In Eric Dunning’s, The Dynamics of Modern Sport: Notes on Achievement-Striving and the Social Significance of Sport, he touches upon many different thoughts about sports in the modern era. However the two that are most prevalent in my opinion today are the differences between the interests of the players and spectators, and the difference between seriousness and play.
Dunning states that when the players are heavily invested in the game, then likewise, the fans are also brought into the game in an intense fashion. The rivalries and increased tension in a certain game between the players, increases tension between fans, who feel as if they do have an effect and sometimes take it into their own hands. There have been multiple instances where fans try and affect the game, and in some cases they do, while in other cases they cross the line between playful banter and people get seriously injured.
The Seattle Seahawks have invested heavily in their fan section, titled the “12th Man” who encourages their team throughout every home game, and there are statistics that show that they actually do have an impact on the game.
They have registered the second loudest recording in the world of 137.6 decibels, have actually shook the Earth during a playoff game, and have caused a league leading, 2.36 false starts per game at their home field. There is a resounding effect to having home field advantage, and the Seahawks definitely use their fan base to their advantage.
While those fans have let the seriousness in the game contribute to their own success, some fans do things out of spite because of the seriousness or lack thereof in a game. On August 20, 2011, there was a preseason football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, which proved to be disastrous and fatal for some fans. Two men were found shot in the parking lot outside the stadium, and one other man was found unconscious in a bathroom. Dunning shows that when fans are rivals, the fake game that is at hand is actually transformed into a real one, where people commit crimes and other illegal acts. This was a preseason football game, which had absolutely no implications on the regular season, but the rival fans from the Bay Area still felt the tension and let it show, according to Dunning’s thoughts. These spectators identified with the teams so much, that they felt fighting would be a way to show their allegiance and help gain the intended outcome of the game, even though there was nothing to be gained.
The players and fans as a combination are a very volatile group of people. The fans continuously model the way that the players act, while the players also feed off of the fans; it is a give and take, which could possibly influence the game depending on the situation. In black and white, the fans cheer and the players play, but if we all really thought that we had no influence on a game, would we still be watching and following the sport that fiercely? Dunning thinks that we would not watch the games without this correlation between the two, and frankly, neither do I.