Being a true sports fan is not only about celebrating victories. “A true fan supports the team through thick and thin, good calls and bad calls, good plays and terrible plays”, according to an article in the Bleacher Report that investigates what makes a true sports fan.
Most of the time fans stick with their teams. It’s about loyalty. When the Boston Red Sox were not performing well, their fans felt like “they’ve earned the right to revel in the team’s success when ultimately things turn(ed) around for them”, says Professor Edward Hirt from Indiana University.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, we all react to a good game in some physical way. Hearts beat faster, hands get cold and blood pressure rises. According to studies conducted during the 2010 World Cup soccer final, our cortisol levels increase when we watch our teams perform on the pitch.
An interesting read for sports fans is Eric Simons’ book The Secret Lives of Sports Fans in which he explores the connection and “extreme emotional attachment” between sports fans and their teams. We feel like we are part of the game and studies have found that in a way we are – at least our brains are. When we see a player kick a goal part of our neurons react as if we were kicking the goal ourselves.
But that’s not all. Our reactions to what we see go way beyond the physical. Being a real sports fan has a range of positive psychological effects. According to Daniel Wann, sports psychology professor of Murray State University, it all boils down to our sense of community. Wearing fan wear or cheering for a team together with others gives us a sense of belonging and makes us feel integrated. That sense of community is even stronger when the team itself reciprocates something to their fans.
Manchester City has just unveiled the ‘City Circle’ outside the Etihad stadium as a tribute to their many fans. The ‘City Circle’ consists of discs engraved with fan messages. That is quite a community to belong to – and a large one, too.
Professor Alan Pringle from the University of Nottingham notes that sports can give us a ‘common currency’ that transcends distances created by age. There is no better feeling than celebrating your team’s success with other fans, which is another reason why being a sports fan is good for us – it gives everybody the possibility to experience success as in real life success often comes slow or we are too busy to enjoy it.
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