I was out weeding the garden Sunday afternoon when my phone rang. It was my buddy S.C., venting about the latest loss by our hometown pro football team, this one more unexpected than most (I mean, it was Cleveland, for god’s sakes). I didn’t have much to say, since I’ve been making a point this season to ignore the games on TV, as the weather has been so pleasant. There are few things worse than hanging out by yourself in a dark basement for three hours on a beautiful fall afternoon watching TV. You stumble upstairs, blinking into the sudden sunlight and spend the next several hours readjusting to the real world and regretting all you’ve missed.
And staying out of the basement on game days might be making me healthier. It’s not just that I’m doing something physical outside instead of slugging down a few beers in the dark while camped on the couch. According to a recent study, I’m likely to eat poorly after my heroes blow another game — which, given my local sports team options, is a fairly regular occurrence.
The study, conducted by a French business school, found that fans of losing teams tend to binge on bad food more than those whose teams come out on top. The losers up their saturated fat intake by 16 percent and their calories by 10 percent after the game, while fans of the winners eat better, actually cutting fat consumption by 9 percent and total calories by 5 percent.
Having spent a fair amount of time over the years bingeing on bad food and liquor while watching meaningless (in the larger picture of the universe and everything) sporting events, I can say with some confidence that those French researchers may be overlooking one very basic fact about diehard sports fans: It doesn’t matter much whose favorite team emerges victorious at the end of the day, because most of the spectators aren’t doing themselves any favors while they’re watching the game.
I’ll admit that there may be some minor health benefit from the social aspect of spectator sports, even if your particular society that afternoon is exerting only enough energy to lift a bottle to its lips and sling expletives at the referees. But after three or so hours of this, the benefits begin to diminish. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, at that point, it doesn’t make much difference what you eat or drink to drown your sorrows (or celebrate your momentary triumph). You’ve already blown a perfectly lovely day.
Now that my local heroes are 0-3 and sliding inexorably toward irrelevance in our sporting universe (bring on the NBA!!), that weekly three-hour window of sedentary squalor has even less appeal. And that means I’ve got 13 more happy and productive weekends ahead this fall, regardless of the outcome of their televised battles. Win or lose, I’ll be celebrating.