In this essay, I am going to explain the depths of the relationship between a sports fan and their team/favorite player. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to the people who are apart of this community, it means everything. Throughout this essay I will talk about my life and how I was raised in a sport loving household and what that means to me, other people's experiences with being a lifelong devoted fan, the relationship between the fan and the athlete and how all in all sports can bring people together that would otherwise have no reason to be involved with each other.
What It Means To Me
All my life I've been around sports. Growing up my brothers all played sports and since I have only brothers I was constantly around sports. I never really got into things like dolls and princess movies as much as I got into Sunday Night Football. As a kid I didn't like playing sports as much as I liked watching sports so I never played sports but I could sit and watch any sport for hours and not get bored. I definitely don't think I'd be as much of a fan if I didn't grow up with only brothers so I give them all the credit. I grew up in Indiana and most of my family is from Indianapolis so my whole life I've been raised into a Colts fan family. To me, the Colts are my team and I could never imagine not being a Colts fan. Even though we go through rough times I will still always call them my boys.
When I meet people that tell me that they don't really care about sports, it just blows my mind because I just assume they love sports as much as I do. I honestly don't know what I would do with my life if I wasn't so into my sports teams. I have many other teams that I would say I'm a "die hard" fan of and I'm constantly keeping tabs on them and seeing how they're doing and what changes they're making as if I were actually apart of the team. I feel like for a lot of "die hards" like me, being a fan of them feels almost equivalent to being a part of the team. Even though obviously I'm not actually on a professional sports team, when I talk about the Colts (or my many other teams I'm obsessed with) I constantly catch myself saying "we". Being in the fandom of a sports team feels like something way deeper than just being a fan. It feels like family.
The importance of an athlete-to-fan relationship
You always hear about the importance of "home field/court advantage" and it's so influential to player you have no idea. You always see the players wave their hands up in the air to get the crowd pumped up because it helps them out so much. There isn't a concrete definition of the relationship between the athlete and their fans but they definitely play a huge role in the success of the player. There are multiple scenarios of fans playing to the advantage and disadvantage of the athlete which just goes to show how important fans are to their team. From the chills down your arm moment when the teams pulls off an incredible win and the fans storm the field/court to when the opposite happens and your teams falls to defeat and the camera scans the crowd and you see all the shocked, heartbroken fans who feel just as crushed as the guy who missed his shot for the win.
It's not only the fans in the crowd that help the team though, you have to remember the millions of fans at home that couldn't make it to the game but who will sit in front of the TV for hours to cheer on their teams. In this generation you also have social media as another way to be involved with your favorite team/player. Usually at games they'll put a hashtag up on the big screen and then you can post a picture to Instagram with that hashtag and they'll post your picture on the big screen. You can also do a lot of polls and interactive things on Twitter with your favorite famous athletes. I think it's really cool how they're reaching out to their fans through social media.
Benefits of being in a fandom
There are many many benefits of being a part of a sports fandom. One of the main benefits is it automatically gives you a community of people just like you whether you know them or associate with them or not. You could be walking down the street and see another person wearing a jersey of your favorite player or team and you'd automatically feel enough of a connection to them to walk up to them and high five them or at least say something to them. Being a part of the sports fandom boosts your sense of well being. "Pretty much any way you look at it, the more you identify with a local team, the more psychologically healthy you tend to be," said Wann, who has studied sports fans for 25 years. "You have a built-in connection to others in your environment. If you live in San Francisco and you are a Giants fan, it's pretty easy to be connected to others." Simply knowing or feeling that you’re part of a larger community has long-term positive effects. In fact, sports fans report lower levels of loneliness whether or not the game is on. It also allows you to experience other peoples success. In 2010, Ronald F. Levant of the University of Akron said this quote, "Identifying with your sports teams is one of the ways you can vicariously experience success, and in real life, success is hard".
Downfalls of being in a fandom
Being a part of a fandom is mostly beneficial but there are some downfalls. John Swansburg wrote an article about why he stop being a sports fan completely. He realized that it was taking up too much of his time since he was majorly invested in multiple sports teams and online fantasy teams. He didn't quit cold turkey because he hated sports, in fact, he mentions many times about how much he loves sports still to this day. It was the fact that it was almost consuming his life and he didn't like that. Whenever his team would lose it was unreal how much pain he felt because of it. I can completely understand that. Nothing is worse than being super pumped to watch your team play and then watch as they fall to defeat. He realized that he couldn't keep letting sports determine his emotions since he wasn't even involved in the team winning or losing anyway. After a while of not being involved in his sports teams though, he realized that he kind of missed it and says at the end of his article that he'll probably go back to watching it again eventually but try to be less invested so he can actually just sit back and enjoy watching them.