Newswise — Sometimes March Madness is just that. In addition to the team spirit generated by 67 of the country’s top men’s college basketball teams playing for a national championship, the annual NCAA single-elimination tournament known as March Madness has also featured obscene chants directed at a player’s grandmother, a spectator throwing a coin at an opposing coach, and thousands of fan-originated death threats made to an opposing player’s cell phone. Do fans behave like that with friends and loved ones as well, or do they only curse grandmothers during big-time athletic events?
“What motivates fans to become involved in sporting events reflects economic, cultural and attitudinal developments in society at large,” said Annemarie Farrell, assistant professor of sport management and media at Ithaca College. “Fans will behave at sporting events in ways they would never consider if they had been watching the game on television in their living rooms—or, as often happens, in their workplaces. What would prompt an employer to think that a good way to promote morale in March is to set up television screens in the employee lounge? March Madness is something a lot of people get caught up in.”
Author of numerous studies on deviant fan behavior, including a book chapter entitled “Social Networks, Rioters and Hooligans: A New Framework on Burning Couches and Busted Cars,” Annemarie Farrell can provide insights into the sociology of sport and why spectators at sporting events act the way they do. She has presented widely on this topic at numerous peer-reviewed conferences, including the North American Society for Sport Management, Sport Marketing Association, and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport.