Column: Why do we hate-watch sports?

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FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Foxborough, Mass. New England’s five Super Bowl champions turned over an average of 19.2 players the season after they won their titles. Brady and Belichick have been the constant. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

If you’re unfamiliar, “hate-watching” is this (pretty dumb, if you ask me) trend of watching a TV show or movie that you hate, simply so you can criticize and make fun of it. But here’s the key: You actually want to watch it, as in you must get some joy or humor out of it. It’s a guilty pleasure of sorts. 

Similarly, sports fans spend just as much of their time rooting for a team as they do against others. In fact, in my life at least, it seems the latter typically outweighs the former. After all, the Giants only play once a week (and not beyond the month of December, it seems), but the Cowboys, Eagles and Patriots all do too. 

Can watching a Cowboys game, solely for the purpose of hoping they lose in soul-crushing fashion, really be classified as ‘hate-watching?’ I’m not so sure, because most of the time I watch Patriots games, I’m not deriving much pleasure out of it. But, given the joy of seeing the ball go through Alshon Jeffrey’s hands into the waiting arms of a Saints defender, I think it’s a similar idea.  

Watching sports would be quite different if there was no such thing as rooting against a team. If the Giants were playing, great, I’d root for them. If it was any other of the 31 teams, complete neutrality.  

Sure, it would save a lot of unnecessary heartbreak, especially for those who inevitably get very emotionally invested in games they should have no business caring about. I’d be able to watch the Red Sox spraying champagne in the locker room, or see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy not with disgust, but with indifference.  

But for that to happen, you’d have to erase all rivalry, and what fun would sports be if there weren’t rivalries? What fun would winning a championship be if you didn’t have rival fans to hold it over? 

So yes, for the second straight season and third of the last four, I’ll have to sit and watch the Super Bowl, rooting not so much for the success of one team, so much as the downfall of another. And if the Rams do indeed pull it off, I won’t be rewarded with the bliss of my favorite team claiming the ‘ship, but rather just the slight satisfaction of a heated rival losing. 

The hope, of course, is that the dark times of Patriots dominance will only make the next Giants’ Super Bowl win (next season, if all goes to plan) sweeter. In the meantime, we’ll just keep reminding everyone that Tom Brady is 0-2 in Super Bowls against Eli Manning. 

Oh, and at least I’m not a St. Louis sports fan. They get to watch their formerly-beloved now-despised football franchise head to the Super Bowl just three years after moving. Worse, they now actually have to root for the Patriots. It doesn’t get much worse than that. 


Andrew Morrison is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.morrison@uconn.edu. He tweets at @asmor24

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