What if we told you that fans have more friends?
Not only that, but they engage with those friends more often, and they value those friendships more. What if we told you fans exhibit stronger measures of well-being, happiness, confidence, and optimism? What if we told you fans tend to be more trusting of others and more confident in institutions? Or that fandom helps mitigate the loneliness and polarization that plague our culture today? What if we told you that fandom is a social good?
In the pages of Fans Have More Friends, Ben Valenta and David Sikorjak take the reader on a journey to discover fandom’s far-reaching benefits: improved social connections, stronger community ties, enhanced well-being, and a greater sense of belonging. If fandom creates connections that reverberate through society, then we need more fandom. As fans, we are frontline actors in that mission. The more confident we are in our fandom, the more conscious we are of fandom’s power, the more prepared we are to serve as ambassadors, inviting people into our sports families, using fandom to build bridges across social divisions, and activating it to benefit our communities. Think of sports as a tool you can use, and then ask yourself, “Where do I want to deploy this tool?”
Valenta and Sikorjak speculate that the common and easy-to-understand language of sports proves to be deeply connecting, manifesting as an “antidote to loneliness,” and they ultimately identify this benefit as the “the reason this entire business exists at all.” Social bonding through sports also cuts through political issues, they contend, backing up the contention with data that shows enthusiastic sports fans are more likely to be more community-minded–and even more flexible in their beliefs regardless of political affiliation–than people without a passion for sports.
Anecdotes from their interviewees pepper this research-heavy book, making the charts and numbers seem more personal. One account is especially resonant, that of a Nigerian-born man who was “assigned” the Dallas Cowboys as his team when he was young, by his mother, resulting in a lifelong affinity that he eloquently describes as “I am part of the tribe of Dallas Cowboys, and now and forever will be a member of that tribe.” Though the authors acknowledge they are not sociologists (both have been executives in the sports industry for years), and their research focuses mainly on the positive aspects of fandom, the result is still a fascinating examination of how and why devoted sports fans build such strong social networks, networks we could even call “team”s.
Takeaway: An upbeat, data-driven sociological breakdown of the benefits of sports fandom.
Great for fans of: S.L. Price’s Playing Through the Whistle, Larry Olmsted’s Fans.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A