Tip to Bob M, Newsweek looks at teams we love to hate
The theory: We’re looking to define ourselves.
The theorist: Packy Moran, visiting professor of sports management, York College of Pennsylvania
“The act of taking a side in a basketball game, especially a meaningful one like an NCAA tournament game, is ‘associative psychological needs’ being met. It is an act of self-definition that helps individuals feel like they know where they are and who they are in the world. This includes the creation of perceived in-groups (other fans of the team, region, etc.) and out-groups (fans of rival teams, conferences, regions, etc.). I think the reward is from investment and return—regardless of the direction for or against a particular team. The more you invest, the greater the return needs to be for you to feel value in the experience. If you really hate Duke and they lose, you feel good. If they lose big, you feel great. If they lose on a replay of the Christian Laettner shot at the Spectrum and you get to see Coach K thoroughly disgusted while you are on the phone canceling your American Express card, then that is the ultimate. [Even I find those credit-card commercials annoying.] March Madness is great for schadenfreude!”
The theory: “Some teams are just evil.”
The theorist: My editor, Kate Dailey