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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chapter 1. What's Love Got to Do With It?

by Bob Andelman

"We were in Chicago for a wedding in 1984 and just happened to be booked at the same hotel that the Chicago Bears were staying at. We rode up in the elevator with four or five of the Bears. Walter Payton was particularly outgoing and he talked to my daughter, who was about 2, and asked if he could hold her. He threw her up in the air and caught her and that was a real magic moment for me. While I'm sure Walter Payton wouldn't remember that 10 minutes after it happened, it certainly was a defining moment for me. I'll never forget it. From that moment forward whenever Walter Payton had a great day I was able to feel like he was a good friend of mine."
Dr. Rick Weinberg
Clinical psychologist
University of South Florida, Tampa

Men love a lot of things: Mom. America. Big dogs. Hardware stores.

And football.

Football puts the bite on us for four quarters and tosses us around like a terrier taunting a live catch. We're in its teeth, up in the air, on our backs. We're being shaken, not stirred. It's the ride of our lives and we haven't even left the living room couch.

Somehow, we're both Troy Aikman going back to throw the pigskin and Emmitt Smith leaping high on the 2-yard-line to catch the ball and landing in the end zone. We're doing the dance, slapping high- and low-fives.

Sometimes we're on the sidelines, playing coach, barking plays to the defense. Don't get caught deep! Look for the sneak! Don't let 'em get outside!

If a guy can't be on the field playing or coaching football, the second-best thing is to be in the stands or on the couch, watching. Our egos are so tied to sports that if we can't be playing, we want to watch. (We're like that when it comes to sex, too, if you hadn't noticed.)

Any bored and angry woman who's ever glared in futility at a man glued to a divisional playoff game knows this. Just listen to what we say: "Yes! Yes!! YES!!!" or "Aw, SHIT! GODDAMNMOTHERFRIGGIN-SONUVABITCH!DAMNITALLTOHELLICAN'TBELIEVEIT!" Or watch our body language, the way our hands instinctively reach out to snag a pass or scoop up a fumble, the way we pull at an imaginary helmet to signal a face mask violation.

We don't just watch football. We live it.
Super Play Action Football
We become a part of the action, spending three hours every Sunday afternoon and Monday night on a rocket ride with the stars.

There is some envy at work here, too, because we say to each other or ourselves, "Oh, God, would I love to do that!" Or, "I could play that position as well as that guy!"

In football, we see people beat and tackled. For some of us, aggression is part of it. But it's really a matter of personal glory. We'd desperately like to do the end zone shuffle after a touchdown.

Take Roger Brummett, for example. He's vice president of marketing for a human resources management firm in Carmel, Indiana. He played ball in high school, tried out in college as a walk-on and blew out his knee. A good stake in his devotion to the Indianapolis Colts stems from his dreams of what could have been.

"It's a game that if I could have, I would have played all my life," Brummett says. "I mean, why do even bad golfers play every weekend? There's something that stirs their competitive nature. Watching those games on Sundays is an association of a dream that lets us reach out and touch a venue we would have liked to have participated in."

Psychologists talk about it in terms of transference. Players look in the stands and see fans with fingers up in the air, saying, "We're No. 1! We're No. 1!"

"There is a phrase that sometimes is used -- 'The whistle never blew'," says Dr. Robert L. Arnstein, retired chief psychiatrist of Yale University Health Services. "The implication is that the whistle never blew in a player's final game and he has gone through life playing the game over and over again. Supposedly one of the Yale football coaches once said that, 'You are going out to play Harvard in 10 minutes and never again will you ever do anything so important in your life'."

We see football differently than other sports. Football portrays us the way we are. Aggressive, action-oriented, manipulative. Baseball, on the other hand, portrays the way we think we once were or that we would like to be. Thoughtful, deliberate, patient. Boring.

"The question is not really why people like football," says Dr. Allen L. Sack, a professor of sociology and coordinator of the sports management program at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. "It is, why are men more involved in it? Men and women are involved in a wide variety of other activities but here is one that is primarily male. It is the biggest sport in the U.S. that is for men only -- little boys only. When those little boys grow up they are a built-in market for professional football.

"In terms of participation," he says, "it is little boys that are more likely to be involved or to think about football than little girls. I think that men in their 40s and mid-life can look back and remember what it was like for them to be involved in the game. They can appreciate some of the nuances that other people -- including most women -- may not."

All men come to their football obsession differently. There are at least 20 reasons spelled out in the following pages, connecting our love of the game to everything from the influence of our fathers (Chapter 3: "Cat's in the Cradle") and the need for male bonding (Chapter 9: "Every Picture Tells a Story") to military training (Chapter 8: "Achtung, Baby") and beer commercials (Chapter 20: "Bud Bowling for Dollars").

Some of us prefer the thrill of seeing the game in person (Chapter 17: "Two Tickets to Paradise"), while others content themselves with a TV, a well-stocked refrigerator and the comfort of their own home (Chapter 18: "57 Channels").

Men drive women away from football by our symbiotic link to the sport. We don't want to explain the sport, even to those females who might be actually learn it. It's the last thing on this chauvinistic planet that's still exclusively ours, damn it, ours! Women can't play it and we're not going to encourage you to start. (Chapter 21: "She's No Lady, She's My Wife.")

Not that we don't love the women in our lives. We certainly do. But sometimes a man wants to get his piece of the action in a different way. Football provides a multitude of means: hero worship (Chapter 5: "A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich"), violence (Chapter 11: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"), skill (Chapter 12: "Fly Like An Eagle"), statistics (Chapter 14: "Odds 'n Sods"), gambling (Chapter 15: "You Better, You Bet"), escapism (Chapter 20: "The Man Who Fell to Earth").

