Sports & Media Effects Part – 01

Sports & Media Effects Part – 01

Contributors : Edward R. Hirt , Nathan L. Steele

Since the dawn of civilization, people have enjoyed
viewing sports From the time that there was gladiatorial
combat in Rome and frenetic ball games in
the land of the Aztecs, there have been avid sport
spectators (for an excellent review of the history of
sport spectators, see Guttman, 1986). A sport spectator
is defined herein as someone who regularly
watches, listens to, or reads about sporting events.
Spectators can be further subdivided into two classifications:
direct sport consumers and indirect
sport consumers (Wann, 1997). Direct sport consumers
are individuals who are actually in attendance
at the sporting event. Indirect sport
consumers are individuals who view the event on
television, listen to it on the radio, or read about it
in the newspaper or on the Internet. This entry
focuses primarily on the reasons why indirect sport
consumership is so ubiquitous and discusses the
effects that sport fanship has on people.


Participation in group viewing of a sports event can fulfill some of the social needs of the individuals, especially when they are cheering for a local hero, which is what these people in Austin, Texas, were doing when they watched Lance Armstrong win his second consecutive Tour de France on July 23, 2000. (Reuters NewMedia Inc./Corbis)

The prevalence of sport spectatorship in Western society is undeniable. Consider that in 1986, American viewers reported a preference for watching televised sports over watching newscasts, documentaries, sitcoms, and every other category of televised entertainment except movies (Guttmann, 1986)

Major events such as the Super Bowl regularly top 100 million viewers, while the World Cup is reported to have drawn more than 2 billion viewers internationally

There are more than half a dozen cable channels in the United States devoted exclusively to sports programming, and numerous other sports-related subscription packages are available from cable providers, so the sport spectator has greater access to sporting events than ever before. But what is it
that draws so many people to watch sports? To begin to answer this question, it is important
to note the unique features involved in watching sporting events compared to watching
other forms of entertainment. Lawrence Wenner and Walter Gantz (1989, p. 242) outline these
fundamental differences:

Most nonsport entertainment programs are prerecorded, scripted stories with actors playing roles. Plot outcomes are rarely in doubt, protagonists tend to survive, and actors “bloodied” in action show no scars off the set. Most televised sport is live and unrehearsed, and “bloodied” athletes carry scars off the field. Athletes’ careers hinge on their performances, and outcomes are uncertain

Thus, it appears that the inherent uncertainty of sporting events is firmly linked to the enjoyment ofEncyclopedia Of Communication & Information
viewing them. Indeed, Dolf Zillmann, Jennings Bryant, and Barry Sapolsky (1989) point out that the uncommon, unexpected, and surprising events “hold greater promise for being appreciated” due to
their novelty. The unthinkable upset can happen (e.g., the victory of the U.S

Hockey Team over the heavily favored Soviet National Team in the 1980 Winter Olympics) and thus an individual has the
chance to see something never seen before (eg, fantastic finishes, amazingly acrobatic defensive
plays, dominating performances)

Motives of Indirect Sport Spectators

Several motives of both direct and indirect sport spectators have been theorized or identified
by researchers These motives include, but are not limited to, catharsis, stimulation seeking, social
needs, escapism, entertainment needs, aesthetics, and self-esteem management.

Although each of these motives will be discussed in turn, it is important to point out that these different motives
are in no way mutually exclusive; it is likely that for many individuals, sport spectating serves a number of different motives A consideration of the range of different motivations provides a fuller picture of the widespread appeal of sport spectatorship in Western society.


The first of the motives, catharsis, is a theory invoked by Sigmund Freud in 1920 and which
later gained popularity through the work of Konrad Lorenz (1966) The theory of catharsis is based
on Freud’s belief that aggressiveness and hostility are unavoidably inherited traits or predispositions, rather than characteristics gained through learning or experience Freud (1955) believed that an inherent need to act aggressively was evolutionarily adaptive and served people well until laws and societies were formed wherein aggressive behavior was frowned upon In such a society, other outlets would be necessary to vent the natural predisposition
toward aggressiveness. Hence, the theory of catharsis, wherein individuals seek to view aggressive
acts as a vicarious way of satisfying their need to act aggressively (Bryant and Zillmann, 1983).

This theory has been used to explain the popularity of many of the kinds of violent sports. It is proposed that by watching others engage in brutal and violent actions, one can vicariously release pentupaggressive impulses and feelings.

