Sports Fan Science Part II

By Marc Resnick:

I read another chapter of the sports mania book (see previous post) that jumped out at me.  This one described two dimensions of sports fandom.  A fan can have various levels of each one.  There are some who are high on one and low on the other, and some that are high on both.  Then there is the generic spectator who is low on both (or the non-fan who is a zero on both).

Curious yet?  Here are the two dimensions.

1.  The one we usually think of is affiliation with the team.  People with strong need for self-identity attach their self-image to the team, rising and falling with the team’s performance (mostly on the field, but also off the field as I talk about later).  These individuals tend to be knowledgeable about team statistics.  They can watch the game home alone and still get as much out of it as being in a big group.  They have long lasting emotional swings with wins and losses.

2.  The second one is affiliation with the other fans (think Red Sox Nation).  People with strong need for group affiliation attach their self-image to the fans, rising and falling with the excitement in the room while watching games.  These individuals enjoy the camaraderie, high fiving other fans, and that kind of thing.  They are less invested in wins and losses, so they don’t usually take the highs of a win or the lows of a loss home with them as much,

3.  Individuals that are high on both dimensions have characteristics of both.  They prefer watching in groups, experience high levels of arousal from the camaraderie of the experience, but also know lots of team statistics and take the emotional swings of wins and losses home with them.

There was a slight gender effect in that females have a stronger tendency for the group affiliation type of fandom and males have a stronger tendency for self-identity with the team.  But of course, both genders can vary along both of these dimensions.

I enjoyed this because it really got me thinking about my own fan-ness.  I am a virulent fan of the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Wolverines.  But I realized that I am much higher on the self-identity dimension than the group affiliation dimension.  I enjoy watching the games in groups and the whole yelling screaming high fiving experience.  But the truth is that most of my emotional swings are private.  I can’t even watch games in crowded bars if the other people aren’t watching the game because I get distracted. And I still love watching games home alone, as long as we win.  And I do use the term “we” at will.

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