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04 February 2013

"Go Bulldawgz!" They Screamed from Milledgeville

Quick note. Probably more on this down the line. I have written before about tribalism in high school. Recently, I've been thinking about tribalism as it pertains to college sports fandom. In particular, I have found myself personally annoyed and academically curious about those who display fan loyalties to college teams whose schools they did not attend. For example, I work at Georgia College (GC), the state's public liberal arts institution, where lots of our students and alumni are ardent University of Georgia (UGA) fans. Another example of which I was just reminded are of family and friends back in Michigan, where I lived until I was 18. Few of those folks up there actually attended the University of Michigan, but that hasn't stopped many of them from being UofM fans. What are the motivations at work here?

Let me try to break the fans down into some distinct categories.

First are college-educated fans of their alma mater. People develop loyalties to the places where they invest time, energy, and money. No mystery here.

Second are college-educated fans of non-alma mater teams. These are the most sociologically interesting people to me. There are numerous reasons this could happen. Thinking about my GC/UGA example above, it's a little easier to understand knowing that GC does not have a football program. In the heart of SEC country, people look to UGA. Even if GC had a football program, though, I don't think most would suddenly realign their loyalties. Most in this category, I suspect, support non-alma mater programs because their own sports programs lack prominence. One might guess that these loyalties would be relatively weak, but personal anecdotal evidence of vitriolic run-ins on Facebook are countervailing.

Third are non-college-educated fans of regional public universities. This too is not quite a mystery. Geographic proximity and the ubiquity of coverage being in a regional media market make it easy to be a fan. It's still a bit confusing how non-college-educated folks reconcile feelings of dis-ease with the academe and intellectualism with cheering for a college team, though.

Fourth are non-college-educated fans of nationally recognized universities. Media marketing is probably at play here as well, but there's some religious affiliation (e.g. Notre Dame) and family legacy stuff probably going on as well.

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