Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lose with Dignity, Celebrate with Grace

This is for both UK and UofL fans.
There's a link right above this line but it doesn't show up until you put the cursor over it.

I think good-natured joking around about issues like sports teams can be fun, and it's usually fine, but sometimes it isn't good-natured at all.  Why is that?  I'd like to explore it.  Is it our desire to always be on the winning side?  Do we feel 'less than' someone else if our favorite team loses and 'better than' someone else if our team wins?  I'm not joking, I really wonder about this.  How can a sports team from a town you may have never lived in, or from a college you may never have went to, become so important in a person's mind that they experience emotions from rage to euphoria?  Is it the portrayal of struggle?  Is it some kind of warped self-worth that's tied to these teams?  I'm gonna check out some sports psychology on this and try to figure it out on my own if nobody wants to, or is able to, engage with this topic.

There's another interesting topic:  Are there ever things that just CAN'T be talked about?

In the meantime, please read the above article.


  1. Sports Complex
    The Science Behind Fanatic Behavior

    By Shirley Wang

    Only one month after April 3rd's opening day, baseball fans from Boston to Oakland are beginning to hear a familiar cry: "Yankees suck!" These words — chanted in unison, with clapping hands and stomping feet — are the mantra of many spectators who support opposing teams. Such vocal expressions of intergroup rivalry are just one facet of sports fans' fascinating and often perplexing behavior.

    Husband-and-wife team Beth and Lefty (who have asked their last name not to be disclosed) learned this firsthand after they launched the Web site, Yankeessuck.com. Though established for the sake of "irony and humor," the site has many times fallen victim to crashes, threats, crude posts, and, once, hacking from a self-proclaimed Yankees fan who left an expletive-laced message in his wake.

    "There's an expression I've heard," says Beth "that 'sports don't build character, they reveal it.' That's what's happening here. If they're angry people, this gives them an outlet. Where else in the world can you just pick an enemy and just hate them?"

  2. In watching the action, people do indeed identify with teams, and for some, team identification is both important and powerful to their sense of self.

    Perhaps the most basic question — a genuine mystery for some non-sports-fans — is why people follow sports so ardently. What is it about watching sports that possesses otherwise composed individuals to scream, obsess over statistics, and paint their faces?

    Although people report many reasons for following a favorite team, social connectedness is among the most frequently cited, as Wann finds in his research on college and professional sports fans.
    "If you take away the socialness, it would lose something for some people," says Wann. "Part of identifying with the sport team is not just with the team, but with the fan base."

    Team identification not only fosters a sense of social belonging, but also it impacts individual self-esteem.

    The results of another study showed that fans — particularly those of the winning team — were more likely to say that the opposing team's fans displayed worse behavior than their own team's fans, a clear case of in-group bias.

    "It almost seems to me that they were using the denigration of other fans as a way to enhance self-esteem," says Grieve. "'Not only is my team better, but man, your fans stink, too.'"

    Superstitions are an integral part of sports, and they may also be yet another way fans cope with their team's performance.

    In ongoing research, Wann and his colleagues are exploring the role of fan superstition. Over half of his 1,000 participants can readily define a superstition or ritual they believe in. Moreover, some are truly convinced that their participation in ritual superstition impacts the outcome, says Wann. The more highly identified with a team the fans are, the more likely they are to believe that superstitions matter.

    "It's a real struggle that sports fans experience," says Wann. "They so much care about the outcome of the event they have absolutely zilch control over. How do we gain control? We may develop superstitions."

  3. Sports Fanatics

    Does a highly-charged sporting event either stir up or shut up a sports fanatic in your midst? That kind of behavior may have less to do with winning or losing than with self-esteem, according to an expert on the psychology of sports fans.

    Everyone likes a winner

    If your favorite team wins the World Series, what do you actually win? Does being a fan of a winning team boost your self-esteem, or your self-image? Many psychologists believe that the groups we belong to can determine how we feel about ourselves.

    "Humans have this universal need to belong to groups," says Christian End, psychology professor at Xavier University who did much of his research at the University of Missouri Rolla. "And being a fan of a team is a very easy group to join. You basically have to refer to the team as 'we' or just basically get that jersey or baseball hat and say 'I'm a fan'. And because those boundaries are very accessible to a lot of people, that seems to be a group people join."

