Chapter 5 – Reactions to Rival Failure

Now that we have covered how fans treat participants and fans of rival teams, and how their perceptions can be impacted by (and impact other behaviors), we will move onto talk about how fans react when their favorite team’s rival loses or experiences indirect failure (i.e., not against the favorite team).  In particular, we will discuss the phenomena of schadenfreude, disposition of mirth, sport disposition theory, and Glory Out of Reflected Failure (GORFing) in this chapter.

Activity #7

Using your favorite team’s biggest rival team or teams, reflect on your responses in Discussion Topic #4 and write down how you react when your rival team loses to someone other than your favorite team.  How do you react internally, or cognitively?  How do you react publicly, or behaviorally?  Do you celebrate with others?  Do you post insults on social media or on sport discussion boards?  Are you upset or disappointed?  Whatever your response, think about and write down why you think your react that way when your rival team loses. 

Researchers have asserted that a rival team losing can cause similar feelings of excitement or euphoria as those experienced when a favorite team wins a game (Mahony & Howard, 1998).  Additionally, fans may even want to watch their rival team play someone else if the outcome of the game has a direct compact on their favorite team or if they believe the rival may lose (Mahony & Moorman, 1999).  Because fans identify with a favorite team or group, they also may choose a team to disidentify from, and take joy when that team or group experiences failure (Elsbach & Bhattacharya, 2001).  People will also choose sides when given an opportunity to display their affiliation, and derogation with a group (Ewing, Wagstaff, & Powell, 2013).  Additionally, when rival teams are playing, fans will cheer for the successes of their favorite team and failures of their rival team (Zillman, Bryant, & Sapolsky, 1986).  This is known as the sport disposition theory, and was adapted to the sport setting from disposition theory.  Disposition theory asserts an individual experiences joy when someone they like is successful and someone they dislike experiences failure; and pain when a favored person is unsuccessful and a disliked person is successful (Zillman & Cantor, 1976).

The German term schadenfreude refers to a person experiencing joy when something negative happens to someone else (Heider, 1958).  Think about this phenomenon in your life for a minute.  Do you experience a little bit of joy when someone who brags about their accomplishments fails, whether in school, sports, or other activities?  Be honest, you do right?  It’s okay, almost everyone does (we cannot generalize to every single person, but common belief is that the vast majority of us do).  In fact, Eric Vanman has (2016) has described schadenfreude as counter-empathy.  As we have discussed, it is human nature to want to feel accomplished or successful at something (Deci, 1975).  One way to show our competence or that we are successful is to compare ourselves to others (Festinger, 1954).  Because of this human trait, it makes sense that we want to be more successful than others, even if that means putting others down.  While this may not an overly admirable trait, don’t be too ashamed, because you join a very, very large group of humans who do the same thing.

Outside of sport, Eslbach and Bhattacharya (2001) found that opponents of the National Rifle Association experienced joy at unflattering news about the organization.  Within sport, several researchers have used schadenfreude to study fan behavior.  One such researcher is Mina Cikara, who, along with colleagues conducted a study on Major League Baseball fans to see how they neurologically reacted to the success and failure of a favorite and rival team.  Findings showed that fans reacted positively when a favorite team defeated a rival team, but also when a third neutral team defeated a rival team (Cikara, Botvinick, & Fiske, 2011).  Also, schadenfreude was stronger when expectations of a rival team were high and were not met (Cikara & Fiske, 2012).  Think about it, when your rival team loses to an underdog team you experience more joy than if they lost to someone perceived to be on their same talent level don’t you?  Again, don’t be ashamed, most people do.

Research lead by Colin Leach found that schadenfreude was caused by a threat to the in-group and the perceive inferiority of the in-group (Leach, Spears, Branscombe, & Doosje, 2003).  Schadenfreude was also activated when the in-group or favorite team experienced a loss.  In fact, following a favorite team loss, fans experienced schadenfreude toward the team that had defeated their favorite team, but also toward a third team that did not play their team (Leach & Spears, 2009).  Finally, Leach and Spears asserted that schadenfreude was activated in fans because they wanted supporters of other teams to share in their misery of defeat.

Spotlight on Rivalry – Evert and Navritilova

The rivalry in Women’s Tennis between Chris Evert and Martina Navritilova spanned more than a decade (the two played over 80 times!) and has been referred to on numerous occasions at the best individual sport rivalry in history.  For many tennis viewers, the rivalry represented something more than just phenomenal women’s tennis.  The on-court rivalry occurred during the height of the Cold War between the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Even though Navritilova defected to the USA from Soviet-control Chechoslovakia at the age of 18, to many tennis fans, national loyalty and pride played a role in deciding which player to cheer for.  The link from tennis.com details Martina Navritilova’s defection while playing at the 1975 US Open. 

