Feature Archive

Why the Super Bowl Matters

On Super Bowl Sunday, one team will claim victory and the other, defeat. But psychologically, many of their fans will wind up winning -- no matter the score.

By Sid Kirchheimer
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

Sure, there are those really great $2 1/2 million commercials. That really bad half-time show. The fill-in-your-own-adjective commentary. But the main reason why most of the 90 million faithful will watch sport's biggest event on Sunday is to root.

They are fans. And that means come Monday morning, many will be joining the turf-trodden players of Super Bowl XXXIX in either nursing their wounds or champagne glasses -- if only metaphorically.

In one city and beyond, millions will joyously celebrate a victory claimed as their own, perhaps earning more arm strain than their gridiron warriors from high-fiving strangers and patting themselves on the back. In another city, millions of others will feel the sting of disappointment, envy, hurt, and perhaps feelings of abandonment from their team's loss.

But if history and science hold true, most of these devotees will eventually emerge as winners -- no matter the score.

Members of a Tribe

"There's no doubt that a lot of sports fans are so involved that the team's performance literally becomes their own. They're going to feel the same elation from a win or sadness from a loss that is felt by the athletes, sometimes even more intensely," says Daniel Wann, PhD, author of Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, and a leading expert in the field.