Fanaticism and Family

UT Professor Offers Suggestions for Die-Hard Fans

Published: Jan 28, 2013

As Super Bowl XLVII approaches, if football fans find their fanaticism to be causing more conficts with their family than there are conflicts on the field, a University of Tampa professor has some suggestions.

Jason Simmons, a UT assistant professor of sport management, co-authored research that found die-hard fans who identify strongly with their team may have consequences at home, even if they are unintentional.

“With the 24/7 news cycle and proliferation of Internet fan sites, being an active fan is no longer a once-a-week activity. Die-hard fans need to be aware of the effects of their fanaticism on other parts of their lives,” Simmons said. “As fans become more identified with their team, the amount of time, energy, and money they devote to following their team also increases. The potential for conflict exists when the resources devoted to being a fan drain from, or interfere with, those necessary for family role responsibilities.”

However, Simmons offers four recommendations for being both a “super-fan” and a “super-spouse”:

  1. Be aware of the amount of time devoted to being a fan. Fans should prioritize which fan activities are most important to them, whether it’s attending the big game or trolling Internet fan sites. Discussing potential time conflicts that might exist between family events and fan activities may help family members revise their expectations. 
  2. Be more conscientious of family responsibilities and obligations. Many fans strive to enhance their ego and/or social identity through their association with the team. Yet, those same fans may also identify themselves as a spouse, parent, brother, sister, etc. Realizing a balance to these roles can be beneficial.
  3. Make conscious efforts to disengage. Fans should disengage from the fan role when they are involved in non-sport family activities or obligations.
  4. Be open and honest about money spent on sports. When it comes to the amount of money spent, or planned to be spent on sport-related activities, boundaries should be set in terms of what is acceptable spending. “Money is perishable, just like time, and the cost of consuming sport is increasing steadily,” Simmons said. 
“When you consider everything that comes along with being a die-hard sports fan – the time commitments, the roller coaster of emotions during a season, the cost of attendance – the potential is there for other roles, namely family, to suffer as a result,“ Simmons said. “It falls on the shoulders of the fan and their family members to communicate when conflicts arise, and work together to prioritze obligations."

Simmons’s research included surveying 466 attendees at an NCAA Division-I intercollegiate football game. He stated that while there have been numerous studies on conflicts between work and family roles, and leisure and family roles, this is the first study he’s aware of to study conflict among sport fans and their families.

 

His co-author in the study is Christopher Greenwell, associate professor of health and sport sciences at the University of Louisville. The research, titled “Differences in Fan-Family Conflict Based on an Individual’s Level of Identification with a Team,” is currently in review for publication.