The Fan Echo Chamber

It’s Rivalry Week, and fan delusions are at a fever pitch. This is the week where we get to find out if being a hype man for our team to rival fans pays off. All year you hear about stats, facts and half-truths that support the notion that your team is great. In general, we like to ignore facts that could damage the facade of greatness that we have constructed for our team. We create an echo chamber for ourselves. 

It sets us up for failure. 

Shared delusion is a funny thing. Many fans are logical and intelligent people, and in any other arena, would not be subject to group think or mass denial. But, in college football, that mentality is almost required. 

We look at the opponents, the coaches, and the team’s talent and form an expectation. However, that expectation often is not rooted in reality. So, what happens? Well, we get led astray in our rational thoughts by our compatriots in fandom. Fellow fans constantly encourage us to ‘be supportive,’ and for us to ‘stop being such a wet blanket,’ when we pragmatically evaluate our teams. So, we oblige. We shut up, and maybe we start drinking the Kool-Aid and believe that our misgivings were unfounded. 

Then, the November rivalry game arrives and it turns out that those misgivings were definitely well-placed (and it’s not always a rivalry game). Our team loses and we are devastated. We resort to things like the surrender cobra at the game because we can’t comprehend what has just transpired. Then, we begin rationalizing the losses. We call them flukes and we start hyping up the team that beat us as being underrated. It’s amazing, the echo chamber we create for ourselves is self-sustaining, even in losses. 

We would be wise to remember this going into rivalry games today. As I am a fan of Florida, I am thinking specifically of Florida-Florida State. Many Florida fans are realistic. Many more are not. Both the Gators and the Seminoles are incomplete teams. Both are overrated based on performance (both have their brand names to thank for that). FSU is better than the Florida team that has played for the last month. That won’t stop me from wanting them to lose by 1000, or from hating them with every fiber of my being. Still, that knowledge of Florida’s poor performance tempers my expectations and prepares me for the possibility that the Gators aren’t the winning team when the clock hits 0:00. 

There’s a difference between allegiance and zealotry. Allegiance says, “We’re going to beat the hell out of you, you suck, but we’re not as good as we’d like to be and it’s possible that you’ll beat us.” Zealotry says, “ZOMG! WE ARE THE BEST EVER AND YOU ARE THE WORST EVER! WE ARE PROBABLY GOING TO WIN BY AT LEAST 3 MILLION POINTS! ALL THE POINTZ!!!!!! LET’S BURN ALL THE COUCHES!” 

For further reading on this issue, just visit message boards. 

Don’t be a zealot, you’ll be a lot sadder a lot more often. 

Enjoy the games!

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