But above all else, football is about the dreams and aspirations of boys (Chapter 2: "Boy's Life"), the way our jaws go slack in awe of spectacular feats of physical daring and courage, the way we gape in wide-eyed wonderment at seeing the best athletes strap on the pads and kick some ass.

That's why we love football.

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Chapter 2. Boy's Life

by Bob Andelman

 "When I was a young kid, the reason I had favorite teams -- the Cowboys, Raiders and 49ers -- was that I liked their colors or their helmet logo."
Kenton Blagbrough
Textbook buyer
Boston University

American boys of 7 or 8 find football everywhere they turn. Dad studies the game on TV every weekend. He shushes Mom so he can hear the scores and watch highlights on the late news. Or he's trying to coax a son into playing catch in the yard.

"Put your fingers across the laces. That's the way Jim Kelly throws those long spirals. Don't worry -- your hands will get bigger! You're going to be a quarterback when you get to high school, I just know it. Won't that be great?"

Maybe the family piles in the car to see an older brother play the game for a high school or college team. Mom and Dad wear atrociously matched school colors with hats that feature the team mascot. Young boys can't see anything but ants running back and forth, knocking each other down, but even that's hypnotic.

Away from the house, teenagers play the game in the electric utility's right-of-way field under the crackle of damp power lines. The kids scream at each other. They curse and laugh. Sometimes it looks like fun. Sometimes it looks like a fight will break out.

If the boy watches long enough or often enough, he'll be invited to play when somebody goes home or gets injured. If he's lucky, one of the older kids will take him under wing and tell him exactly what to do, not having time to explain all the things he shouldn't do. For reasons of size alone, he'll get knocked on his ass a few times, roughed up. If he paid close attention from the sidelines, he'll know not to cry when he's hurt, no matter how badly. That's the first rite of passage. Even if the tears well up, he'll need to return to the huddle. If he breaks down, his place in the neighborhood picking order will be set for the next decade.

That's one of the earliest reasons why we love football. It's part of who we are as kids, who we want to be as adults.
* * *
In North America, men are taught early on to watch and play football. It's easy to relate to the guys on the field because so many of us have played the game.

Dr. Seppo E. Iso-Ahola, a University of Maryland sport psychologist and co-author (with Brad Hatfield) of Psychology of Sports: A Social Psychological Approach, says some men may even experience a "pleasurable kinesthetic stimulation" as spectators.

A what?

"A pleasurable kinesthetic stimulation," he says. "It has to do with movement. If you perform certain movements, that is kinesthetic stimulation. The point is that men (who) know the game well have this ability to relate to the performers and as a result of when they are spectating they are likely to have this pleasurable kinesthetic stimulation."

Would this be part of the reason that most women do not share men's devotion to football?

"It is definitely part of it," Iso-Ahola says. "Fewer females obviously play this game when they are little girls and that is one factor that explains why men have more interest. For example, men who hunt and fish frequently did the same thing when they were very young. It is a carry-over effect."
A running back sweeps the left end in a high s...
Studies have shown that roughly 50 percent of the leisure activities we do as adults go back to those we learned in our early years. The other half is learned when we become adults. In that light it's easier to understand why men would be so much more into football. We play early on and never stop watching.

Men watch sports because of the identification process that takes place early in our development. Dr. John M. Silva specializes in performance enhancement and aggression. He says sports are usually the first social institution that young males -- and, more increasingly, young females -- come into contact with in which they are able to get the kind of attention that is usually reserved for adults.

"There really aren't very many other social institutions where a 7- to 10-year-old can get publicity in a local newspaper," Silva says. "They get their name mentioned on a local radio station and develop a degree of status amongst their peers, their parents, their teachers and significant others."

Early on in many a boy's life, sport becomes his primary socializer and it provides him with an anchor, a strong image with which he can identity. There is no other institution, perhaps outside religion, to provide that anchor for such a young child. Other social institutions don't have the same kind of impact that sports and religion do.

"I think that's why sometimes sport is compared to religion," Silva says. "They are both very powerful socializers and they both create very strong identities in people who affiliate with them."

A lot of youngsters succeed at a lower level of sports. It creates expectations and they tend to aspire to the higher levels of competition -- high school, collegiate and professional.

The attrition rate is not bad in the first couple of years of sport participation. It's not until the age of 11 or 12 that coaches and parents see a lot of kids dropping out. They get a good four or five years of socialization in sports and start aspiring to a higher level. They don't know whether they could even play in high school at that point but they see other people playing in high school and college and professional sports and they tend to start modeling themselves after these people. They develop a keen interest in what they do, what types of moves they have and how they play the game. An identification bond and an information-seeking takes place.

Another rite of passage comes as the levels of play become more intensely competitive. The games are still fun, but they require hard work and long hours, too. A teen realizes, "Geez, I'd like to continue playing football but I've gone from starting on my Midget team to 29th man on the junior varsity team." Some teams carry everyone who wants to play; others introduce kids to the survival of the fittest. Young men see reality gaining on them from behind in the form of bench splinters. They're not going to play on the high school varsity team, be the team captain, get a football scholarship or write a humble speech to accept the Heisman Trophy at the Downtown Athletic Club.

"I think if the disengagement is somewhat gradual and the child sees it coming, often times they will try to move into another activity," Silva says. "But they may develop an even stronger bond to the sport that they were rejected from."
Football is a club where men are always welcome.

Retired Oklahoma sportswriter Volney Meece grew up surrounded by football. He lived in a small town in northern Oklahoma and it was the big sport there. "Oklahoma, like Texas, is very into high school sports," Meece says. "Football became the thing to do and to participate in if you could. I doubt if it had anything to do with impressing women or girls. It was just a manly sport."

