If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Any partner of a die-hard sports fan may benefit from research into the positive aspects of sports fandom so they can better understand the madness, paraphernalia and emotional rollercoaster that possesses the otherwise balanced men in their home. 

Soccer is THE game in our family.  The kids play, the men play, the women play, everyone watches and everyone attends local Phoenix games as part of the ‘Yellow Fever’ supporters fan base.  While I am mostly indifferent to this craze in my immediate and extended family, it comes as quite a surprise to consider the therapeutic aspects and positive benefits to my husband’s social wellbeing of being part of an active fan crew.  According to Wann (2006), simply identifying with a specific team can give a boost to his emotional wellbeing as long as they are winning or doing well.  Hubby wears the gear, and feels physically and emotionally buoyant after a win, and the payoff of a positive mood can last for days.  Losses for big or important games can indeed cause days of depression, something that has baffled me for some time.  

But even more important than the obvious feel-good factor of supporting a winning team, is when the fan’s group membership facilitates opportunities for social connections, and it’s this aspect of sports fandom that has the most payoff (Wann, 2006).  Come game time, hubby and his supporter friends and family meet beforehand to eat and have a few drinks, play pool and talk rubbish about the upcoming game.  But these man-dates apparently facilitate connection, belonging and all sorts of touchy feely aspects of friendship that the average kiwi bloke may not wish to admit to.  The correlations of sports fandom probably moderated by healthy social connections (Wann, 2006) are far reaching – known to be associated with increased positive affect, extroversion, openness, conscientiousness, and lower feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, alienation, fatigue, anger, tension and confusion (Wann 2006) – its’ like a wonder drug in a sports stadium.

It’s a framework for social connection that allows a person to have legitimate reasons to seek out companionship, connect, belong, plan and have fun and pursue other emotionally buoyant activities including singing and chanting!.  In many ways it reminds me of church, a similar hub for non-sporting social engagement, belonging and shared purpose – being a part of something bigger than yourself (Wann, 2006).  Sports fandom may well give the average bloke, acceptable avenues to connect and belong, which are inherent human needs, and explains why hubby sees it as a family occasion too –consistent with opportunities to connect without sitting round the coffee table with grandma drinking cups of tea. 

You know what they say, if you can’t beat them join them.  Maybe I’ll become a fan myself.  Maybe I’ll wait for their next win, and wear my Phoenix shirt the next day… just to BIRG! (3)

References

1.        Wann, D., (2006), Understanding the Positive Social Psychological Benefits of Sport Team Identification: The team Identification – Social Psychological Health Model, Group Dynamics: Theory, research, and Practise, 10, 272-296, 

2.        Posten, M., (1998), Social Identity Theory: Sports Affiliation and Self Esteem,[Course Notes],Social Psychology Miami University (Ohio USA). Retrieved 20 January 2013 http://www.units.muohio.edu/psybersite/fans/bc.shtml

3.        Posten, M., (1998), Basking in Reflected Glory, [Course Notes],Social Psychology Miami University (Ohio USA). Retrieved 20 January 2013 http://www.units.muohio.edu/psybersite/fans/sit.shtml

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