Psychological Science says Fans on Losing Teams Eat More – by Jordan Kobritz

fat fanNew York Jets’ fans may be in for a losing season on the field while adding inches to their waistlines.

A paper recently published in Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that fans of losing NFL teams tend to eat more than fans of winning teams.

The paper was written by Pierre Chandon, the L’Oreal Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity at INSTEAD Business School and his PhD student, Yann Cornil.  It was based on a study they conducted of NFL and soccer fans and covered a total of 475 games over two seasons.

To the average person, the findings of the study are wholly understandable.  After all, most of us tend to eat more when we’re sad, stressed or upset.  Impugning such conduct to sports fans may not be much of a stretch.  It’s not difficult to envision fans of losing teams, despondent over losses, drowning their sorrow in an extra jelly donut while winning fans are too busy celebrating their team’s victory to reach for another slice of chocolate cake.

But sadness over their favorite team’s loss may not fully explain fans’ extra caloric intake.  In an effort to determine the reasons behind fans’ behavior the researchers came to this conclusion:  Fans of winning teams tend to feel a boost in self-control, which allows them to resist the temptation to overeat.  Conversely, fans of losing teams feel an “identity threat” which motivates them to eat more calories.

According to the study, losing fans not only ate more food than winning fans – 16% more than they would normally eat on the day after their team lost – but the food they consumed tended to be less healthy.  This is especially true if the defeats “…were narrow, unexpected, and against an opponent of the same strength.”  On the other hand, on the day after a victory, winning fans not only ate less overall – 5% fewer calories – they ate 9% less saturated fat.

Chandon recommends that if fans want to eat healthier after their teams’ losses, they should reflect on what is really important to them – family, God or another sport.  In his view, such self-affirmation may eliminate the effects of a loss.  But doesn’t asking fans of one sport to switch their allegiance to another sport over their favorite team’s loss smack of a “lack of identity,” the feeling that the study claims leads to binge eating?

Jets’ fans may find themselves particularly susceptible to Chandon’s phenomenon.  When Coach Rex Ryan sent starting quarterback Mark Sanchez back into the fray during the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, only to have Sanchez suffer a shoulder injury, most observers derisively accused Ryan of forfeiting the 2013 season.  True or not, the Jets are primed to finish among the also-rans in the AFC.

Chandon’s findings are consistent with the less scientific findings of GrubHub, a company that delivers food to customers from over 18,000 restaurants in 500 cities.   According to the company, when the Eagles lose, Philadelphians order more food.  During the Eagles’ 2012 season, GrubHub’s orders in Philadelphia were 10% higher after team losses than they were after a victory.  The trend was consistent for college basketball as well.  After Temple lost to Indiana in this year’s NCAA tournament, GrubHub’s orders increased by 30%.

Of course, there may be a number of explanations for the phenomenon.  Fans may be reluctant to eat out after a loss.  Or winning fans may clog up the restaurants in celebration, making it more difficult for losing fans to get seated.

Lest you think PSS is some fly-by-night rag that competes for headlines with the National Enquirer, here’s how the journal’s publisher, Sage Publications, describes the journal:  “Psychological Science (PSS), the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology, is a peer-reviewed monthly journal with cutting-edge research articles…spanning the entire spectrum of the science of psychology.”

It’s unlikely that more than a handful of sports fans have heard of PSS or the study that portrays some of them in a gluttonous light.  Fans just want their team to win, studies – and extra weight – be damned.  But the consequences of ignoring the study’s conclusions may be harmful to one’s health.  Jets fans beware:  Your weight and cholesterol levels may increase as the NFL season progresses.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner.  He is a Professor and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com  Jordan can be reached at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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