  4. From your link:
    "Of course if your rival is so despicable that he does not warrant even an iota of respect, then you need not give him the respect of your acknowledgement. But be absolutely sure of that–in the heat of the moment you’re apt to think he won through nefarious means"

    One thing you are doing is confusing me thinking that Calipayme is breaking rules with me being a sore loser. This is no "heat of the moment" thing I've come up with. I said that Calipayme is a cheat last week, last month, last year, and before that. I've been singing this song for years. This is not a "UofL vs UK" thing. This is a "Calipayme is a cheater" thing.

    Never once did I believe nor accuse Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, or Billy Gillespie of cheating while at UK (however, I can't say the same about Eddie Sutton, Joe B Hall, or Adolph Rupp).

    This has absolutely nothing to do with gracious winning or sore losing. It's about truth and calling a spade a spade. The problem is, no UK fans want to call their spade a spade. They want to pretend that their spade is a diamond because they are winning games.

    There is a truth to this situation. There is a right answer. Either Calipayme is paying players and/or falsifying academic records in order to put superstar players on the court, and you are wrong....or he's clean and I am wrong. It's one or the other. There's no middle ground. One of us is wrong and one of us is right.

    The difference here is there is a veritable MOUNTAIN of evidence a period of 15+ years that supports my view that Calipayme is a cheater.

    What evidence do you have that he's clean? The fact that he's out coaching a team? That's like saying that a bank robber is innocent because he hasn't been caught yet. Some UK fans I know have become experts in Calipayme apologetics, so many are the allegations against him. At what point do you start looking for the fire that's producing so much smoke?? If you're a UK fan it would seem that the answer is "never".

  5. The other, and possibly more damning, issue with what I believe is happening at UK is that it doesn't begin and end with the coach. It would be much simpler if it was. Take Rick Pitino's infidelity for example. It's his personal life, not what he gets paid to do. Do I condone it? Of course not. In fact, it has changed my entire opinion of him. Prior to that, I considered myself a big Pitino fan. No longer do I. You won't hear me defend him. The Rick Pitino bobblehead no longer resides on my desk. If he announced his retirement tomorrow I'd lose no sleep over it. However, luckily for myself, his infidelity has nothing to do with the team and the games. I can cheer for the players who wear the red and white with a clear conscience. But can you cheer for players who are complicit in cheating? With a clear conscience? That's the tougher question in my opinion. Calipayme isn't breaking rules by himself. He's breaking rules with players.

    On August 6th, 2010, the Chicago Sun Times reported that multiple sources from multiple different universities had informed the Times that Anthony Davis's father had asked their schools for money ranging from $125,000 to $150,000 in exchange for Davis's commitment.

    That story wasn't written by a UofL fan. It wasn't written by a sore loser. One has to question what motivation a major publication would have to report such things other than it's a big story and they have reason to believe it. How do you as a UK fan explain it away? I mean this is your golden brow that they are talking about. The guy who just won you the national championship. I'm sure all UK fans will (or have) just dismiss it out of hand, just like they dismiss the reports of Eric Bledsoe's grades being falsified, of Derrick Rose's SAT test being taken by a stand-in while Calipayme was at Memphis, of Marcus Camby getting paid to play at UMass while Calipayme was coaching there....how big does the mountain have to become? What will it take? Anything? Do UK fans even care if he's cheating? My personal opinion is that most of them couldn't care less, so long as they win. I would hope that my friends who are UK fans would demand more from their university, however.

  6. Thanks for commenting. Obviously you're angry. I'm going to try to respond objectively, not as though I'm being attacked for being a fan of UK.

    First of all: How big of a 'mountain' of evidence does there need to be before the NCAA would take action? Apparently you know a lot more than they do. Or else Calipayme is paying them off too. He's got clout, but not that much. I think most folks believe any allegations have been looked at, and action has been taken where necessary. You seem to be on a one-man conspiracy theory campaign.

    And that's the un-gracious part. That's what looks like a sore loser. You even mentioned the fact that if UK didn't cheat, then UofL could have been in the championship game, or possibly the champion.

    Finding 'evidence that he's clean' is trying to prove the proverbial negative. The evidence is that he's not under any NCAA sanctions. That's how most people look at it. And incidentally, a bank robber is considered innocent until he's proven guilty in our judicial system. How else do we know that he's a bank robber? You didn't see him rob a bank. You didn't see Calipari paying someone off. Yet you're so sure he's guilty.

