Fall is a time of crisp mornings, hot cider sipping, pumpkin carving, Oktoberfests, Halloween costume hunting, corn mazes, warm sweaters with tall boots, and (of course) football. This year, as the trees turned from green to various shades of yellow and orange, the people of Nebraska have become red.
Some would argue that Nebraskans, as die-hard Husker fans, are always red. But the color especially explodes across the state on game days.
And why shouldn’t there be!? Cheering on our favorite football team has been an American tradition since the late 1860s. And Husker fans have even more excuse to be excited this year, as we start the season off with a 7-0 streak! Go Big Red!!
As if that’s not enough reason to cheer on the Cornhuskers, for all you that constantly feel the need to justify your sport fanaticism, research has shown that cheering for your team can actually boost your well-being and increase social connections.
Researcher Daniel L. Wann has devoted his career to understanding the effects of being a sports fan on our psychological and social well being. In several research projects, he has shown what we already intuitively know as fans: that being a fan can give you excited feelings, a sense of community with other fans, increase the strength and number of social connections, and more general feel-good emotions.
As humans, we tend to form relationships with those that are similar to ourselves. It’s easier to trust people that are like us. This human tendency can cause society a lot of problems, but it can also create positive bonds within a community.
Being a Husker gives you opportunities to meet people that are similar to you in at least one way: they are also Husker fans! You feel a sense of community, of camaraderie. You meet people at the Memorial Stadium or Buffalo Wild Wings that you wouldn’t have met or spoken with if they hadn’t been plastered in red.
I mean, where else can you find friends that wear giant corn cobs as hats?
We don’t know either, man.
Games and celebrations (which Nebraska has had A LOT of this year!) also give people reasons to spend time with fellow fans that they already know. In dreary March, there might not be much reason to leave the house. But on game day, you can go out with the girls or your buddies to watch the game together.
Thankfully, Daniel Wann also found that identifying with a team has positive effects on your well-being even in the off-season. His research did not explain why this may be the case, but all the more reason to boost your support of the Huskers.
For decades, psychologists other than Daniel Wann have found that our social connectedness to other people has a profound effect on our levels of happiness. We are social beings. We live and breath connection with other people.
The more you feel connected to a community and the more positive relationships you experience, the happier you become.
For those of you who are not basking in the glory of Nebraska college football right now, there is a small ray of sunshine for you in this post. Daniel Wann was not doing a study on Nebraska. His findings showed that fans gain social-connected wellness benefits when they closely identify with a local team. And not just football, but any sport or hobby.
So enjoy a guilt-free football season this fall, knowing that those sports you love so much are boosting your social health and wellbeing. And be sure to sport red this weekend as the Huskers hit the road to take on Wisconsin! After another win, this is how you’ll feel.
And that’s pretty dang awesome.