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The Science of the Super Bowl.

January 24, 2011

Everyone is gearing up for the upcoming Super Bowl XLV, to be held on February 6th 2011, at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TexasNFC champions, the Green Bay Packers will face off with the AFC champions, the Pittsburg Steelers. The Steelers sealed their spot into the Super Bowl after last night’s fantastic 24-19 win over the New York Jets (Yes, I am a Giants fan). Whether you are a football fanatic, bandwagon fan or could simply care less there is no avoiding the Super Bowl. Last year alone over 100 million viewers tuned in. I know some people wonder, what is it about dudes running into each other throwing around a ball that makes this so fanatical? Why do we care so much and get so deeply upset at something we really have no control over? Perhaps its pride or team spirit. Actually it’s neither. According to an article I read in O, the Oprah magazine, the reason for our love of the game and specific teams is all chemical.

At sporting events we are allowed the opportunity to experience a fascinating array of chemical responses. The act of being in a large gathering can trigger the bonding hormone oxytocin. When your team is winning the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls hunger, mood and sex drive) kicks in leaving you with a feel-good excitement. Once the dopamine cells start kicking in, your brain in an effort to repeat the euphoric feelings, will increase the urge for another win.  Studies have also shown that when your team is doing good, so are you. Increased levels of self-esteem have been connected to those who strongly identify with their teams. In males, testosterone levels are increased after a victory which can account for such actions as group chanting, beer guzzling races and smashing into each other like professional wrestlers.

Some extreme fans risk more than just publicly embarrassing themselves, it can be harmful to their health. Intense games can trigger a fight-or-flight response which increases your blood pressure and forces your heart to pump aggressively,maximizing its need for oxygen. Now add some time-honored game day foods like wings, pizza and fries and your cruising for a heart attack. Robert A. Kliner, director of research at the Heart Institute of Good Samaritan Hospital in LA, found that in 2009 the rate of cardiac arrest in men and women, following Los Angeles’s 1980 Super Bowl defeat, tripled. So when someone says, it’s not going to kill you if your team loses, you can intellectually respond, yes it can. Even in the face of a heart attack fans will continue to shout, jump, bond or even fight for their team stats. Scientific or social, the love of the game will never end.

At GAI ( we welcome all types of sports aficionados. This isn’t a Giant’s only house. Stop by or give us a call at 212-979-6830 so we can speculate on the Super Bowl while you get your taxes done!

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