Olympic Happiness

USA 4 USSR 3. Al Michael’s call is synonymous with olympic triumph. The American college team, led by Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione, not only spawned a Disney movie, but lifted the spirits of Americans in the midst of the cold war. This moment encapsulates the happiness fans derive from the Olympics.

Most sports fans I know are ecstatic about the upcoming winter olympics – ice skating, hockey, luge, skeleton, curling. The key to quantifying fan’s olympic happiness is that there are multiple sports, multiple events, multiple medals per event, and multiple fan preferences within the Olympics. Certain events are more popular because they define athleticism (think 100m mens or women’s sprints which are associated with the title “fastest man or woman in the world”), while other events are more popular for their quirkiness (think curling).

From a happiness perspective, it is clear that different events and outcomes make different people happy. The following outcomes can make a sports fan happy during the summer or winter olympics:

1a. Country wins medal count – The happiness here is associated with national pride and nation-state competition.

1b. Country wins gold medal count – The happiness here is again associated with national pride and nation-state competition.

2a. Athlete from country wins gold medal in major event (e.g. 100m dash, long jump, ice skating) – The happiness here is associated with the success of the athlete and national pride. Winning a gold medal brings fans more happiness than a silver or bronze medal for the obvious reason that the country’s athlete is the best in the world (and of course you get to hear your national anthem at the medal ceremony).

2b. Athlete from country wins silver medal in major event – The happiness here is again associated with the success of the athlete and national pride.

2c. Athlete from country wins bronze medal in major event – The happiness here again is associated with the success of the athlete and national pride, but we will discuss how winning a bronze medal may create more happiness than winning a silver medal (the medaling effect). 

3a. Team from country wins gold medal – The happiness a fan incurs when their country’s team wins a gold medal (e.g. men’s basketball, hockey, and women’s gymnastics) is different in scale than the happiness of a single athlete winning a gold medal. 

3b. Team from country wins silver medal – Again, the happiness a fan incurs when their country’s team wins a silver medal is different in scale than the happiness of a single athlete winning a gold medal. This is in-part due to the fact that team medals are often won after a tournament rather than a single event.

3c. Team from country wins bronze medal – The happiness a fan incurs when their country’s team wins a bronze medal is different in scale than the happiness of a single athlete winning a silver medal and again may result in more happiness than a team winning the silver medal (medaling effect). 

4a. Individual/team from country wins gold medal in quirky event – The happiness associated with this type of medal has to do with an athlete from your country being the best at some popular minor sport. There is no good reason why these sports are more popular than other minor olympic sports (e.g. most Americans enjoy olympic water polo more than field hockey); however, the “quirkiness” of the sport or event makes them popular. Typically the popular quirky events are discernible by the television coverage they receive. Often the popularity of these quirky events differs by country. 

4b. Individual/team from country wins silver medal in quirky event – The happiness associated with this type of medal again stems from an athlete from your home country being second best in some popular minor sport. 

4c. Individual/team from country wins bronze medal in quirky event – The happiness associated with this type of medal stems from an athlete from your home country winning a medal in some popular minor sport. Again, a bronze medal in a quirky sport may bring more happiness than a silver medal in a quirky sport (medaling effect).

5a. An athlete from country sets a new olympic or world record – Fans are happier when an olympic or world record is set by their own country’s athlete. These moments bring more happiness for most fans than a gold medal alone, especially if the record remains decades later. 

5b. An athlete from another country sets a new olympic or world record – Many fans are also happy watching an olympic or world record being set, just to a lessor extent then when the athlete is from their home country. The happiness from this moment stems from the thrill of a record falling and the ability to tell future generations about the record setting moment. 

6. The opening ceremony and parade of nations – There are many fans who also care about the “beauty of the olympics”. They enjoy seeing geopolitical rivals competing side-by-side on a playing field, the political peacefulness and world unity. Hundreds of nations marching under their flag after the pageantry of the opening ceremony encapsulates this feeling. In other words, some fans receive happiness simply from what the olympics represent. They do not care who wins or losses, but enjoy the symbolism of the games. 

Instead of attaching Lifetime Championship values to each of these olympic happiness points, we will save this for the hype and buildup to the 2014 winter olympics. Readers will be able to quantify their 2014 winter olympic happiness during the games. While we put the olympics on hold, SportSmiles will next turn to college sports so that we can begin to discuss rivalries.

As always, readers are encouraged to send feedback to sportssmiles@gmail.com. Your thoughts and input are essential to make sure we quantify these effects correctly. 

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One thought on “Olympic Happiness

  1. Pingback: Separate Sports an Politics, It’s Already Been | jakefirst89

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