One of the real emotional hooks of football is that it was one way males established relationships, sometimes the main way. This is particularly true of relationships between fathers and sons.

"Watching sports, going to a game, is a way for some men to recreate some of the feelings they had as a child, going to a game or watching a game on TV with their father," says Dr. Michael Messner, a sociologist at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles and author of Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity (Beacon Press). "For some males, doing something related to sports was the one arena in which they felt some closeness with their father consistently. That creates an emotional basis throughout the rest of their lives for some sort of connection with sports. It also creates a motivation to use sports to connect with other males, be it their own son or their male friends."

As boys and teens, males discover it is gratifying to achieve and master football skills and play the game. It is a fun game to play. Then, when they get to be older, whether they consciously recall it or not, that memory is there. You see some evidence of that when men watch a game as adults. They tend to watch the player in a position that they played as a youth. There's a little more focus, some sense of vicarious participation. They feel comfortable in being more critical of that position because they understand its mechanics. There is also some degree of vicarious re-enacting of the childhood experience of playing the game.

Dr. Bruce C. Ogilvie, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at San Jose State University, says, "I think that very high on the list of reasons men watch football is to recapture and relive their early adolescent years and, through their identification and emotional participation, vicariously live out again this period of their life. For most of the men who have played football or been athletic, these sorts of vicarious satisfactions have very, very positive reward/effects."

University of Florida graduate/attorney Eric Berger and Dr. Rick Weinberg, a University of Michigan grad/clinical psychologist, link their college and college football memories very closely.

"Being at Florida was something that got in your blood," Berger says. "You can't believe, even at 34, the sense of closeness I have with a university that I haven't been to in 13 years."

"I still feel very much a part of the University of Michigan," Weinberg says. "When Michigan football games are on it helps me feel vestiges of my undergraduate days when a bunch of us would all go out and watch the games at Michigan Stadium. Watching the games again is an emotional bridge across to those old days again. It brings a lot of pleasure. There were fine friends and fine moments. A number of us will still talk to each other by phone before certain games. I had a buddy who went to another university that has a real rivalry with Michigan, so whenever Michigan plays Ohio State, he and I will call and exchange our loving insults."

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Chapter 3. Cat's in the Cradle

by Bob Andelman
"I'm going to keep an open mind. I'm not going to force my sons to be Gators or Dolphins fans. But I expect they'll pick it up. I'm not going to pick their schools for them at 5 and 3 years old. I want them to go to Yale and Harvard. Unless they can play. Then I definitely want them to go to Florida."
Harold Hyman
Property manager
Tamarac, Florida

Football became an American family tradition the morning after the first quarterback tossed the first touchdown pass and a sportswriter published the play-by-play.

Few games move as aggressively from father to son and brother to brother. Seeing his son score a touchdown for the first time in a Pop Warner League game is a much more satisfying rite of passage to most fathers than potty training. (And football uniforms are entirely more manly to clean than diapers.)

Some men live their own football dreams vicariously through strangers on their favorite college or pro team. And some dads are pretty overt about proselytizing to their sons about their own football careers, usually to the point of exaggeration (and leaving out the downside such as injuries), pushing them biceps-first into football. Not a one wouldn't wish their own flesh and blood to have the agility of Jerry Rice, the strength of Reggie White or the precision of Warren Moon.

If that fails, dads will settle for a knowledgeable companion to share the game watching experience.

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"My dad, when he was 10, was at the first Packers game ever played," Green Bay banker Jerry Pigeon says proudly. "You look up to your parents. He would go to the games and we wanted to go, too. My brother and I, growing up in the '60s, the Lombardi era, were brainwashed. We grew up supporting the team. Now my brother has one room in his house that's all dedicated to the Packers. He's got files or videos of every game, newspapers from every city the Packers played in. He's into it."

Unlike the Pigeon brothers, a lot of men might not know why they like football. They may reason that Dad played or older brothers played or they saw it on TV. But that is not a one-to-one relationship; not everybody's father or older brother played football. It is not an automatic thing. Therefore, football must resonate good feelings.

Sometimes it's inexplicable because it's on an unconscious level. That starts because kids are very sensitive to their parents' wishes. Dad's subtle interest in things like that, they always pick up. You might call it "psychological genetics." It sets the stage for later on, when men continue to both play the game or vicariously enjoy it. It continues to be an avenue of discharge for the aggressive drive.

There is a fairly strong body of literature in the sport sociology field that indicates that parents are incredibly significant in socializing children into particular sports. Most kids play Pee Wee football because their dads bring them down and sign them up. It's not often that a 6-year-old kid says, "Dad, I want to go to fencing school," or, "Dad, I would like to play lacrosse" -- unless dear old dad fenced or played lacrosse. Parents expose their children to different activities that they either participated in or they have an interest in. Experts says it's usually not until late adolescence when a person starts to make these selections for himself.
"This is a funny example," says Dr. Mark Unterberg, a psychiatrist and executive medical director for Green Oaks Medical City in Dallas. Unterberg is also a consultant to several NFL and NBA teams. "I played football in high school and I played one year in college. Linebacker. I got injured and after that I quit. I wanted to go to medical school and I wasn't getting bigger like the pros. As much as I can tell, I'm not one of these people who talk a lot about their football careers. Partly because I played varsity and I started and all that but I wasn't an all-conference or one of these outstanding players. There was nothing really to talk about, if you want to know the truth. As a matter of fact, I'm not even a fan. I've never been a fan. If I went to one football game a season it would be because somebody had tickets and wanted me to go. I'm not a TV watcher. If a game came on I would watch it for a little bit. My father used to watch it but I would be bored.

