I Love to See Them Lose: Investigating Fan Perceptions and Behaviors Toward Rival Teams

I Love to See Them Lose: Investigating Fan Perceptions and Behaviors Toward Rival Teams

Cody T. Havard (The University of Memphis, USA), Daniel L. Wann (Murray State University, USA) and Timothy D. Ryan (The University of Memphis, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3220-0.ch006


The following chapter provides an intimate look at sport fans, the identification they have with a favorite team, and their relationship with teams identified as rivals. In particular, team identification and rival perceptions were used to investigate the Glory Out of Reflected Failure (GORFing, excitement when the rival loses to someone other than the favorite team) phenomenon and fan likelihood of considering anonymous acts of aggression. Results showed that team identification influenced the perceptions fan have of their rival teams, the likelihood of considering anonymous aggression, and the GORFing phenomenon. Further, fan rival perceptions also influenced fan anonymous aggression and the likelihood of GORFing. The chapter also answered the call by Havard, Inoue, Dalakas, and Ryan (2017) by showing that GORFing is the competitive nature of schadenfreude and the phenomena are distinct. Discussion focuses on implications of the findings and areas for future research.
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People follow sport for a multitude of reasons, including escape from everyday life, enjoyment of watching athletes perfect their craft, feelings of eustress, risk, gambling, and to feel better about themselves via the vicarious achievement of a successful team (Bandura, 1977; Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2014). For instance, research suggests that people often affiliate with successful teams and distance themselves from unsuccessful ones (Cialdini et al., 1976; Snyder & Fromkin, 1980). People also can form strong and lasting psychological connections with sport teams, and these associations can impact their sense of psychological health (Wann, 2006b). For example, college students that identified with the athletic teams at their school experienced greater connections with other students and enhanced social identity (Wann, Brame, Clarkson, Brooks, & Waddill, 2008). Additionally, people are usually introduced to sport or a favorite team by significant others, namely fathers (Wann, Melnick, Russel, & Pease, 2001), a finding that has been replicated in multiple cultures (e.g., Melnick & Wann, 2011; Parry, Jones, & Wann, 2014; Theodorakis & Wann, 2008).

Because people consume sport for so many different reasons, fans develop and experience differing levels of identification or affiliation with a team (Wann & Branscombe, 1993). For example, a highly identified person may be someone that chooses to consistently attend or watch games of their favorite team, wear favorite team merchandise, and consume information about their favorite team online or through other forms of media. A person with lower levels of identification may choose to attend games, watch games on television, or talk about games on a less consistent basis, perhaps when around others whom identify as fans of a team. People highly identified with a favorite team often experience intense positive affective responses to their team’s successes and strong negative feelings when they lose (Wann, Dolan, McGeorge, & Allison, 1994). However, as people labeled band wagon fans may choose to distance themselves from the group following a defeat (Snyder, Ford, & Lassegard, 1986), highly identified fans are more likely to maintain their affiliation with a favorite team (Wann, 1993; Wann & Branscombe, 1990), and in turn remain loyal to the team for longer periods of time (Funk & James, 2001; 2006).

An interesting area of research in fan behavior receiving increased attention is the phenomenon of rivalry, and how it can impact sport fan behavior (Havard, 2014; Havard, Gray, Gould, Sharp, & Schaffer, 2013). Social identity theory (SIT: Tajfel, 1981) states that people use the groups they associate with as a way to make sense of their surroundings and themselves. Building from social identity theory, sport fans that affiliate with supporters of a favorite team can adopt the identity of the group (Asmore, Deaux & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004), and begin to choose teams from which to disidentify (Eslbach & Bhattacharya, 2001). When this occurs, fans can display favoritism toward members of the in-group (e.g., favorite team fan base) and bias against members of the out-group (e.g., rival team fan base: Tajfel, 1972). This bias can be displayed in many ways, including attributions of group characteristics (Maass, Salvi, Arcuri, & Semin, 1989, Lalonde, 1992), evaluations of group member behavior (Wann & Dolan, 1994; Wann & Grieve, 2005), and evaluations of player performance (Wann et al., 2006).

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