Soccer - Is it as irrational as religion?

Religion has no rational basis. But it appeals succesfully to some other aspect of our psyche.

Do you think it is fair to say being a soccer fan is the same? I dont think it makes any difference if some people you don’t know, defeat some other people you don’t know in a game. Isn’t it tribal subconscious values overwriting our rationality? Or is there something that makes it more rational than religion?

I think that’s pretty much exactly what it is. If rooting for a particular team has any rational basis, I have yet to find it.

Football obeys the rules of physics.

Religion (by definition?) does not.

Therefore in a strict sense it is perfectly “rational”.

Whether you think it’s worth devoting your life to is a different question.

However, there have been many parallels drawn between football and religion - the collective masss adultation of messiah figures, the deep ritual, the tribal identification, the opposition of good vs evil.

Plus you need to bear in mind that until 30 years ago, a town’s football team would be made up almost exclusively of players from that region (especially in the smaller clubs).

So when you supported Cambridge Utd (for example) you were supporting the sons, husbands, cousins, fathers and brothers of the people you lived with.

In that sense, it is an understandable tribal allegiance.

It will take a while longer for the impact of the global transfer market to break this apart.

I think you’re missing the point. Of course the movement of the ball and the players obeys the rules of physics, but so do the movements of the priest as he conducts Mass. The question is if being a fan of football is any more rational than being religious.

why single out football?

it’s no more irrational than to enjoy fine wine, or modern art, or Beethoven sonatas, or classic cars, or the films for Alfred Hitchcock.

it fulfils a human need for tribal allegiance, sublimated war-behaviour, and a release of tension, plus various other things.

those are all perfectly valid and “rational” reasons to enjoy football

I didn’t, mr. jp did. Say “sports” then.

I think you’re still missing the point. Is it any more rational to care about how a certain sports team does than it is to be religious?

Also, would you mind starting your sentences with capital letters?

I’ve given an answer already… sports teams are identified with a particular town / area. As such, the success or otherwise of the sports team becomes a reflected metaphor for the fortunes of the collective from which it emerged.

“Rationality” is completely the wrong word to use - it’s a totally understandably manifestation of tribal allegiance in a world in which frequent inter-tribal warfare is no longer part of life.

(ps. snarky comments on writing styles doesn’t do much for the debate… this is an internet message board, not a doctoral thesis :rolleyes: ).

We all agree that it’s understandable. You seem to agree that it’s irrational.

It wasn’t a comment, it was a request, and I tried to make it as nonsnarky as I possibly could. I can’t imagine a less snarky way to ask you that.

Here you go:

[ul][li]I, as a human, have an emotional response I call “fun”.[/li][li]“Fun” is a positive response. I therefore choose to maximise it where possible.[/li][li]When observing football, I (usually) experience this response.[/li][li]I have noticed that the response is heightened in an adversarial context; i.e. when I have a team to root for.[/li][li]Therefore, it is sensible for me to pick a team to root for.[/ul][/li]That seems pretty rational to me. Sport is undoubtedly more fun to watch when one has a team to support. It’s therefore rational to pick one (it doesn’t really matter which; the choice can be for irrational or rational reasons. I picked Liverpool aged 4 because they played in red, which seemed perfectly rational at the time). Is “fun” a rational thing? Probably not (thank god), but I don’t think that’s relevant. You can still make rational choices in response to irrational stimuli.

So in short: it’s rational to support someone if by doing so you heighten your enjoyment, and for most people this is the case. There’s no objectively rational way of choosing who to support, and thank God for that because otherwise we’d all support the same team. So the choice is arbitrary and the motivator irrational, but not to choose would still be irrational. :smiley:

[QUOTE=Dead Badger]
Here you go:

[ul][li]I, as a human, have an emotional response I call “fun”.[/li][li]“Fun” is a positive response. I therefore choose to maximise it where possible.[/li][li]When observing football, I (usually) experience this response.[/li][li]I have noticed that the response is heightened in an adversarial context; i.e. when I have a team to root for.[/li][li]Therefore, it is sensible for me to pick a team to root for.[/ul][/li][/QUOTE]
That is indeed a rational reason to root for a team. What I was looking for was a rational reason to root for a particular team.

