Fanaticus Dramaticus: The Rage Page

Fanaticus Dramaticus: The Rage Page

July 05, 2015

July 04, 2015

July 03, 2015

July 03, 2015

This is an interview I did with Bruce Feldman, senior college football reporter and columnist for FOX Sports.

The subject of fan behavior has become a fascinating topic in recent years, especially with the growth of social media. #FSUTwitter became the face of all this in the past year-plus. My colleague Teddy Mitrosilis raised an interesting point the other day when it comes to how law enforcement publicly addresses cases dealing with athletes, which plays into how overzealous fans can be. This month, Justine Gubar, a four-time Emmy award-winning investigative journalist at ESPN, published a book that examines fan behavior from many angles called, “Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan.” (Full disclosure: Gubar and I worked together at ESPN.)

In this Q&A, we discuss, among other things, where the idea for the book came from; the role the local media can play in spurring on behavior; and the most appalling thing she learned about online fanaticism while working on the book.

Q: I understand your experiences pursuing a story about Ohio State led to the idea for this book. What was the backstory there?

Gubar: Back in 2011, I spent several weeks in Columbus covering tattoo-gate and its aftermath –€“ Jim Tressel’s resignation and Terrelle Pryor’s departure from the team –€“ for ESPN. Buckeye fans weren’t pleased and started sending me nasty messages on Facebook and Twitter. At home, I had to get a new phone number thanks to a stream of vitriolic voice mails. The onslaught of verbal sludge got me wondering what was it about sports and some sports fans that could breed such ugly, unseemly behavior. I mulled over this fundamental and vast question for some time and the quest to answer this eventually turned into my first book, “Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan.”

Q: One thing I’ve noticed a lot online is college sports fans will believe the worst about every other team or coach yet when it comes to their own programs they not only will give them the benefit of the doubt but will condone some pretty awful behavior. What are some of the worst examples you’ve found of this?

Gubar: That phenomenon — often known as bracketed morality –€“ is widespread. We saw it with some Pete Rose fans last week. I’ve seen college fans lambast other schools for rioting, burning things and tipping cars after a big game yet that same fan base has a similar history.

Q: How much do you think social media changed the game when it comes to such vile behavior having new outlets but also kind of creating a breeding ground for it since it takes on a strength-in-numbers kind of vibe?

Gubar: In “Fanaticus,” I interview a psychologist whose research shows we are more likely to take action associated with negative emotions. Social media certainly makes it more convenient for fans to express this negativity and lash out directly at people they don’t know and feel like there are no repercussions. Twitter, for one, realizes this. Earlier this year, their former CEO admitted to employees that “we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls.” To combat this, the company says they’ve increased staff to handle abuse reports and instituted more filtering in an effort to clean up the platform.

Q: From your research, how much of a role, if any at all, does local media (which I realize often is in a tricky spot covering a powerhouse program) play in spurring behavior that I suspect could be categorized as a form of bullying?

Gubar: It was local media that fomented my bullying by some Ohio State fans. A Columbus radio show host told listeners it was time for me to leave town. There apparently was a discussion about sending flowers and chocolate to my hotel to convince me to leave. I didn’t get any flowers or chocolate and had to check out and register under an assumed name. (Feel free to tweet any guesses as to what name I used to @justinegub. First to figure it out gets a free copy of “Fanaticus.” Hatred gets blocked and reported.)

Q: Are there certain fan bases that are likely to be more aggressive and ugly than others? And does that just come back to which have the biggest fan bases or have you found it not to correlate?

Gubar: Experts who study fan behavior call the phenomenon “team identification.” The more you psychologically identify with your favorite team, the more you are willing to act out in bizarre and sometimes abusive behavior. I would say the more avid the fan base, the more of a chance for ugliness. Large is certainly one measure of avidity. Activity online would be another. A team’s on-the-field success is probably another.

Q: What’s the most appalling thing you learned about online fanaticism while working on your book?

Gubar: The graphic rape and death threats uniquely experienced by women. Fans go after women in really disturbing ways. The OSU fans were angry about the stories I was pursuing yet they uniformly singled out my appearance in their insults. I’m not sure what one had to do with another. Look at the hideous reaction directed at movie star and Kentucky hoops fan Ashley Judd for comments she made during this year’s NCAA Final Four tournament. Read what Judd had to say about her experience here.

