As you’re likely aware even if you want nothing to do with sports, there are certain sporting events now and then that seem to capture the attention of the whole world – or at least most of it. Major championships, or tournaments involving international competition, for instance, can seem almost to stop time temporarily while everyone tunes in. If you’re an introvert though, there can be something almost off-putting about this whole idea, as joyous and celebratory as it may be. 

This is not to suggest introverts can’t like sports; that would be an incredibly misguided blanket statement. However, when you consider some of the things a lot of introverts hate – big crowds, talking in groups, large social gatherings, etc. – a lot of them tend to line up with these biggest and grandest of sporting events.

For instance, it’s not as if the average introvert is typically excited about a trip to the Kentucky Derby (which is more festival than horse race) or attending a friend’s jam-packed Super Bowl house party!

There’s something almost circular about this idea though. These kinds of events have a reputation for bringing everyone together, but by their nature can also be off-putting to some.

So, are introverts simply to be left out of the fun in these cases? Might they prefer to be? Or are there some sporting events that transcend the potential issues and appeal even to those of us who would typically rather not take part in massive group activities? 

Here’s my own take, at least regarding a few major events. 

The World Cup

The World Cup can look like just about the biggest and most crowded event of any kind (forget just sports) in the world. For that reason I’m not sure I’d want to actually attend one of its matches. If we’re talking merely about taking an interest though, sign me up!

While it’s an occasion that captures the attention of literally billions of people, it’s also one that you can watch from afar and enjoy as a sort of cultural study, if nothing else. In other words it can be as much of a people-watching exhibition as it is an actual communal experience. For an introvert who isn’t tempted by the crowds and live matches, the World Cup can be about watching said matches on television, learning about the cultures of the involved countries, and ultimately just taking in the spectacle.

The Super Bowl

Nope. I can’t go along for the ride on this one. I’d say I’m comfortable enough staying at home and watching the game (and really, I am), but in theory this almost always means being forced into some kind of watch party.

What really sets the Super Bowl apart as a unique sporting experience, for a lot of people at least, is the atmosphere that revolves around it. The Super Bowl isn’t just meant to determine the NFL champion.

It’s really about eating junk food, drinking beer, and hanging out with friends, family, friends of friends, colleagues, neighbors, and sometimes complete strangers.

That’s pretty much the whole concept, from the fan perspective, and because it really is more about interaction than the game itself, it’s one event I can understand introverts skipping altogether. 

March Madness

A lot of basketball fans, introvert, extrovert, or otherwise, will agree that there’s no spectacle in sports quite like “March Madness,” the NCAA’s annual basketball tournament. For those who aren’t as familiar beyond the moniker, this is a single-elimination tournament spanning three weekends in March (and into April), and it whittles the top 68 teams in the NCAA down to one champion.

A lot of people treat it almost like the Super Bowl in terms of gatherings and watch parties, but March Madness can also be enjoyed in a more detached manner.

For instance, fans typically fill out brackets (meaning they make their picks for who will win each game) whether or not they have any idea what they’re doing.

The tournament is also notorious for drawing people away from work and school activities to stream games on their own during ordinary weekdays.

Really, it’s my kind of sporting event. I can watch it during the in-between moments, root for the more obscure teams just for fun, track my bracket, etc. – all without needing to toast strangers or devour chips and dip from a group platter. 

The Olympics

I won’t spend too much time on the Olympics, because my take here is basically that it’s a lot like the World Cup. You can enjoy it on your own, seek out the aspects of the event that most interest you, and treat it all like a sort of cultural showcase rather than a month-long sports watch party.

I’d add for the Olympics though that there’s something wonderful about following the less mainstream sports. This isn’t in and of itself an introverted thing to do, necessarily, but given that most people will be paying attention to more high-profile sports, there’s something nice about diving into the ones that don’t draw as much attention. In a way you can really make the Olympics your own. 

Of course, with all of this what matters most is not whether or not you’re an introvert, but rather whether or not you have any interest in the sports and events at hand. Still, I’d argue it’s worth looking past the throngs of people that tune in for events like these, and considering how you might enjoy them your own way.