Living In A ‘House Divided’ 🏉😡🏈 + The Science Of Sports Fandom 📈🏅

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With the near big finale of the NFL season—aka, Super Bowl—a lot of fun, good food and rivalry arrived at my home. Mostly because we are a “house divided” as the common term would describe us so. How so? Well, let me explain.

Steven my husband is a San Jose native who grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers for the first half of his life. Upon relocation to the state of Washington, his whole family converted to Seattle Seahawks ranks. He now wears his green and blue colors on everything he owns. I literally counted 10 Seahawks sweatshirts, all different styles, in our closet not too long ago.

Me, on the other hand, a Mexico City native, did not grow up with football. I believe that as a country we liked the Dallas Cowboys, but to be fair, I did not know much about them or for that matter much about football at large. And while my knowledge hasn’t increased much, I have to admit living in NorCal for years has made me feel “closer” to the 49ers than any other team, especially during Steve Young’s years!

Now, this typically wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that my husband is a hardcore Seahawks fan. We can all agree that the last two weeks have been a bit painful for the team and fans alike.

With that said, as good spouses do, I sat through the last game they endured through and even wore the team’s colors in solidarity with him! He, in turn, reciprocated once his team was out. So last Sunday, we both sat down with a spread of food to watch the 49ers take out Green Bay.

However, being that I get easily excited when my team wins, I believe I started to talk smack. Some backed with facts and some may be exaggerated a tad!  I went on praising the 49ers and bashing Green Bay every chance I had.

I promise I was trying to be good and behave, but…it wasn’t easy! I mean, did you watch the game? Anyhow, he did well through the first half, but by the time the second half arrived, he had had enough and he finally spit out!

“They wouldn’t be winning that easy if they were playing the Seahawks.”

My head just about came off my neck because of how fast I turned around as I said:

“What did you just say?”

He replied with:

“Well, yeah we all know they were going to beat Green Bay, they always win on their own terms when they play them. They wouldn’t have been able to do this to the Seahawks.”

I, of course, snapped back with “I smell a sore loser sitting next to me right now. Bottom line, the Seahawks weren’t good enough to make it this far!”

As you can imagine, the conversation went on and on and elevated as both of our bloods pumped in rushing mode throughout our bodies until it reached our brain and ultimately it came out through our mouths!

It was then that we both decided that it was time for a time out. As we sat down and cooled our pipes down, we both were ready to go back to it again.  This round, however, took a different turn. We started to question our loyalty to our teams and the legitimacy of our fanship!

“How can you even go for the Seahawks, my goodness sake you are from California! Niners stadium is in the city you were born at! How do you live with that?” I said.

To which he replied with, “We moved to Washington! I still followed them but my dad started to follow the Seahawks so we converted ever since!”

Of course I said, “Okay, but you don’t even live in WA! You live in Oregon! How do you still hang onto them? It makes no sense!”

“What about you?”  He said. “You have never lived in LA and you like the Lakers! Now that makes no sense! You are not even from there! So why can you like the Lakers and I can’t like the Seahawks? It makes no sense! “

As we dove even deeper into this we both realized we both had good points, but neither one of us was about to admit the other one was right. So, of course, I left the conversation wondering who was right. And why was it that the mere thought of someone questioning my loyalties to my team made me upset if not even mad?

What, who or…whatever determines how people choose their team and become fans? Is it geography? Is it players? Is it your friends? Could it be the place you went to college? Is it your birth town? I remember someone describing as follows: Here is the line—this part roots for this team and this parts roots for that one. So what exactly is it that defines your sportsmanship? Is it nothing at all or is it all of the above?

The more I thought about this, the more I needed an answer and figured you would too, so here I am sharing what I found out about the science, passion and importance of people’s teams in their lives.

And while I would like to say it is very simple, it is not! It’s actually very complex! Probably as much as any other identity related topic we humans tend to attach to our minds.

No matter what the answer to this question is the bottom line is that once you are a fan, you are a fan for life or until you move or your player leaves the team you were following because of him. To be honest, I am not sure. But let’s find out!

The Science of Fandom

Scientists have established a very strong connection between fanship and personal identity. And not only because you wear their colors or can’t leave the house without your favorite cap, but because being a fan brings all kinds of real, raw emotions and actions that no other activity in our lives does!

Science says that it’s all about the effect of intensity. Conclusions find the same notion over and over again. A fan’s identity, however it might have arrived, becomes ingrained into the person we are.

It is so strong that some may say it is more important than the place you were born! The energy individuals draw from the connection with their teams has a huge impact in everyday life depending on the effect we tend to attach or become it as we cheer throughout every game we watch. 

For example, if your team won Sunday night, you walked out of the house Monday morning with a big smile. You felt proud! You had a lot to talk about! Now if your team didn’t win, you were pretty bummed. A bit sad—angry and jealous to say the least! Perhaps embarrassed? Or even afraid to bring it up at all.

Because being a fan carries a very strong sense of security that is important to our self-esteem. Then there is also the social aspect as well. Think about it; friends and families gather together to watch the game, so much so that as I was planning a dinner party a couple of nights ago I came to find out all the spots I wanted to reserve were taken and the attendant flat out told me “I am sorry, it’s Super Bowl night. It will be hard to accommodate your party at all.”

Now perhaps you don’t have family or friends around, but even then you know you can always count on going to a sports bar and joining a crowd that will welcome you with open arms because of the mere fact that you are following one of the teams playing tonight. The social side of this is that it’s very enticing to say the least.

Another layer that determines our fanship is the fact that we know we will always have another chance.  Sure, my team lost this year, but we will be back to take the win next year! Having a team to root for gives us hope for what is to come.

And naturally, that makes sense! If you think about it, we gravitate toward people, activities and things that make us feel good. So if watching my team gives me hope, you bet I will be right there in the front row next year cheering along with the thousands of others who feel like they belong there too.

This, of course, brings me to another point. Following a team allows us to understand the concept of loyalty. No matter what happens in the field or on the court, we are sticking by our colors no matter what! Yes, our favorite player got injured and her game isn’t top-notch this year  but we will still wear her jersey even if she couldn’t shine as she has in the past.

Now, as poetic as all of the above sounds, there is also an ugly side too. Have you heard of those horrible stories about getting into a fight with the opposite fan? What about when a fan insults a player, or worse, tosses something at them from the sidelines? I mean, those are hardcore emotions, out of control to say the least. But still, these are emotions that as individuals we feed off, and, in fact, need from time to time.

There are also sweet moments! What about when someone catches an airball and turns around and instead of keeping it, he gives it to a kid? I guarantee you, he loves giving that ball as much as he loved catching it.

Whatever your reasoning for following a team, it really is not just that; there is much more. Following a team locally or not isn’t about the colors, per se, but about being that person that we are. Having a team to root for is an integral part of our everyday life. Some may or may not follow sports, but we all have someone or something we admire. It just so happens that in sports we are much more visible than in other areas that aren’t as obvious as we are.

More importantly, following a team builds character and gives us a sense of security as human beings. It makes us better people and more equipped to deal with everyday life. In the book Sports Fans Daniel Wann, he says,  “Sports fans are quite active physically, politically and socially”—imagine that! Not a bad combination for the world we live in right now!

No matter who you are rooting for this coming February 2, San Francisco 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs, remember, your every move, word and action has a strong impact on the person you are. So just cheer on, stand by your colors and plan on enjoying the game because it is going to be a hell of a ride!

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About Author

Miriam B. Dye

Miriam B. Dye has been watching her father root for his teams from the day she was born. It is from him that she learned the amazing world of sports. Miriam is a native of Mexico City, but after having lived for almost three decades in the USA she calls Portland home. Miriam is a mother to Tiara- a college student, James - a senior in high school and Nyah- a first grader. A business development and marketing professional, she loves traveling, photography and global cuisine. If she is not writing, in the kitchen cooking with her children or traveling, you can find her bungee cord jumping or art gallery hopping with her husband Steve. She loves sports, writing and values the opportunity to reach OSN's readers every chance she can.

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