    Also, your argument that Pitino's problem - which I really don't care to discuss, but you bring up - is personal, sounds so much like what they used to say about Bill Clinton. That's his personal life. Such a high-minded moralist like yourself should see that argument shouldn't fly. You are not one person in private, and another in public. If you'd cheat in private, you'd cheat professionally too. I'm not accusing Pitino of cheating professionally, because I don't have any evidence, and that's not my job. It's the NCAA's and the University's job. I'll leave that up to them. Until I hear something from them, I trust that he's running a clean program. I've got no axe to grind.

    I hope I haven't sounded too judgmental.
    If there was proof of what you're claiming, I would not be happy about it. I don't support lying or cheating.

    Second: My main objective with this post is exploring why we get so passionate about sports teams, not determine which team is better, or whose fans are more righteous. Obviously, that's always going to be subjective based on who you support.

  7. Additionally, I'd like to say that this is a great way to have these types of discussions. You can compose your thoughts coherently. We are not in a direct face-to-face discussion where emotion can override discussion. Also, a great truth is that working through conflict deepens relationships.

  8. A few points:

    #1 - the justice system considering a person "innocent until proven guilty" has nothing to do with a person BEING innocent or guilty. You are guilty the moment you rob the bank. A court convicting you doesn't make you guilty. Getting away with it doesn't make you innocent. UMass was guilty of paying Marcus Camby the moment money changed hands, not the moment that the NCAA put UMass on probation. Memphis was guilty of faking Derrick Rose's test scores the moment someone else took the SAT in his name, not the moment the NCAA put them on probation. And regarding the NCAA sanctioning schools...

    #2 - Do some reading on the NCAA and how it investigates/sanctions schools. I've done a lot. You'll begin to see how pitifully undermanned/underpowered they are to actually bring about sanctions. Typically they can't do anything to any school unless someone steps up and admits wrongdoing and is able to provide corroboratable details. It is a PROVEN FACT that Auburn paid Cam Newton's dad for his son's services, and yet the NCAA can't levy one single sanction against Auburn because their hands are tied. Does mean those involved are innocent? Or does it mean that they are guilty of cheating and got away with it? Would you be proud if you were an Auburn fan? To base your ideas of what is or isn't happening solely on the actions of the NCAA enforcement committee is a very very shaky surface to stand on. Even still, UK fans are quick to ignore previous actions by that same committee that they now place their faith in...

    1. I know that a person can be guilty prior to being proven guilty. My point is that there is a process to determine whether or not they ARE guilty. Is there any validity to the accusations? Bring witnesses forward. There's a legal process, not lynch mobs or public opinion voting, that is used to condemn or exonerate. Whatever Calipari, or his coaches, or recruiters, or agents, or whoever did has been investigated and dealt with. You may not like it, but that's the way it is.

      Second, the NCAA is powerless to do anything to disreputable coaches or programs? That's seems ludicrous to me. I think the NCAA has too much power. I think the NCAA is a racquet making literally tons of money off of student athletes. And I think student athletes that bring in millions of dollars for their schools and the NCAA should be paid. Isn't that what most of the issues that you've mentioned revolve around? Money? Grades was the other issue. Why do they need good grades? So they can play for 1 year at a college. Why do they need to do that? The NBA said they have to. Why did the NBA say that?...........probably the NCAA said they needed the money. Why else if you're talented enough to go straight to the pros from high school? The NCAA isn't powerless. Are they corrupt? Maybe, I don't know.

  9. #3 - Hypothetical exercise: Let's suppose that you were the CEO of a national restaurant chain. You find yourself in the situation where you are looking for a new CFO to control all of your company's financials. One of the candidates has held the same position previously at two other restaurant chains much like yours, albeit smaller. In both previous stops, this candidate seemed to have the golden touch, taking company performance to levels never seen before. In both cases, however, it was eventually discovered that he was cutting corners. He was bending rules. He was fudging numbers and engaging in backroom dealings. After this was discovered, both companies found themselves in financial ruin, with government sanctions levied against them for their dishonest business practices. Now I ask you: is that the guy that you’d hire to be your new CFO? Be honest. Would you hire that guy? Because that is EXACTLY what UK did. Knowing his history, they hired him anyway. The shadiest coach in the business. That was the day that any self-respecting UK fan should have become afraid. Because their program was destined to become dirty from the moment that hire was made.

