Outgroup Denigration Delight


One week ago yesterday, the Royals were crowned the World Series champions. At this point, you may be thinking, “Great, another Royals post.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Great! Another Royals post!” Either way, their accomplishment isn’t the main crux of this post. As I pondered all their post-season efforts, it reminded me of my drive to Coffeyville, KS as they were playing the Astros in Game 4 of the ALDS (Below, in case you forgot. Picking the game up in the bottom of the 7th, when Astros fans were at their highest). I’m sure to the others driving down US-169S I must have looked like a lunatic with my fist pumping at each hit, clapping along to the “Let’s go Roy-als” chants, and high-fiving the steering wheel or the car ceiling with each run that came across the plate.

As giddy as I was, I couldn’t help but think about the Astros’ fans whose hearts took that final roller coaster plummet – you know, the one that speeds you downhill so quickly and ends up with a few smaller undulations until it rounds the curve to return home. It was almost the same for Royals fans in the ALCS Game 6 (We’re picking this game up just before it all started unravelling for Madson), but we all know better.

Throughout the post-season, I read and heard of plenty of people who had no vested interest in the games actively cheering against a particular team. This got me thinking about the psychology of sports and I learned this phenomenon stems from something known as ingroup-outgroup bias. It’s pretty straightforward as this article from Psychology Today states:

Others who share our particular qualities are our “ingroup,” and those who do not are our “outgroup.”

Still, that doesn’t explain why people feel the need to cheer against a team. It strikes me as odd that someone would actively root for something bad to happen for a team. I realize that’s illogical when you consider in sports something going well for one team means it’s going poorly for their opponent. Perhaps it comes down to the spirit of intent. When the Royals got a hit or scored a run or even dazzled us with an amazing defensive play to rob the other team of a hit or run, I cheered on their success, not the other team’s failure. There are those people who actively cheer for someone else’s failure. This transcends sports, of course, but it’s less often seen or heard. I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone erupt with a, “YEAH! Robin totally didn’t get that promotion! WOOO! I wanted anyone but Robin to get it!” Back to my point, I didn’t root for Matt Harvey to walk the bases loaded and the tying run in, I rooted for Royals hits. I didn’t root for Lucas Duda to tank his throw to home, I rooted for Hosmer to beat the throw home (Yes, you guessed where we’re picking up this game).

As far as I’m concerned, if you want to root for your team (even if I despise everything they stand for), that’s fine. I accept that you’re just being a fan. Just don’t be a jerk to me when I cheer for my team. Cheer for success, not failure. I’m sure there’s got to be a name for this phenomenon. Anyone know?

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