Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Facility Familiarity and the Home Advantage

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Facility Familiarity and the Home Advantage

Article excerpt

The home advantage in sports has been widely documented; see Edwards and Archambault, 1989; Courneya and Carron, 1992; for comprehensive reviews of the literature. Plausible explanations of the home advantage have been offered through frustration-aggression theory (Varca, 1980), territorial dominance (Edwards & Archambault, 1989) and various spectator characteristics (Mizruchi, 1985; Schwartz & Barskyt 1977). While the explanations posited make logical and theoretical sense, none have predominated singularly or in combination. Thus, the home advantage has been widely chronicled but there is no consensus on the explanation.

One reason that causal explanations of the advantage are yet to be validated is that planned experimental intervention studies have not been done, nor is it likely they will be. Experimental manipulation of causal variables would likely lead to accusations of "fixing" game outcomes rather than viewed as contributing to scientific theory and explanation. While much will continue to be learned through descriptive studies that chronicle the home advantage, ex-post facto causal research opportunities can also contribute to understanding the phenomenon.

One ex-post facto approach is to identify a situation where an unintended event "intervened" and consequently manipulated a variable that has been theoretically inferred to effect performance. For example, Moore and Brylinsky (1993) found that teams had better shooting percentages and scored more points in the absence of spectators than in the presence of spectators. The unintended intervention was a measles epidemic that led to a decision that resulted in two teams playing nine conference games in the absence of spectators. Thus, nature intervened and allowed for the manipulation of an important variable that could not be manipulated in a natural setting as a pre-planned experiment.

Other recent examples of using unintended interventions as a way to learn more about phenomena has been reported in oceanographic research and given the label of 'inadvertent oceanographic science.' Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham (1994) traced wind and ocean currents through a mishap that resulted in thousands of rubber ducks, turtles, and other bathtub toys being spilled overboard when a cargo freighter was hit by a storm. In another incident thousands of Nike shoes accidentally fell off a ship and their dispersion and eventual destinations were traced. According to the authors, these kinds of inadvertent incidents can provide useful information to oceanographers in predicting where floating debris will go after spills.

The search for inadvertent interventions in the natural setting led us to the study reported in this paper. In this case, the intervention occurred in the NCAA Mid-American Conference during the 1992-93 basketball season. One conference member, Western Michigan University (WMU), played on five different "home" courts while the construction of a new facility was underway. Thus, WMU because of the construction circumstances, may have been at a home disadvantage because of having to play their home games at the unfamiliar facilities.

Facility familiarity refers to the those physical characteristics associated with the home facility that should result in the home team having an advantage over visiting teams. That is, the number of games played on the home court combined with the opportunity to repeatedly practice on the same court should place the home team at an advantage since the home team would be more intimate with the peculiarities of the playing area. Whether facility familiarity is a substantial contributor to the home advantage is yet to be determined. While logic and common sense suggest that facility familiarity should be one of the major causes of the home advantage, little empirical support has been found (Edwards & Archambault, 1989; Schartz & Barsky, 1977). In their literature review Courneya and Carron (1992) report that the effect of home facility familiarity has received scant attention, not because of a lack of interest, but because of the difficulty of empirically testing the concept. …

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