My father used to drag me along to OSU basketball games, where I’d spend hours spying on the other people in the stands with my binoculars—their private, subtle behaviors massively more interesting to me than anything happening on the court below. Of course, my sports apathy is in sharp contrast to the legions of people around the globe—including many very dear friends of mine—who experience near orgasmic delight at the sight of an abnormally tall human being trying to throw an orange ball through a hole, or an abnormally thick one stuffed into brightly colored tights and trying to carry an oddly hewn chunk of leather across a white line while other monstrously large men (wearing different-colored tights) try to jump on him.
For professional tennis players who remained unmarried, no such decrease in winning percentage occurred over this same period.
“It seems likely,” the authors write, “that this effect was due to the evolved psychological mechanism that leads such players (albeit unconsciously) to devote less time and effort to competition and more to married life.” That is to say, these newlyweds’ drive to win allegedly waned because advertising their genetic value via tennis had already paid off for them in a high-value, long-term reproductive partner.
Although data derived directly from evolutionary hypotheses are scant, theories abound.
In a recent issue of , for example, Andreas de Block and Siegfried Dewitte from the University of Leuven in Belgium seek to explain why our obsession with competitive athletics is such a predictable expression of human nature.
According to one online description: The carcass of the calf is soaked in cold water for 24 hours before the game so that it may be tough enough for the horsemen.
Usually, a calf is beheaded, its four legs are cut off from the knee, its insides emptied before soaking.Before we get into de Block and Dewitte’s claims, though, a disclosure from yours truly—one that might well slant this story.In the wake of this Olympics season, this will undoubtedly render me abhorrent among a broad swath of audience and beyond. It’s not that I actively dislike athletics; I’m just utterly indifferent. The prospect of watching a sporting event, sporting event, is about as appealing to me as is spending my free time reading the crawling news ticker at the bottom of C-SPAN. In central Ohio where I spent much of my childhood, being a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes was like being a member of a religious congregation; it’s perhaps little wonder that the same glossy, creepily cultish eyes of the average sports fan there tended to share a common head with the evangelical churchgoer. As a teenager, I even wrestled for a while, a fact that prompted a curious friend of mine to recently ask me what it was like being on the wrestling team just as I was realizing that I was gay. But watching other people compete athletically against each other was always so yawningly boring to me that I never mustered enough interest to care one way or the other who won.Here’s the crux of their argument: From a Darwinian perspective, sports may be seen as one of the cultural activities invented to promote the acquisition of status.And acquiring status is—on average, in the long run, and in the ancestral environment to which our species is adapted—beneficial to an individual’s reproductive success.They get so excited when the calf is brought to the pitch that sometimes spectators fight spectators like in some football stadiums.