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Sports rivalry comparison by geography: Are Canadians more friendly?


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To test for regional variations in reactions to sports rivals, we recruited a sample of highly identified fans across four professional leagues: Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National Football League, and National Hockey League. To distinguish teams by region, we utilized the four primary delineations adopted by the US Census (Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, West)and included Canada as a fifth region. Results show two clear distinctions by region that match our general expectation based on regional profiles. First, the Northeast is different from other US regions. Second, Canada is distinct from the US. Both of these differences are evident in fans’ level of team identification and reaction to rival fans. Fans of professional teams in the US Northeast are significantly less identified with their favorite team compared to the other three US regions. Fans of Canadian teams are even less identified with their favorite teams compared to all US regions. Despite lower identification, fans of teams in the US Northeast are significantly more bias against their team’s rival compared to all other US regions in each of the four measures we employed to represent animosity toward rivals (i.e., prejudice, relationship discrimination, schadenfreude, dis-identification). Conversely, fans of Canadian teams were significantly less bias toward rival fans compared to US fans on all four measures.

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Sports rivalry comparison by geography: Are Canadians more friendly?

  1. 1. Are Canadians really more friendly? Rivalry variation by geographic region Jeremy Ditter, Dr. Joe Cobbs, Dr. Bridget Nichols Northern Kentucky University Dr. B. David Tyler Western Carolina University
  2. 2. Identification and Rivalry • Social Identity Theory • Formation of ingroups—consisting of members perceived as similar to oneself—and outgroups, composed of others perceived as different from oneself (Stets & Burke, 2000). • In sports, identification is salient identity feature of fans who embrace team identity by absorbing team success/failure as their own fortune (Cialdini et al., 1976) • Rival defined as “highly salient outgroup that poses an acute threat to the identity of the ingroup or to ingroup members’ ability to make positive comparisons between their group and the outgroup” (Tyler & Cobbs 2015, p. 230)
  3. 3. Rivalry Outcomes Schadenfreude • Propensity for joy in rivals' failure (Havard, 2014) Adverse reactions • Aggression toward rivals that threaten fans' positive identity (Havard, Wann, & Ryan, 2013; Wann, 1993)
  4. 4. Regional variation • H1: There are differences of rivalry intensity among regions • H1a: Northeast US harbors most animosity • H1b: Canadians harbor least animosity Hypothesis • Krug and Kulhavy (1973) compared US Census regions by creativity, imagination, intelligence, etc. • Rentfrow, Gosling, and Porter (2008) examined five personality traits within regionally clustered states • Northeastern US harbors more neuroticism (linked to antisocial behavior) and lower agreeableness (linked to friendliness) • Canadians most friendly and generous by nationality stereotype (Gardner et al., 1972)
  5. 5. Regional • Northeast • Midwest • Southeast • West • Canada Census Regions
  6. 6. Method • Qualtrics online survey​ • Respondents recruited from team message boards​ • Name favorite team​ • List favorite team’s top rival​ • Questions pertaining to relationships with favorite team and top rival • Dalakas & Melancon, 2012; Elsbach & Bhattacharya, 2001; Mael & Ashforth, 1992; Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995 • 7-point scales from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree​ SAMPLE N = 5145 91% Male 70% with some undergraduate education or higher Regions • 25% NE • 28% Midwest • 17% Southeast • 20% West • 10% Canada
  7. 7. Measures • Prejudice • [Rival Team’s] fans are more obnoxious than the fans of a typical team • Relationship discrimination (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995) • I would not mind if my child became a(n) [Rival Team] fan • Schadenfreude (Dalakas & Melancon, 2012) • I will feel joy if a player from the [Rival Team] gets suspended for a year, even if the suspension was not completely deserved • Disidentification (Elsbach & Bhattacharya, 2001; Mael & Ashforth, 1992) • When someone criticizes the [Rival Team], it feels like a personal compliment
  8. 8. Descriptive Stats Regions ID Mean (SD) Prejudice Mean (SD) Relations Mean (SD) Schadenfreude Mean (SD) DisID Mean (SD) 1-NE 4.88 (1.05) 5.23 (1.43) 3.32 (1.37) 3.76 (1.68) 4.06 (1.61) 2-MidW 4.96 (1.10) 4.98 (1.51) 3.23 (1.30) 3.56 (1.70) 3.93 (1.59) 3-SE 5.10 (1.07) 4.74 (1.64) 3.21 (1.35) 3.48 (1.70) 3.97 (1.60) 4-W 4.95 (1.09) 5.06 (1.54) 3.11 (1.30) 3.44 (1.75) 3.94 (1.57) 5-CN 4.65 (1.16) 4.62 (1.61) 2.72 (1.23) 3.14 (1.71) 3.65 (1.55) Overall 4.94 (1.09) 4.98 (1.54) 3.18 (1.33) 3.53 (1.71) 3.94 (1.59) Highest = Red Lowest = Blue
  9. 9. MANOVA results Prejudice Relations Schadenfreude DisID F (df) 11.16 (3223) 10.52(3342) 9.07 (3241) 4.90 (4439) P Value <.001 <.001 <.001 .001
  10. 10. Post hoc tests (H1a: NE) • Fans of Northeast US teams  Greater rivalry animosity • Significantly more feelings of prejudice against rival team fans compared to each other region (vs. West not significant level) • Higher relationship discrimination toward rival fans (vs. West/Canadian fans significant). • Significantly greater schadenfreude for rival teams (all sig.) • Higher dis-identification toward rivals (only vs. Canada sig.) • Fans of NE teams scored lowest identification mean compared to other US regions (only vs. South sig.)
  11. 11. Post hoc tests (H1b: CN) Fans of Canadian teams  less rival animosity • Significantly lower means compared to each of the four US regions in 13 of 16 tests (four DVs) • Significantly less feelings of prejudice against rival fans compared to each other region (only vs. South not sig.) • Significantly less relationship discrimination toward rival fans compared to each US region • Lower schadenfreude toward rivals (only vs. NE/MW sig.) • Significantly lower dis-identification toward rivals for fans of Canadian teams • Also, significantly less ID with their favorite teams compared to each US region
  12. 12. Implications • Regional marketing/promotions • Future research • Expand to more sports, global regions • NBA and college sports • Other continents • Other methods to measure human behavior pertaining to rivalry • A more micro look into geographic differences incl. ID • Smaller grouped regions • Urban vs. Rural • Limitations • Highly male sample • Majority of respondents from Northeast and Midwest • Least respondents from Canada