The Big Game is behind us, and with spring approaching, sports fans have turned their attention to the NBA. Playoffs, the All-Star Game, and March Madness have fans preparing brackets and bets while gearing up to cheer on their favorite team. Rituals for watching games can differ based on the sport, but many game gatherings usually come with friends, food, and a lot of booze.
We were interested in the drinking habits of NBA fans specifically and whether these habits differed based on the team for which they were cheering. How much are fans drinking before, during, and after games? And how many are missing work the next day due to hangovers? We surveyed over 1,000 NBA fans to see which fan base tends to drink more and if the team’s performance has any impact on the amount of alcohol consumed. Keep reading to see what we found.
Fans drinking more while watching fewer games may just mean they are tuning in for bigger, better games, which call for more of a celebration or party-style viewing. Dedicated fans who watch the majority of NBA games likely watch to keep up with their team – a situation where drinking to root isn’t necessarily mandatory.
So how much are fans willing to dish out for drinks? If they’re watching at home, not that much. On average, fans would spend only $18.74 when watching from their couch, but for booze at the bar, the average jumped to around $30. For those lucky enough to be in the arena to watch live, fans were willing to spend slightly less than at the bar, with an average of $28 for drinks. While this could be due to the money already spent on a ticket, the increased prices of alcohol in sporting arenas may also play a role.
Consumption rates were much more affected by the opposing team – 25.3 percent of all NBA fans drank more when their favorite team played a rival. This time, fans of playoff teams were more likely to base their drinking off opponents, and Eastern and Western Conference fans were pretty equal.
While Boston Celtics fans averaged more drinks per game than any other fan base, they were also the most likely to increase their drinking when facing a rival. Almost 48 percent of fans admitted to drinking more for those specific games, followed by 36 percent of fans of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Playoffs are an obvious cause for celebration, especially when your favorite team has made it, and drinking has become a huge part of watch parties. So much so that each year fans create drinking games to keep enjoyment up even if their team is losing. The amount of drinking that goes on when fans’ favorite teams are playing rivals also increases drastically when those games are playoff games: The stakes are higher; the fans are rowdier; and, evidently, cups are fuller.
Of all NBA fans, around 38 percent drank more when their team played in the playoffs – that’s more than double the number of fans who increased their consumption when their team performed poorly. The pattern carried over to both Eastern and Western Conference fans – 36.5 percent of Eastern Conference fan bases increased their drinking for playoffs, and 40 percent of Western Conference fans did the same.
Again, the Boston Celtics were the most likely to drink more for the big games – around 57 percent consumed more alcohol for the playoffs. Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz weren’t too far behind, though, with around half of each fan base increasing consumption during the playoffs.
Although much less common, almost 16 percent of fans became physically sick or vomited after drinking while watching the game. Given that NBA games usually last around 2 hours and 15 minutes and the average fan consumes around three drinks per game, some fans are actually approaching the line of binge drinking, which can quickly cause consumers to get sick.
Although only 17 percent of NBA fans drove drunk after attending an NBA game, that number varied when looking at fans by conference. Almost 20 percent of Eastern Conference fans admitted to driving drunk after attending an NBA game, while 14.1 percent of Western Conference fans did the same. However, the difference between fans driving drunk was much less based on their team’s current standing. Over 17 percent of fans of teams in the playoffs drove home drunk, just 1 percentage point more than fans of teams not in the playoffs.
In 2016 and 2017, drunk driving claimed the lives of almost 11,000 people, making driving under the influence the leading cause of highway deaths. Sporting events can be hectic to get out of, and getting picked up by a ride-sharing service amid a huge crowd can be frustrating, but skipping the few extra minutes it may take is not worth a life. Knowing the risk that drinking and driving poses and the difficulty fans may have after sporting events, ride-sharing services like Uber have tried to make it easier to get home safely. While the changes help, it’s really up to each fan to make the right decision.
The NBA playoffs and March Madness are an exciting time for fans, but with game watching heavily tied to alcohol consumption, drinking while watching can quickly turn into a bad situation. Whether it’s getting physically ill, a next-day hangover, or driving drunk, the risk simply isn’t worth it.
For those struggling with addiction, major sporting events can be more triggering than celebratory. If you or someone you know is struggling, the Delphi Behavioral Health Group is here to help point you in the right direction. We are a growing network of drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities providing a range of care to fit your needs best. Visit us to talk to a care expert or to get more information on addiction and treatment.
We collected survey responses from 1,258 NBA fans from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. 36.2 percent of our participants were women, and 63.8 percent were men. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 87 with a mean of 34.9 and a standard deviation of 10.8. Anyone who was not a fan of the NBA was disqualified from the survey. Respondents were grouped by their favorite team’s conference. They were also grouped by their favorite teams current standings at the time of the survey. If a team was in a playoff spot, they were grouped as a playoff team.
In order to accurately represent each team’s fan base, we set out to collected at least 32 respondents for each team. Most teams reached or surpassed this number, however, the Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans had 29, 26, and 25 respondents, respectively. It it possible that with more respondents for each team, we could have gained more insight into this population. Our surveys also relies on self report. There are many issues with self reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
Do you know an NBA fan who tends to overdo it on the drinks while watching the game? They may benefit from this reading this study. We grant you permission to use this project’s information and graphics for noncommercial use. Just don’t forget to link back to this page to give the authors proper credit.