Sports, Games, and Play: Social and Psychological Viewpoints

By Jeffrey H. Goldstein | Go to book overview

11
SPORTS CROWDS AND THE COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE

Leon Mann The Flinders University of South Australia


INTRODUCTION

The growing interest in sport as a field of research inquiry has been accompanied by an increased interest in the sports fan in his or her public role as a member of a spectator crowd. The expansion of spectator sport as a major leisure-time activity has produced changes in the ideology and practice of sport. This in turn has led to a variety of crowd phenomena that make the sports crowd an important subject in its own right. Here we examine the sports crowd as an aspect of collective behavior and discuss how the conduct of spectators before, during, and after a sports event can be affected by their belonging to a crowd. What is the relevance of the study of sports crowds? Why is the field important?

The sports crowd can be regarded as a regular, scheduled gathering of groups of partisan followers and neutral observers whose behavior is more or less predictable. Blumer ( 1946) classified spectators at sports events as a "conventionalized crowd." The conventionalization of sports crowds raises interesting questions relating to recruitment into the sports crowd and how norms governing spectatorship are developed and learned. Also members of sports crowds are frequently participants in related forms of collective behavior. Spectators will have been part of a commuter crowd en-route to the event, may have waited in long queues for admission, and may become part of an expressive, victory crowd. The sports crowd transforms readily into a destructive crowd (a riot), an acquisitive crowd (an entry stampede), an escape crowd (an exit panic), all potentially disastrous. The links between the conventional sports crowd and other less regular crowd types

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