Amid playoff mania, a look at why we become fansApril 25th, 2011 at 2:42 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
“Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify,” Jerry Seinfeld once said. “Because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city – you’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it.”
That may sound sacrilegious in these salad days for local sports fans, with the Celtics moving on to the second round, the Bruins on a three-game streak against the hated Habs, and the Sox righting the ship after a shaky start. But The Boston Globe’s Leon Neyfakh reports that Seinfeld was onto something:
[T]he link between losing [games] and loyalty is less puzzling to experts in the growing field of fan studies, a burgeoning effort in the academy whose practitioners are interested in how sports fans think and why they feel as intensely as they do about their favorite teams. …
Having a winning record, these researchers have found, is just a small part of what makes franchises like the Sox, or the Celtics, or the Bruins, the objects of intense dedication. Instead, their findings point to a variety of factors that contribute to fanship, including our instinct for tribal affiliation, our desire to participate in tradition, and our hunger for compelling characters and dramatic story lines.
Fandom, it turns out, is a surprisingly clear window into our brains, and into how loyalty in general works.
One of the academics featured in The Globe story hails from right in our own backyard: Daniel Cavicchi, an American Studies professor who’s been teaching at RISD for the past 15 years and has a Ph.D. from Brown. (His first book was “Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans.”)
Cavicchi also writes a blog covering the same topics, amusingly named “The Ardent Audience” – check it out. I liked his posts about how iPods are changing listening culture and how fans used to rush the field more.
(photo: Rene Schwietzke/Flickr)