American football is a wildly popular sport. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, is watched by hundreds of millions of people in over a hundred countries across the world. Its players are paid millions of dollars a year. Its stadiums regularly pack in 75,000+ fans per game. Yet, for many, the mystery remains: Why do people love to watch football so much?
Why do countless fans enjoy what some consider an act of brutality: Gigantic monsters on the field, repeatedly bashing into each other, all in the deceivingly simple pursuit of moving the oblong, brown ball from one side of the field to the other?
The secret lies in escapism: The same reason we love reading stories, watching movies, and playing video games. When we experience this spectator forms of entertainment, we are temporarily able to escape our ho-hum, everyday life, and instead become absorbed into an epic adventure we can sit back and enjoy. There are a few key factors to football that especially appeal to our fantasies.
Fame, fortune, and power often go hand in hand, as much on the red carpet of the film world as to the realm of professional athletes. Although some people are shy and timid, many others absolutely adore the spotlight and can rather dig the idea of basking in the glory of a thousand flash bulbs in a sea of 80,000 onlookers. Star football players get to experience, and enjoy, this kind of primetime exposure.
We often look to professional athletes as our prime examples of athletic perfection: Their bodies are honed to muscular, toned precision, and they tower over us mere mortal normal people in a crowd. Even the quarterbacks are sometimes six and a half feet tall and weigh in at 250 pounds.
The best wide receivers can leap over three and a half feet in the air. The linebackers are enormous, beastly beings that you wouldn’t want to run across in the wrong situation. We admire their physique; ultimately, because we admire their strength.
Yet, in the end, we enjoy watching football so much for the simple reason that we enjoy it! Whether we experience the kinship of relating to fond memories of tossing the pigskin in the backyard with our fathers, or the thrill of keeping tabs on our fantast football league, following the NFL or other leagues is an opportunity to take an interest in something lighthearted, inconsequential, and just plain fun.