Sports, Games, and Play: Social and Psychological Viewpoints

By Jeffrey H. Goldstein | Go to book overview

12
THE HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE

John Edwards
Denise Archambault
Loyola University of Chicago

Sports lore has long held that a team playing on its home ground has an advantage over its opponent. Many experts such as coaches, players, sportswriters, and broadcasters give as much credit to the home-field advantage as to any other factor that might determine the outcome of a contest. Many newspapers now routinely report not only the standings in different sports but also the won/lost records separately for home versus away games, thereby suggesting the supreme significance of game location. Our informal analysis of the contents of sports news in magazines and newspapers as well as remarks by announcers and commentators during games indicated more references to the difficulty in defeating a team on its home ground than to any other single variable such as prior record, player talent, injuries, or momentum. On the other hand, because in most sports each team plays approximately one-half of its games on its home field, there must be other important factors that determine a team's success. Otherwise, each team would have about the same record. Furthermore, despite the rather extensive documentation of a home-field effect by sportswriters and social scientists in many sports (e.g., Koppet, 1972; Schwartz & Barsky, 1977; and others following), the absence of this effect and even performance decrements have been observed for home teams in some circumstances ( Baumeister & Steinhilber, 1984). In short, although location may be a major factor in the outcomes of athletic contests, its effects are not entirely consistent in strength or direction, but vary across different sports, particular teams, and game importance among other factors.

The pervasive interest in the home-field advantage, combined with observed variations in its extent and certainty, have inspired social scientists

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