Two years ago, while completing a graduate program in English, I wrote a capstone thesis on the potential effects of personality traits on student composition styles. As someone who has always identified as an introvert in a world seemingly full of extroverts, internal personalities fascinate me.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about this a lot as far as sports fans are concerned. Although we’re often ‘cheering the laundry’, it’s nearly impossible not to get attached to certain players. But why does a person like one player more than another – could it have something to do with matching personality traits?
Truth be told, my Minnesota Vikings fandom mostly drove me into this intellectual thinking. I’m a bigger fan than most starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, and I think part of that has to do with inherent traits in Captain Kirk that I also see in myself – a desire to play for an authority figure who appreciates my efforts, an exclusion of thought or caution about decisions, and the fact that in his place I would be 100% shilling for Pizza Ranch rather than beers, bitcoins or insurance.
Oddly enough, Cousins’ apparent nemesis, head coach Mike Zimmer, was also one of my favorites (before he crushed the team for the past two years, but I’ll save that for the Daily Norseman). Why? His extreme candor and commercial nature, the two ways my co-workers might describe me on the clock.
Historically, some of Minnesota’s greatest sports icons have achieved their high status due to their closeness to this state’s social/cultural norms and stereotypes. Bud Grant was the stoic, no-nonsense disciplinarian who represented so many of the greatest generation fathers here in the Nordic country, while Harmon Killebrew was the humble, soft-spoken country boy who preferred to let his bat do the talking.
Thinking back to some of my favorite Twins tricks over the years, I see a similar pattern, that is, they share characteristics with yours:
- Brad Radke: Absolutely reliable, unassuming, and not a spotlight hog.
- Joe Mauer: Almost painfully shy and preferring to lead by example – doing the day-to-day work – as opposed to statements or rah rah speeches.
- Paul Molitor: Highly organized and analytical, but often lacking the soft-pedal people management skills to get that information out of his brain and into the hearts/minds of others.
Of course, personality reasons are certainly not the only ones to decide the favorites. I always liked the Twins closest (Aguilera, Nathan, Perkins, etc.) simply because they were the last guys on the mound when the win was assured. Michael Cuddyer’s ability to throw a strike at third base from the RF warning track certainly doesn’t affect my internal skills. My current favorite – Jorge Polanco – I like because he’s been a solid to spectacular hitter since day one of his MLB career – no more, no less.
Occasionally, I’ve even noticed a sort of reverse personality effect: liking specific individuals who represent who I sometimes want to be as opposed to who I am. This explains my affinity for the recently deceased Josh Donaldson – he has a brash and outspoken nature – or Stefon Diggs (who isn’t afraid to speak his mind when he feels mistreated/underutilized by the Vikings organization ).
But I think part of the sports fandom…any fandom, really – is driven by its relationship to our distinct characteristics as human beings.
Have you seen examples of this in your own experiences? I would like to hear them! Who knows, maybe I’ll do a PhD one day.