What makes sport fans passionate?
I am passionate about sports. Oh yes. That needed emphasis. I’ll try to explain this a little bit further.
In the NRL I support the Cronulla Sharks. Have you finished laughing or making some of those “44 years and won ‘F’ all” comments?
Good. Let’s continue. Now when I say ‘support’, I don’t mean that I cheer them on and have a stubby cooler with the club logo on it that I bought at the local service station.
I mean that I have a shark tattoo on my arm (I can provide pics if required), I own more than half a dozen jerseys dating back to the mid ’90′s and I am a card carrying member of the club and leagues club.
I also semi regularly make the two-plus hour trip to Captain Cook Drive to attend games. This doesn’t make me more or less of a fan than Pete Smith down the road, but it means that my ‘affection’ for the team is evident for all to see, and in the case of the tattoo, disappointing to my grandparents.
It also causes me heartache from time to time. Monday night being the most recent example (although as a Sharks fan I have whole seasons to reference from).
As I sat on my couch wearing my 2012 Members jersey and watching my beloved Sharkies fumble through Golden Point, I was bemoaning the fact that my shift working roster did not allow me to attend this game. I was certain that my presence at Toyota Stadium would’ve meant victory. Certain. And I was as frustrated with myself as much as I was with Todd Carney’s field goal attempts. For some reason, I take these losses personally.
Is this logical? Almost certainly not. Is it normal? Probably. Will it happen again? I’ll just check my Magic 8-ball. It says, “All signs point to yes.”
But it got me thinking. What is it about sport that makes some of us like this?
What makes us love a player whilst he is emblazoned with our club colours, and despise him when he makes a career and financial decision to move to another club?
What makes us heckle other teams, players and supporters, yet cheer for and support players and fans of our own same allegiance?
A quick search leads me to Professor Daniel Wann, a psychologist at Murray State University in Kentucky who indicates that there are eight major motives for becoming a fan: eustress (positive stress), escape, entertainment, economic, aesthetic, group affiliation, self-esteem, and family needs.
Other psychologists think that it’s a primitive thing. The need to belong to a tribe. They could be right. They could be wrong.
But whatever the reason, I’ll be cheering on Gal, TC and our emerging star Wade Graham again this week, and hoping not to need to practice my field goals any time in the near future.