Phillies win and mob psychology


Congratulations to the Phillies. They stayed focused after 46 hours of delay to win the World Series. It was fun that the game last night lasted only 3 more innings. I let my boys stay up to watch it and so the weird rain-delay suspension worked in their favor. I’ve thought that MLB was doing a disservice to their future fans by having the games so late here in the East.

This morning I heard reports of hooliganism: cars overturned, windows smashed, and other destructive behavior. Likely the number of violent and criminal actors were small and similar to other cities that win national championships. Normal maybe, but it does raise the question as to WHY do individuals engage in violence as a means to celebrate their team?

So, I got on my PsychInfo database to see what I could find on the topic.

Not surprisingly, most of the literature is about European and South American soccer matches. It seems that English hooligans are seen as the worst. But, I found little in the way of helpful information to get to the psychology of mob violence after sporting wins. But I did find these little tidbits:

1. Intergroup relationships that increase a common identity serve to establish group power and a sense of legitimacy. Hence why most of Broad Street was impassable. Individuals by the thousands hung out on the street with no sense to make room for cars. They felt they had a legitimate right to be in the street and the power to be there even when cars might need to get through.

2. The higher the profile of policing, the higher risk of disorder. Hmmm. Seems the more police appear in para-military or riot-gear the more fans feel aggressive. The flip side was found true in 2004 in Europe. Lower profile policing seems to build the sense that the police and the fans share the same goal: celebration. Hmmm again. Maybe this is why when I become more authoritarian in the home, I get less cooperation.

3. The pathway to violence may be this: winning plus alcohol = increased aggression. Apparently, losing does not increase violent behaviors. Winning doesn’t dramatically increase happiness (so the study found) but does increase aggressiveness.

By in large, this is an understudied phenomenon. Someone developed an incomprehensible “Elaborated Social Identity Model of Crowd Behavior” but it wasn’t particularly helpful to my questions.

I guess one of my problems is that I am not attracted to crowds of any kind and so mob celebrations whether at an official parade or after a game make me want to run. Just watching the crowd last night on TV made me feel a bit claustrophobic.

2 Comments

Filed under Identity, Psychology

2 responses to “Phillies win and mob psychology

  1. Mark O.

    Phil,

    Last night my wife and I went to a bible study and were coming home after the game in seperate cars (I had class and got there late) through Manyunk, and I must admit, it was a little frightening.

    I’m a huge Phillies fan and was very excited, but the crowd standing in the middle of the street and banging on car windows, falling off of moving cars, etc. was very intimidating, especially since my wife was in a separate car.

    It’d be interesting to see if a city’s personal commitment to a team increases or decreases the amount of celebration, and if personal commitment to a sports team is correlated with rowdy behavior.

    I wonder if part of the excess in celebration could be related to spiritual factors. The thought crossed my mind, “For many people, this is as good as it gets. Sports is their personal religion, and this is the pinnacle.” I certainly notice a tendency in my own heart to cling to the victory and prioritize it over more important things…Anything can become an idol.

  2. Ron

    With Mark O, I was glad for my friends (I felt a momentary elation, as if something caught in passing: I was driving with ministry colleagues through Hatboro as the game ended and crowds burst out of a bar or two), but thought that this would not end the dreariness of life in a fallen world, nor bring peace to a troubled heart. Diversion, but not deliverance.

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