Because I’m Happy….Or Maybe Not!

Does watching hockey make you happy? Paul Balm can’t decide in this weeks article.

Apparently, last Friday was International Happiness Day. Obviously, for reasons that have been made all too clear on a weekly basis in this column it all pretty much passed me by. I’ve never felt like a room without a roof (I thought it was a garden) and I don’t think there’s ever been a time where I thought it was the greatest gift that I possess. The concept of International Happiness Day got me thinking and once I’d thought about who comes up with all these International Day of This That and The Other and if it was a job I could apply for I started thinking about whether watching sport makes me happy.

The simple answer is yes and no. That probably seems fairly obvious but there’s a little more to it than I’m happy if my team wins and I’m not if they don’t. Obviously, that concept has a large part to play – I doubt there were many Panthers fans as happy as their Steelers counterparts on Friday but it’s not the only factor that needs to be considered.

Have you ever left a game that you expected to win handsomely and only scraped through? Consider your emotions as you left that rink. Are you happy because you’ve come away with the two points you expected (whether or not you should ever expect to win a game is a whole different conversation so bear with me) or is that pleasure tinged with the disappointment at the way they’ve played and does that even matter. I think it does, I remember a game up in Edinburgh a few years ago where we were well ahead at the second interval and only just managed to hang to win the game by the end of the third period and in the bar afterwards it almost felt like we’d lost. The elation that should have come from winning the game had evaporated to be replaced by relief that we’d managed to hang on and a certain dejection at the way we had played. Even then it’s not that simple because in some situations the boot (skate?) can be on the other foot. At times winning a game when you’re playing badly can cheer you up, OK you wanted them to play better but who cares? We’ve won! Conversely (again!) a loss that saw your team give it their all but come away with nothing can give you a lift.

You see? It’s really not as simple as you think.

There are some parts of it that are simpler though. The very fact that you’re sat in a stand somewhere watching a live game has to be good for you, right? You’re out the house, away from the weekly grind and day to day stresses of life. Sport gives you a release from all that, albeit only for a few short hours a week. There’s more to the live experience than the game though (although that is a pretty large part of it). There’s everything that goes with it the anticipation before the game – the build-up. I wrote the other week that I don’t get excited just because it’s game day but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the fact that it is. Add to that the fact that you’re going to meet up again with your hockey friends and family. Going to games simply wouldn’t be the same without these people. You look forward to seeing them again at the game or in the pub before or (and?) after. They’re as much a part of going to the game as the teams on the ice. In fact, they’re probably more integral to the whole experience given the way players move from team to team.

There are obviously downsides. The last two seasons have shown us that there are lows as well as highs and to quote Sit down by James “If I hadn’t seen such riches I could live with being poor”. I think that brings us back to the expectations again or simply the adage that you don’t miss what you’ve never had. If we hadn’t won the league in 2013 then would we have been so bothered about falling apart in February this year? We wouldn’t have liked it but I don’t think we’d have been as bothered. It would have been what we’re used to so the unhappiness would have been lessened.

Having said all that there is an upside to the downside. Winning probably makes you happy but it doesn’t really make you laugh. Not, at least, in the way that losing does. There’s no real humour in winning. I bought a fair few fanzines back in their heyday in the 1990’s and there was one almost universal fact – the worse the team was doing the funnier/better the fanzine was. They used to overflow with the type of gallows humour you see occasionally on Twitter these days, you know the sort that seems to go flying over so many people’s heads.

So, does sport make me happy? Yes, no, oh I don’t know. There are times when it does and there are times when it doesn’t, times when it should and doesn’t and times when it shouldn’t but does. The thing is though that it isn’t sport’s job to make me happy. Sport is just sport. Winners and losers, heroes and villains, tiny margins or huge errors. It’s a reflection of life in an environment that’s both all consuming and insignificant at the same time. It’s what you take from it that affects whether it makes you happy or not. You just have to prepare yourself for the fact that as long as you’re watching sport you’re never going to be happy all the time but console yourself with the thought that every single other person doing it is in exactly the same boat as you.

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4 Responses to “Because I’m Happy….Or Maybe Not!”


  1. 2 JohnnyfromDonny March 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Good piece but important to remember that happiness comes from within.

  2. 3 SteelersNo1 March 24, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Brilliant! Is there anyone better writing about british ice hockey today? Shame he’s a panfur.

  3. 4 Paul Balm March 24, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    In a word SteelersNo1 – yes. Plenty. I know that’s two words.


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