Violent expressions often occur after a major sports team wins a competition. But fan violence has become increasingly common, even when the team is not well known. “Celebratory violence is the celebration of a team’s victory that involves the destruction of both private and public property, and fits the concept of exuberant celebration or an expressive riot,” said Dr. Jason Lanter of the Department of Psychology at Kultztown University in Pennsylvania. Previous research has shown that fans can be classified into two groups: those who react with anger and impulsivity after a sporting event, and those who act as peacemakers. These findings have been seen when sports fans have attended events, and also when they have viewed them on television. Based on this evidence, Lanter suspected what his study on fan violence would reveal. “Therefore, increased aggression, as demonstrated by celebratory violence, was expected among the participants even though they did not attend the game (i.e., the game was held at a rival’s campus approximately 350 miles away) and simply watched the game on television.”
According the social identity theory, people base their self-esteem and identity on their sense of belonging to a certain group. By basking-in-reflected-glory (BIRGing) of admired people or groups of people, individuals feel a sense of connectedness that enhances their identity. To test this theory, Lanter surveyed 74 college students using the Sport Spectator Identification Scale (SSIS). He found that the students who highly identified with the team engaged in BIRGing by actively participating in celebratory violence. He also noticed a rather disturbing trend. Lanter said, “Many students in this study were eager to share additional information about the celebration with the researcher. The participants exhibited excitement for the event and hopes for another one while completing the questionnaire.” He cautioned, “One can speculate that future involvement in celebratory violence may become part of what it means to be a fan of a certain team.”
Lanter, Jason R. “Spectator Identification with the Team and Participation in Celebratory Violence.” Journal of Sport Behavior 34.3 (2011): 268-80. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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