Watching football, particularly but not only in the flesh, has obvious similarities with religious worship. There are rituals, there are chants, there are regular seats and neighbours, as there might be in more orthodox places of prayer, plus the elusive sense of community that churches or synagogues can provide. And football, like many religions, works on a principle of deferred (sometimes endlessly deferred) gratification, promising but withholding a heaven of success reached by most supporters only very rarely. The scarifying waiting, with all its failures and disappointments, is not incidental to the attraction: it is, I think, much of the point. It is an exquisite and addictive form of self-punishment.
He's writing about soccer, but I think much the same could be said about American football. Or rooting for the Cubs.