"Well," Unterberg says, "I have two sons and they both decided they wanted to play football. But the interesting thing is they both ended up playing linebacker -- the position I played. They actually did much better. Both made all-conference. What really caught my attention was that I talked even less about baseball because I stopped playing baseball when I was in the ninth grade. I switched to tennis. Varsity tennis and football were my two sports. Low and behold, both of my sons play catcher. Coincidence? I'm not sure on what level. Many times it just seems that kind of thing goes on."

• Ralph Weisbeck used to take his kids to Bills game when Jack Kemp was quarterback and Lou Saban was coach. He remembers those days fondly, screaming and yelling side-by-side, pulling for the Bills with his offspring. Time proved the best investment he ever made.

"My kids are all gone now but they call me up after a game," the retired tool company executive says. "They know I'm watching."

• Dr. Rick Weinberg, a clinical psychologist at the Florida Mental Health Institute at the University of South Florida in Tampa, went to Chicago Bears games with his father. "He taught me the ins and outs of why you pass on third down," Weinberg recalls. "He really enhanced my appreciation of the game. We would sit all day, Saturdays and Sundays, and get popcorn and Cokes and we'd watch together, the way that a father and son can do things and relate to one another in a very loving, father/son kind of way around sports. That was very special to me and it is the sort of thing that I want to try to duplicate with my own son. It is important to me."

Weinberg took his own son to a game for the first time in 1991, when the boy turned 6. He was more interested in the cotton candy man and the Coke vendors than he was in the game. The next year he paid more attention to the game, responding when the crowds cheered and when a player spiked the ball. The color and pageantry lent itself even to a 7-year-old's vantage point. Dad contributed to his son's seduction by buying him a University of Michigan (Weinberg's alma mater) sweatshirt, Tampa Bay Bucs hat and shirt.

An educated, intelligent man, Weinberg tries to balance the love of sports he seeks to share with his boy against the rampant aggression and violence found in games like football.

"But I have to be honest," he says. "The hitting and the hurting -- I don't pay much attention to that until there is an injury. There is such enjoyment watching the successes of your team and cheering them on that you kind of forget about that other element. The thing that helps you overlook it is they are so well protected and well padded. For the amount of physical contact they have, there doesn't seem to be as many physical injuries as you would expect."

• Harold Hyman picked up the game from a brother 14 years his senior. Hyman was 6 when his brother took him to a University of Miami Hurricanes-University of Florida Gators game in 1963 at the Orange Bowl. "Since that time," Hyman says, "I've been crazy.

"My brother was in school, always telling me about the games," he says. "It was the colors, the excitement. I always played football in the house, throwing balls. I became a Gator fan because of my brother and anti-Hurricanes. As I grew up it was more than a passion. Like a war."

• Another South Florida football fan, Coral Gables banker Shawn Cahill, also was influenced by a brother's involvement in football. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, under the sway of the Ohio State University Buckeyes and Cleveland Browns.

"My older brother played football," Cahill says. "I enjoyed watching football every Sunday with my brother and my father. Every Thanksgiving, we went to my uncle's and we made sure dinner was served between games or at halftime."

Now a father himself, Cahill isn't losing any time with his infant son's indoctrination. Kyle was given a Florida State Seminoles football shirt before his first birthday in honor of his dad's alma mater. "He's on his way," Cahill says. "I'm looking forward to it."

• Dr. Stanley H. Teitelbaum's son is fully grown today, but as a child, he naturally gravitated to his father's love of football. "When Larry was 2 years old," Teitelbaum says, "he saw me shaving and he wanted to shave so we got him a toy plastic razor. I'd put shaving cream on his face and he would shave along with me. When he was 8 years old and he saw me watching playoff games, he joined me in the living room, watching. That was the beginning of his interest in football."

As with many kids it became important to the younger Teitelbaum to identify not only with his local teams, the Giants and Jets, but with a winner. He delivered his youthful passion to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the super team of the 1970s. Larry got yellow and black Steelers hats, shirts and scarves.

One of the biggest touchdowns Dad Teitelbaum ever made in his son's life was when he gave a paper at a conference in New Orleans. "I was in a restaurant and at the next table was Terry Bradshaw. This was a month after a Steelers' Super Bowl victory. We talked a little in the restaurant and I brought his autograph home to my son. That was bliss. That was the best gift anyone could have gotten for him because Terry Bradshaw was his hero. That won me a lot of points at that stage in his life. As he got older and I acquired seasons tickets to the Giants and Jets games, he couldn't get enough of that. He was very hot to go to all those games and he still does."

Sharing a delight in football gave Teitelbaum and his son a unique bond the boy would not have with his mother. Whatever problems or conflict they might have in life, football will always be special between them.

"Larry doesn't live at home anymore," Teitelbaum says, "but when we talk on the phone we always talk about sports. He will say, 'Did you hear about the latest trade?' I don't have that communication with my daughter and I don't have that with my wife so it's great that I have it with my son."

• One more story about football fathers and their sons:

Banker Dave Schwarzmueller married in 1966. He and his wife loyally attended Buffalo Bills home games. Over time the couple had two children, both girls. When their third child, a boy, was born, the doctor came out to the fathers' waiting room and informed Schwarzmueller.

"I went in to see my wife," he recalls. "The first thing she said was, 'Well, it's a boy. There goes my season ticket.'"

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Chapter 4. Our Town

by Bob Andelman
"I'm a die-hard. I love college football. My two brothers and I were Rutgers undergrads. I donate a pretty good sum of money. I watch the games live and if I can tape it, I'll watch it one more time. During the off-season, I'll watch again. It's a sickness."
Peter Hendricks
New Brunswick, N.J.