    Do some research for yourself. I’ve done a lot of research. I mean really dig. Find out all you can about World Wide Wes, who Anthony Davis hugged courtside after the game on Monday night. If you are a UK fan, you need to know who he is and what he does. Get familiar with the inner circles of basketball recruiting and get your finger on the pulse of this shady business. Learn how much of an impact the shoe companies have on recruiting. It’s all relevant to the team you cheer for. Search for truth. Read up on Shabazz Muhammad. Those with contacts in the recruiting inner circles have made it known that he has been shopping himself for months now. Most schools wouldn’t touch him with a 10 foot pole. He’ll be committing to UK very soon, perhaps even this week or next.

    Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend that all of this smoke is completely baseless. Most UK fans I know are like a child with a finger firmly plugged into each ear, yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! LALALALOLOLOLOLOLOLALALALA”. Rise above that and seek the truth in this situation. Find out who you are really cheering for.

    1. That's an interesting analogy. But again, any issues have been dealt with. And I've not heard of Calipari having any direct involvement with any of them. I do understand that he's responsible overall as the head of the program. I could do research, and I'm sure I could find all kinds of theories and rumors out there on the web. How do we substantiate them? By the process that's already in place, that has punished those former programs accordingly, and that allows Calipari to coach where ever he wants.

      I hope all of that didn't sound like child yelling.

  10. Here's the other, and probably more important, thing. Why let all this crap come between you and other people? Why insult your friends based on what school they cheer for? It isn't worth it.

  11. Keep in mind, this entire thread came about in response to me refusing to "congratulate" UK's team and/or fans on their trophy. I've been forced to explain why I won't give kudos to cheaters.

    As far as relationships are concerned, it disappoints me that people I respect are willing to turn a blind eye to what is going on, simply because they enjoy the victories. But what can I do? Agree to disagree, I guess.

    Let me ask you this: in a couple years, if UK were to be found guilty of recruiting violations and slapped with another probation, had to vacate their championship, etc.... what would your reaction be? Disappointment, obviously, but anything else? Would you give yourself a pass, saying "well there's no way any of us could have known"?

    1. Well, as I said, this post was supposed to be about the psychology of sports fanaticism. Nobody asked you to congratulate UK, or forced you to do anything. My observation is that you are turning a 'blind eye' to your own actions. There's probably something to be learned about the attempted topic from all of this. Certainly that feelings about sports teams are deep and strong. Also, that they can be taken too far. There should be no reason for sports affiliations to come between friends. An interesting juxtaposition with this topic is the topic of vulnerability. I'll post about that soon. I've been learning that, though it's viewed as being weak, it actually has a great power. It's the catalyst for connection. Fighting over any issue like this creates defenses. When we're defensive, we are obviously not vulnerable, and connection is broken, or at least stunted. I wanted to say that I missed you at the mens group this morning, but it's not true.

  12. So as for this issue, we can put it to rest. We know each other's position. I think UK is cheating, and you don't.

    In the future, preferably in it's own thread, there's another related issue that I'd like to flesh out. What SHOULD an honorable sports fan's reaction be when their team behaves dishonorably?

    I'm not merely putting you on the chopping block with that question either, because I'm dealing with this question myself. For example, I was born in New Orleans, and I've been a Saints fan my whole life....through the (many) bad seasons and through the Super Bowl. But just weeks ago, it was reported that the Saints defensive coaches had, for several seasons, actively engaged in a "bounty" program where they paid players for intentionally hurting opposing players. That makes me sick to my stomach to think that "my" team would do such a heinous thing. How do I, as a man who wants to be honorable, proceed with this? How should I? What should be the expectation? That's the type of thing that I've never heard anyone talk about, but I'd like to discuss it.

    I'm not sure that you would be willing to discuss it, however, based on this particular dialogue. I've asked a lot of questions and you've only answered a handful of them, so clearly I'm bringing up topics that you aren't willing to talk about.

  13. I answered your questions the way I thought best.

    I think these questions do involve the topic of sports psychology. What you say the Saints did in this particular instance caused a strong reaction in you. Why? Because we closely identify ourselves with 'our team'? Why do we form such strong attachments? How does a person associated with our team, with whom we have no direct contact, cause us to feel good or bad?

