Even the Most 'Committed' Fans Distance Themselves from Their Teams after a Loss
Super Bowl season illustrates a deep part of who we are, not just as sports fans.
We're CORFing all over New England. And they are BIRGing big time in Denver. We are Cutting Off the Reflected Failure of the New England Patriots, and they are Basking in the Reflected Glory of the Broncos in Denver, (and the rest of We Hate The Patriots Nation, a vast fan base that probably exists because the Patriots win so much.) CORFing and BIRGing. Using the third person pronoun they to disassociate from the failures of the tribe with which you identify, or the first person we to associate with your tribe’s success. It’s a remarkable demonstration of how deeply dependent we are on our social and religious and political and geographical and cultural groups — our tribes — for our personal sense of safety and well-being.
Patriots fans are saying things like “They couldn’t stop Denver’s pass rush.” and “The Patriots lost this game when they lost home field advantage and had to play in the thin air of Mile High Stadium.” Them. Third person. Those other guys. Not us. Not me. Not MY tribe. Of course these are the same fans (and I was one of them) who after last year’s Super Bowl victory all proudly declared “WE won.” (Sorry friends and neighbors. All we did was watch.)
Denver fans are saying the same things, just in the first person; “WE didn’t give Brady any time.” and “WE have the best defense in the NFL.” and “Mile High Stadium gives US a great home field advantage.” US. WE. OUR tribe. ME!”
The only things that vary in these similar analyses are the pronouns. And that reveals something way deeper than who knows how much about football. We have evolved as social animals to depend — deeply — on the groups to which we belong for our safety and survival. When our group is doing well, we feel better. We feel safer, more empowered. Whether it’s our political party, our nation or local community, our gender, our professional group... whenever any of the various tribes with which we associate are doing better, we feel better, stronger, more in control — and safer.
And when our tribe isn’t doing as well — when our political party is losing, when the cultural values we share with our friends are being overridden by the values of other groups, when our local or national team loses — we feel worse. We feel less powerful, less in control, less safe, because the group is supposed to give us the power to accomplish things we can’t achieve alone, and if the group is losing, it feels like we are too.
CORFing and BIRGing (identified in research by Robert Cialdini et. al in Basking in Reflected Glory, Three Football Field Studies) is just one bit of evidence of this. Research has found that as we watch sports, when our team is doing better, our testosterone levels rise... which is true of both genders. The more important the outcome of the game, the sharper the rise. And there are subconscious shifts in other hormones and neurotransmitters in response to the outcomes of games, especially big games. The moods of whole communities rise and fall markedly when championships are won or lost, and this starts deep in the biology of the human animal. Those massive pep rallies communities hold for championship teams? Those riots in communities where teams lose? That’s deep and ancient biology driving our behaviors and demonstrating just how much our personal sense of safety and well-being is tied to how well our groups are doing.
Sports may be the purest example of this phenomenon. Our teams represent our tribe, with their team colors and emblems and rituals and traditions and rivalries with other tribes. Our fertile women (we call them cheerleaders) dance at the edge of the battleground, to tribal music. Our athletes are our surrogate warriors, going to battle for us. They say so; “We won it for our fans!” or “We couldn’t have done it without the fans.” And we say so, in our language (“We’re the 12th man!”) and the team (tribal) clothing we wear and in the way we gather together into social (tribal) groups to watch the big battle (er, game), and even in all the superstitious things we do in the belief that somehow how we sit on the couch or wear our hats or what we have for breakfast can affect the outcome of the battle (er, game).
At its broadest, this phenomenon is a part of what evolutionary biologists and psychologists refer to as group selection. Individual selection is where some genetic mutation endows one individual with a trait or behavior that gives them an edge over other individuals. Group selection holds that any trait or behavior that arises in an individual that helps the group survive, also helps the individual survive.
The evidence for how group affiliation drives our behavior is hardly limited to sports. In politics, it’s Us against Them (this grows more strident in people who feel more disempowered and look to their political tribe for a sense of empowerment and safety). Around the world, and across history, evidence for group selection can be seen in “Our country (tribe) against theirs,” and “Keep the immigrants (them) out.” Don’t marry outside OUR religion, class, caste, race. Don’t disagree with the views of OUR group (environmentalists can’t support nuclear power or genetically modified food; Republicans can’t believe in climate change) or we’ll ostracize you and you’ll be out there on your own when the Indians attack and we’ll all be safe inside the circled wagons. It literally feels instinctively viscerally dangerous to be disloyal to your tribe, whatever it is.
In Denver it’s “WE won,” and in New England it’s “the Patriots (they) lost.” It’s all the same phenomenon... tribalism tied to nothing less than our deepest imperative, to protect ourselves and survive. Which explains why several of my New England friends this morning were posting “Only 25 days ‘til Red Sox pitchers and catchers report for spring training!”
The Lumina Foundation lays out steps for increasing access to quality post-secondary education credentials.
- America's post-high school education landscape was not created with the modern student in mind. Today, clear and flexible pathways are necessary to help individuals access education that can help them lead a better life.
- Elizabeth Garlow explains the Lumina Foundation's strategy to create a post-secondary education system that works for all students. This includes credential recognition, affordability, a more competency-based system, and quality assurance.
- Systemic historic factors have contributed to inequality in the education system. Lumina aims to close those gaps in educational attainment.
- In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. You can see the winners of the Lumina Prize here – congratulations to PeerForward and Greater Commons!
French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
- French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
During World War II, the U.S. incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps throughout the West.
