The psychology behind sports fandom

July 11, 2012

Phoenix Suns fans were taken aback when they learned Steve Nash chose to leave the Valley and head to the Los Angeles Lakers. Social Psychologist Sam Sommers explains why fans react the way they do.

Sommers, a professor at Tufts University, says fans who reacted negatively to Nash leaving the Suns for the Lakers looked for the easy narrative in the situation. A beloved player defected for the enemy team. He says once people reach their conclusions they tend to filter out other narratives, like Nash’s desire to stay near his children, and interpret events through only one lens.

Sommers says people get passionate about sports narratives because they get affiliation and vicarious pleasure from being fans. He says fans do a good job of taking credit when things are going well, but when things don’t go their way ego comes first.

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