The playoffs and preparing for the Super Bowl is a time of great excitement for many tireless fans that have followed their team through both thick and thin and rich or poor. In fact, many diehard fans are more committed to their team than their marriage. What is the drive for them, and what could they possibly be gaining from this loyal following? According to Daniel Wann PhD who has studied sports fan behavior there are three reasons fans follow a team:
1. We are socialized to be fans. No matter what team you support if you put on their jersey you are automatically "one" with everyone else.
2. We are motivated to be fans by one or more aspects of the event. I know there are fans that only go to the game to see half time. They are fans; but drawn to a different aspect of the game.
3. The social connection fans feel with one another. Not only are fans connected to one another, but they are connected to the players. The worry if one of them is hurt, they talk about different plays; they feel as though they have more friends due to their support of the team.
I grew up in Wisconsin and the Packer fans would sit at Lambeau Field in minus 10 degrees and cheer as though it was 80 and sunny. I never understood it as a child, but as a psychotherapist it makes more sense. Fans feel better when they are rooting and supporting their team. There is a sense of camaraderie among them. As Dr. Wann discusses there is a sense of irrational thinking among fans because they are willing to spend hours watching a game every week and half of these fans will be losers after the game. If you went to a restaurant and ordered pizza and they only delivered half of the time, you wouldn't go back. However, fans are different; even if their team loses they will go back and do the same thing over again. Their loyalty is incredibly intense, says Dr. Wann. This loyalty also contributes to their increased self esteem.
Experts have also found that fans have lower levels of loneliness, alienation, and experience improved satisfaction in life. This can be seen by the fans who wear jerseys, hats or cheese heads. When they put their team identification on, they experience the feeling of having more friends, being more popular, and more socially accepted (the extent of wearing a cheese head is proof of this). Fans report feeling connected and these feelings make them feel better about themselves thus enhancing self esteem.
Economists have benefitted from fans' increased mood during games especially if they are a winning team. Economists note fans spend more money when their team is winning, and at a city level if your team is winning it brings more business and popularity to your location.
Someone has to win and another team has to lose on the way to the Super bowl. Fans will attend each game and experience the elation of winning as well as the despair of losing. If we had a mediation that provided as many positive attributes as what fans experience by supporting their team, most health care workers would prescribe it. Therefore, I applaud the fans as well as the team members. After all, there would be no team if the fans didn't support them.
- Mary Jo Rapini