Sports are a worldwide obsession, and the United States is no exception to the rule. In America, sports fans fill stadiums and arenas for football, baseball, basketball, and hockey games – and that’s not to mention soccer, tennis, and other popular sports. Sports are good fun, but they’re not without their costs. Big stadiums can mean big taxes for neighboring citizens, for instance. Some problems are manageable drawbacks, but there are other types of collateral damage that are far less benign. The truth is that sports have off-field consequences – including many that affect the health and safety of the fans that make pro sports possible.
Take sports gambling, for instance. Fantasy sports are harmless fun, but sports betting websites have begun to churn out fantasy-lookalike games that turn the joy of fantasy into a quick way to lose money. Although there certainly are people out there (albeit few and far between) who make a living through online gaming, it’s not a predictable future for 99% of us and therefore only exists as a part-time interest. Traditional and even daily fantasy games can be good clean fun, but with the gambling industry involved, you can be sure that more complicated games are designed to help you lose money – not make it.
Sports betting can cost you big, but if you’re like most Americans, your wallet will be the only thing getting thinner while the game’s on. Sports viewing is a culinary experience, and game-day snacks are big business both in your home and at the stadium. While there are ways to eat healthy at the game, most fans don’t stick to good nutritional habits, and their health may suffer for it.
If you’re eating at the stadium, you know how long lines can get for the food vendors. But those are nothing compared to the traffic jams created when fans leave big games all at once. Even the athletes themselves have been known to get in car accidents after games! And this situation is only made worse by the fact that sporting events encourage drinking – which can lead to drunk driving incidents when fans decide it’s time to leave the game.
Drinking, in particular, is deeply ingrained in American sports culture – and that’s a very bad thing in a country where most folks drive to the stadium or the ballpark. While baseball is seeing a trend in urban stadiums, most sports venues still reside in a sea of parking lots. Those parking lots are where many fans drink – and then drive home. (If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, please know that it is possible to overcome addiction.)
These problems all have something in common, though: they’re not the fault of sports themselves. They’re the fault of American sports fan culture, which is something different entirely – and there are plenty of ways to enjoy sports while leaving the worst parts of it behind.
Choose to play traditional fantasy instead of gamble, and get help for gambling addiction if necessary. Cut back on the booze at home and at the game, get help for alcohol addiction if you need it, and if you plan drink anything at all, choose to take the train or a cab to the game instead of driving. Eat healthy at home and, if possible, at the stadium – while healthy options are rare and often pricey, they are increasingly available in modern ballparks and stadiums.
Sports should be healthy for everyone involved – not just the athletes! So be mindful of the off-the-field consequences that sports fans may have to deal with, and develop strategies to ensure that you enjoy a long and rich life of sports fandom.