The New York Mets and the Science of Fan Loyalty

The Mets are going to the World Series, with a rabid fan base that has stood by them despite decades of dashed hopes. Why do we love our teams, even when they lose?


For the first time in 15 years, the New York Mets are headed to the World Series. The tears shed by their legions of die-hard fans are tears of joy, relief, and surprise. The Mets weren’t projected to go all the way this year; this was a rebuilding year. Maybe, as the saying goes, next year. Yet this is a team with a heart that has refused to give up, with a remarkable 27 come-from-behind victories in the regular season. This is a team that has trusted its rookies — Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto — as well as veterans like Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and captain o’ captain David Wright. For Mets fans, the past decade has been agonizing, as hopes were raised and then crushed. Injuries and bad luck plagued the team. From 2009-2012, the Mets were near the bottom of their division. Living in a town with two baseball teams, one of which has the second highest payroll in the MLB, the Mets don’t have bandwagon fans; they have dyed-in-the-orange-and-blue-wool fans. And now, their time has come.

Studies have shown that when a team we love wins, we feel like we are winning, too, and when they lose, it feels like we have lost.

But why are we so loyal to our teams, even when they lose? Studies have shown that when a team we love wins, we feel like we are winning, too, and when they lose, it feels like we have lost. If our team constantly loses, and that makes us feel terrible about ourselves, why do we keep watching, rooting, and hoping? Aren't we just setting ourselves up for misery? Yes, but a relationship with a team is like a relationship with a person. When we are invested in another person’s well-being, it becomes difficult to detach ourselves from their successes and failures. That’s why when your partner gets a promotion, you feel like you got one also. Or when your close friend goes through a breakup, we're sad, too. It’s the same with sports, says journalist Eric Simons. “You can’t cut the team off without cutting off a part of yourself. Even if the team is losing, you have so much of yourself wrapped up in it that you can’t just walk away. To do so is to give up on a part of yourself.” It doesn’t matter what others say, what the rankings are, or how often we scream into a pillow out of frustration and as rage tears fall because of that awful play that lost us the game. For better or worse, we're in this.

“You can’t cut the team off without cutting off a part of yourself. Even if the team is losing, you have so much of yourself wrapped up in it that you can’t just walk away. To do so is to give up on a part of yourself.”

“We never give up,” Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes said weeks ago. “We’re ready to fight. We know we’re going to come back and put on good at-bats. We think we can do it all the way.” Their opponent from the American League will either be the Toronto Blue Jays or the Kansas City Royals, both teams that have been at the bottom and know all too well what it’s like to lose. To have people question why you’re a fan, why you believe. But the love we feel for our teams is real, and our support doesn’t waiver just because they’re not always in first place. But boy, does it feel good when they are.

High baseball praise from Bert Randolph Sugar, a writer and sports historian who got his start in the legal field.

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

Why Lil Dicky made this star-studded Earth Day music video

"Earth" features about 30 of the biggest names in entertainment.

Culture & Religion
  • Lil Dicky is a rapper and comedian who released his debut album in 2015.
  • His new music video, "Earth," features artists such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheehan, Kevin Hart, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • All proceeds of the music video will go to environmental causes, Dicky said.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less

Behold, the face of a Neolithic dog

He was a very good boy.

Image source: Historic Environment Scotland
Surprising Science
  • A forensic artist in Scotland has made a hyper realistic model of an ancient dog.
  • It was based on the skull of a dog dug up in Orkney, Scotland, which lived and died 4,000 years ago.
  • The model gives us a glimpse of some of the first dogs humans befriended.
Keep reading Show less