Stock up on light beer and dip, let the drawstring on your sweat pants fly, and let that gut pour into your favorite recliner! Joke with your bros about your wife not getting you and your need to identify yourself with the playtime of guys in much better shape than you and spend a few more hours a day rounding out your fantasy team roster. Football Season!
Stereotypes of sports fans abound. This seems to be a universal. Comics use the stereotypes as common fodder. Sitcoms use the stereotypes as common fodder. It doesn’t really matter which sport it is, there are likely to be stereotypes of the fans. One of the more interesting is the posturing of male fans representing themselves as more masculine than both one another and non-fans. Any rational look at sports fans will realize the act of watching sports is passive, and an abstraction from reality. Shallow arguments can be made about the physical jostling that goes on in stadium seats, but in general, fans get their fix from a seat… and most often, through a screen. Those in seats in the stadium are experiencing sports through one degree of abstraction. Those watching on a screen through two degrees of abstraction. Fantasy football, which makes a fantasy out of a 2nd degree abstraction, is particularly distant.
“The jager- and buffalo-wing-tinged air inside a sports bar settles damply on a sea of rapt bros watching grown men lope across huge expanses of Astroturf, likely muttering “Rabblerabblerabble” as they run. Patrons at such a joint pound their fists, yell a lot, spill beer, sweat, shout and jump and pound chests when something ostensibly good happens on the enormous televisions, watch the commercials with equal interest, and refer to teams whose collective salary could probably fund annual education for all of Sudan’s children as “we.” Sports. Bars. Suck.” [STUFF HIPSTERS HATE]
So what does psychology have to say about the quasi-alpha-male behavior exhibited by fan boys? To do this, we get to subconsciously invoke another sports stereotype: the apelike mentality. Two studies in particular shed some light on fan mentality. First, a study from 1995 showed that some monkeys would rather be rewarded by the opportunity to watch videos of other monkeys than be rewarded with food (Andrews et al. 1995). Another showed that low-status monkeys are willing to pay (using their prized fruit juice as currency) to look at pictures of high-status males. Whereas high-status males won’t look at pictures of low-status males without being paid (Deaner et al. 2005).
Well now… a bunch of males paying to watching other males at the exclusion of other rewards. Hmm… who does that sound like!? Add to that the fact that the players typically don’t pay attention to fans without being paid (not only is this demonstrated by players’ salaries, but in speaking fees, fees for autographs etc.) and the “fans as monkeys” stereotype is starting to make some sense from an evolutionary perspective. Based on the studies mentioned above, there is no alpha male value being demonstrated by fans.
Taking the logic a bit further, the stereotypes about women’s disdain for their men’s proclivity for fan-boy-itis start to make sense. Women allocate a large portion of mate value based on his status. Therefore, indirect demonstrations of low-status will tend to lower her perception of a man’s value as a partner.
Another interesting component of the psychology of these male sports fans is their internalization of the notion that their fan-ness will somehow transmit the status of the team to them. Moreover, the constant use of “we” in reference to the team, and fan superstition as an expression of irrational belief that they themselves have some influence over the team, is an attempt to signal that they are also somehow worthy of being attributed a share in the success of the team. The successes of the very external team are met with internal personal elation. The failures of the very external team are met with internal personal dejection.
Low-status is the default, majority, and status quo of the human population. As such, what does this do to the collective view of manhood, manliness, et cetera? Could the rise in television and the subsequent increase in 24-7 dedication to fanhood be a cause for the supposed increase in whimpiness of men?
Are you a sports fan? Are you willing to admit it here? Either way, what options are available to communicate actual status and value rather than *cough* aping the status of athletes who live in the same geographical area or go to a school you’ve heard of? Let me hear it…
Andrews, M., Bhat, M., & Rosenblum, L. (1995). Acquisition and long-term patterning of joystick selection of food-pellet vs social-video reward by Bonnet Macaques. Learning and Motivation, 26(4), 370-379.
Deaner, R. O., Khera, A. V., & Platt, M. L. (2005). Monkeys pay per view: adaptive valuation of social images by rhesus macaques. Current biology
Sorry that your father didn't pay enough attention to you as a child. He was probably watching sports…
Ooh! I hit somebody's nerve. Love it. 🙂
When I was a kid, I was playing sports… outdoors… with my brother, friends, and other actual humans (including my dad).
