Baseball Fan Group Dynamics

Watching sports live is one of the best places to observe group dynamics. I’m not talking about watching the actual teams play, although that’s great too. I’m talking about watching the fans. Baseball, in particular, is great for this, because there’s a lot of downtime between plays.

The richest experiences come from watching teams with great fans.¬†Oakland fans are some of the very best in sports, bar none. Warriors fans are widely acknowledged as the best in the NBA, and A’s fans are right up there. I don’t even have to mention Raiders fans.

I went to the A’s game yesterday, and I got some video clips of fan dynamics and collective leadership in action. This guy consistently got the crowd going, simply by standing up and clapping loudly, rhythmically, and enthusiastically. But this doesn’t work unless you have the right fan culture. I’ve been to many games on the other side of the Bay where these types of efforts are met with uncomfortable passivity.

I’ve been to a lot of baseball games in my life, but somehow, I’ve never seen this before: fans taunting the opposing relief pitchers warming up in a very creative way. I wasn’t sure what would happen with a second relief pitcher, but when it happened, the fans didn’t miss a beat. I was literally rolling around in my seat laughing.

This video shows the fan ritual whenever closer Grant Balfour comes into the game. It’s known as “Balfour rage” in honor of the closer’s legendary volatile temper, and the history of its evolution is fascinating.

My only regret was that there were no waves. Watching a wave form is a fascinating study in group dynamics.

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