The following comes from The Millions blog about David Halberstam's passing (two of his best know works are The Best and the Brightest about the war in Vietnam, and Summer of ’49 about the 1949 pennant race between the Red Sox and Yankees). I think it's a great commentary on why people watch and enjoy sports.
There is something to the notion of sports as a balm for citizens suffering from war fatigue. They are soldiers abroad gathered in a tent in the desert somewhere to watch the Super Bowl on television, and they are children bypassing front page headlines that scream death and destruction in favor of the sports section and the box scores of games that they were forbidden to watch because of woefully premature bed times. Sporting events bring people together in celebration of achievement, rather than in protest of failure, and are thus both a distraction from the duty of citizens as witnesses to history, no matter how grim, and at the same time real and not insignificant demonstrations of the values of a free society, complete with overpriced cotton candy, and (today) overpriced athletes. Athletic competition, so often couched in terms of battle when described, transcends violence. It is an elevated and, I would argue, rather sophisticated form of human interaction.