They Fill a Tribal Need

The New York Times:

In this era of mobility in professional sports, fans can sometimes feel like they are rooting for the color of the uniforms rather than the players that wear them. This is a complicated world with serious problems — unemployment, gross economic inequality, violence raging across Syria and Ukraine — and so it can feel silly and frivolous to get so wrapped up in sports rivalries.

But, taking part in rivalries has some real psychological benefits.

First, we all have a need to affiliate with other people. We are wired to be part of a group and to treat our group members (our ingroup) as privileged over everyone else. We feel pride, warmth and security by belonging to a group. A consequence of being part of a fan base is that partisans of a rival team form an outgroup. We naturally treat outgroup members with some suspicion and contempt. But sports rivalries create a generally safe environment to support the creation of ingroups and outgroups, though in extreme situations actual fights do break out among rival fans.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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