Patriots Nation should be grateful for Deflate-gate and all the haters, argues Freeden Oeur, an assistant sociology professor at Tufts University.
Because all the hate helps bring the community together.
Communities are formed and made stronger through exclusion, said Oeur, meaning that such controversies foster a siege mentality and deepens a feeling of community. In short: everyone hating your team sweetens the victory.
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“Fans find themselves rooting against some teams as often as they root for the home team,” he said. “The Patriots are pretty special in this regard. People love to root against them. So that leaves Boston fans — a lot of them, anyway — feeling like it’s them against the world.”
He added, “The controversy brought Patriot Nation closer together and when they won it was confirmation for the fans that the Patriot way is the way to win championships.”
Sports fan-bases are a great example of imagined communities, said Oeur. Both winning and losing can create a feeling of solidarity.
“You’re feeling like you’re part of something greater than yourself without necessarily meeting the other people who are feeling the same thing,” he said.
Adam Naylor, a Boston University sports psychology professor, acknowledges fans are essentially pulling for millionaires who happen to wear a certain colored-jersey.
“We certainly are, but they’re ours,” he said. “We invest in them and they give us emotional pleasure. It’s a slight escape from our daily lives.”
Sport creates a collective emotion in a community, he said. That’s how you wind up with thousands of Gronk-loving Bostonians watching a procession of duck boats down Boylston in freezing weather.
“You invest emotion, you invest money and you start using ‘we’ when it comes to the team’s outcomes.”
Asked if he thought sport was the last bastion of community, Naylor said “I hope not. It’s just incredibly impounded on us by media. It’s very easy to jump on board. It’s glamorized. We’re not glamorizing the local opera singer. It’s so embedded in our culture, to the point where it’s polarizing. If you’re part of a strong sport community you love it, if you’re not, you don’t care about the Super Bowl.”