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Rocky Time for Phils Fans

October 11, 2007 By:
Ben G. Frank , JE Feature
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In one city, there is joy, back-slapping, the roar of the crowd, popping champagne, a citizenry even smiling on their way to work early in the morning.

In another city, it's all "doom and gloom," crying in their coffee, throwing away their baseball caps, frowning and not even showing up for work -- so depressed are they.

This month, the first city is Denver, and the second ... Philadelphia.

How does it affect the sports psyche of fans and citizens of the city that makes the playoffs in America's pastime?

Various psychology experts responded to that question; after all, they should know, dealing as they do with the human condition. "It's all a matter of winning," they agreed.

Patricia Kleven, director of outpatient mental-health services at the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment in Philadelphia, said two camps exist: the fans who are euphoric, and feel the honor and fame; and the second group, those who may lead rather empty lives, but now have a cause to rally around.

"Sports is a metaphor for life, in terms of conflict and war," stated Jonathan Berent, performance-anxiety specialist at socialanxiety.com. "The playoffs give us a life," he said, and "life is all about adrenaline. Winning helps us peak."

"It's obvious," added Henry Paul, an author and psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan: "Fans identify with the team and with players, and winning satisfies our competitive strivings."

Winning the Eastern Division title as the Phillies did, of course, did wonders for the city. Maurice Preter, psychiatrist and neurologist, said that various hormones get increased, and these bring out "a good feeling of togetherness, a bond among people."

He added that Philadelphia pride should be at its height, for in this atmosphere, hormones create "a sense of competition, belonging and mastery."

Delight in Denver
But then the roof caved in, and the Phils lost to the Colorado Rockies.

As for Denver: At least for the playoffs, there will be a surge of self-esteem and happiness, according to Fady Hajal, psychiatrist and medical director at Stony Lodge Hospital in Ossining, N.Y. "People will feel good about themselves, as if they won, too. They will be more generous. They will be excited in an optimistic way. They will feel that they are effective, too."

He cited the "mirror neuron," explaining that "when we watch sports, we are reacting as if we are doing the action."

"You can't stop us now!" were the first words from a Wilmington, Del., resident just a couple of weeks ago, who, though sad, will obviously be rooting for the Phillies next year.

Sports fans, remember: It's only a game!

Meanwhile, if in Philadelphia, you can hear people muttering, "Wait till next year!" -- as they used to say in Brooklyn -- reassuring themselves of their high hopes and future expectations.

And in the end, that's what a real fan is all about.

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