My psych degree from Carolina pays dividends every few months or so, and here’s my latest pompous declaration: being a fan of your team is more important now than at any other point in history. Wishful thinking? No so fast. I gots science on my side this time.
One of my favorite professors at UNC, Bibb Latané, pioneered research on the Theory of Social Impact – a sort of social loafing dictum that says “the more people there are in any given situation, the less likely one individual is going to act.” The research on this stuff is always awesome. My favorite? Look at any choir singing, even the good ones, and then understand that 10% of them are just mouthing the words.
But sports is where you can get some good Social Impact stats: according to their early research, only 51% of football games are won by the home team, yet 76% of basketball games are. Surely there are other factors, but according to theory, basketball teams are much more responsive to their environment because there are only 5 players, and many of the home team fans are within 20 feet of them at any given moment.
Put simply, we can affect the momentum of a basketball game because we’re right on top of five dudes, but the hundreds of football players (and the hundreds of yards we sit from them) dilute any effect we might have on the outcome in a stadium.
You don’t need to write a doctoral dissertation on social media to translate this phenomenon to Faceboook and Twitter. When this picture went viral yesterday:
…I guarantee that Kendall Marshall eventually saw it, and was psyched. How couldn’t you be? Whatever pain or disappointment he might be having has to be lessened by the outpouring of faith and good will. The hand is his, his hand is ours.
Sure, there’s a limitation to our powers, as none of us fans will actually be lacing ’em up and jacking threes in the tournament, but our ability to be directly influential is not completely insignificant.
Was Joe DiMaggio emotionally buttressed by legions of young boys glued to their transistor radios in 1940s Brooklyn? Sure. But they don’t got nothing on us. Give us some Photoshop, a burst of inspiration and a decent wifi signal and we can get down and DO THIS.