Whether a fan or not, you are likely aware that the sports world came to a grinding halt in March due to COVID-19. No sports played means no new sports on TV. So, from football to futbal, foot races to auto races, until recently fans have been subjected entirely to sports reruns. At first, I was critical of the concept until I spent a solid two hours watching the 2019 World Track and Field Championships. So why would anyone, including me, watch sports reruns when the outcome has already been realized? George Costanza’s explanation of “because it’s on TV” was not quite satisfactory so I decided to inquire further. The eight types of motives for watching sports, from a validation study of the Sport Fan Motivation Scale (Wann, 1995), provide an interesting framework for answering the question.
There are two motives that can be eliminated immediately. Eustress, which is basically positive stress, seems unlikely with the game’s outcome known. Economic factors, defined by Wann (1995) as economic gain such as through gambling, are not applicable. If you are betting on past sporting events, you, or the person taking your bet, may have bigger issues.
Sporting events, and even replays of them, can serve as a temporary escape, taking one’s mind off everyday life. This may be especially welcome during extremely difficult times, like a global pandemic. In terms of entertainment, similar to watching a movie you have seen before, a foregone match still has entertaining elements beyond outcome suspense. Along these lines, people may also watch sports for aesthetic reasons, seeing the event as a form of art (Wann, 1995). Like hanging a favorite painting in your home, watching sports reruns is a way to revisit that beauty and creativity… sort of.
Self-esteem benefits are realized when “your” team succeeds, along with a sense of identification and belongingness from being a fan of that team (Wann, 1995). Seeing your team succeed again, even while knowing it’s a rerun, may serve as a reminder of the team’s greatness and your affiliation with them. This is similar to the motivation of nostalgia in television program rerun viewing (Furno-Lamude & Anderson, 1992). Of course, affiliation needs can also be met through camaraderie with fellow fans, though I doubt texting your buddy about the Nats’ World Series replay represents the same shared experience as when they were actually “finish(ing) the fight”. Finally, watching sports reruns together may fulfill family needs but likely not to the same extent of live sports with the family rallying around the cause of cheering for their team.
If, like me, you were wondering why someone would watch sports reruns, hopefully this helps address your curiosity. If you are looking for something to watch, I hear the NHL Network is replaying the Buffalo Sabres vs. Dallas Stars Stanley Cup Finals Game 6. Maybe this time the officials will make the right “no goal” call and the outcome will be different, though I wouldn’t bet on it.
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