    This reminds me a little bit of the 'role model' argument. Some big-time players don't want to be role models. They didn't sign up for that. They just want to play ball. Leave their personal life alone. However, the fact of the matter is that they are looked up to, especially by kids. Most people seems to think a responsibility comes with that. Fair or not.

    Anyway, I think that I feel like your honor should not be affected by what the coaching staff of the New Orleans Saints does. Maybe I'm not sports-minded enough to answer this. I don't have any favorite pro teams in any sport. I enjoy college basketball primarily, and some professional tennis. Other than that, I may watch the championship games of the other sports, but not the regular season much.

    I do, however, find this topic very interesting. Why are we so passionate about sports? Why do we identify so closely with people we don't even really know? Why do we shoot people and burn couches? Oh, that's UK again.

    Start a new thread of your own and we can discuss it.

  14. I hope you don't hear this as an insult, but I think most of these items apply (from an earlier post):

    The mature person has developed attitudes in relation to himself and his environment which have lifted him above "childishness" in thought and behavior.
    Some of the characteristics of the person who has achieved true adulthood are suggested here:

    1. He accepts criticism (being able to assess with an open mind whether or not it is useful).
    2. He does not indulge in self-pity.
    3. He does not expect special consideration from anyone.
    4. He controls his temper.
    5. His feelings are not easily hurt.
    6. He accepts the responsibility of his own actions without trying to "alibi."

    8. He is a good loser. He can endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining.
    9. He does not worry about things he cannot help.
    10. He is honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune. He has outgrown envy and jealousy.
    11. He is not a chronic "fault-finder."

    13. He obeys the spiritual essence of the Golden Rule: "Love others as yourself."

  15. Lose with dignity, celebrate with grace...and play with honor.

    You guys both brought up some great points! But in the end, it seems as though this discussion should have some face to face in it. Yes you can articulate your thoughts better in text, but text is very easily read the way I "feel" like it should be, not how you intended it to be.

    After reading all 17 comments, I think you guys are each emphasizing two different parts of the issue and passing like ships in the night. It's a sports game and ultimately of no value (this being said from a die-hard Sooners fan) but to let this in any way shade your friendship, regardless of the differences in opinion (regardless of facts one has or hasn't found yet) would be a sad thing to let happen.

    Steve, I get where you're coming from. It's very frustrating to have done a lot of research into a subject, and come away with a very solid answer and then try to help someone else understand that point of view and seem to hit a brick wall. But the thing is, we can't force anyone to change. Our way of seeing the world is a complex and interwoven system and often we can't undo any part of it when someone else is pushing. Partly because of what Rob was saying when he was talking about vulnerability. None of us inherently wants to be vulnerable, we all naturally get defensive (even when we may know someone is telling the truth).

    From an outsider's perspective, I got a lot of great info from both of you in this! But I also want to make sure that you guys are ok, because it seemed like ya'll may have hurt each other a little too. And I don't want to offend you guys or lose credit with ya, but I also don't want to see friends hurting.

  16. I had a really long comment to make, and the internet swallowed it whole. I'll summarize...it seems this issue has brought up other deeper issues and you both seem to be like ships passing in the night. You don't see eye to eye because you're both directed towards a different issue.

    From an outsider's perspective, I see validity in both of your positions! But I'm sad because it also seems that there's some hurt being caused by the discussion...and that's no one person's fault. Every argument has at least two people responsible, otherwise it's not an argument ;) Anyways, I hope this doesn't hinder, but helps some, because I love to read your guys' comments and normally they're a very good dialogue :)

  17. Micah, I hope you can see that your first comment did come through.

    A person gains credibility with me when they're willing to risk something, and wade in on a potentially tough issue, for the purpose of reconciling or promoting peace and relationship.

    I completely agree with you. And I think I said as much in some of my comments. Though I'm sure a little anger came through as well.

    Steve and I are 'forced' to interact with each other on a regular basis through church events. I mentally agree that it's ridiculous to let what I consider to be a trivial issue cloud our relationship. Now I need to emotionally agree with my brain. I will, but as you said - it takes 2.

    BTW, I liked your first comment better than your last cuz you said we NORMALLY have a good dialogue ;)

  18. Haha, yeah I just saw that they both went through...for once the internet telling me it didn't work was a lie ;)

    And I totally got that you were glad he was willing to risk and talk on this issue...that's just hard to communicate in the heat of an internet "discussion" ;)