I'm not sure if I would classify myself as a 'sports-fan' since I don't wear team shirts and scarves. But I do watch the occasional football game and was quite upset when Holland lost the World Cup final. (Actually, I just remembered that I did wear a shirt for the final).
I wonder if the appeal of watching sports also has to do with mirror-neurons and your brain activity simulating the feeling of being out there on the field as well.
I guess this applies to the enjoyment of watching other activities as well such as concerts, porn, cinema and tv.
The mirror-neuron angle probably has something to do with it for some people. There's probably also a line of argument related to Chris Hedges' book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning". With mirror-neurons and the "war as meaning" hypotheses, it's a short step to associate those impulses with an expression of Zahavian signaling… which ties back to the idea of status seeking.
This does tie into porn too. I actually referenced one of the same studies in the article I wrote linking porn and racism. It goes pretty deep, and isn't exclusive to men. One of the hypotheses to explain the reason watching or "gazing" is the activity used is that it's a good way to assess social cues. In that way, it can be tied into fashion magazines, television commercials, and other outright manipulations of the instinct to tap into consumerism, and another step further, conspicuous consumption.
meh. sports have replaced churches as the new religion in american culture
I agree, but wouldn't limit it to American culture… the World Cup being too easy an example to ignore. Which makes sense, because if it's genetically influenced, the fanboy tendency would tend to crop up anywhere sports do.
I think the difference with the World Cup is that the entire world plays it, before they can ever really see it on TV or in a stadium.
I've never understood the mentality of the super fan. I enjoy watching sports events on occasion, but I derive much more enjoyment from actually playing the sport myself. Some of my friends get downright depressed when "their" team loses, and I just don't get it.
Exactly. It seems like a very arbitrary thing to become emotionally involved in from an external perspective. Things that were beneficial over evolutionary time sometimes just end up as weird proclivities in the modern world.
It's very similar to when <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2 Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fentity%2FSteven-Pinker%2FB000AQ3GGO%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Dsr_tc_img_2_0%26qid%3D1287015801%26sr%3D8-2-ent&tag=satotr-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957″ target=”_blank”>Stephen Pinker uses the analogy of the modern attraction to cheesecake (or <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2 Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fentity%2FStephen-Jay-Gould%2FB000AQ8W6I%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Dsr_ntt_srch_lnk_1%26qid%3D1287016120%26sr%3D1-1&tag=satotr-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957″ target=”_blank”>Steven J. Gould's "spandrels"). We didn't evolve a taste for cheesecake because it was part of our diet for a million years, but because it hijacks the fat/salt/sugar pathways of the brain with sensory overload. And just like sports, people develop emotion based food addictions in these abstract and hyper sensory ways.
I'm a huge sports fan – yes I'll admit it. As an Australian, sport seems to be engrained into our upbringing and culture. As children, we all played sport, we all watched sport – and there are deep passions amongst families of sporting teams.
Culture (along with the other in-group/out-group biases) is certainly a factor. Though it's hard for anyone to answer this without filtering through their own ethnocentricity: Do you think that's unique to Australian culture?
Just so you're not set up for an ambush: My thinking is that the sports fan tendency is a cultural universal (varying qualitatively and quantitatively by population, technology – especially media communications – and other environmental factors) that reflects some underlying impulses, including those mentioned above.
Why limit this to sports fans? Seems a little… pretentious. How is a sports fan really any worse than a swoopy-haired hipster at a Conor Oberst show, who as every track he ever produced–in vinyl?
Maybe a more accurate title would be "Hipsters Guide to Scientifically Heaping Scorn Upon Fans". Shoot. Doesn't quite work. The terms "hipster" and "heaping scorn" are implicitly redundant. I would think heaping scorn is the one theme you'd always expect to see in any hipster's guide. No need to put it in the title.
I'm not 100% certain, but I'd guess the author of the title didn't intend it to be absolutely serious, nor an actual guide to inspire hipsters to scientifically heap scorn on sports fans. In addition to the redundancy you aptly observe, hipsters wouldn't read anything with "hipsters' guide" in the title.
