Super(stition) Bowl XLV

Christopher Wilno of California may be the first person ever to turn a jinx into cold, hard cash. How did he do this? How else? Ebay. He recently auctioned off his bad luck on the site, offering to root for either the Steelers or the Packers, thus ensuring the success of the opposing team. He provided a string of examples to demonstrate his credibility, establishing himself as the bona fide black cat of the AstroTurf. According to Business Insider, his toxic support was purchased for a mean $1,625. Wilno plans to donate the money to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Read more about this story here.

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Super Bowl Sunday

Associated Content from Yahoo posted a very entertaining set of statistics about, well, entertaining on Super Bowl Sunday. As it turns out, Super Bowl Sunday hosts the most at-home parties of the year, even more than New Years Eve! The day is second only to Thanksgiving as far as food consumption, with Americans shoveling down 4,000 tons of popcorn, 15,000 tons of chips, and 8 million pounds of guacamole. This indulgence comes at a price, however, as 7-Eleven reports a 20% increase in antacid sales the following day.

Read the full article for more Super Bowl party stats.

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And now a word from our sponsors . . .

On Sunday, October 25th, 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium in London. According to Marcus Hunt, contributing writer for suite101.com, the experience had very little to do with sport, as politics and commercialism dominated the turf that day.

Prior to the game, he describes being “bombarded” with a “non-stop succession of adverts,” which made attempts at conversation devolve into “shouting matches with the tannoy system.” This did cease for a moment, however, when the festivities turned to what Hunt calls “a display of excessive nationalism reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Olympics in 1936,” wherein the attention was turned to the war in Afghanistan with pictures, announcements, and a parade of soldiers. Audience members were even asked to hold up colored placards, turning the crowd into two massive American and British flags.

Then the game began and the ads resumed. Football, with its inherent stops and starts, apparently provides too many delicious pauses, just waiting to be filled with plugs, pitches, and propaganda. In his article, Hunt notes the countless times that players were ready to resume play, but had to wait for advertisements to conclude.

While reading this article, I couldn’t help but think of the exorbitant cost of Super Bowl ads. One cannot deny that football has become a rather efficient vehicle for marketing. With its huge audiences both at home and in the stadium, there is obviously a lot of money to be made. The question is, are the fans, as the target of constant, relentless advertising, sometimes even to the point of disrupting the game itself, the ones paying the price?

Read the full article here.

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Great Expectations

I happened across an interesting question on Yahoo Answers posted by a user named Aaron C. Aaron is a self-described “casual” sports fan, a trait which has produced increasing social tension in his life. Apparently, he is faced with constant scrutiny from his co-workers, even his own wife, as a result of his nonchalance regarding sports. He claims that things haven’t always been this way, saying, “I never had a problem being ‘accepted’ by others in the past, but now things are changing.”

Interesting to note that while many turn to sports to find a sense of community, others (particularly men) who are not compelled to follow games and memorize stats are seen as strange and are left feeling excluded and isolated.

His dilemma is quite sincere and raises more than a few questions about gender and expectation: “Why does society reject me for not being a die-hard sports fan?”

Read more about his experiences here.

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Are you addicted to sports?

Mark Griffiths, professor at Nottingham Trent University, has spent over 23 years researching behavioral addiction (addictions that don’t involve drugs, but rather a particular activity, such as gambling). In 1998 he turned his attention to sports, examining soccer fans around the time of the World Cup. He considered the following six criteria:

Salience – Following your team becomes the most important thing in your life. Even when you’re not watching your team, you’re thinking about the next time you’ll be watching your team.

Mood Modification – This one is pretty straightforward. Basically, watching your team modifies your mood.

Tolerance – An increasing amount of sports-related activity is needed to get that mood modification we just discussed.

Withdrawal Symptoms – Unpleasant feelings and/or physical effects surface when you aren’t allowed to watch your team.

Conflict – Your football watching is interfering with the rest of your life (i.e. your job, family, well-being).

Relapse – Even if you take a break from avid rooting, you soon find yourself right back where you started.

Griffith claims that it is very rare for an individual to actually be addicted to sports.

To that I say:

And furthermore:

Read the full article here.

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Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Heisman

In this article, NBC Sports takes a look at why sports turn otherwise rational, socially functional individuals into ranting, raving hysterics. Dr. Richard Lustberg, author of Psychologyofsports.com, asserts that, while sports provide an escape from daily life, sports fans also relate aspects of gameplay to their own lives, likening successes or failures on the field to those at work or home. “The merging that occurs between fans and players is the involvement that takes you away from other issues in your life, but also the understanding that you too have been involved with highs, lows, ups, downs in your life, and that’s how you relate.”

