What Makes You a Football Fanatic?
Tonight, I’m watching two professional football teams do battle, the Seahawks and the Eagles. This is a big game and my loyalties are split. My father was head coach of the Eagles when I was in high school . . . a long time ago. Still, I feel a connection there. In turn, I’ve lived in Seattle for 30+ years including my father’s run as Seahawk GM back in the Chuck Knox days. So, I’m torn tonight, invested as I am in both franchises.
That kind of payoff from a football fanatic’s investment is no accident. When in full throttle, fanatics get a jolt of what it’s like on the field by turning their favorite NFL player into an avatar. Have you ever watched a game and your body jumps or twitches during an intense play? That’s mirror neurons at work in your nervous system. If you make a tackle, watch a tackle, or say the word tackle, your mirror neurons react the same. Your body gets some of the juice. If you played and have that memory in your muscles, the mirror reaction is even stronger. But it doesn’t matter whether you played or not. Your body reacts as if you were on the field.
Our personalities have a similar response. Fanatics are extensions of their team. I belong to Raider Nation. There are Packer Backers. A Steelers Nation. Cleveland’s Dawg Pound. In Seattle, I am a 12. Fanatics take their team identification seriously. For some, that association is an antidote for depression.
If you think of yourself as a pro football fanatic, like I do, I have some questions for you. Do you still enjoy the investment you make in the game? What moves you the most? Just winning or losing? Or is there something else that makes football your favorite sport? Are you drawn to players more because they have good touchdown dances or because they are teammates? There’s a reason I ask.
Meanwhile, it’s the end of the first quarter in Seattle. Seahawks up tenuously at 10–0. I’m a nervous wreck, and I’m still not sure who I want to win.
Michael McCormack/Born Fanatic
 Handwerk, Sports Riots: The Psychology of Fan Mayhem; National Geographic News, June 20, 2005.