Why do people get so enthusiastic?

I think “enthusiasm” is a word that stands for an everyday phenomenon and is frequently used. For example, it is used in politics, religion, economics, marketing as well as the entertainment industry, like in music and movies. It is also used for fan groups of sport teams, or fandom.

Yet when we consider what enthusiasm is, it is surprisingly difficult to explain it.

Assuming that people feel a sense of companionship for those who share feelings for some phenomenon as well as increase or incite such feelings with them, how do people build friendships with those they can sympathize with? Or is it that people have already become friends, and so they can share the same feelings?

Moreover, what does enthusiasm bring to us? It will work positively or negatively for us depending on the time and situation.

However, we probably are not reluctant to be excited. We sometimes intend to aim at forming groups, making fans, and generating enthusiasm by these activities.

In the world of politics and religion, excessive intentions may incite riots and lead to bloodshed, such as terrorism and wars.

The field of economics tries to grasp the bubble economy and its collapse from the point of view of people’s enthusiasm. The field of marketing aims to intensify brand loyalty by nurturing fans. Unfortunately, the mechanism is not fully understood.

That is, we have not been fully able to unravel “enthusiasm.”

Therefore, we focused on professional sports to study enthusiasm. This is because enthusiasm by the fandom of professional sports occurs regularly and is basically peaceful in most cases.

In Latin America and elsewhere, there have been cases of a soccer match setting off an armed conflict, and of a fan shooting a player who made a mistake during a game. In Europe, people referred to as hooligans sometimes cause trouble.

By contrast, in Japan, such incidents related to professional baseball are very rare (of course, there have been some troubles occasionally).

Within a stadium, tens of thousands of fans gather every day. They are cheering on their favorite teams. When their favorite team scores or escapes a pinch, the fandom becomes excited. When the team finally wins, there is a surge of tremendous enthusiasm.

We decided to clarify the mechanism of enthusiasm.

Survey on enthusiasm of professional baseball fans

There are various approaches to studying the degree of enthusiasm of professional baseball fans. Our past studies appeared in the book Management Science of Enthusiasm for Professional Baseball. The findings are interesting.

To measure the degree of enthusiasm for each team, we employed a method of measuring the feeling temperature, which is used in political science and other disciplines. It is not a matter of asking whether one likes or dislikes, and having them give a rating on a five-point scale, etc. Rather, it involves answering about feeling between 0 deg C and 100 deg C, as a comparison with temperature.

The responses were compiled and displayed on a graph. In the case of Giants fans, the feeling temperature for the team reached 70 to 79 deg C. The more the temperature went to either side of the range, the more the ratio decreased. In other words, it formed a bell-shaped curve.

On the other hand, Carp and Tigers fans’ temperature for respective teams peaked at 100 deg C, which exhibited a skewed shape. It is more of a slide than a bell. Such fan sentiment obviously indicates the intensity of enthusiasm for their teams.

In addition, the feeling temperatures of the fans of these two teams for their respective teams are generally bell shaped toward each other, but, against only Giants, peak at 10 deg C or below, showing the highest hostility.

In fact, fan sentiment is changeable depending on whom the fans regard as opponents.

The book also has chapters written by psychologists, which introduce an experiment on how people behave when they see those in need. When people know that someone in need is a fan of their favorite team, the probability that they help the person increases compared with the case where the person is not.

This phenomenon is called in-group favoritism or in-group bias. It is known that people tend to have good awareness, feelings, and behavior for members in the groups they belong to.

It helps to think of in-groups as a nation, a race, a local community, or a company one works for. To be a fan of a particular professional baseball team forms an in-group with a certain intensity, and to belong to the in-group plays a big role in generating enthusiasm.

In marketing terms, it is found that people with higher feeling temperature for a team bring a lot of money to a baseball club. They buy tickets and visit a stadium many times, usually purchasing baseball club goods and other items.

The Hiroshima baseball club, managing Carp, often sells commemorative T-shirts many times a year on different occasions, such as a rookie’s first home run and an ace pitcher’s 100th victory. Fanatical fans buy such merchandise each time. Clearly, they do not need that many T-shirts in real life.

The fans buy the T-shirts and wear them to the stadium, which may be an expression of an avid fan.

That strengthens ties within the in-group, by which the degree of enthusiasm will be increased.

Are people looking for in-groups to belong to?

Recently, I published a new book called Mechanism of Enthusiasm for Professional Baseball. The book adopts the method of computational social science to analyze big data from social media messages about professional baseball sent by fans.

On Twitter, the number of tweets and retweets soars when there is a home run or a run due to an error.

Tweets continuing after a game can change in terms of amount and expression depending on the details of the game. Those daily tweets are compiled and turned into large amounts of big data.

Analyzing positive or negative feelings based on words used on Twitter, we can see which fans (in-groups) producing what kind of enthusiasm, with what amount of energy, and when.

Many professional baseball fans tweet positively or negatively depending on whether their favorite teams have won or lost, but Tigers fans do not do so. It seems they have a unique psychology different from other teams’ fans.

The mentality could be affected by the history of the Kansai region, where the team is based. It is also thought that unwavering enthusiasm is maintained by professional baseball fandom i.e., in-groups, becoming a symbol of anti-authority.

Additionally, it is known that Carp fans are also aware of the history of the region and their baseball club. Under the severe situation of operating a baseball club during the coronavirus pandemic, some fans propose to raise funds through Taru Bokin, collecting donations in Japanese sake barrels, which was conducted during the postwar reconstruction era to save the club. This can be said to be a manifestation of historical consciousness.

The story that the fans gave a helping hand to their team in trouble perhaps works like the legend that makes the in-group stronger.

I imagine that in the old days, a person automatically belonged to a local community where he or she was born, which would change to an in-group.

In modern days, the influence of local communities has been diminishing in urban areas, not least Tokyo. It is said that people would rather choose the in-groups they belong to.

That means it is possible not to belong to particular in-groups, but even modern people want to belong to some kind of in-groups at bottom. Therefore, they might be selecting in-groups based on a variety of reasons.

When professional baseball fans are asked why they became fans of a particular team, their reasons are wide-ranging. There are many replies that they became fans before they knew it thanks to their birthplaces and families cheering enthusiastically.

There are also other replies that, when invited to a game by chance, people were moved by fanatical cheering and became fans. Both of the reasons prove that fandom enthusiasm involved and inspired them to belong to the in-groups.

Even though you become fans of some baseball club, it is not to say that many of them can enjoy concrete benefits. Spending will increase, it will take up much time, and worries will pile up. It appears disadvantage exceeds advantage.

Nevertheless, why do so many people continue to be fans? We have not reached the answer yet.

I think you become a fan not only of professional sports but also in a range of fields. Consider why you became such a fan and experience enthusiasm at times. Unexpectedly, you can gain insight into the nature of human and society.

* The information contained herein is current as of September 2021.
* The contents of articles on Meiji.net are based on the personal ideas and opinions of the author and do not indicate the official opinion of Meiji University.
* I work to achieve SDGs related to the educational and research themes that I am currently engaged in.

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