We mentioned the interviews I conducted with fans about their favorite and rival teams in Chapter 4.  We can now address other implications of those interviews besides development and validation of the SRFPS.  In those interviews, people were asked to explain how they reacted when their favorite team won and lost a contest.  Fans were also asked to describe how they reacted when their favorite team defeated their rival team (joy, excitement, and pride were some responses offered), but also when someone other than their favorite team defeated their rival.  Fans differed some on their reactions to a rival defeat by another team, but some said they were happy and felt excitement, especially if the rival lost to an underdog or in a post-season contest (kind of like how I felt when Oklahoma lost in the national championship game).  Some fans event went so far as to say a loss in the post-season or championship game made the rival look like they “were unable to show up for big games or could not perform on the national stage” (Havard, 2014, p. 249).

From the interviews, Glory Out of Reflected Failure (GORFing) was identified (Havard, 2014).  GORFing describes “the enjoyment one gets from the defeat of the favorite team’s rival by a team other than the favorite” (p. 250).  GORFing can be thought of as a competition form of schadenfreude.  Indicators that GORFing has been activated rather than general schadenfreude include (1) the inclusion of the rivalry phenomenon (i.e., a rival team has to be present – schadenfreude does not have to involve a favorite or rival team), (2) the presence of the favorite team (schadenfreude can occur absent of the favorite team), and (3) the focus on the impact of a rival failure on the individual fan and favorite team (research on schadenfreude in sport has focused solely on how a rival failure impacts the individual fan).

In other words, GORFing somehow reflects positively on the fan and their favorite team, (e.g., making the fan feel their favorite team is better).  This is important because it means, to a fan, a rival indirect failure (1) gives them personal enjoyment and (2) reflects positively in some way on their favorite team.  For example, online sport fans displayed tendencies of schadenfreude on learning about the death of Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell (Dalakas, Melancon, & Sreboth, 2015), even though this did not reflect positively on their favorite team (nor should it!).  However, Auburn fans “rolling Toomers Corner” following Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the 2017 CFP National Championship Game is an example of GORFing because (1) the Auburn fans definitely felt happy, and (2) they celebrated in a similar way as if Auburn had won the game rather than Clemson.  Also, Auburn fans could say “we wouldn’t have lost in the National Championship Game” as a way to make them feel better for their season.  It is also important to note that GORFing can exist outside of sport as well as long as (1) an in-group is present, (2) an out-group is present, (3) the outcome impacts the in-group as well as the individual, and (4) some form indirect competition is present.  For example, a person who supports a political candidate can take joy when the opponent of their chosen candidate gets into legal trouble or loses to another candidate (say in a primary).  This can occur because (1) the person is part of the in-group of the chosen candidate’s supporters, (2) the opposing candidate and supporter (i.e., out-group) is present, (3) the opponents legal trouble or loss in primary reflects positively on the in-group (e.g., my candidate would never get in legal trouble/lose in a primary), and (4) indirect competition is present because the candidates are compared by supporters, observers, and media.

Discussion Topic #5

Based on what you have read, do you believe that GORFing is the competition form of schadenfreude?  Give some examples of what you believe to be general schadenfreude and what you believe is GORFing.  

Recently, colleagues and I have started to quantitatively test the GORFing phenomenon (Havard, Inoue, & Ryan, 2016).  We showed that GORFing is in fact present when (1) the rival team loses to another team, and (2) regardless of favorite team performance.  Items measuring GORFing were again pulled from interviews with fans about the successes and failure of their favorite and rival teams (Havard, 2014).  Currently four items have been validated as a quantitative measure of GORFing (Havard, Wann, & Ryan, forthcoming).  So far, the measure has been used to investigate how perceptions of rival teams impact the likelihood of experiencing GORFing and whether the presence of a primary or secondary rival influences the phenomenon.  Results show that (1) GORFing is unique from the SRFPS, (2) fans do not differ in their likelihood of experiencing GORFing whether a primary or secondary teams experiences indirect failure, however, (3) rival perceptions significantly influence the phenomenon (Havard & Hutchinson, 2017).  In particular, the OIC, OP, and SoS factors influenced fan likelihood of experiencing GORFing.  Also, GORFing influences fan likelihood to wear or purchase favorite team merchandise.  GORFing is also unique from schadenfreude and impacted by identification with a favorite team (Havard et al., forthcoming).

