.  If you went to a game, you might want to get the Hell out of the parking lot as soon as you can and find something else to do.  You sure as heck don’t want to linger and relive the glory that is losing 43-23.  You might even find yourself in a wistful moment wondering how much sooner you could retire if you eliminated investing in your favorite athletic program and invested the money somewhere else.  You might find it more palatable to mow the yard or clean the garage instead of watching your favorite team lose…again.  That ain’t happy, that’s despair.

A lot of despair is what I am seeing all around the Wolfpack nation.  I used to see nearly universal hope and belief.   Not everyone is in a state of despair about the Wolfpack, mind you, but a very noticeable and palpable number of folks are saying that they have given up on NC State ever building successful programs in just about any sport.  They are saying that they think that the administration of the university doesn’t value winning teams, and that the only thing that they do value is money.  They are saying that they feel like they are taken for granted, and that they don’t like how that feels.  They are also saying that if things don’t change, they are going to vote with their wallet and wash their hands of the whole thing.

That in turn will create a vicious cycle of failure: without money it is impossible to compete successfully against well-heeled schools.  Without competing successfully, there’s no urgency among the school’s boosters to donate.

You can see that coming here at NC State.  And it sure as hell won’t be fun times.

AD & Department NC State Administration

29 Responses to Study: It’s More Fun To Lose (Seriously?!!!)

  1. GAWolf 11/17/2009 at 2:42 PM #

    I think this makes some sense. It’s like that old adage about the really hot chick you see… somebody, somewhere, is tired of her shit. It’s the same reason drug addicts escalate their use. Eventually you get numb to the same good feeling and it becomes uninteresting and bland.

    For instance, I’m guessing every team in the ACC has gotten bored with beating us in everything.

  2. WV Wolf 11/17/2009 at 2:54 PM #

    This is the only part of that study I agreed with:

    “You need the negative emotions of thinking your team might lose to get you in an excited, nervous state,” Knobloch-Westerwick said. “If your team wins, all that negative tension is suddenly converted to positive energy, which will put you in a euphoric state.”

    If you think your team is going to lose and they pull out the W it feels pretty sweet and a lot sweeter than a game you expected to win.

    The problem with State fans is that we expect to lose and then we actually lose. We never get to convert all our negative energy into positive energy and reach that “euphoric state” or if we do we don’t get to stay there very long.

  3. hoop 11/17/2009 at 3:42 PM #

    I get the jist of what they are saying, and mostly think it’s true. But look at the teams they are covering. By and large Michigan, Michigan St, and Ohio State perennially field successful teams. They are not covering NC State, Iowa State, or Rutgers. We don’t have much hope for wins right now, and that’s why we don’t have much fun, even if we do win.

    I too think our administration stinks and it has everything to do with why we aren’t successful in sports… essentially they don’t care. And they get plenty of money anyway. So I reluctantly agree that you have to vote with your wallet on issues like this.

    And btw, the article excerpt says nothing about it being more fun to lose, just that it’s more fun if the game is full of tension.

    Lastly, the link to the article gives a 404 error.

  4. travelwolf 11/17/2009 at 4:36 PM #

    There is a difference between fun and entertainment. Fun is a subset of entertainment.

  5. Alpha Wolf 11/17/2009 at 4:37 PM #

    Link works fine for me.

    Another quote: “the fans of the winning team – in this case, Ohio State – who felt the most sense of enjoyable suspense were also those who at some point were most convinced their team would lose, she said.”

    Sounds to me like she was saying that the trailing team’s fans who were convinced that their team would lose was having the most fun.

  6. hoop 11/17/2009 at 4:58 PM #

    The link works OK now.

  7. LRM 11/17/2009 at 4:59 PM #

    If it’s more fun to lose, then we must all be having the times of our lives!

  8. wolfonthehill 11/17/2009 at 5:09 PM #

    I do agree that liveblogging a game that you have no hope of winning is far more enjoyable than enduring the stress of a close-fought game that you expect to win.

    Case in point: the loss to Florida State. The outcome was decided before kickoff. Everything else was merely entertainment value to see how close to the standard script we’d come… and I gotta say it was awful close until FSU punted it to us in the 4th Quarter and let us take the lead. But the outcome was never in doubt… merely the path it took to get there.

    I recall countless games (normally basketball) where we should win… big games… and I honestly get stressed to an unhealthy level. Elevated heart rate. Cold hands & feet. Slightly shaking at times. That’s not healthy. And those days are gone for the time being…

  9. Alpha Wolf 11/17/2009 at 5:20 PM #

    ^ Yes, but were the near cardiac-infarction moments more fun than the stroke you felt when Larry Rose makes one of his obviously horrible calls? 🙂

    The last time I can remember being at that level of excitement was the ACCT final in Sid’s first year. We came soooooo close to winning that little affair.

