Kopitar’s got the puck, passes to Carter for a sweet little one-timer – Elliott never had a chance – Kings score!!
The man beside me explodes off the couch with a terrifying “YAAAAAAA” Viking battle cry of testosterone madness that shoots me straight into an adrenaline panic. Fight – give him hell for freaking me out? Or flight – escape to the kitchen and (relative) safety of doing the dishes? Or try a new game this playoff season and turn this moment into an impromptu anthropological study…
Note: I love sports… PLAYING THEM! Don’t let my blonde ponytail and figure skates fool you, I’m competitive as hell and I’ll battle you into the boards until I get the puck or until one – or both of us – is bleeding. But men seem to get the same high from just watching tiny figures frolicking around on a screen. Ya, I know there are some women who get off on it too, just like there are some women with gigantic natural tits who authentically enjoy the taste of beer, but those genetic hybrid freaks should stop reading this and go out and mate with the head honcho at the local pub and leave the rest of us to our jolly gender generalizing.
Ok, so for men to get so passionate about playoff sports, two things must be happening in the brain:
1) Ongoing sensory engagement
2) Ongoing emotional involvement
I get out my notebook (once a nerd always a nerd…sigh, and to take a picture of said nerdiness is, I suppose, taking it to a whole new, almost scary, level) and ask my male specimen some very scientific questions about his hockey viewing experience – on the commercials of course! In contrast to my own ever shifting tunnel vision, he describes being able process the entire screen’s on-ice action as a whole, while keeping track of who’s who and what they might do in present/upcoming plays. He also has the rules and play history on automatic recall. Hmmm.
It’s generally accepted (because what’s any theory without some good healthy generalizing) that for hundreds of thousands of years humans lived in small groups, with men mostly chiefing, warring, and hunting for meat, while the women gathered edible vegetation, reared the children, and maintained the social structure of the tribe. Starting with this evolutionary background, let’s identify the commonalities across three similar planes of ‘man reference’ that could produce the two brain prerequisites noted above and account for our test subject’s (ok, my test subject because I’m sure not sharing him, not even for science!) qualitative viewing experience: the plains of Africa, a medieval battlefield, and the LA Kings slaughtering the St. Louis Blues in game five…
Man reference plane commonalities:
1) Ability to track herd/army/team as an entirety while picking out weak links and anticipating individual/group behaviours
2) Sustained sensory/emotional involvement to maintain motivation towards final kill/win/goal
3) Death (or death of team’s season by elimination) must be risked for brain to warrant such high caliber emotional/attentional involvement/payoff
4) Strong allegiance to specific tribe/king/team through shared history and/or ancestry – loyalty engages emotion and motivates risk taking
5) Auto recall memory for history of success and specific rules of the hunt/battlefield/game help ensure repeat kill/victory/win
6) Short term goals (emotionally and physically) important to overall victory: multiple spearings lead to enough prey to feed tribe, multiple skirmishes/battles lead to overall war victory, multiple goals lead to ‘best out of 7’ and next playoff round
Thus, the mystery is solved. Men love watching the playoffs because they are men, evolutionarily speaking. We can now apply a similar formula to explain to my horrified man specimen, why, as a woman, I’m helplessly unable to change the channel whenever I ‘accidentally’ click myself into The Real Housewives of Vancouver.