March Madness Ratings Soar as Viewers Discover the Thrill of Screaming at Their TVs
Let it out.
By Clay Beyersdorfer
HOUSTON - As the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament continues to captivate audiences around the country, experts are noticing a surprising trend in viewer behavior: an increasing number of fans are screaming at their televisions while watching the games.
According to a recent survey, nearly 90% of tournament viewers reported shouting at their TVs during at least one game this March Madness season.
"I've never felt so alive," said Mark Johnson, a lifelong Kentucky basketball fan. "I mean, I've always cheered for my Cats, but this year I'm really going all out. I'm screaming at the refs, I'm yelling at the players, and I'm even cursing at the commercials. In fact, just got done yelling at one of those ‘Best Coke Ever?’ commercials with Lil Dicky because I have seen them 1,000 times already. I feel fantastic."
Psychologists are calling the phenomenon "televised catharsis," and say it's the body’s natural response to the stress and excitement of the tournament.
"Basketball, especially at the college level this time of year, is an incredibly emotional sport," said Dr. Sarah Kim, a professor of sports psychology at Northwestern University. "Fans invest a lot of time and energy into following their favorite teams, and screaming at the TV can be a healthy outlet for those pent-up emotions."
Despite concerns from some viewers about the long-term effects of screaming at their TVs, Kim says it's a harmless way to blow off steam.
"As long as you're not hurting yourself or others, there's really no downside to yelling at the TV," she added. "In fact, I recommend watching multiple games at once to really get the blood flowing. I should add that it’s probably wise to tell your grandma to watch TV in the other room while doing so, as the stress could cause her to go into cardiac arrest."
Television networks have also taken notice of the trend, and are now incorporating live fan reactions into their coverage of the games to further engagement.
"We've always known that March Madness brings out the passion in fans," said CBS executive producer Tony Bryant. "But this year, we're seeing that passion come to life in a whole new way. We've actually had to turn down the volume on some of our microphones because the screaming was so obnoxious. Then we had to turn it down even more because we realized that was just Charles Barkley during our pre-game show."
With the next round set to begin this coming weekend, experts are predicting even more screaming and shouting from fans around the country.
"It reminds me a lot of that movie ‘The Purge,’ where we as a country just decide to collectively let out our anger for a period of time," said Dr. Kim of the phenomenon. "Except for Purdue fans right now. They’re going to be screaming for years, I imagine."
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