A Psychoanalysis Of NFL Fans...Via Twitter

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Oakland Raiders fans may not have much to smile about on the gridiron, but they did win an important distinction from two Emory University professors. (Ben Margot/AP)
Oakland Raiders fans may not have much to smile about on the gridiron, but they did win an important distinction from two Emory University professors. (Ben Margot/AP)

Pittsburgh Steelers fans furiously wave terrible towels. Cleveland Browns fans don dog masks and howl. But which fans of an NFL team are the most unstable? Emory University professors Michael Lewis and Manish Tripathi recently endeavored to find out by analyzing Twitter. Professor Tripathi joined Bill Littlefield to explain.

BL: Professor Tripathi, how exactly did you do that?

MT: Let’s say for example the Buffalo Bills are playing, and they play on a Sunday, so we record the fact that they play, whether they win or lose. So in the Buffalo market the next day, let’s look at all of the tweets that mention the Buffalo Bills and let’s look at each of those tweets in those markets and analyze them as being either positive or negative. And that will give us a sense of how stable the fan base is. Do they get really high and really low depending on if the team wins or loses, or are they pretty even steven?

BL: Now my reading of your study indicates that you determined that the Oakland Raiders fans are the most unstable, but is it possible that maybe Oakland Raider fans who don’t tweet are entirely calm?

MT: It’s possible, although I would say it’s probably unlikely.

BL: You also did some research to determine which fans are happiest after a win. Who won that distinction?

MT: This is basically just looking at the sentiment score after the team wins and taking that average. The New Orleans Saints were on top. And I should point out the Raiders were third on that list.

BL: Oh, so they were very happy when they won and very unhappy when they lost?

MT: Yeah, and they were fifth on the list of being sad after they lost. That’s I think why we get back to that unstable metric with them.

BL:  See I would think the saddest fans after a loss would have to be the fans who bet the most money on the losing team. Am I wrong about that?

MT: They might not be tweeting about that, but yeah, if that were the case then the Pittsburgh Steeler fans would be the ones who were betting the most on their team it seems the last year.

BL:  Alright now you maintain that the Raiders fans were among the happiest when they won and among the saddest when they lost. That I gather is why you wrote in your study they resemble “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last season.”

MT: Although you know what’s interesting: I think of this list of most unstable — and I sort of think, you know, part of what goes into this is what the expectations of the fans are and how expressive they are – the one that surprised me actually more than anyone else were the New England Patriots. Those fans finished third on our list of most unstable. And if you look at it – the Raiders, fine. That’s an interesting bunch. We’re not shocked that we see them as unstable.

BL: No these are people who come to games with nails in their heads.

MT: But the Patriots finished 12-4 last season during the regular season, so this to me really spoke that, at least in the Twitter world, these fans are really getting up for when the team wins but they’re really taking those losses hard as well so that’s why we see a big delta with them.

BL: Does your study enable you to give any advice to fans of a team that take losses too hard?

MT: It allows me to say that misery loves company. I can point out the other fan bases which are taking that loss hard as well.

This segment aired on September 7, 2013.


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