This “hydraulic” model of aggression has been widely accepted in contemporary society, and many people subscribe to the view that participatingin or watching violent sports or movies is an effective way to reduce aggressive inclinations. Although it makes intuitive sense that an individual might achieve some sort of “release” through
watching violent or highly competitive sports, this theory has not been substantiated by research. In fact, the findings of almost all related studies show that the aggressiveness and hostility levels of spectators
actually increase as they watch a competitive or aggressive sporting event (Goldstein and Arms, 1971)

The work of social psychologist Leonard Berkowitz (1969) and others have shown that exposure to violence and aggression “primes” people to think, feel, and act more aggressively. Sociallearning theorists such as Albert Bandura (1971) have demonstrated that people exposed to others who are rewarded for acting violently are more likely to display violent behavior in their own behavior Both of these findings have been used to explain the increase in fan violence often observed during and after the viewing of sporting events Thus, there seems to be little evidence for the cathartic effect of sports; instead, watching violent sports seems to fuel aggressiveness in spectators.

Stimulation Seeking

The second motive, stimulation seeking, is almost the exact reverse of catharsis theory. Researchers Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann propose that individuals, whether consciously or not, seek out stimulation to achieve an increased level of arousal or excitation (Guttmann, 1998; Bryant and Zillmann, 1983). This view stems from the perspective that humans, similar to other organisms, seek stimulation and novelty in their environment. Participating in or watching sports is one avenue toward alleviating boredom and achieving an optimal level of arousal.

This line of research has shown that subjects tend to rate more violent and aggressive plays in football and other sports as more fun to watch Anecdotally, it is known that many individuals enjoy the fights in hockey games or the crashes at auto races, presumably because these events add to the excitement of the contest In their fittingly titled 1970 essay “The Quest for Excitement in Unexciting Societies,” Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning pro-pose a direct relationship between decreasing opportunities for overt excitement and thrill in society, and an increase in the prevalence of violent sports (Guttmann, 1998) Thus, there seems to be converging evidence that people find the vicarious experience of violence and aggression to be stimulating and enjoyable

It should be borne in mind that catharsis and stimulation-seeking motives can serve as explanations only for the spectating of violent sports Wenner and Gantz (1989) found that stimulation-seeking motives applied most strongly to spectators of fast-paced and contact sports. Because not all sports are violent, it is clear that other motives must underlie the attraction for spectating nonviolent as well as violent sports

Social Needs

The third motive for sport spectating, social needs, applies to nonviolent and violent sports alike. This motive is based on a proposed desire of spectators to spend time with their family or others that they socialize with, such as friends or coworkers The work of Wenner and Gantz (1989) has shown that spectators will often cite social involvement and companionship as motives for their spectating of sports on television. Zillmann, Bryant, and Sapolsky (1989) discuss the possibility that indirect spectatorship of sports with others should create bonds between people who affiliate themselves with the same teams Spectators who root for teams together share the joys of victory with each other, as well as the humiliation or anguish of defeat Though intu-ition suggests that the sharing of such experiences surely creates a lasting bond between people, these researchers are quick to point out that the actual social effects of spectatorship have received little empirical examination.

Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary (1995) have discussed the “need to belong” as a fundamental human motivation This belongingness need is satisfied when individuals feel strong, stable social attachments to others These social attachments may be derived through connections with family or friends, but they can also be satisfied by the groups to which individuals belong

Bonds formed by individuals sharing a common allegiance (to a hometown team, for example), like the bonds between members of a church or other social group, serve the important purpose of satisfying the belongingness need and helping an individual to feel a part of a community. Indeed, in many communities and social circles, following the local sports team is part of the cultural norm; those who do not follow the team are considered social out-casts. Moreover, in the company of fellow spectators, an individual is able to feel accepted and can share his or her feelings, thoughts, and emotions freely. Thus, fundamental affiliative and emotional needs can be satisfied through watching and fol-lowing sports with fellow spectators

However, given that there are many other ways that people can satisfy basic belongingness needs, there is still a question as to why so many choose sports In Western society, sport has some unique features that make it a particularly desirable and attractive avenue to achieve a sense of belonging Sports are an extremely popular conversational topic, and many people often spend hours talking about past, present, or future sporting events with friends and acquaintances. Sports events can also be conversational topics that help establish social contacts with others; people can promote good relations with colleagues and coworkers by dis-cussing last-night’s game and can initiate conversations with strangers on buses and planes by “talking sports” with them Zillmann, Bryant, and Sapolsky (1989) theorize that this popularity is due in no small part to the low risk of sports topics in conversation They postulate that, while most opinions on music, movies, and politics are extremely open to argument, great performances in sports are rarely refutable. One person may think a movie actor is fantastic while another considers him terrible, but few people would disagree with the opinion that Michael Jordan was a great basketball player, that Mark McGwire is a great power hitter, or that the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team had a great season in winning the 1999 World Cup Thus, watching and following sports may be one of the easiest and most societally acceptable ways to create social bonds with others and satisfy basic social needs.

Article Will Be Continue In Next Post….

See Also Sports & Media Effects Part – 02

Post Credited From Encyclopedia Of Communication & Information

Source Encyclopedia Of Communication & Information Page 958 to 960

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *