Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do sports fans behave so badly?” Good question. (Well, actually despite a few connections in the wide, wide world of sports—hooking up with a few pro cheerleaders counts, right?—yours truly is not an expert on outdoor athletics. Still, it beats answering questions about personal peccadilloes. Seriously? We thought a “Brown Necktie” was just something the Cleveland football team’s coach wore, mmmkay?)
One of our guest speakers, Jerry Barca, contributor to Forbes, recently noted: “(Sports) fans behaving badly seems to have been happening since fans gathered to watch sports.” He points out that sport fans are the most misbehaved fans out there.
He points out that “there is this tension that arises at events. You have the guy who wants to revel in the atmosphere throughout the game. Then you also have the guy asking that loud fan to sit down and this leads to fights.”
But why do sports fans behave so badly? Barca thinks Justine Gubar, Emmy-award winning investigative journalist at ESPN and author of the new book Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness In the Modern Sports Fan might have some answers.
Gubar believes some fans think they “really need to use NSFW (Not Safe For Work) language and act menacing to support his/her team.” She told Barca:
“In researching the work of top psychologists in this area, I came away with the sense that the right social circumstances enable people to act out in disturbing and inexplicable ways. Bad behavior is explained by phrases like ‘bracketed morality’, ‘cognitive dissonance’, ‘The Lucifer Effect’ and ‘The Myth of Pure Evil’. What all these point to is an average fan in the wrong situation can turn into a knucklehead and rationalize bad acts like cursing out a kid or vomiting on his neighbor in the stands. With the hyped-up competition, the booze, the drive to stand out in a selfie, sports can provide a welcoming stage for fans to harness aggression, flaunt the usual ethical norms, and act out in obnoxious and sometimes violent ways; a perfect storm if you will.”
When asked what she thought was the key in setting off the bad behavior Gubar concluded: “Booze. An executive from one of the top professional leagues in this country tells me in Fanaticus that there is a direct correlation with the amount one drinks and the way one behaves. There’s little reason to think there will be significant change on that front anytime soon.”
(Really? So it boils town to something on a novelty tee-shirt: “Instant @ssh0le. Just add alcohol.” Wow. There’s modern science for ya, huh?)
Why do sports fans behave so badly? Now you know.
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