It’s safe to say that many Americans first understood the gravity of the pandemic when the NBA suddenly sent home an arena full of fans before a game started in Oklahoma City because one of the players tested positive for the virus. It’s also fair to say that after the ensuing lockdowns, quarantines and loss of freedoms, it was the eventual, albeit cautious, resumption of sport that gave people hope that normalcy could return to their lives.
According to Larry Olmsted, who wrote “Fans: How Exercise Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Compassionate,” exercise has served the wellbeing and general health of society well. His conclusion is: Blessed are the sofa potatoes because their hearts and thoughts are all-in and they feel individually and collectively as part of something.
“On a social level, sport helps us heal. Even the socially distant joy of watching, writes Olmsted, whose earlier bestseller “Real Food / Fake Food” was just as eye-opening. “Fans” Olmsted studied the teaching of Professor Dr. Andrei Markovits from the University of Michigan. “In the field of political science and sports culture, he spent 30 years researching what he called” sports cultures “: the framework in which people” follow “rather than participate in sport.”
That doesn’t mean fans don’t take the opportunity to physically immerse themselves in the “fandom”. You’ll even travel to take tours of the empty stadiums that serve as teams’ home fields. The Big House in Ann Arbor shows more than 100,000 empty benches in its huge Coliseum (Indianapolis Motor Speedway shows even more seating), while it’s the tiny, timeless grandeur of old-fashioned stadiums like the Friendly Confines. from Wrigley Field in Chicago, where post-tours tourists line up to buy official Cubs clothing to wear at home.
For a taste of celebrity fans, there are bites from steakhouses and themed bars owned or recommended by sports stars, including Michael Jordan of the NBA, Mike Ditka of the NFL and Harry Carey of the broadcaster in Chicago alone. Fans even order wines from professional golfers Ernie Els, Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.
Golf fans watch tournaments on TV, then try to play themselves at the very highest level in the same places star players putts: they’ll sign up at the Marriott Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida to play the TPC course here the Players Championship takes place. Every year 3,000 golf fans come to Sawgrass to view the lavish clubhouse, its works of art and memorabilia from “TPC Storytellers”, which they also take on a golf cart ride to see the famous island-green 17th hole and to take selfies. Elsewhere, fans play golf courses designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, and even Tiger Woods.
Fans fly to take selfies at the statue of the fictional “Rocky” des boxing in Philadelphia. and while the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville is a trip on the bucket list for many, fans make the pilgrimage to explore the long-abandoned grandstands and see the infield flamingos of Miami’s historic Hialeah Park Race Track, on the more than … life-size statue from 1945 Triple Crown winner citation.
So don’t worry, fans. My words on the back of Olmsted’s new book that seemed to get me in the stands are true: “It turns out that being a rabid fan is good for my health!”
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at [email protected] You can find his radio program at MiBigShow.com or on weekdays from 9 a.m. on WJIM AM 1240