Book Recomendation: “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession”

We think most of you can read, so we thought you might appreciate the occasional book recommendation.  No we aren’t going to pimp “Players First” here.  There’s enough of that going around already.  In “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession“, author Eric Simmons explains why the people that reference their favorite sports teams as “we” have confused brains.  In an article in the Washington Post he applied the science from his book to DeflateGate:

A sports team is an expression of a fan’s sense of self, as I learned from dozens of interviews and research articles I surveyed for my book “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans,” is an expansion of a fan’s sense of self. It is not an obnoxious affectation when a devotee uses the word “we”; it’s a literal confusion in the brain about what is “me” and what is “the team.” In all kinds of unconscious ways, a fan mirrors the feelings, actions and evenhormones of the players. Self-esteem rides on the outcome of the game andthe image of the franchise.

..two weeks of football-deflation conspiracy theories is a fitting capstone for an NFL season defined by responses to controversy. For six months we’ve watched fans rally through scandal to support their teams. Baltimore fans backed Ray Rice after he beat his future wife on video, Washington fans defended the team’s offensive name, and football fans rationalize the head trauma that players endure. Obviously, this is not exclusive to the NFL — Dutch soccer fans embraced the diver Arjen Robben, who drew a World Cup game-winning penalty kick against Mexico by falling theatrically after, er, minimal contact — or even to sports. (See: politics.) The home team gets a knee-jerk defense, no matter the evidence against it — and other teams get schadenfreude when the ball deflates the other way.

You are quite biased toward yourself and your in-group. And if your relationship with a sports team makes your brain think that the sports team is you, and you are me, and we are all together, then it also applies a lot of those biases to the actions of the team. When the team is accused of skullduggery with the ball pump, it’s the fan’s instinct to explain and rationalize. For the invested fan, deflecting DeflateGate is an act of self-preservation.

The unanswered question is how does one apply this to the fanboy media?  Lance McCalister will spend all summer long ridiculing fans that call into his show for ridiculing the Reds.  Then at some point down the road, when criticism is no longer insightful or interesting, he will adopt the position of those he was attempting to marginalize months before.  Lance is not the only member of the media who does this but he has fully adopted these rhetorical devices as his modus operandi.

I think it is a much more interesting issue when the media looks at themselves as part of the face of a given organization or league or sport.  For instance, you are never really going to get anything interesting out of ESPN concerning the NFL until the time has passed for it to be safe to do so.  ESPN is the world wide follower.  Glaciers move faster than ESPN.

The talking heads on Baseball Tonight have been there since 1990.  They were always quick to hand out benefit of the doubt cards to obvious PED users.  Not once did anyone on that show have a moment of honesty and question Barry Bonds or any number of the roid heads from the era.  They were married to baseball.  Because of the closeness between sports organizations and those who’s job it is to report, sports journalism is all but dead.

Want to receive the scorn of thousands in the bluegrass?  Start objectively covering UK.

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