Christian End, an assistant professor at Xavier University specializing in sports fan behavior, points to the environment as a catalyst for crazy behavior. After all, a boardroom is hardly the place to scream expletives, but a roaring stadium is quite a different story. He explains, “When we go to a situation where our group identity becomes more prevalent in the forefront of our mind, we are more likely to leave behind some of the standards of our personal identity.”

The article cites the Philadelphia fan base, renowned for its harsh treatment of its opposition, and even of its own players if they aren’t performing up to par. According to End, “Groups strive to make themselves distinct from other groups. They also want to be better than the other groups when you compare them head-to-head. If they begin to believe that the taunting is having an impact on the game, they sort of take pride in being the best at providing a distraction.”

Read the full article here.

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A little fun for the holidays

John White over at Bleacher Report recently compiled a guest-list of athletes for a hypothetical holiday hootenanny. Pretty entertaining. Read it here.

I also happened across this picture, which I found interesting. Not so much because Santa is a football fan, but because he is apparently sponsored by Budweiser.

Happy Holidays!

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What Drives Your Passion?

About five years ago Simon Wardle, vice president of research at Octagon (a marketing firm that specializes in sports), began constructing a massive database of fan data. The motivation was to discover the reasons why fans followed sports, and then be better able to influence their behavior as consumers. The result was Passion Drivers, a collection of data pulled from over 40,000 avid fans.

In creating this database, Wardle realized it was necessary to split fans from each sport into subgroups. For example, in baseball there were three such groups: Field of Dreamers (“typical” fans, age 55-64), Team Obsessors (more die-hard in nature, age 25-34), and Family Connectors (skewed female, generally mothers of middle income families). Basketball, for its part, had twelve groups and Wardle had a much harder time determining common motives among the groups. Fans of NASCAR on the other hand, had similar desires across the board, making them a regular cake-walk for advertisers.

Daniel Wann, the Murray State professor that we’ve come to know well on this blog,  has determined eight basic motives behind sports fandom: entertainment, escape, economics (gambling), aesthetics, family, group affiliation, self-esteem, and eustress (we’ve seen this term before, basically it means fretting over the success of your team, then witnessing its victory). Interestingly, these motives appear to be unevenly distributed among different sports. Fans of basketball, for example, are driven more by aesthetics (the grace, ability, and athleticism displayed by players), whereas fans of auto racing are driven more by group affiliation.

Check out the graph below for more interesting stats and read more observations in the full article.

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Sportsmanship Shmortsmanship

Earlier this year, Bleacher Report posted a list of the “10 Worst Philadelphia Sports Fans Moments,” showcasing some of the lapses in judgment that can occur when one combines equal parts raw emotion and beer.

To give you a taste, Philly fans once welcomed an unwanted player back to the team with a barrage of D batteries. The fanbase also has the distinction of including Steve Consalvi, the first fan in history to run onto the field and get tased by the police. Speaking of law enforcement, Veterans Stadium, Philly’s old stadium, actually included a court, judge, and jail, specifically to deal with unruly fan behavior.

Read the article here.

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To Vick or Not to Vick

That is the question.

This article, published on Philly.com, takes a look at what it terms the “Vick Conundrum,” namely the fancy moral footwork that Philadelphia Eagles fans have had to do in the face of Michael Vick’s stunning success on the football field. Many Philly fans, outraged that their team had signed Vick, swore off the Eagles, some even turning in their season tickets. However, as the season progresses an uncomfortable scene has begun to unfold. As the weeks roll by, Vick could possibly be leading the team on a march toward Super Bowl glory. The result is a city-wide discussion of morality, human error, and forgiveness.

The article quotes Everett Worthington, psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who likens the scenario to a couple dealing with an extramarital affair. He advises that people to “allow a person to make redemption for errors – even the most grievous of errors.”

Co-founder of the Best Friends Animal Society Francis Battista sings a different tune. “Despite the fact that American is routinely described as a nation of animal lovers, concern for the lives and well-being of those animals doesn’t yet compete with the desire to be entertained.”

John Mark Reynolds, professor of philosophy at Biola University points out that “deadbeat dads, drunk drivers, drug abusers, and wife beaters still play.” Noted.

Joan G. Florry, philosophy professor at Vanderbuilt University, argues that Vick’s moral conduct and his athletic performance should be viewed separately. However, fans generally have considerable difficulty doing this, as sports stars are often cast as modern-day heroes.

Read the full article here.

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