And yes, this totally applies to a zillion different behaviors among the most social species of primates. The sports fan stereotype is just an easy target that people can relate to. Add to that – the tendency of male sports fans to use their fandom as a curious masculinity/dominance signal juxtaposed against the low-status roots of the behavior – and the irony is almost irresistible. Flipping it to use hipster fanboys as the target works, but it loses the masculinity proxy in favor of a generalized in-group/out-group bias.
"Ah ha… Andrew just said irony is irresistible! I saw that coming."
Time out for a sec… It's Sunday and the Seahawks are only up 3-0… I'm a little too stressed-out to think this through any further. 😉
I love this post. Watching spectator sports is a waste of time, especially on TV. I used to live near Wrigley Field in Chicago and watching how the Cubs losing turns grown men into complete babies is astonishing. I will watch games with little concentration and interest as it is a necessary evil for hanging out and having a few beers with my friends on game days…I could really care less about the outcome of the game.
This doesn't let everyone and/or their behavior off the hook, but the social aspect you mention is definitely valid.
I can't really disagree with anything here.
It's just….I'm a f-ing football fanboy to extremes. I love it. I know it's irrational and dumb. I know I care too much. When the team I follow loses I feel bad for a week. When they win, I feel awesome.
Yes, it's a problem. Does it make me low-status? I'd never have considered that until now.
You just ruined sports for me. Thanks.
I'm surprised that nobody in the comments has explicitly pointed out that there are other reasons to watch sports and that it isn't a strict deterministically binary low-status/high-status thing. I mean… clearly Jack Nicholson is there in the front row for different reasons. Providing the experience for clients, friends, or dates can also be used by individuals and businesses as a Zahavian, costly-signaling implementation. It's harder to pull that off if you're alone at home on the couch, but there's still an element of that in the massive TV and Dolby 39.7 surround sound system clique. …And the other social entertaining aspects of it in general.
But yeah… Sometimes it's just more fun to see if people will wallow in the admitted guilt of their admittedly guilty pleasures. 🙂
What about this idea: following sports is traditionally a male pastime and therefore a obsessively following a team is a display of overtly masculine (and therefore sexually attractive) characteristics.
If ladies in a bar are watching a group of men argue about sport, couldn't it be said that the dominant males of the group are likely to appear to be the ones who are shouting and bantering with each other as opposed to the guy on the edge of the circle who doesn't know what they're talking about because 'he's not really into sport'?
A love of sport is traditionally a highly masculine characteristic – therefore the more a man likes sport, the more masculine he is. Isn't that why fans swot up on facts and figures and slag off those they don't see as 'true fans'? The more passionate you are about sport, the stronger a a man you are.
This idea seems to be reinforced by the fact that following a sport can only be seen as typically 'male' behaviour when the sport is culturally designated as suitable. Most people would probably say that a man who likes football (whatever you define that as on your particular side of the pond) could be said culturally to appear more manly than a man who is passionate about watching gymnastics or tennis.
Furthermore, a passion for sport is one of the few things that is culturally allowed to cross class barriers and allow men to communicate and bond with those from other levels of society. Shared passion for sport is an easy way to make friends and forge social relationships that serve as social proof of status.
In other words, from an evolutionary point of view, perhaps sports fan behaviour comes not so much from trying to ape (*ouch*) the alpha males who play the games, or have that status 'rub off' on them, but from an attempt to demonstrate an inherent masculinity and so appear more sexually attractive?
I agree with the last part about "attempting to demonstrate masculinity". Perhaps it is a way to piggy-back on the real masculinity of the athletes who are actually competing?
I don't think it piggybacks. There's at least one study showing that women adjust rating of potential mates relative to other males within their realm of awareness. This has limitations relative to time, exposure, et cetera, but it generally hurts a man's chances with a women when she's exposed to a higher status male. Therefore, any status cue in the athletes being observed that the man picks up on, the woman will pick up on as well. Thus negating any piggybacked advantage.
We can't read too much into folk psychology, but it seems that women instinctively feel this as demonstrated by their general disdain for men passively watching sports.
It's also possible that men "think/feel" as though they're displaying fitness/status, but missing the net calculus of the interaction. To my mind, being a fan doesn't appear to be a legitimate fitness cue… more like an evolutionarily anachronistic misfire.
I'm reading this after just getting back from watching the FSU game at our stadium. How poignant.
