Anatomy of a Sports Fan

CHICAGO, IL – Not many people know, but if you’ve followed some of my other stories, you’ll know that my now-wife have lived in Indianapolis, Boston and Chicago all in the past five years. Yes, we like to move a lot. Since moving to new locations, one of the things you have to get acquainted with
real quick is the local sports teams – a lot of people like to talk about their team (especially in the local bars). My experience in Boston is something I will never forget as, when we moved there, we quickly found that sports were a major part of this town. I remember moving there and getting so interested in attending Celtics and Red Sox games that I went out and got a Red Sox shirt, a green Celtics shirt and tried to fit in the best I could.

img_0213As an avid Colts fan, I know it’s blasphemy to root for a New England team, but of course you must be crazy if I’m going to attend a New England sporting event without wearing a t-shirt or jersey of the local team. I thought it’d be better to fit in than be heckled from the locals. From that experience, it made me think what, if any, is the difference between sports fans in different cities? I was able to think of a few factors that, I feel, contribute to the difference in fan bases across the country.

The first is personality differences. If you have ever traveled within the US, specifically from one coast to another, you probably have noticed the energy and aggressiveness of the East Coast, the hospitality of the Midwest, the laid-back attitude of the West and the social or welcome nature of the South.

I recently read an article on The Guardian that described the scientific research of the personalities of people in different regions of the United States. It’s always been pretty obvious that you can tell the difference between a person from the East Coast than a person who grew up in the Midwest.
Well, research from Cambridge University just confirmed my thoughts. Through an online survey, people were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a list of traits. It didn’t take long before the research showed trends that people from the East Coast are more anxious and impulsive than their western counterparts – which trended as more relaxed.

You can definitely tell this difference if you watch a Philadelphia Eagles game as opposed to an Indianapolis Colts game. From my experience, I’ve seen some ruthless boos coming from the Eagle’s fan base for, generally, no reason, other than a poor performance. The aggressiveness of fans from East Coast teams can definitely be shown to be polar opposites of fans seen at Midwest or Western sporting events.

The second factor could be size of market or geographical differences. In large cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, the fan-base of a particular team can be quite similar. A lot of fans in these big markets can jump off and climb aboard the “band-wagon” depending on the performance of the team. This is primarily because there is so much more going on that the world of professional sports could be #2 or #3 on the priority list. But when you compare that to a team that has a smaller market (examples would be the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Oklahoma City Thunder or Minnesota Timberwolves), their team playing could be the only thing going on in that city at the moment, so fans tend to be more involved.

The last reason could be the team’s history. When I moved to Boston, I visited a nearby bar while waiting for Comcast to arrive. Well, I ended up sitting next to a woman (definitely for Bah-stan) that talked to me about the Celtics season. This was when they were just about .500. She went on and on about how terrible the Celtics were and how embarrassing they’ve been in all the years she’s watched them.
Hmm, didn’t they force the Miami Heat to a Game 7 that year to almost go to the NBA Finals? After that conversation, the Boston Celtics went 22-10 and finished with the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference. Maybe she hopped off the bandwagon at that point? I wonder if she hopped back on in late May.

From my experience in Indianapolis, and all of the Pacers games I’ve been to, I would be hesitant to say such a thing about the Pacers. Maybe the Pacers didn’t have such a strong playoff record as the Celtics or even the same expectations, but this was my first glimpse into how different the fan bases were from city to city.

If you are looking for this different type of attitude when you attend a different city’s sporting event, it might be hard to find. Since all of us cheer when our team makes a great play and boos when our team is struggling, you have to take these other factors into account to actually notice the difference.

This article was previously written in 2012 – now updated for 2016.

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