How did you become a fan of your favorite sports teams? For most people, the selection of a favorite team begins with geography (you root for the home team). Similar to the ascribed status of religious views we receive from our parents when we are young, sports fans often become fans through interacting with those who are most readily around – in most cases family “homers.” Assuming you are geographically loyal to your favorite team, what is it about the other teams you like?
Fans tend to choose their favorite sports teams based on a number of interesting factors, including (but not limited to):
• Team name and colors
• Team traditions
• Favorite players on the team
• Personal identity
The personal identity variable is comprised of the vast collection of personal thoughts and feelings that a person experiences by closely aligning with an object. In the case of sports fans, there is often a sense of being an intimate part of the team, as evidenced by the legions of emotionally charged fans seen regularly at sports events. Personal identity, therefore, is the emotional connection fans have with their favorite teams that, in turn, they proudly display to the world.
When fans adorn themselves in team gear, they become the identity of the franchise and everything the team stands for – leaving one very interesting question.
How much of our personality emerges through the liking of our favorite teams?
Psychologists study human personality development by examining many factors, using both nature (genetics) and nurture (learned behaviors) to try to explain why we are the unique people that we are. How closely people associate favorably with things is of great interest to psychologists, as the findings may lead to a better understanding of human thinking and feeling.
While understanding why sports fans choose their favorite teams may not lead to earth-shattering future discoveries, it is fun to think about why we make the unique decisions that we do about our favorite sports teams. Equally intriguing is why we don’t like certain teams that we see as our enemies.
Since so many fans dress in team colors (some even tattooing their bodies), it can be assumed that fans are proud to show the world “their” team. What about the teams do fans like so much – and what does this reveal about their personalities?
Turning the discussion from scientific to practical, lets take Boston Celtics fans and look at some of the reasons, aside from geography, that fans follow them:
- History of the franchise – The Celtics have a very storied history, consisting of countless championships and Hall of Fame players and coaches.
- Their Irish team identity – The team dresses in a very strong Irish theme, with a leprechaun as its mascot.
- Team colors – They are one of the few teams in the NBA that wears green as its primary color.
- It’s Boston – Sure, it’s cold there, but it’s one of the most popular and historical cities in the United States.
Do the reasons why you like your team, as in the Boston example, reveal unique aspects of your personality? How do you feel when you wear your team gear, and what does this say about things that are important to you in life?
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