I hadn't really thought about any of this until now. I started following college football a few years ago and have been in love ever since. I root for the Oregon Ducks and I am enrolled at the University of Utah for my graduate degree, so I cheer for the Utes, too.
For me, I cheer for the Utes because I am surrounded by it and I am attending the school for my education. For the Ducks, I had a friend make the basketball team and, lo-and-behold, I had a bad relationship with a girl who went to Oregon State, haha. Nonetheless, I still feel the emotions behind victory and defeat. The rose bowl was disappointing, and this year's USC game had me nearly on the edge of my seat until the Ducks developed a comfortable lead. I think it's interesting to point out the underlying perspective. I am really into CrossFit and I think the culture in that realm is pretty similar. This is a sweet post, I am still a fan and emotionally involved with my Ducks, but it's always nice to have an understanding why.
I totally getcha… I'm sure everyone else above can relate too. The in-group/out-group thing goes pretty deep into our non-conscious brains.
As a former Duck, I can also relate to a mild obsession with the color green and whimpy mascots. And… I used to live within walking distance of Husky stadium, so I'm doubly Pac-10 conflicted! We can certainly agree that Oregon State is lame. Ha! I kid… I kid…
Reading this was so much more fun actually having met you and hung out with you. As a recovering jock (sorry, darling) and latent hipster, you have embody both the "well, why DON'T you just get off your ass and play" AND the "sports should be a four letter word" mentalities. I'm not saying that either are right or wrong, but this is a more interesting take on the subject than most. It really focuses on the fanboy (the sports fan as manchild) which, of course, is the root of all of our dystopic hipster propaganda against sports. You've heard me say it before and I'll say it again: sports are symbolic (mostly) bloodless wars between city-states. Sports bars are the Ultimate Dystopic Locales.
As I watch the hair grow longer and the tattoos multiply on the field, I wonder which side the players are on in this hipster vs. fan battle. Hipsters begin to don "wifebeaters" and ironic mustaches and the mind boggles. Stuff was so much easier to identify in the 1980's, wasn't it?
I will now put on my Bears jersey and belt it with a skinny belt right over the Pouty Emo Quarterback's number 9, skinny jeans, and Weejuns. I will publicly state that the most counter-culture thing that I can think of is to be wildly in love and read some Pynchon.
I know, right? Imagine how rad people would think I am if they all knew me in person! Ha!
P.S. Don't tell anyone, but 'The League' (loosely about fantasy football) has the *best* comedy writing on TV. I mean… not that I watch TV or anything. And to tie into the ironic hipsters & sports connection… It's written, produced, and starred-in by a bunch of mumblecore pioneers, including Mark Duplass.
I am a long time football hater. I went to the University of Nebraska and grew up in Nebraska, and if you don't like football entering UNL, then you will HATE it coming out. It's like a crazy cult. While at UNL I purposely avoided dating anyone that even liked football. I'm now married to another UNL alumnus, but he spends 10+ hours a week mountain biking and lives for extreme sports. The only time I witness him watching major league sports is at family activities and then after family activities I've noticed he will have some mild interest in major league sports for a couple weeks, and then never again until another family activity.
My question – why do the fanboys want everyone to be fanboys and fangirls? Is it the lowest trying to make others lower? I just don't get it and all the pressure to love it. Football is so stupid – you can't even see their faces. If I'm going to watch a sport I'd at least like to see the athletes face and expressions. I truly hope that that the interest in football dies out – but I don't see it happening in my lifetime.
I watch sports because they allow humans to fully express themselves (within set boundaries) to a phenomenally high degree. It's music and poetry portrayed physically. No other activity, in this day and age, can publicly display the physical ability of our species better than the multitude of sporting endeavors that have culturally evolved over the years. Egos, girlfriends, and controversies aside, when a team or individual completely owns their opponent with a moment of blinding talent, I can't help but admire it and in doing so it reflects positively on my identification with my species.
I'm young but growing up in New Zealand has exposed me to the All Blacks (rugby), and they are literally one of the great modern sporting dynasties. To be exposed to such groups of humans that are so incredibly good at what they do, not only adds substance to our short lives, but sets a standard of excellence to aspire to, no matter what your endeavor.
