Calling All Sports Fans: Personality Type and Fanaticism

Ah, July: the season of World Cup football (a.k.a. soccer). Wimbledon. The Tour de France. Formula 1 grand prix races. And world championships in sports as diverse as badminton, sailing, and taekwondo. For enthusiasts of international sporting competitions, this time of year is a dream come true. Cue the cheers, tears, and obsession of millions of fans – and fanatics – worldwide.

But many other people around the world are scratching their heads and wondering, What’s the big deal? What’s so exciting about watching someone kick a ball or pedal a bicycle? Aside from involving a major investment of time and sometimes money, being a devoted sports fan can inspire some pretty odd behavior, like waking up at 4:00 a.m. to watch a match live or yelling at referees who can’t hear you. Extreme situations have seen violence erupt between die-hard fans of opposing sides.

Why is it that some people are so fanatical about sports while others don’t have even the slightest interest? Does it have more to do with personality type or personal preference? To find out, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You find it hard to understand why some people are fanatic about sports.”

Overall, 50% agreed, but that neutral figure belies some significant differences between individual personality types:

Let’s jump right into the data below.

Roles

Analysts (58% agreeing)

Analysts agreed at the highest rate that they find it hard to understand why some people are fanatic about sports. Analyst personalities often prefer intellectual pursuits to physical ones. Their Thinking trait gives them a certain distaste for the often irrational behavior that accompanies sports fanaticism, like practicing superstitious good-luck rituals, disputing calls against your team despite clear evidence supporting them, and engaging in excessive displays of emotion.

There are plenty of things about sports that could appeal to Analysts, like strategy, technical precision, willpower, and the potential to reach new levels of performance. Even so, most Analysts are unlikely to turn into all-out sports fanatics themselves. As Intuitive personalities, they’re generally more interested in ideas and novelty and may find the repetitive, sometimes predictable nature of sports less exciting.

This is especially true of Logicians (INTP), who were the most likely personality type to agree with our statement (66%). Always asking questions, imagining possibilities, and working on some innovative new idea, Logicians often disregard practical matters and day-to-day activities, such as watching sports. They also have a tendency to buck popular trends, which may be grounds enough for some to eschew sports fanatics.

Diplomats (53%)

Cooperative and harmonious, some Diplomats may dislike the conflict inherent in sports, especially when clashes occur between fanatics in extreme forms like bias, hatred, and even violence. They’d rather throw their Intuitive Energy into supporting a worthy social cause than a sports team.

On the other hand, many Diplomats appreciate the way sports can bring people together. As Feeling personalities, they’re more open than Analysts to the passion and emotional involvement of being a sports fan, which explains why nearly half of all Diplomats surveyed indicated that they do understand why some people are fanatic about sports.

Explorers and Sentinels (46% and 45%)

Explorers and Sentinels also showed fairly neutral rates of agreement, but they leaned slightly in favor of understanding sports fanaticism. These personalities share the Observant trait, which makes them focused on the here and now. They like to see, touch, feel, and experience things, so they may enjoy getting into the play-by-play of a sporting event more than their Intuitive counterparts.

Explorers love fun and adventure, which sports offer in spades, and many are eager to soak up every detail of a sporting experience. At the same time, given how much they like to try new things, long-term devotion to a sport or team may be unattractive to some Explorers.

Sentinels, on the other hand, are all about commitment, the number-one requirement for any sports fanatic. These personality types may have a reputation for being steady, meticulous, and even dispassionate, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go wild over sports. After all, sports can involve long-running traditions and a strong sense of community pride, two things that Sentinels highly value. Some, though, may view following sports as an impractical waste of time.

Of all the personality types, Consuls (ESFJ) agreed with our statement the least (35%). Popular and loyal, Consuls love to support their friends, their loved ones – and their favorite athletes or sports teams. Even if they aren’t huge sports fans themselves, they’ll enjoy the opportunity to gather people together and cheer for a common cause, valuing the social and emotional connections that can develop in the process.

Strategies

The Strategies revealed more drastic differences between personality traits: Introverts were 16% more likely than Extraverts to agree that they don’t understand sports fanaticism (59% vs. 43%, respectively), and Turbulent personality types were 11% more likely than Assertive types to agree (55% vs. 44%).

Constant Improvement (61% agreeing)

As Introverts, Constant Improvers usually prefer solitude and may find the noise, crowds, and action involved with sports overly stimulating. Even those who enjoy sports a great deal are unlikely to go to the extreme lengths that true fanatics do, and they find it harder to relate to such die-hard fans.

The Turbulent Identity plays a role too. Researchers have found that, psychologically, people tend to see their favorite athletes and sports teams as extensions of themselves, to the point that their stress levels, self-esteem, and very sense of identity can depend on how well their team is doing. Considered from that perspective, it’s understandable that being a sports superfan could be too stressful and exhausting for Turbulent personalities, especially Introverted ones.

Confident Individualism and Social Engagement (53% and 48%)

Confident Individualists and Social Engagers agreed at more neutral rates, likely because their Mind and Identity personality traits balance each other out somewhat.

Confident Individualists are Introverted, Assertive personalities who know what they like and care little for other people’s opinions. Because they believe in doing whatever works for you, they may be somewhat less judgmental of people who choose to make sports their passion, even if it’s not an interest they share. Still, they may not relate as well to those who enjoy sports for the social benefits.

Extraverted Social Engagers, on the other hand, are highly attracted to the social aspect of sports. They’re energized by the excitement of a noisy, action-packed match and relish the chance to interact with other fans. Because of their Turbulent Identity, Social Engagers are concerned about social status and are always craving a sense of social belonging. Sports can provide the perfect avenue, even if many of these personalities steer away from fanaticism. 

People Mastery (38%)

Extraverted, Assertive People Masters are all about the social bonds that can be forged among sports fans. They can have just as much fun watching the big game with friends and family as they can in the company of strangers – finding a fellow sports fanatic is exciting, gratifying, and a chance to form a new friendship. Even if they dislike sports, People Master personalities will try to relate to sports fans as a way of strengthening personal relationships or growing their social network.

Conclusions

Sports can be divisive, capable of causing tension not just between fans of opposing sides but also between people who go crazy over sports and people who just don’t get sports fanatics. Certain personality types, especially those with Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, or Turbulent traits, have a harder time understanding why some people are so fanatic about sports.

Being a sports fan can foster many positive benefits, including a sense of community, belonging, and pride – things that we can all identify with. If those who don’t see eye-to-eye with sports fans tried to be more open-minded about these positive aspects, and if sports fanatics tried to rein in their more extreme behaviors, then perhaps we could all understand each other a little better.

What about you? Are you a die-hard sports fan? If not, do you feel you can understand where sports fanatics are coming from? Join the conversation below!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

2 months ago
I don't like sports much. I can see why some people do. . .but fanaticism? I just don't understand it. It seems a bit pointless to me.
2 months ago
Yeah, man. I don't like sports. But I saw other kinds of fans on the internet having intense emotional reactions already. It's nothing new.
2 months ago
Lol I'm watching an off-season basketball game as I write this, even as an INTP.
2 months ago
The fanatasicm is highly difficult to understand, but the players yearly financial income? That's excruciatingly difficult for my brain to wrap around..
2 months ago
Definitely don't understand this sport fanatasicm...
2 months ago
What’s not to like about watching people run around a field for over an hour??
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