I'm going to let you in on one of the secrets of the internet: people like clicking on things about sex. Like, maybe you wandered over to the Fox Sports home page today, and you saw the headline "Score! European study says soccer like sex for fans." You probably clicked on it! I know I did.
Studies are boring. A study titled "Testosterone and Cortisol Release among Spanish Soccer Fans Watching the 2010 World Cup Final" sounds boring. But let's resist the urge to make this about sexxxy sex.
Spanish and Dutch researchers tested 50 Spanish soccer fans as they watched Spain beat the Netherlands for the 2010 World Cup, and found that testosterone and cortisol levels went up during the match. Testosterone also goes up with sexual arousal, but in a lot of other situations as well. So watching soccer is like having sex, in the same way that going for a jog is like having sex.
This study does have a pretty interesting component that's going to be overlooked while you think about luscious breasts and poppin' booties. Despite the hormone surge while the match was on, Spanish fans did not see an additional surge once Spain won. The researchers put it this boring way:
Generally, the testosterone data from this study are in line with the challenge hypothesis, as testosterone levels of watchers increased to prepare their organism to defend or enhance their social status. The cortisol data from this study are in line with social self-preservation theory, as higher cortisol secretion among young and greater soccer fans suggests that especially they perceived that a negative outcome of the match would threaten their own social esteem.
In layman's terms, the reason you get excited while watching sports is not because you anticipate winning. It's because you anticipate the possibility of losing, and are physically and chemically preparing yourself to deal with that outcome.
That's utterly fascinating to me. Not as fascinating as sex, though.