I think that perhaps the line where watching sports switches from tribalism to genuine appreciation for what is being performed occurs when the 'opposing' team out-plays your own, and instead of feeling negative emotion you quietly smile and admit that it was amazing and well deserved. Or when you happen to catch something like compound archery at the olympics and get completely drawn in by the skill involved.
Sport can fuel petty desires for rivalry for sure, but beyond that I believe it is one of the major arenas for human expression. Just watch Kobe command a court, Messi mess with mortals, Sachin slaughter the slingers, and Brad Thorn bash those rucks. They are simply phenomenal, and full credit to all who take pleasure in watching them perform. Sport is the balls.
I really dont like to watch sports, but Ive noticed that most high status males do. I actually forced myself to follow some football so that I could talk to the multi multi millionaires that our company did business with. You should tell that watching sports is a low status activity to the thousands of extremely wealthy USC Football fans. I wish your idea was true but from personal observation it doesnt look to be so.
The only thing your observation highlights is that this isn't a matter of single cause. When dealing with human motivation, psychology, and behavior, there is never a single-cause. We can't assume everyone is watching sports for the same reason.
See my comment above… "clearly Jack Nicholson is there in the front row for different reasons. Providing the experience for clients, friends, or dates can also be used by individuals and businesses as a Zahavian, costly-signaling implementation."
Please riddel me this:
Nicely thought out post relating the primal behavior mechanisms with passive societal interaction.
IMHO: "Sports Fans" encompass a range of involvement and response.
Some people play and watch sports too, not all are mindless "wimpy" males. Some sports preclude many from playing in later years, like American football. Too many injuries and costly. Which may be the reason Euro futbol is so popular as men in there 50's can be seen playing in leagues throughout europe. Reliving the "glory days" is the passion of many an America football fan.
You alluded to the extreme and I would tend to agree on their primal behavior.
But, your post got me to thinking about CrossFit addicts. http://crossfit.com
(Full disclosure: I am a huge CF addict).
Not only do we relish in "playing" via CF WODs, we like to boast about our personal record performances, compare ourselves to the best in CrossFit, eat a Paleolithic diet (and brag about it), remove our shirts at the first sign of sweat and religiously read everything we can about CrossFit online and watch every video. The CrossFit Games this past year was televised to critical acclaim. Here is a sport you watch and do, no different than any other sport out there, it seems.
But the difference with many a CrossFIt addict is their willingness to participate at put forth a serious effort.
Do you have any unique take on this?
Sorry I missed this comment notification on this earlier. Engaging in sport is a completely different dynamic whether it's Crossfit, basketball, or ultra-running. Comparing one's own current stats seems like a different endeavor as well.
However, sitting around reminiscing about past glory days of sports achievement falls under primate status 101. The top dogs get knocked off at regular intervals and suffer rapid and dramatic declines in status. Having been a high school star quarterback and sitting around watching football into one's forties is just an example of lost status. That's why I think it's very different from the dynamic you describe.
Would you think that this applies to individual sports/athlete (e.g., fan of boxing/Paquia, fan of MMA/GSP, etc) or only teams?
I think my response to the previous comment kind of answers this too. I think it's very different to watch sports for current and practical comparisons (form, etc.) than watching them passively and/or abstractly.
“I watch sports because they allow humans to fully express themselves (within set boundaries) to a phenomenally high degree. It’s music and poetry portrayed physically.” The Andrew that posted this hit the nail on the head for me, as well as many other sports fans.
I’ll start by boldly claiming that I am a high-status male, and a very physically fit one at that. I’m very active, combining daily walking/hiking, a regular powerlifting routine, and three days a week of MMA training. Years of this kind of training combined with a paleodiet have given me the prototypical Hollywood Physique described elsewhere on this blog. I say this not to brag, but to use myself as evidence contrary to the claims of this article. During the football season I enjoy following my team, the Carolina Panthers, but what I really look forward to is ESPN highlight reels and the weekly episode of Inside the NFL; gazing upon these extraordinary feats of athleticism is satisfying in itself, and also serves as inspiration for me to push myself to go bigger, stronger, and faster on the trail, in the weightroom, or on the matt. Ask any of the high-status males (especially in terms of physicality) if they have in the past, or continue to, watch sports and find it to be inspirational for their own training and you will generally be met with an enthusiastic yes. Most of them will have had idolized certain athletes when they were kids, and many will continue to follow specific athletes in the present, learning much from them. Whether it’s seeing Mike Tyson dish out a brutal knockout, seeing Arnold flexing on stage, or watching Barry Sanders juke tacklers (personal favorite), there is something beautiful about the human body at the extremity of physical perfection and talent. I challenge anyone reading this to watch the following video and not enjoy the expression of the human body contained therein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDIQEJayxO0 That being said, the article is interesting and accurately describes the reason some men watch sports.