Sports fans sustain a good-guy view of their hometown team and a bad-guy view of other teams. The hometown team's players are the community's champions, its gladiators, sent into the world to defend the community honor and reinforce community pride.

In Green Bay, the Packers represent far more than just random violence and mayhem committed against out-of-town guests. They are the good guys, superior athletic specimens who triumph due to their virtue and self-discipline, motivation, extraordinary willpower, training and teamwork. At least that's what fathers tell their sons in Green Bay.

In Chicago, where the Packers are mortal enemies of Windy City denizens, fathers regale their sons with tales of Packer misdeeds and ill-gotten gains, of the cheeseheads' cheating and miscreant ways.

When our team goes out and just totally shellacs another team blasting them into the next county, we are a part of it. We revel in the victories. When Cincinnati meets cross-state rival Cleveland, a "W" by any margin gives fans a year of bragging rights. "Your team sucks!" "We're a better city!" The bigger the win, the bigger the boasts. Even though the city had nothing to do with it. It was just a team. It has nothing to do with the city per se but we use it to brag about our community.

Communities assign their values to the athletes who wear their names to the world. New Yorkers expect the Giants to be bold and brassy; Los Angelenos demand the Rams be sleek and stylish. Chicago Bears take no shit from anybody. Denizens of these cities blindly trust their chosen warriors to fight for truth, justice and the NFL way.

The teams themselves nurture their local popularity by dutifully dispatching their young men to feed the poor, help the disabled, entertain the elderly and autograph broken limbs for hospitalized youngsters. (And be photographed doing it.) They invest thousand of hours to be one with their hometown, to veil themselves in an other-worldly mystique in order to mobilize fan support.

Newspaper reporters covering the NFL beat are assiduously courted to provide friendly articles even in a franchise's darkest days.

"I think most teams feel very protective of their good-guy image on their home turf because that is what the fans expect," says Dr. Gregory B. Collins, a psychiatrist and section head of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. He is also a consultant to NFL teams. "They feel that bad publicity hurts the team and hurts the team with the fans. If they just valued mayhem as an athletic skill I don't think they'd mind so much that the players were arrested for violent behavior but, in fact, they don't like that. They really feel it is detrimental to the overall mission of the club and they take offense when that kind of thing happens."

The people in the stands become convinced their own lives rise and fall with the people on the field. Sometimes a whole city can be depressed on Monday. It becomes a real attachment.
* * *
When you watch football you root for a team identified with a city. If your city does well it gives you a stronger sense of identity and a stronger sense of being special, important and central. There is something about rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles if you are from Philadelphia or the Kansas City Chiefs if you are from Kansas or Missouri that hooks you in with that community and puts you on the map if your team does well.

It becomes another way to feel good about yourself. If you identify with Dallas being No. 1 you actually feel you are part of No. 1. The same might apply to individual players or stars that people might follow.

"When I first came to Chicago," former Bears offensive tackle turned sportscaster Dan Jiggetts says, "the Bears had struggled for a decade. In 1976 and '77, we turned around. There was an uplifting of the spirits of people in the city. It's a civic thing. If you're winning, you've got a lot of teammates. In Chicago, they may not like the way the team is going, but they're so supportive."

The Spear brothers, Andrew and Jeff, spent their formative years in Denver developing a love-hate relationship with the Broncos.

"Denver is soooo caught up in Bronco-mania," Andrew says. "You have to get swept away with it. Other markets have other pro teams. Denver fans are more loyal; until the Rockies came along, they didn't have as many choices. Losing all those Super Bowls, the loyalty is still there. I stood by them. And I always will."

"I'm a diehard Denver Broncos fan," Jeff says. "So I know pain. I can't tell you what it's like to root for a winner."
* * *
No. 2 just isn't good enough for frustrated Bronco fans. Buffalo Bills fans know that feeling, but they hesitate to disparage the only game in town.

Football is very important, economically and otherwise, in places like Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. While the natives deny the winters in Buffalo are as bad as you've heard, there's no denying that endless weeks and months of snow make for some long days in the dead of winter. The Bills provide relief; a winning season can carry the community into late January and buoy its spirits clear through to spring.

Buffalo is an interesting case, as blue-collar as you can get. The people are hard-working, family-oriented, with strong loyalties. The Bills represent the only game in town to many people. And it's not like New Orleans or Philadelphia, Boston or New York where there are a lot of entertainment options. Buffs hunger for any type of national exposure, anything that says, "Buffalo is a big league city." Cleveland is another city that really wants to be recognized. Tampa is also going through that. Professional athletics have a lot to do with it. In a town like New York, people can afford to be fickle and very demanding of their athletes because there are a lot of choices. In Buffalo, you have a much closer relationship between the team and the community.

William E. "Bill" Price, an associate professor of mathematics at Niagara University, was at the first Bills game ever played back in 1960. He's been a fan ever since, rarely missing a game.

"We have hockey, but football was here first, like a first son," Price says. "Buffalo is a nice city, but it's not glamorous. Other cities have other things to be proud of. We need football. When we're on a roll, you can see half the people in town wearing Bills stuff."

That's why his city can hold its collective head high even when the Bills pile up three successive winning seasons only to fall flat in three straight Super Bowls. It matters, but then again it doesn't. "To make it is a tremendous achievement," Price says. "The long season, all the wins -- I'll take it. Those who don't think so are missing the boat. You had all the enjoyment of those playoff wins. Just being in the Super Bowl is really something. The Bills are our gateway to national recognition. One game is overrated. Second place doesn't get the credit it deserves."

Fellow fan Buff Ralph Weisbeck agrees.

