When Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, was thrown out of game two of the ALCS the other night, it happened to coincide with his 48th birthday. It was also the day before his father’s funeral. The outburst that sent the normally controlled Girardi to the clubhouse was a bad call by a second base umpire, costing the team a man on base (and possibly the win for that night’s game). I mean, even my husband was on a rant about it, and he isn’t prone to temper tantrums.
Lost tempers go with the territory when it comes to professional sports, but they are quickly penalized in order to send the message that they fly in the face of good sportsmanship.
A recent youth football game in Florida, taped and easy to access on YouTube, shows an assistant coach slapping a referee. Clearly frustrated, the young man is most likely ashamed of his behavior now, as he is on the run, wanted on assault charges.
What is it about sports, both professional and amateur, that hits the trigger on our tempers more quickly than just about anything else?
Psychologists point out that the competitive nature brings out the best and the worst in people. Especially professional sports, where the stakes are high. The Bleacher Report ran a story months back about the 25 Shortest Tempers in Sports History. Along with John McEnroe and Bobby Knight, Floyd Mayweather, whose anger consumed him in and out of the ring, tops the list.
Interest in the connection between anger and sports has helped fuel the sports psychology field, and prompted a closer look at something called competitive anxiety. While that explains why athletes and managers snap, it doesn’t really offer much insight into why fans explode. After all, they’re not competing. Or are they?
A Sports Illustrated sportswriter took a look at the fine line between passion and anger when it comes to sports fandom. His conclusion was that you had to be angry or frustrated to begin with, and sports act as an outlet for pent up frustration about other things in life you can’t control.
In short, those who lose their cool to the point of violence might not be viewing it as ‘just a game.’