Status is relative and non-binary. It's still totally possible to be low-status relative to those you're watching and higher status than the lowest common denominator sports fan.
Watching higher status primates is instinctual for primates. Theories of cognition often involve the assumption that instincts drive us, then we spend a lot of time engaging in cognitive processes to craft and tell ourselves (and others) stories to backwards rationalize our behavior. That isn't to say your story doesn't have some truth to it, just that it's not as easy to tease this stuff out as we might think.
[…] Hipsters vs sports (55:35). […]
I've never been a sports fan, and sometimes feel left out for not wanting to see the game. Living in Philly and going to Big 10 schools, the fan-culture never caught on with me. This may however explain my fascination with documentaries of exceptional competitors like Ayrton Senna, and Rickson Gracie. I wish I could attribute it to a genuine appreciation for excellence or the hope to glean what contributed to that excellence; but I haven't caught myself watching documentaries on exceptional female competitors.
Interesting article, particularly the reference to the studies. I like to think of myself as a high-value mate, but obviously not quite the same level as these guys. I would be curious to see similar studies on women who are sports fans, since there are quite a few. What is their motivation? (Also interesting is that I have two of the three books advertised here. Must be in the right place.)
is this intimating that hipsters are high-value mates? they are just another form of low-value mates…most *hipsters* i have met are beyond faking it
Yeah – not meaning to imply anything like that. I make decent coin and have assets of above average size (if you know what I mean), which seem like good qualifications. I'm not even sure I would know a "hipster" if I met one.
Great perspective Andrew. I'm such a sports fan that I've made Sport Psychology my area of study. If you were talking about tabloids, I think the studies you cited would support your thesis. Sport, however, involves a certain physical element that is essential for survival. The spectating of physical activity is considered to be, amongst Kinesiologists, a form of physical activity due to the neural activation, motivating power and potential for motor learning. Both pop-star gazing and sport fandom express certain evolutionary survival adaptations. One allows for connection and group cohesion while the other gives ordinary men a chance to glean some of the physical prowess of the greats of their society. In short, the modeling of excellence is not to be dismissed as scornful apelike behavior.
Nice attempt at trying to paint the passive spectator as physically active. No amount of psycho-babble will pull that off in my eyes. I think the article rings true, a close look at your average sports fan will show you a sedentary, out of shape, man watching larger, stronger, fitter men compete in a physical contest while they sit passively. I don't know how you can 'glean physical prowess' while sitting on your keester and hogging down nachoes, but you're the expert.
I never understood team sports fans. The whole thing just seems like a giant demonstration of herd mentality. In the past, people from a certain town would challenge men from another town to see who was best in a certain sport. That makes 'some' sense to me because there is at least some connection to the players or team being from your town and amongst your local community. But todays pro teams are made up of players from all over the country who only come to a state in order to play on the team. They have no connection to the states they play for.
Also the games that fans follow are far removed from any functional life skill. They are completely arbitrary games with made up rules that don't really represent anything. It is not hard to see that a person who is a professional or expert in most pro team sports might not be able to translate those skills into anything useful to real life. I use the example of team sports because I do enjoy individual contests that have some real applicable value…like MMA, a pro fighter is very good at kicking someone's ass. A sprinter can run really fast. A swimmer can swim. A weightlifter is strong. But what skills does a pro football player have that can, in any way, translate into something valuable? How many football players have tried and failed to have any success as a fighter, or other realistic contest of useful physical skill? Alot. Being able to catch and throw an odd shaped leather ball just doesn't have any meaning in real life.
I look at fans as basically very conformist people with little imagination. They 'follow' sports because they were brought up to, or learned to at some point from someone else. They don't think very deeply about what they are watching, or why. They waste time and money watching instead of doing. Frankly, any fan would be much better off actually doing almost any type of activity. If you were to spend that 2 hours walking or reading a book you would gain so much more.