"If we lose a game, I may be down for an hour or two, but I think, 'We'll do better next year'," he says. "Even when we lose the Super Bowl I think, hey, we got there! We had some great games to watch. That team doesn't owe us a bit."

Some years ago, when Price feared Buffalo might lose its team, the college professor did his part to show support. He bought an extra season ticket and ran a newspaper ad offering rides to the games.
* * *
In Green Bay, in the fall of the year, even though a man might go hunting or fishing on game day, he'll always carry a radio with him, tuned to the Packers.

"Financially, nationally, the Packers put little Green Bay on the map," Green Bay banker Jerry Pigeon says. "If we ever lost the team, I think we could survive, but it wouldn't be the same. There's a lot of Packer in me."

As a kid, Pigeon and his buddies used to scale the fence at old City Stadium and sneak into Green Bay games. "They'd walk you out and then you'd jump back over the fence and come back," he says. He used to wait on Packers coach Vince Lombardi when he was a teller at the bank where he's now an officer. And he went to the same high school as Vince Jr.

"It's different being in Green Bay," Pigeon says. "It's the only game in town. That's instilled in us. If I was raised in Chicago or Dallas, I might not have the same interest in the Bears or Cowboys. You'd have to experience it to understand it."

* * *
Larry Mayer says the love of football in Chicago isn't that different than in Green Bay. Chicago is a Bears town, he swears, no matter how many championships Michael Jordan and the Bulls win. People mark the seasons there by Red Grange, George Halas and Mike Ditka. They pass season tickets along in their wills.

"When Mike Ditka got fired," the Chicago Bear Report managing editor says, "you would have thought the president had been killed. The fans were mad at everybody. They said unprintable things about (team owner) Michael McCaskey. A lot of these people, I think, take it too seriously. The 'superfans' are people who live and die with Ditka. He epitomized the city, the work ethic. He was one of us, even though he makes tons of money. It crushed people when he got fired. I know a guy, 6-4, he pulled off the side of the road when he heard Ditka got fired and cried."
* * *
The day H.R. "Dick" Williams relocated his retirement home from ritzy, sleepy Palm Beach, Florida, to Houston, Texas, he says, "I went nuts. In Palm Beach, we had spring training. When I got to Houston, I got season tickets to all three professional sports -- baseball, football and basketball."

A superfan of his own making, Williams created The Derrick Club for Oilers fans. "I won't say I'm the biggest Oiler fan, because some guys paint their faces blue before the games, but I'd say I'm in the top five." It gets him invited by the team to be a guest on road trips and created the enviable opportunity to befriend most of the coaches and players. Getting to know them personally makes all the difference in his enjoyment of the games they play: "It's more than sports; it's your friends out there."

The '60s song lyric that went "You've gotta love the one you're with" couldn't be applied more aptly than to Williams. The former cleaning services contractor lived in Denver and was true to Bronco blue before retiring to Palm Beach. Now that he's in Houston, the Denver loyalties are long forgotten.

"Because I had lived in Denver, my friends there got seats for my wife and I on the 50-yard-line for a Broncos-Oilers game," Williams says. "We (the Oilers) were winning by a tremendous margin. But in the last 16 seconds, John Elway pulled it out for the Broncos and I wound up wearing a Broncos tie to dinner. Very humiliating."

It's easy to switch allegiances when you live in the city where a team plays. "I can't understand people who live in Houston who root for the Cowboys. That's impossible for me to comprehend," Williams says.
* * *
Human resources executive Roger W. Brummett was born to be a Colts fan. As a kid in Indiana, he got a white football helmet and painted a blue stripe in the middle and a horseshoe on each side. When he played football in the yard, house rules were you could only wear the helmet on offense, so you could be Johnny Unitas.

"When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up," Brummett recalls, "I said I wanted to be quarterback for the Baltimore Colts."

This is all the more significant because Brummett grew up in Indiana, not Baltimore. He chose the Colts as his team long before Bob Irsay ever dreamed of relocating the franchise to Indianapolis.

The year Irsay did shock the football world by moving out of Baltimore in the middle of the night and unloading the trucks at the Hoosierdome, Brummett founded the Thundering Herd fan club. The club hosts tailgate parties, travels to away games, sponsors an annual banquet for players and awards a $1,000 scholarship to a high school football player who is injured and cannot complete a season due to injury.

In 1988, the team recognized Brummett's contributions by presenting him with a jersey that had his name and the number 12, for the "12th man." The jersey was even from a Baltimore Colts uniform, he notes with relish, "so I really got my wish."

The Colts' real impact on Indianapolis is only just being felt in the 1990s as the first generation of area youth grows up with an NFL team. "I think it's taken some time for the community to embrace a professional sports team," Brummett says. Meanwhile, the team has a positive social and economic effect on a blighted area around the Hoosierdome.

"They have contributed to civic pride," the Indianapolis superfan says. "We're one of 28 cities fortunate enough to be part of the NFL. In 10 or 15 years, we can be lucky enough to be like a Green Bay or Buffalo."
* * *
At least one guy relocated to Indianapolis because the Colts moved there.

John Cimasko was raised in Northern New Jersey and, like Brummett, became fascinated with Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts from afar during the '60s. When the team moved to Indiana in '84, Cimasko's interest was oddly rekindled. He and his brother became charter members of the Thundering Herd Fan Club.
On a lark, the brothers Cimasko packed suitcases and went to see the Colts in person at the Dome. It was just short of a religious experience for John. Just before getting on the plane to go home, he picked up a real estate magazine and stuck it in his luggage.

"My wife Maryanne started looking at the homes," he says. "I used to kid about moving to Indianapolis and she called my bluff."