  10. gotohe11carolina 11/17/2009 at 5:30 PM #

    funny that this came from runner up U

  11. 61Packer 11/17/2009 at 5:53 PM #

    SFN: “Not everyone is in a state of despair about the Wolfpack”

    You got that right! Fans from UNC, Duke, Wake, BC, FSU, UVA, Maryland, GT, VT, Clemson and Miami certainly aren’t. They love us!! We make their day every time we show up to play ’em.

    Proof that it IS more fun to lose, because we’re making so many other people happy! Happiness is Wolfpack sports, right Jed?

  12. Pack Mentality 11/17/2009 at 6:19 PM #

    What about when you expect to lose and then you go and get your ass handed to you much worse than you ever thought possible, to the point where you don’t want to show your face at work. I doubt that would be very high on their scale of fun.

  13. BassPacker 11/17/2009 at 7:28 PM #

    Dang right its more fun to lose, another reason to drink………more !!

  14. Alpha Wolf 11/17/2009 at 7:40 PM #

    ^ LOL, funny you mention that. As I sit here, there’s about 6 gallons of very high alcohol beer brewing right beside my feet. I can smell it as it bubbles 1-2 times every second. My wife asked me the other night what I was going to call this batch of brew. Usually, it’s nothing unique – something like ‘Belgian Trippel #14″ or something.

    This one is called “Emotional Rescue from ACC Hoops.”

    It’s a 11.5% ABV brew.

  15. Dogbreath 11/17/2009 at 10:34 PM #

    The endorphins in West Raleigh floweth.

  16. spanky 11/18/2009 at 12:14 AM #

    I wonder if Jed’s next letter to the fans will include this?

  17. packplantpath 11/18/2009 at 9:22 AM #

    Ah, homebrew. Darn good stuff. I’ve been considering a trip to American brewmasters and trying my hand at it instead of mooching off those who do. My wife may kill me though.

  18. waxhaw 11/18/2009 at 11:29 AM #

    The only thing that I can think of is that I have more enjoyment out of winning a close tough game (Pitt) than I do from winning a blowout (Gardner Webb).

    As far as losing, I would always have more fun out of winning than losing but I guess it’s possible if my emotions were measured throughout the game, I might experience more overall highs on a blowout win than a back and forth BIG game that we ultimately lost (@ Ohio State).

    Of course, this doesn’t take into account the type of game or the ending emotion winning out over cumulative emotions during game. I sure as heck wouldn’t take a lot of satisfaction over a back and forth game with Gardner Webb.

  19. NCSU84 11/18/2009 at 11:43 AM #

    Being an NCSU alum, I love being married to a Tarhole alum. During BB season when we lose to them, I just love the way my better half feels sorry for me and my team. It is just great the indifference my spouse has when we play them and I relish the utter lack of surprise on her part when the Tarholes win – again, and again, and again. As long as we continue to lose, it will be wonderful to be a pack fan.

    P.S. … and to quote my spouse “You are not our rival… Duke is”. I felt really good when she made that comment – don’t you?

  20. GAWolf 11/18/2009 at 1:04 PM #

    So after reading others’ thoughts it equates to this: it’s the same joy we all experience when we win the lottery. Buy your ticket regularly… with no chance in hell you’re going to win… but when you do… EUREKA! LIFE IS GOOD.

  21. GAWolf 11/18/2009 at 1:06 PM #

    My UNC grad wife likes to say: “Aww… honey… you State fans are so cute. And sad.” I no longer become enraged at this statement… because from their eyes, it’s true.

  22. hoop 11/18/2009 at 1:43 PM #

    I’ll say again. No kid 18 years old has ever seen a really good Wolfpack basketball team. Think about that.

    Of course we’re not their rival anymore. Our glory days are gone. We are just like the University of San Francisco.

  23. wolfman1992 11/18/2009 at 3:52 PM #

    The article does not say one thing about it being more fun to lose. It says that you have more fun when you win a game that you think you might lose. According to the article, the order from most fun to most sad is…

    1. Winning a game you knew you might lose (most happy)
    2. Winning a game you knew you should win (happy)
    3. Losing a game you knew you might lose (sad)
    4. Losing a game you knew you should win (most sad)

    The whole study was a waste of time and money, and the title of this post does not indicate what the article was about.

  24. NCSU84 11/18/2009 at 5:16 PM #

    I agree Wolfman, but let us have some fun with it. We lose all the time, so please try not to deprive us of what little entertainment we can provide for ourselves on the blog site.

  25. PackerInRussia 11/18/2009 at 6:13 PM #

    Well, as a wise man once said, “Champions are born out of adversity.”

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