Similarities and Differences Between Fandom and Intimate Relationships: How They Affect Communication

Published: 2021-09-13 14:10:08
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Similarities and differences between fandom and intimate relationships: How they affect communicationAllison EhrhartNortheastern UniversityIntroductionLoyalty, pride, and commitment are just three of the many abstract ideas that contribute to being a fan as well as an intimate partner. All of these abstract ideas can mean different things and represent different feelings in people. For some, sports fandom is a lifelong commitment and it takes work to maintain that fandom; similarly, intimate relationships are irreplaceable and necessary to a person’s well-being. Both sports fandom and intimate relationships manifest over time and need maintenance to remain strong. Strength gets fans and intimate partners through the bad times and passion keeps them around through the good times. Whether good times or bad, the ups and downs of sports fandom and intimate relationships affect communication and emotion. Fans and intimate partners alike have their own way of communicating with each other. Through communication about fandom and sports, intimacy can increase between those communicating and between fan and team. By interviewing sports fans and analyzing the literature surrounding intimacy, the purpose of this project is to explore the similarities and differences between fandom and intimate relationships and analyze how these similarities and differences affect fans’ communication.Fan culture phenomenonThe fandom phenomenon is something I have seen from a young age observing my father’s connection with his favorite sports teams. Although his teams usually have a higher ratio of losses to wins, he has remained loyal to these teams for over 40 years. Due to the lengthy relationship between fans like my father and their favorite teams, it is interesting to see how sports fandom develops in the same way that intimate relationships do over time. Since the nature of community has become much more ‘imagined’ or ‘symbolic’, rather than based around place or proximity, (Crawford, 2009) it seems that fandom can be described as a community of people who do not have to be physically together to be a part of that community. Team identification can be defined as the extent to which a fan feels a psychological connection to a team and the team’s performances are viewed as self-relevant (Wann, 2006). Identifying with a certain team also means altering personal identity to conform with the way other fans act. Identities are multidimensional always changing (Stewart, Zediker, & Witteborn, 2005) and so is fan status - as fans grow older and make more memories surrounding a certain team, the bond can change and get stronger. The fan identity, like personal identities, can be developed in both past and present relationships. Finally, fan identities can be either avowed or ascribed as well. Being a fan of a certain team can also be considered as a subculture, which Crawford describes as sub-groups within wider culture of sports viewership (2009). With so many teams to choose from, it is not entirely surprising that almost two thirds of U.S. adults say they currently watch NFL football (64%), including 73% of men and 55% of women (Gorman, 2011). Based on these statistics, fandom seems to be an important element of American culture. Not only that, but Americans spent a total of 797.2 billion hours attending sporting events in 2005, or nearly 9.5 hours per person per year (Humphreys & Ruseski, 2008). With all of this time spent on attending sports, it seems that sports are an integral part of American culture.

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