Us vs Them: Let’s Keep Fandom Fun

by Anonymous | Thursday, Feb 08, 2024

When I was younger, my brother Michael introduced me to football. At the time, I didn’t understand why people went nuts for a ball being placed from one side of the field to the other. However, he insisted to me that there was more to the game than meets the eye. So, to not get rejected by friends and see why my brother loved the game, I did long research about the game and found out about the plays and intricacies behind it. Once I did this, I became an official Miami Dolphins fan and fell into the world of football, where I became part of a collectivist culture of putting the team before myself.

         When it was my fourteenth birthday, my dad bought me season tickets to the 2016 Miami Dolphin Season, which to this day, was the second best present my dad has ever bought me (the first being my car). I attended every game that season, but the game that stood out to me was the game against the New York Jets. These teams have been rivals since the 1980s and have brought forth such vivid emotions from the fans. The rivalry was intense due to the fact that each team was located in the same division (the AFC East), and both were from regions of the U.S. that were familiar to tourists. As a Miami Dolphins fan, you were expected to despise New York Jets fans (Goldsmith).

         When I attended the game, I met a group of Miami Dolphins fans my age who were talking about how Jets fans were the worst kind of people and how the Jets fans who attended the game next to us were evil. The more we kept talking about them, the more aggression and hate I felt toward them despite not knowing them. This causedthe group and I to start yelling chants at the Jets fans and, in turn, they did as well. This was the first effect group polarization had on me as I felt a risky shift to be more extreme and bold.

         Later, that polarization turned to conformity as I wasn’t one who wanted to yell back at other fans. I just wanted to enjoy the game, but the idea of not getting the social approval of my fellow Miami Dolphins culture caused me to continue (Lee, 6). I had lost my individual love for the game and became part of the verbal fight between the fans. The leader of our so-called rebellion against the Jets franchise was a kid who spoke in an eloquent manner and had a handsome face. His attractiveness was a peripheral route of persuasion that kept me in the trenches of the fight.

         I started to get exhausted from the arguing and almost left until one of the members of my Dolphins crew said, “Let’s punch them all in the face!” I immediately said no and almost walked away. However, he then said he was sorry for bringing it up and asked if I would at least keep part of the yelling . I realize now this was his way of using the door-in-the-face phenomenon technique to keep me in the fight. My dad eventually came over and asked me, “What are you doing? What are you trying to prove?” I realized that I had let the group have an external locus of control over me and I had to use an internal locus of control to get back my individualism. Once I did that, I regained my love for the game and got a hot dog.

         Looking back, I may have disappointed my father with my behavior, but at the same time, was I at fault at the time? I was a young, impressionable kid who fell into the power of group polarization. I also craved acceptance and didn’t want to be rejected by the culture I had chosen to become a part of. That was the power of conformity. In a way, this could have been seen as compliance as I outwardly helped my fellow Dolphin fans but secretly disagreed about how we went about it. That is not what I believed football was about. It is about the love for the game, not about bringing others down.