Q: Last year there was a lot of talk about #FSUTwitter and its role in trying to deter media from how it covered the Seminoles’ off-field issues. How closely did you follow FSU Twitter’s response to the Jameis Winston coverage? What was your reaction?

Gubar: I saw several of my ESPN colleagues as well as journalists from other entities endure heavy harassment for their reporting. I guess I was sort of amused because I don’t know many journalists who would back down from their reporting because of anonymous strangers lobbing childish insults at them. Yes, the trolling is disturbing and it can be a burden to put in the effort to avoid the stream of nastiness, but often the defensiveness of fans is a telltale sign for reporters that this is a story that needs to be followed up on.

Q: What would your message be to any fan base that is known to be vicious online?  

Gubar: Seriously, I would ask them how they would feel if their son, daughter, spouse, mom or dad was being trolled online in the same way.

Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.

Reposted from Fox Sports


June 30, 2015

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That’s me this past weekend in Seattle for a reading at Elliot Bay Book Company and an interview with Paul Silvi of Northwest Sports Tonight.

When you talk about fandom in Seattle, you’ve got to talk about the 12th Man, the loud fans at CenturyLink Field who make the Seahawks home arguably the most intimidating stop for all visiting NFL teams.  Everywhere you go in town there are 12th Man banners, flags and posters despite the fact it’s the off season!  I even discovered some yummy chocolate covered 12th Man spoons made by artisanal confectioner Spoon Me Sweetly.IMG_0116_2

While the 12th man gets credit for helping the Seahawks ascend to the top of the NFC, these Seahawk fans have  been accused of poor manners.  This January when the Seattle hosted the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship game, some Packers fans complained of previous abuse in what they termed “enemy territory.” Watch this report from a local television station in Milwaukee to hear their first hand account.

In Week 2 of the upcoming season, the Seahawks travel to Green Bay for a NFC Championship rematch. Stay tuned to see how Seattle fans fare in “enemy territory” at Lambeau Field.




June 28, 2015


June 24, 2015


One of the best parts of the Fanaticus book events so far is chatting with people about fandom. Everyone has a great anecdote to lay on me.  Some stories I have heard, some I haven’t.

I was reminded the other night of the stunning one about a woman  who was shot to death  for allegedly not being upset enough that Alabama had just lost to Auburn in the Iron Bowl in 2013.  I checked and Adrian Briskey awaits trial, free on bail, after being accused of gunning down 36-year-old Michelle Shepherd.

In an attempt to guilt fans into acting responsibly, it was mentioned to me that a few months ago one team in Brazil hired “Security Moms” to patrol the stands.   About 30 mothers of actual fans were drafted into duty by Sport Club Do Recife for what’s supposed to be its most violent match-up  of the year against Nautico. The women patrolled the pitch with bright vests that identified them as  “seguranca mae,” (Portuguese for security mom)  and no incidents were reported.  I guess the thinking is if mom can’t keep you in line, who can?  Great piece here on why security moms won’t make much of a difference by James Young, a soccer journalist I respect the heck out of.  Meanwhile, the ad agency who came up with the campaign was just honored with a top award at Cannes for creativity.  Raise eyebrows here.

Everyone was also talking about the notorious fan who grabbed Alex Rodriguez’s 3000th hit ball. Zach Hample, a Yankees season ticket holder who says he’s caught over 8000 balls and authored a book called How to Snag  Major League Baseballs, declared  his intention not to return the keepsake to the slugger.   A-Rod hit the homer in the bottom of the first inning of the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Rodriguez is just the 29th member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club.  Sports Illustrated says Hample  is now reconsidering his original statement and is in discussions with the Yanks.

Looking forward to my upcoming book event in Seattle this Friday night.  Fans from the Emerald City  who may be a little down thanks to Clint Dempsey’s suspension, the Mariners’ mediocrity and the enduring  sting of the Super Bowl loss should join me at Elliot Bay Book Company starting at 7pm.  I promise to make you laugh. I hope you’ll make me laugh too. I expect an earful about Timbers fans.


June 23, 2015

June 19, 2015




June 16, 2015



Would love to see you at the Fanaticus Book Launch Wednesday June 17th 7:30pm at Booksmith in San Francisco in the Haight. Extra points for showing up in face paint!

For more details, click here.