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Science of Sports Fanaticism

Why do we get so emotional about sports teams? An even better question: How do we <em>develop</em> loyalty for sports teams, particularly when we have no actual affiliation with them? Ask yourself this question and then ask yourself if you find the answer odd. We could argue it “makes sense” to be passionate about a hometown sports team or that of an alma mater, but what about allegiances that form outside of any perceived commonality with the team or its other fans? Mind, we’re talking about fanaticism; not mere fandom or fair-weather cheering. Fandom is much easier for the innocent bystander to grasp, but crazed obsession is a more elusive emotion to understand for people who can’t “feel the magic.” Here are three of the various theories scientists have forwarded to explain seemingly random team loyalty, though without the boring science-y language: <strong>“The Dynasty”</strong> This is by far the most common way sports-team obsession is seeded – passed on from generation to generation to create fanatical heirs to the throne. The standard scenario is pretty straightforward: A die-hard Cleveland Browns couple moves to San Francisco for work. They have a baby, and despite being born, growing up and having friends and family in a town with a decent football club, the little hellion bleeds brown and shouts down any 49er fan he sees for the rest of his life. And so on, and so on, and so on … <strong>“My Precious”      </strong> Less common, although still prevalent, is when a person latches onto a random sports figure or team and uses it as a totem against all things negative; a Gollum that covets championship rings. This often starts in childhood, when people are more impressionable and driven by impulse. Fanaticism that develops in this way can be intense, but can also be broken with age and shifting taste, like when a teenager finally realizes he is no longer a “Belieber.” <strong>“The Hype”</strong> Perhaps rarest of all is when a person is genuinely bedazzled by the media glitz and sensationalism surrounding a sports team with which he would be otherwise unaffiliated and gets sucked into a maelstrom of blind idolization. Outsized sports personalities can provide enough momentum for this to happen and the hype often transcends the reputation. A great example of this is a Cavs fan(atic) who still cheers for LeBron despite his defection to the Heat. We can all agree that that’s just crazy. <a title="ATG Stores Homepage" href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes your favorite sports team gives you something to cheer about this year.
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