sports fans; sports; psychology; physiology; sociology; URI basketball
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In the United States, sports are so prevalent on the national, state, and local level that researchers assert they have become a major component of everyday life. In fact, millions of Americans consider themselves sports fans. Studying sports fandom offers an interesting insight into the human condition.
This paper begins by looking at sports fans on a psychological level by examining socialization, the process of becoming a sports fan. It also examines the reasons people become fans and the degree to which people identify as a fan. An important psychological aspect when studying sports fans is identity and how a sports team can often become a crucial part of a person. Another interesting concept is pride and how it is often not enough for someone to like a team intrinsically, but they must publicly display their allegiance. Along with this comes a very strong culture of tradition and superstition characteristic of very involved sports fans. Die-hards o en care so deeply about a team that it has a profound effect on aspects of a person’s behavior and emotion.
Next, sports fans are examined on a sociological level. Humans instinctually categorize people into groups they can easily understand. For sports fans, this becomes people that support your team and the opposition. Instinct causes us to feel a connection with the group we are a part of, which is one of the reasons why when two strangers see each other wearing the same team apparel, they are no longer strangers; they instantly have something in common.
The last perspective used in this study of sports fandom is a physiological one. Fans feel so intensely during games because of hormonal changes like surging adrenaline, but also because their bodies cannot tell the difference between playing a sport themselves or watching their favorite team play it. This accounts for why spectators often become so invested and also why sometimes people cannot help but jump out of their seats.
In addition to this theoretical framework of sports fandom, I looked at the members of our own community who support University of Rhode Island Basketball. As captain of the Ramettes Dance Team, I have been deeply involved in the basketball program and witness, first hand, every game how it feels to be a passionate URI basketball fan. I became interested in the crazy sports fanatics that fill the Ryan Center every game and conducted interviews with some of the most dedicated and obsessive Rhody fans to see how deeply their fanship ran. I heard the stories of many, from current students to lifelong season ticket holders. One alumni has barely missed a game in fifty years and one of the dancers described basketball season as “the most wonderful time of the year.” It is clear that not only are these fans a perfect demonstration of the fandom principles studied by professionals, but that they truly bleed Keaney blue.