It took some time, but Cimasko caught on with Pepsi-Cola's Indianapolis operation as a route salesman and lived out a fantasy in 1990 by moving his family to the Hoosier State. "This is my place," he says proudly.

That's just the beginning of Cimasko's story, however.

WNDE, the Colts flagship radio station, broadcasts a live, weekly Colts-oriented program from Union Station in Indianapolis. During an open mike segment, audience members can step up and speak their mind. Every week, Cimasko did exactly that. The station quickly recognized this was no ordinary NFL fan from Jersey and soon they looked for him each week. Now Cimasko enjoys his very own segment during the off-season.

"New York is big -- what are your chances of getting a radio thing?" Cimasko says. "That doesn't happen to the common man. And we went to Bob Irsay's mansion! How many people get to talk to the team's general manager about the draft? It's great."

Maryanne Cimasko, the woman who dared her husband to relocate, didn't know what she was setting off.

"She thinks it's a little wacky," Cimasko says.
* * *
There are only 28 NFL franchises, but hundreds of college teams, so far more people have college football loyalties around the country. These folks may live in a college town, but the school's support is spread farthest and widest by students who pass through to pick up a degree on their way to greater glory.

• Attorney Peter Hendricks, on the other hand, is one of those guys who went to Rutgers University and never left New Brunswick, New Jersey.

"I'm in the Scarlet R, the 12th man club," he says. "We have meetings with the coaches to go over prospects. We have a countdown on our calendars to kickoff. Our law firm has had occasion to represent some of the players in a legal capacity. We yell and cheer and scream. It hurts when they lose. I've adopted the same attitude of the coaches and players. You hate to lose but you move on, hoping that the next week is going to bring victory."

• Dr. Robert L. Arnstein, retired chief psychiatrist of Yale University Health Services, is the son of a Yalie who took him to his first game, Yale at Army, in 1927.

"The cadets marched and that was colorful," he recalls. "I saw two or three games that season. I can still remember some of the things that happened. If you asked me what happened yesterday, I'm not so good. I'm not sure what would have happened if I hadn't gone to Yale College. That might have made a difference."

There's no shaking Arnstein's loyalty.

"It has something to do with my feeling that the team embodies a kind of abstract ideal," he says. "I sour on a team if I think that they are not really living up to my idea of what the ideal should be."
* * *
For some men, allegiances can also be made without deference to geography.
These guys typically spend their whole lives in the same city without ever seeing it through the eyes of a visitor, like the New Yorker who's never been to the Statute of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building. They associate with Dallas or San Francisco or Miami because they're more glamorous, more colorful, or more successful than the locals.

"We used to go to Tampa," former Chicago Bears offensive tackle Dan Jiggetts recalls, "and we'd get cheered more than the Bucs. We thought, what is this, a home game?"

• "I tend not to like the local team," says Larry Selvin, a West Roxbury, Mass., financial accountant. "The local reporting is so biased, I tend to rebel against that. I've always liked Dallas. And I like San Francisco a lot; my brothers are in San Francisco."

• Boston textbook buyer Kenton Blagbrough feels equally strong about four favorite teams. "It's not just the home team I'm rooting for," he says. "Although when the Patriots were on their drive to Super Bowl XX, I was in seventh heaven. That was just awesome."

• Joe DiRaffaele owns a chain of temporary help services, Labor World, based in Coconut Creek, Florida. He got hooked on Notre Dame without ever being a student of the school or traveling to South Bend. Because New York City, DiRaffaele's hometown, doesn't have a high-profile college team, local television stations would broadcast Notre Dame games. It didn't hurt that the Irish played a couple of high-profile games at Yankee Stadium in the '60s.

• Hospitality industry management consultant Mark von Dwingelo also began a love affair with his team by accident. When Yankee Stadium was being refurbished in the mid-70s, the Giants temporarily relocated to von Dwingelo's home state, Connecticut, playing home games in the Yale Bowl. "I was able to go to some games and it was instant attraction," he recalls.

• Banker Shawn Cahill went to Florida State University from 1977-80. He was in school when coach Bobby Bowden took the Seminoles to their first major bowl game; "It was my classmates playing," Cahill says. "You're rooting for guys you know and it continues after you leave school. When these guys go to the professional ranks, you follow them. I still root for guys like Deion Sanders, who was good at Florida State."
* * *
Keith Farber, a Buena Park, California, courier and native of the city, loves any team if its name starts with the words "Los Angeles." He views the games as a social outlet, making friends through the Rambassadors fan club and relying on the Raiders, Rams, Lakers, Kings and Dodgers for contributions to his own self-esteem.

"I was a short, pudgy kid," he says. "I wasn't an athlete when I was young because I didn't grow out of it until I was 14."

There are some things some guys never grow out of, though. The shoelaces on his tennis shoes are blue-gold. He wears a Rams watch and Rams pendant every day. He dons team sweats to the games. And he has, on several occasions, painted his face in Rams colors.

"When my team wins, I win," Farber says.
* * *
One of the most revealing studies of sports and community identity was overseen by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University. He confirmed through research that, as a general tendency, fans prefer to associate themselves publicly with winners and to distance themselves in the eyes of any audience from losers.

Cialdini even coined the phrase that describes this phenomena: "basking in reflected glory" to describe the phenomena.

Winning and losing teams influence the morale of a region, a city or a college campus. The community may actually have clinical features of depression when its team loses. People become blue for several days, disoriented and non-productive, whereas if they win, they are pumped up and active.

For example, after the home team wins a football game on Saturday, scores of university students at seven major NCAA schools systematically chose to wear apparel to class on Monday that announced their school affiliation. They wore sweatshirts, T-shirts and team jackets with insignias and emblems that designated them as part of the university after the team won in far greater numbers than after it lost. The larger the victory margin, the stronger the tendency to show off.

