I recently read a few excerpts from The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession, by science writer Eric Simons. From an absolute die-hard sports fan of the University of Michigan and Detroit professional teams, I found myself able to identify and relate to many of his scientific-based findings.
- "When you form a relationship with someone, your brain thinks of that person as being a part of you. This is called self-expansion" (Simons). While it is almost frivolous to have these feelings for people other than your family and close friends, I see this being true, especially in individual sports. Think about how engaged sports fans became with individuals during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- "When you watch sports, you form a self-expanding relationship with your team...A team's successes and failures feel like your own" (Simons). This explains how a Michigan Football loss on Saturday can dampen my entire weekend, or how I can be in an automatic good mood all day following a Tigers series win in the playoffs.
- "Being a member of a tribe [fan base] not only changes the way you perceive the world-you see members of the group as insiders and nonmembers as outsiders" (Simons). Whenever I see someone wearing anything "Michigan" or with the "Old English D", I automatically consider that person approachable (keep in mind, I live in North Carolina). I always joke that a person could be the biggest jerk, but if they are wearing Michigan gear, they are instantly a friend.
- Unanticipated rewards deliver the most pleasure: that's why it feels extra good when your team pulls off an unexpected win" (Simons). The Pistons knocking off the Lakers for the 2004 NBA Championship, even though it occurred over a series, was an incredible experience. On a greater scale, this is why ASU fans still, and always will, talk about a certain Saturday in 2007 (much to my chagrin).
- "When you do things to publicly demonstrate your loyalty...you're seeking to prove that you'll stick by your team no matter what" (Simons). My wearing of a Michigan hat after playing horribly against Notre Dame this previous night (like this past season), even if it sets me up to get harassed by other sports fans.
If you consider yourself a die-hard sports fan, you can probably recite and recount personal experiences connected to the research and studies by Eric Simmons. It's science, right?
Thanks for reading,