The Roots of Rivalry: Elements and Core Characteristics of Sport Rivalry

The Roots of Rivalry: Elements and Core Characteristics of Sport Rivalry

B. David Tyler (Western Carolina University, USA), Joe Cobbs (Northern Kentucky University, USA) and Yasmine K. Xantos (Northern Kentucky University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8125-3.ch001

Abstract

This chapter provides a foundation for those new to rivalry inquiry. First, it introduces seminal social psychology concepts, such as group identity, social identity theory, social categorization theory, and ingroup/outgroup formation. Next, the chapter explains three properties of rivalry and the 100-point single-item measure of rivalry intensity. Study 1 examines these in new leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA), finding robust support for rivalry as 1) non-exclusive (fans perceive multiple rivals), 2) continuous in scale (intensity varies among rivals), and 3) bidirectional (opposing fans rarely share equivalent perceptions of the rivalry). Study 2 explains 11 rivalry antecedents and investigates their manifestation within five sport leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL). These are, in descending order of influence: frequency of play, defining moments, recent parity, star factors, geography, relative dominance, historical parity, competition for personnel, cultural difference, unfairness, and cultural similarity. The authors close by noting limitations and future directions for rivalry research.
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Background

Rivalry's Roots in Group Identification

Much of our understanding of sport fans is based on findings from social psychology. This is particularly true for rivalries, where existing knowledge of social identity, categorization, and intergroup dynamics underpin rivalry researchers' explanations of fan perceptions, motives, and actions. The current section provides an overview of these formative topics. Though only a cursory summary, this section serves as a framework for interpreting other findings within this chapter and book while pointing the reader toward essential literature in this field.

Traditional views of groups and communities defined them as clusters of individuals having direct connections and mutual influence, or having the potential for connection through occupying a shared neighborhood or region (e.g., Park, 1936). Through the 1900s, this conceptualization expanded to include nebulous social structures lacking clearly delineated membership boundaries, where membership could be achieved merely by seeing oneself as part of the group (e.g., Bales, 1950). This modern perspective describes sport fans, who see themselves as part of a larger social aggregate with other fans of that team. Establishing group membership in this way is referred to as identifying with the group.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geography: The physical locations of competitors are close to each other.

Unfairness: There is perceived preferential treatment toward one competitor by league or competition authorities (e.g., governing bodies, referees).

Recent Parity: Competitors having comparable success within the last 10 years.

Star Factor: Extraordinary individuals (performers, personalities, or legacies) within the shared history of the competitors.

Defining Moments: Specific incidents, positive or negative, between the competitors.

Cultural Similarity: There are perceived shared values between the teams/institutions/cities.

Competition for Personnel: The entities compete for recruits, coaches, and players.

Cultural Difference: There are perceived disparate values between the teams/institutions/cities.

Frequency of Competition: Recurring competition between the competitors.

Relative Dominance: One competitor aspires to overcome the historical success or dominance of the other competitor.

Historical Parity: Competitors having comparable success over a long period (greater than 10 years).

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