"There is a great tendency on the part of the fans to literally dress themselves in the success of their team," Cialdini says. "The other thing that we have found is that this doesn't just apply to such things as the way people dress themselves. It also has to do with the way that they associate themselves and the pronouns that they use to describe a victory or defeat of the home team. We find, for example, that college students here at Arizona State University were significantly more likely to use the term 'we' to describe the outcome of a game that the football team had won but to use the term 'they' to describe the outcome of a game that the team had lost. Again there is a tendency to incorporate victors within the concept of the self and a tendency to distance losers from that concept."

The tendency to use "we" to describe victories and "they" to describe defeats was by far more powerful among those people who had recently experienced a personal failure.

"People who have experienced some sort of recent setback were people who have a sense of low self-worth because they carry around this sense of themselves as losers," Cialdini says. "Especially likely to fall into this category are people who choose to bask in reflective glory but avoid the shadow of another's defeat. Those are the fair weather fans. We're not saying that people who support their teams and get behind their teams and like to associate themselves with their team are people with low self-concept. We are saying that fair weather fans are people with low self-concept. They are the ones who jump on the opportunity to connect themselves to a victor but then bury their connections with a loser."

There is another feature to Cialdini's study worth noting. Apparently the reason people bask in reflective glory and distance themselves from the shadow of failure is to boost their image in the eyes of others. They believe other people will see them as more positive if they are associated with positive things, even though they didn't cause the positive things.

In the apparel study, Cialdini's researchers found that the effect was just as strong for away games as it was for home games, even when the fan played no conceivable role in the success of the team. They weren't in the stands cheering the team on, but they still wore more home team apparel when the team won.

"We think it is a desire to connect themselves with victorious others so the audience will see the fans more positively," Cialdini says.

When there is a victory, fans feel as though they shared in the glory of the team. That has to do with the sedentary quality of modern life. American men rarely battle or do combat. (Urban guerilla warfare and 26-mile marathons not withstanding.) We use physical sports as proxies for the lost challenge of the physical environment, indeed, against one another. We get a vicarious, second-hand charge from watching people engaged in physical contests where they can identify with one side or another. It's primitive but we can do it without getting hurt or messing up our designer jeans. We can turn on the tube and watch our favorite gladiators fight on our behalf and if we feel as though our honor is somehow at stake, victory will be all the more rewarding.

Fans want to associate themselves with victorious teams in order to enhance their self-esteem and personal prestige.

Studies have shown that they do that if they have recently had some kind of damage done to their own esteem. If students perform poorly in their exams, when they are given an opportunity to bask in reflective glory they are more likely to do it when they have had recent damage to their esteem than when it has not happened.

Dr. Edward R. Hirt, an Indiana University social psychologist, conducted his own study of the basking in reflected glory phenomena. He used college basketball fans to determine how the outcomes of a game featuring their team affected them personally.

People flock when their team is doing really well. But when the team hits on a big losing streak or a bad couple of years, attendance and general interest falls off. Nobody cares about them. Hirt's study concerned itself with the people who stick with their team through thick and thin, enduring the losses to one day, again, relish victory. The hardcore fans don't disassociate themselves from their team when the waters turn choppy. They believe they have to suffer through those tough times because they are true fans of the team.

In brief, Hirt's methodology was to organize loyal fans into groups of six to eight and have them watch away games of their favorite college basketball team. They were asked to rate the performance of players and the teams. They also had to assess their mood and their feelings of self-esteem.

"Our assumption," Hirt says, "was that people's moods were going to be very much affected by the team's outcome, but also that it might carry over and affect their self-esteem as well."

Subjects were also put through what they were told was an unrelated study. They did tasks ostensibly designed to estimate various abilities from a motor-skills test (mini-basketball free throws) and solving anagrams to a simulated dating scenario where they were shown slides of the opposite sex, pre-rated for attractiveness, and asked how likely it was the person in the slide would go out with them.

"Under winning conditions, we found you did get some elevations and people's estimates on all these tasks," Hirt says. "But in the loss condition, we saw lowering on their motor skills, social skills and their mental abilities to solve problems. Then we had them actually do the task and we didn't find any differences. So this is all a perception of your own ability rather than actually influencing your ability to do things.

"The bottom line," he says, "was that there does seem to be this connection of the fan with the team so that the team's outcome does have effects on the fan's perception of themselves. But they didn't seem to carry over to affect performance per se, just their outlook and sense of self."

The one puzzler in the results was that the effects of the loss seem to be stronger than the win.

"I have two explanations for that and I don't know which one is right," Hirt says. "The first one -- the more boring one -- is that college students are already so optimistic about their own abilities that there is not a lot of room on the scale to go up. There is a lot more room to go down. They already believe that they are well above average. It may just be a scaling effect there that wins really do affect people in the same way losses do but we couldn't see it based on the kinds of scales we were using and the kinds of tasks we had.

"The second thing," he says, "could be -- and I think this may hold some water -- that for many fans, and especially here at Indiana, any win is expected and any loss is devastating. In that situation a win is good and what you expect but you don't get as up for it. In fact, people can be pretty critical even of wins. 'You should have won by more' or 'We didn't really play that well but we won the game.' The losses are uniformly all bad regardless of how badly you lose."

The most avid followers of a team really startled Hirt. They watched every game to the point where it was a major part of their lives. It was an obsession to the point where they would arrange their schedule around a game.

"I have no reason to believe that the results that we found with basketball are any different than football," Hirt says."I am not sure that this helps necessarily explain why people watch the stuff. Why would they want to put themselves through that?"

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