Glory Out of Reflected Failure (GORFing)

 

When your favorite team’s rival loses to another team, how likely are you to: (Circle)

                                

                                                                          Strongly                                 Strongly

                                                                          Disagree          Neutral              Agree

Celebrate with others. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Feel my favorite team is superior to my rival team. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Feel better about myself. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I feel closer to my favorite team. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Scale of Agreement – 1 – Strongly Disagree; 2 – Disagree; 3 – Somewhat Disagree; 4 – Neutral; 5 – Somewhat Agree; 6 – Agree; 7 – Strongly Agree

Activity #8

Using your favorite team’s biggest rival, respond to the GORFing prompts below on a separate piece of paper.  When you finished, add up your score and divide by 4 to measure your likelihood of experience GORFing when your biggest rival loses to someone other than your favorite team.  Based on your score, how likely are you to experiencing GORFing?  Do you agree with the score?

Additional research has identified additional fan behavioral responses to a rival team’s failure (Pradhan, Laraway, Havard, & Snycerski, 2017).  The following items measure fan likelihood to Bask in Other’s Failure (BOFing), Cut Off Other’s Failure (COOFing), Bask in Other’s Success (BOSing), and Cut Off Other’s Success (COOSing).  BOFing is similar to GORFing, where a person would take measures to display their excitement when a rival team loses.  A person may COOF following a rival’s loss if they feel the outcome will reflect negatively on them or their favorite team.  Likewise, a person may BOS following a rival’s success if they feel the outcome will be a positive reflection on them and their favorite team (this may help to explain the chants of “SEC, SEC” discussed in Chapter 3).  And a person may COOS as a way to protect themself against a rival team’s success.  Finally, Pradhan and colleagues assert that highly identified fans are more likely to COOS and BOF, whereas lower identified fans are more likely to BOS and COOF.

Activity #9

Following the same steps from Activity #7, complete the BOFing, COOFing, BOSing, and COOSing scales below on a separate piece of paper.  Again, take the average of your scores for the scales.  Do you agree with your scores?   

Basking in Other’s Failure (BOFing)

 

When your favorite team’s rival loses to another team, how likely are you to: (Circle)

Strongly                                               Strongly

Disagree                Neutral        Agree

Social Interactions
I enjoy seeing (insert team name) lose. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will “talk trash” to fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I root for the team playing against the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I take joy in a loss by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will make fun of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
When (insert favorite team name) defeats the (insert team name), I feel like I have defeated the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Media Engagement
I will read about the loss by the (insert team name) online, through an application on my smartphone, on online sports sites/blogs, or in the newspaper. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will talk about the loss by the (insert team name) with my friends. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am more likely to watch highlights of the poor performance by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will check the box score and team statistics of the loss by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
External Outlets
I will post comments online about the loss by (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will talk about the loss by the (insert team name) with fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

 

Cutting Off Other’s Failure (COOFing)

 

When your favorite team’s rival loses to another team, how likely are you to: (Circle)

Strongly                                Strongly

Disagree                Neutral        Agree

Media Avoidance
I am not as likely to read about the loss by the (insert team name) through an application on my smartphone, on online sports sites/blogs, or in the newspaper. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to watch highlights of the poor performance by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to talk about the loss by the (insert team name) with my friends. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to check the box score and team statistics of the loss by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Emotional Adversities
I do not enjoy seeing the (insert team name) lose. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
When the (insert team name) lose, I feel like I have lost. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am disgusted at the good play by the team that wins against the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
External Outlets
I am not as likely to post comments online about the loss by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to talk about the loss by the (insert team name) with fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

 

Basking in Other’s Success (BOSing)

 

When your favorite team’s rival loses to another team, how likely are you to: (Circle)

Strongly                                Strongly

Disagree                Neutral        Agree

Media Approach
I will read about the win by the (insert team name) through an application on my smartphone, on online sports sites/blogs, or in the newspaper. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will talk about the win by the (insert team name) with my friends. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will talk about the win by the (insert team name) with fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will check the box score and team statistics of the win by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am more likely to watch highlights of the good performance by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
External Enhancements
When the (insert team name) win, I feel like I have won. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I enjoy seeing the (insert team name) win. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will post comments online about the win by (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Basking Communication
I will not “talk trash” to fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I will not make fun of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I take joy in the (insert team name) winning. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I do not root for the team playing against the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

 

Cutting Off Other’s Success (COOSing)

 

When your favorite team’s rival loses to another team, how likely are you to: (Circle)

Strongly                                Strongly

Disagree                Neutral        Agree

Media Avoidance
I am not as likely to post comments online about the win by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to talk about the win by the (insert team name) with fans of the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to watch highlights of the good performance by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to talk about the win by the (insert team name) with my friends. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to check the box score and team statistics of the win by the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am not as likely to read about the win by the (insert team name) through an application on my smartphone, on online sports sites/blogs, or in the newspaper. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Social Adversities
When the (insert team name) win, I feel like I have lost. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I do not believe a win by the (insert team name) is earned, or justified. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am disgusted at the poor play by the team that loses to the (insert team name). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I do not enjoy seeing the (insert team name) win. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7