What I don’t get, and I mean “don’t get” at a very deep, visceral, emotional level, is how it is possible to have such a strong emotional reaction about something that you yourself describe as “arbitrary”.

I disagree that the choice is “arbitrary”.

If you accept that a sports team is representative of a particular group of people - usually a city, but also nation - and you belong to that group of people, it makes sense to identify with a particular team.

So… my mother is from Liverpool, therefore I have an attachment to Liverpool. It’s also natural to associate with success, and when I was a lad Liverpool were the dominant team in the UK.

You might support a team who’s playing style and management philosophy most closely mirror your own world view - the rough ‘n’ tough Glasgow Rangers, or the cultured play of Arsenal.

You might choose a team because your brother supports their greatest rival - Everton vs Liverpool, Spurs vs Arsenal etc

It might be that by chance you attended your first game at a particular club, which will give you a greater affection for that team. Or maybe the supporters at a club were particularly welcoming, and made you feel part of a group.

Seriously, there’s millions of good, rational reasons why an individual might choose to support any given sports team…

How is the team representative of a particular group of people? And these days, hasn’t this lost any meaning it ever had? How many non-Italians are in Juventus or non-Dutchmen in Ajax, and how many of those that are from Italy or the Netherlands are actually from Turin or Amsterdam?

This I don’t even understand.

This is rational?

I seem to be good at unintentionally pissing you off, so let me start by saying that I mean no offence in this, but you and I seem to be working from different definitions of “rational”.

Perhaps you could define your view of “rational” then? At least we’d all be on the same page :slight_smile:

I am not religious, or even faithful, but I believe that your premise is flawed. Some aspects of religion are completely rational. Religion can provide a framework for understanding the world, or at least once upon a time it could. Why does day follow night? Where did we come from? Why are we here? It also later fostered a sense of community, a code of ethics and a support structure. Oftentimes it’s the only support structure for people who don’t have enough to survive. In this sense it’s fairly rational. One could of course argue that in most places government and science have replaced many of these, but then religion has become institutionalized and become part of the common culture in most places. Now then you could argue that all culture is irrational, I guess, but I’m not sure you’d have much of a case.

No, the international nature of modern squad selection has had no effect on the group identity provided to a city or town (or cultural or sectarian subsection).

e-logic is very right, that it’s not arbitrary. I support Ipswich, not because they win everything, nor because I have any memories of winning any cups, but because it’s part of my home, part of what I’ve grown up with. By going to matches, I’m actually joining up with about a fifth of the town’s population, and although “sense of community” is a really naff phrase, there’s nothing, including religion, which unites so many people. Even people who don’t like football still want to know the score, still want Town to do well.

This is the case up and down Britain, and I’m sure across Europe and further afield as well. How it fits into your rational/irrational definitions, I’ll leave to you.

Once you’ve chosen a team to like (for whatever reason), then it’s not arbitrary anymore, you’ve just shifted that team over into the “team I want to win” group. Even if the choice was arbitrary, once it resides in that group there is an emotional feeling that can develop along the lines of us vs them.

Question for you PriceGuy, couldn’t you apply this same question to just about anything related to our emotions? Isn’t the base question really “Are our emotions rational?”

Not really. Say I read in the newspaper about a rape or a murder, and get angry, scared or sad. I have a reason to get angry, scared or sad. But when I read about a football team winning or losing, I have no reason to feel anything much at all, really.

Unless you were at the game the night before, cheering your team on and kicking every ball with them… or perhaps you couldn’t attend, but the rest of your mates were and you know they shared the pain.

Which presupposes that you already are a fan, and what we’re discussing is whether being a fan in the first place is rational.