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Out of State, In the Game: Navigating Sports Fandom in Unfamiliar Territory

Calli Christiansen, MSW

Why am I the sports fan that I am? Is it because I am connected with that team? Is it because everyone in my family is and I just took it on too? For some, it is a sense of pride for their state and degree of satisfaction that represents them as a bigger ideology. Similar to meat or vegetables, we marinate in cultural, religious, political and geographic influences that form our identity and perspective. For many fans, their loyalty is anchored to a specific team. And that strong fan loyalty is related to self-esteem and a need to belong in a group of people. According to Allen McConnell from Psychology Today (2015), more specifically, the need to belong is even more powerful than the desire for self-esteem for some. Yet, people should not feel the need to force their viewpoint on others or downplay another person’s team loyalty. If you are a sports fan of a team that is not your state’s, it’s stunning how people seem to struggle with that concept. So how can one navigate through? Here are 5 ways to cope with sports fandom in unfamiliar territory: 

  1. Embrace your uniqueness: Being a different sports fan can be an opportunity to stand out and embrace your individuality. Wear your team gear proudly, display your team’s colors, and let your passion shine! 
  2. Connect with online communities: In the world today, it is a treasure to dive into the internet and find sports fan communities. Join online forums, social media groups, and fan websites to connect with others who share your passion. Engage in discussions, share your thoughts, and celebrate victories together. 
  3. Attending sports events in your area: Even if your favorite team doesn’t play in your state, there is one thing that is still similar: being a fan of sports! There might be opportunities to attend games or events featuring other teams. Take advantage of these to experience the thrill of live sports and connect with fellow fans of the sport. Who knows what fun is in store! 
  4. Engage in friendly banter: Being a different sports fan can lead to some friendly rivalries and banter with fans of the state’s teams. Embrace the playful spirit of sports fandom and engage in lighthearted debates, discussions, and even jokes. It’s a fun way to connect with others and show your love for your team. 
  5. Plan trips to see your team play: If possible, plan trips to watch your favorite team play in their home stadium or in nearby cities. It’s a great way to immerse yourself into the fandom!

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