- Now that the issue of concentration camps in the U.S. has once again reared its head, it can be beneficial to recall the last time such camps were employed in the U.S.
- After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans in camps, ostensibly for national security purposes.
- In truth, the incarceration was primarily motivated by racism. What was life like in the U.S.'s concentration camps?
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized and directed military commanders "to prescribe military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion." Under the authority of this executive order, roughly 112,000 men, women, and children of Japanese descent — nearly two-thirds of which were American citizens — were detained in concentration camps.
How did the camps get their start?
With the benefit of a nearly 80-year perspective, it's clear that the internment of Japanese Americans was racially motivated. In response to Japan's growing military power in the buildup to World War II, President Roosevelt commissioned two reports to determine whether it would be necessary to intern Japanese Americans should conflict break out between Japan and the U.S. Neither's conclusions supported the plan, with one even going so far as to "certify a remarkable, even extraordinary degree of loyalty among this generally suspect ethnic group." But of course, the Pearl Harbor attacks proved to be far more persuasive than these reports.
Pearl Harbor turned simmering resentment against the Japanese to a full boil, putting pressure on the Roosevelt administration to intern Japanese Americans. Lieutenant General John DeWitt, who would become the administrator of the internment program, testified to Congress
"I don't want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map."
DeWitt's position was backed up by a number of pre-existing anti-immigrant groups based out of the West Coast, such as the Joint Immigration Committee and the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West. For many, the war simply served as an excuse to get rid of Japanese Americans. In an interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Austin Anson, the managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Administration, said:
"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It's a question of whether the White man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. ... If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks because the White farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either."
Ironically for Anson, the mass deportation of Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 meant there was a significant shortage of agricultural labor. Many Caucasians left to fight the war, so the U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico to permit the immigration of several million Mexicans agricultural workers under the so-called bracero program.
Life in the camps
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Circa 1943: Aerial view of a Japanese American relocation center in Amache, Colorado, during World War II. Each family was provided with a space 20 by 25 ft. The barracks were set in blocks and each block was provided with a community bath house and mess hall.
For the most part, Japanese Americans remained stoic in the face of their incarceration. The phrase shikata ga nai was frequently invoked — the phrase roughly translates to "it cannot be helped," which, for many, represents the perceived attitude of the Japanese people to withstand suffering that's out of their control.
Initially, most Japanese Americans were sent to temporary assembly centers, typically located at fairgrounds or racetracks. These were hastily constructed barracks, where prisoners were often packed into tight quarters and made to use toilets that were little more than pits in the ground. From here, they were relocated to more permanent camps — replete with barbed wire and armed guards — in remote, isolated places across the seven states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas.
Many of these camps, also known as War Relocation Centers, were little better than the temporary assembly centers. One report described the buildings as "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Again, overcrowding was common.
As a result, disease became a major concern, including dysentery, malaria, and tuberculosis. This was problematic due to the chronic shortage of medical professionals and supplies, an issue that was not helped by the War Relocation Authority's decision to cap Japanese American medical professional's pay at $20 a month (about $315 in 2019 dollars), while Caucasian workers had no such restriction. As a comparison, Caucasian nurses earned $150 ($2,361) a month in one camp.
The U.S. government also administered loyalty questionnaires to incarcerated Japanese Americans with the ultimate goal of seeing whether they could be used as soldiers and to segregate "loyal" citizens from "disloyal" ones. The questionnaires often asked whether they would be willing to join the military and if they would completely renounce their loyalty to Japan. Due to fears of being drafted, general confusion, and justified anger at the U.S. government, thousands of Japanese Americans "failed" the loyalty questionnaire and were sent to the concentration camp at Tule Lake. When Roosevelt later signed a bill that would permit Japanese Americans to renounce their citizenship, 98 percent of the 5,589 who did were located at Tule Lake. Some apologists cite this an example of genuine disloyalty towards the U.S., but this argument clearly ignores the gross violation of Japanese Americans' rights. Later, it became clear that many of these renunciations had been made under duress, and nearly all of those who had renounced their citizenship sought to gain it back.
Since many children lived in the camps, they came equipped with schools. Of course, these schools weren't ideal — student-teacher ratios reached as high as 48:1, and supplies were limited. The irony of learning about American history and ideals was not lost on the students, one of whom wrote in an essay --
"They, the first generation [of Japanese immigrants], without the least knowledge of the English language nor the new surroundings, came to this land with the American pioneering spirit of resettling. ...Though undergoing many hardships, they did reach their goal only to be resettled by the order of evacuation under the emergency for our protection and public security."
Potentially the best part of life in the camps — and the best way for determined prisoners to demonstrate their fundamental American-ness — was playing baseball. One camp even featured nearly 100 baseball teams. Former prisoner Herb Kurima recalled the importance of baseball in their lives in an interview with Christian Science Monitor. "I wanted our fathers, who worked so hard, to have a chance to see a ball game," he said. "Over half the camp used to come out to watch. It was the only enjoyment in the camps."
When the camps finally closed in 1945, the lives of the incarcerated Japanese Americans had been totally upended. Some were repatriated to Japan, while others settled in whichever part of the country they had been arbitrarily placed in. Those who wished to return to the West Coast were given $25 and a train ticket, but few had anything to return to. Many had sold their property to predatory buyers prior to being incarcerated, while theft had wiped out whatever else they had left behind. Many, many years later, the 1988 Civil Liberties Act mandated that each surviving victim be paid $20,000, though that seems like a small fine to pay for irrevocably changing the courses of more than 100,000 lives.