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Fan Psychology

MenInTights

not a plastic bag
I've been wondering lately about why we are fans of sports. For example, I'm not a huge fan, but I do follow Clemson University sports and I was really excited this Saturday when they were leading South Carolina and later really bummed when they lost. This makes no sense to me.
I see it all the time. I have a friend that is a huge Saints fan. He has no connection to New Orleans. He grew up in Wasilla, Alaska and lives in Anchorage, AK. He has no ties to the state or city, but yet the Saints team give him every emotion over the course of a season. He feels personally connected to the team members of the Saints, almost like a friend.

Don't get me wrong, I understand this personally as I've been a fan myself. I just can't comprehend the why. Why should I care so much what a team does. Can anyone unlock the mystery of being a fan?
 

Unity

Living in Ikoria
Staff member
Just one component I'd identify is the idea of belonging to something bigger than one's self. It's a common theme among human beings, whether in fraternities/sororities in college, feelings of patriotism towards ones country, communing with nature, finding solace as a member of a religious community...I would think that this comes in play with sports.

My favorite team in sports, The St. Louis Cardinals (baseball), has a huge following. Our city is big on baseball, and there's definitely ties to a feeling of community, belonging, etc. for most people. It brings individuals together as a city unit, where there would be no other "universal" reasons to do so that resonate with so many people. Not everyone can be interested in politics, or public health, or where one's city ranks in national averages.

Like I said, I think this is just one aspect of fan psychology.
 

PretzelCorps

Registered Member
I've only recently begun to develop an appreciation for sports, myself, following a few years of decent Grey Cups/Superbowls with Smel, the Canadian victory in Olympic hockey on our own soil, and the World Cup --> For me, it's the thrill of live competition, of not knowing the outcome; those last few intense moments of a close game, as both side tries desperately to outwit the other. When you have an investment of some sort or another in the outcome of a match, the emotional and entertainment effects supersede that which any fiction anywhere could ever provide.
 

Vincent_Valentine

Studley-Do-Right
Interestingly enough, I'm currently taking a class that is essentially the sociological reasoning behind sports, and last weeks lecture covered the topic of fandom.

The lecturer essentially stated that there are a number of factors that cause our fanhood. Notable reasons are team location (such as Pretzel getting excited about Canada winning the Olympic Gold in Canada), team performance (people like to support winners, just look at all the Patriots fans and Steelers fans showing up in the past decade), involvement with the sport in question (you are more likely to enjoy a sport that you yourself play), and social acceptance (if your friends are into a sport, you get into it by proxy). There are other factors, such as family influence, media presentation, what organization you are associated with (most common with college athletics), and player/team appearance.

It's kind of hard to narrow down "why" because every person is going to have a different influence, and also their age can have a big effect on what team they support. For example, MIT, I don't know your friend, so I can't speak for how long he's been a Saints fan, but I know alot of people got behind the Saints after Hurricane Katrina. They had a great season the year after that, and alot of people kinda stuck behind them because of the great story they represented. So I wouldn't be surprised if that was a factor in what made your friend a big fan.

But Unity definitely touched on a big part of fandom, and that is the feeling of belonging to a bigger group. When you are watching a game and you are supporting a specific team, you tend to have that rush when they are doing well, because in your mind, you are a part of that team in some small way due to your support. It's definitely a part of human nature to want to be part of a group, and when that group is winning, you are going to feel better. And the opposite applies as well. Hell, after Ohio State got beat by Florida in the National Championship game a few year ago, I fractured my hand punching a wall out of anger.
 

Wade8813

Registered Member
For me, I'm a fan of local teams (the Seattle Mariners, Seahawks, etc).

In baseball (the sport I care about), I'm a fan of the Braves - a team that's in the other league than the Mariners (so there's no conflict of interest unless they meet in the World Series). I became a fan of them in the middle of the 90's, when they were doing well without being like the Yankees who just went out and outbid all the other teams. They had 3 great pitchers, 2 of which I was a fan of individually - including Maddux, who's in the discussion for Best Pitcher of All Time. Plus, for some reason the fact that I have an uncle who lives in Atlanta makes me favor them more.

In football, my 2nd favorite team is the 49ers. They're rivals with the Seahawks (although I didn't know it at the time I became a fan because I don't follow football that much). Again, I started following the team around the time they were having success in the Superbowls, and they had two standouts in Montana & Rice.

In basketball, I don't really have a favorite team any more - I feel abandoned by the Sonics, and even if another team came to replace them, I'm not sure if I'd become attached to them. My second favorite team was the Spurs because David Robinson was one of my favorites (as an outspoken Christian and a star player).

I'm not really a hockey fan, and I love playing soccer but not watching it.
 

fractal

Eye see what you did ther
It's probably because people want to be part of a group that shares the same views. As a group, you share the same emotions, and having some kind of mob mentality provides you entertainment.
 

Jeanie

still nobody's bitch
V.I.P.
But Unity definitely touched on a big part of fandom, and that is the feeling of belonging to a bigger group. When you are watching a game and you are supporting a specific team, you tend to have that rush when they are doing well, because in your mind, you are a part of that team in some small way due to your support. It's definitely a part of human nature to want to be part of a group, and when that group is winning, you are going to feel better. And the opposite applies as well. Hell, after Ohio State got beat by Florida in the National Championship game a few year ago, I fractured my hand punching a wall out of anger.

This right here. When your team wins, do you not typically say "we won" even though you personally had nothing to do with the game? I know people who are life-long die hard Michigan fans :)birdy:) just because they grew up in Ann Arbor and it's Ann Arbor's team, even if they never had anything more to do with the University aside from walking across campus to get from one side of downtown to the other.
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
Just one component I'd identify is the idea of belonging to something bigger than one's self. It's a common theme among human beings, whether in fraternities/sororities in college, feelings of patriotism towards ones country, communing with nature, finding solace as a member of a religious community...I would think that this comes in play with sports.

My favorite team in sports, The St. Louis Cardinals (baseball), has a huge following. Our city is big on baseball, and there's definitely ties to a feeling of community, belonging, etc. for most people. It brings individuals together as a city unit, where there would be no other "universal" reasons to do so that resonate with so many people. Not everyone can be interested in politics, or public health, or where one's city ranks in national averages.

Like I said, I think this is just one aspect of fan psychology.
This definitely hit the nail on the head. That's how I feel about the Cowboys, Spurs, and Astros (granted their Texas teams and in MIT's example his friend is from AK). But this describes exactly how I feel about the subject.
 

Vincent_Valentine

Studley-Do-Right
Also, to expand a bit on what Jeanie was talking about, when your preferred team loses, you kind of have the ability to take a step back and distance yourself from the team. You'll often see fans of a team that just lost referring to the team as "them" as opposed to the "we" that is generally seen when you win. By being able to distance yourself from the team like that, you can kind of get a sense of superiority going, by saying stuff like "how could they throw the ball there, the defense was clearly ready for it" or something similar. It lets you get a little ego boost by being able to 'out scheme' the team.
 

oxyMORON

A Darker Knight
I'm a fan of hometown teams and individual players from other teams. My dad watched the Cowboys in the 90s so I became a Cowboys fan by watching games with him. Same with the Mavericks and Rangers.

It's also "honorable" or acceptable to support hometown teams, whether or not they're successful. If they are, you avoid being a bandwagon fan by saying you're from there. If they're not, you're a "loyal fan". Win-win situation.

The same can be said with teams of schools you're alumni to.
 
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