Updated: Jul 11, 2022
By. Dr. Lisa M. Coffey
Sports Series Post
December 20, 2021
In North America, the amateur and professional sports market is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and the future projections exceed a net value of 83.1 billion by 2023.The American people's lives intertwine with sports daily. Fans cite sports as a way to relieve stress and stimulate their minds. In addition, sports add a sense of pleasure and satisfaction to our lives.
The American culture relies on sports entertainment as a medium to evoke pleasure through television, radio, print media, and wagering. Today, many sports networks, professional and amateur, exist, such as the NFL Network, the NBA network, the Tennis Network, and the Big Ten Network. Furthermore, video games, fantasy leagues, athletic apparel, and sports marketing all contribute to the sports saturation in our economy. In addition, the commercialization of sports amplifies "Fandom" feelings in the sports culture. "Fandom feelings" are feelings of euphoria and connection to sports celebrities and teams from consumers and fans
The Fandom Experience
Fandom is an experience in which fans have a higher-than-average affinity for a sports team or sports celebrity that brings happiness to their lives. The fandom experience refers to fans who have a high identity with a particular sports team or individual to create a sense of connection and bring enjoyment to the fans' lives. Those fans can be trainers, coaches, and physicians, who often cross boundaries to become super fans for personal gain. Fandoms engage in every aspect of the team and attach in a way that allows the fans to forgive athlete/team transgressions in favor of the winning record and the feelings of exhilaration. Examples include Deflate-Gate, Lance Armstrong and blood doping, NCAA academic infractions, NCAA recruiting infractions, violations of team COVID protocols, and many others.
When engaged in the fandom experience, fans reconcile bad feelings with the "in-group bias effect" or the "black sheep effect" The in-group bias effect allows the fans to discredit the infraction and feel that the athlete or team is singled out. Another bias includes attributing the behavior to being "in the wrong place at the wrong time" to some Robert Kraft was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Another bias includes the "athlete didn't mean to" some feel Henry Russ of the Las vegas Raiders falls in this category. Such rationalizations allow fans to support the group member responsible for the blemish. On the other hand, the black sheep effect is when the corrupt athlete is in a category of "different from the rest" and ostracized from the group, allowing fans to maintain a positive identity and affiliation with the team but disassociate from the athlete. Aaron Hernandez, Ray Rice, or Pete Rose is the black sheep effect.
Research has shown that male fans have a higher affinity for sports teams than females. When fan-to-team identity increases, fans are less likely to accept any punishments. In doing so, fandoms believe that their team or player can deviate from the rules to achieve success and Fandom feeds athletes' egos and give them a false sense of power to commit rule infractions.
What can we learn from the Fandom experience and apply to our everyday lives?
First, let's be clear Fandom is not your everyday fan or bandwagon jumper! A person that engages in Fandom has the following characteristics:
Believe it's more than a game
The team/athlete has become an obsession
The Fandom adopts a win-at-all-cost mentality without any ethical considerations; "whatever it takes, let's win!"
Transgressions and violations are irrelevant
Emotions are triggered after a win or a loss which can be a celebration or burning cars in the street
Fandom is expensive, accessories, apparel, losses, and gambling
Fandom produces conflicts, fights, or disagreements
Fandom strains personal relationships
The Travis Scott Astro World fiasco is an example of the Fandom fan
Let's transfer this learning to everyday situations. Do you overindulge? Are you experiencing Fandom feelings? All of us have something in our lives that we can become attached to in a way that can trigger unhealthy emotions/responses/conflicts, whether we choose to admit it or not. For some, its alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex/pornography, love triangles, bad relationships, food, gossip, stealing, abuse, conflict, aggression, enabling, risky behaviors, ethical violations, blue-collar crimes, social media, spotlight seeking, ego-stroking, sharp tongue, cyberbullying, oversharing, and many others. Of course, we may not fully exhibit all the signs of Fandom. Still, the potential for Fandom behaviors exists if we do not recognize the potential to be fixated without consideration of the consequences. The purpose of this blog post is to call your attention to Fandom qualities and ask you to draw parallels to situations in your life to seek balance.
Through writing my book iDid and uCan 2, I am transparent and vulnerable while sharing intimate details of my life to help convey stories to help others. This self-assessment journey allows me the freedom to reflect, share, engage and rebuild. I am not absent of Fandom ideations. I, too, must be aware of boundaries and reel in behaviors that evoke unhealthy responses and possible Fandom behaviors.
Self-reflect to understand how Fandom feelings can impact your life. Are you able to admit your obsessive behaviors? Are you aware of your boundaries? Can you implement improvement strategies to create balance?
Bhattacharjee, A., Berman, J. X., & Reed, A. (2013, April). Tip of the hat, wag of the finger: How moral decoupling enables consumers to admire and admonish. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(6), 1167-1184.
Douvis, I. (2008, November 2). Perceived impact of sports. Sport Management International Journal, 4.
Fink, J., Parker, H., Brett, M., & Higgins, J. (2009). Off-field behavior of athletes and team identification: Using Social Idenity Theory and Balkane Theory to explain fan reactions. Journal of Sports Management, 23, 142-155.
Giuliano, T. A., Turner, K. L., Lundquist, J. C., & Knight, J. L. (2007). Gender and Selection of Public Athletic Role Models. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(2), 161-199.
Global Sports Market Report (2021 to 2030) - COVID-19 Impact and Recovery. (2021, March 18). Retrieved from Global News Wire: https://www.globenewswire.com/fr/news-release/2021/03/18/2195540/28124/en/Global-Sports-Market-Report-2021-to-2030-COVID-19-Impact-and-Recovery.html
Lee, J. S., Kwak, D. H., & Braustein-Minkove, J. R. (2016). Coping with athlete endorsers' immoral behavior: Roles of athletes identification and moral emotions on moral reasoning strategies. Journal of Sports Management, 30(2), 176-191.
Yildiz, Y. (2016, April). The relationship between fan identification and moral disengagment of physical education and sports students. Academic Journals, 11(7), 402-410.