Green and Gold Blood on the Information Superhighway: an Ethnographic Log on Into the Green Bay Packer Listserver Newsgroup

Peter S. Sheldon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
[ to cite ]:
Peter S. Sheldon (1999) ,"Green and Gold Blood on the Information Superhighway: an Ethnographic Log on Into the Green Bay Packer Listserver Newsgroup", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 652.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Page 652

GREEN AND GOLD BLOOD ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC LOG ON INTO THE GREEN BAY PACKER LISTSERVER NEWSGROUP

Peter S. Sheldon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Current literature on the relationship between fans and sports teams fails to fully capture the complexities of fan affiliation. This study uses an internet-based methodology to add an understanding of the importance of fan-to-fan relationships within the culture of a Green Bay Packer listserver newsgroup, as well as add depth to current conceptions of fan-to-team relationships.

In his analysis of the commodification of sports, Sewart (1986) draws on the work of Horkheimer and Adorno, citing Western culture for "its failure to meet the human needs of relatedness, identity and rootedness." To many, a computer-mediated newsgroup appears an unlikely context for meeting these human needs (Talbott 1995; Etzioni 1993; Turkle 1995). This study argues that the Green Bay Packer listserver newsgroup represents a sight where participants recover, maintain and build these same feelings of identity, relatedness, and rootedness.

This study utilized two qualitative data collection techniques gathered through the computer-mediated environment. Over 2400 posts to the newsgroup were analyzed. Several important themes concerning fans’ affiliation with each other, as well as with the Green Bay Packers, emerged. These themes were then explored through series of interviews conducted by e-mail with 25 informants from the newsgroup. The interviews were conducted in a multistage process. All informants were sent the same initial questionnaire. All questions were open-ended. A second set of questions was sent out to follow up on the answers from the first set. Some questions were standardized to allow further exploration of various areas of discourse. Others explored specific issues raised by informants. A third round of questions also included several close-ended questions concerning demographic information and internet usage. In addition, several phone interviews were used to assess the reliability of e-mail interviewing as a data gathering tol.

While affiliations with sports team have been cited as an important source of building identity within American society (Eitzen and Sage 1978), very little qualitative research has detailed the depth and importance of sports team affiliation. In the case of the Green Bay Packer E-mail newsgroup subscribers, it is clearly a primary part of many peoples’ overall identity. In addition, subscribers also use the group to reaffirm feelings of relatedness to family, the state of Wisconsin and to other Packer fans. Finally, constructs that assume a primary relationship between identity and the outcome of a game or season, like BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) (Cialdini, Borden, Thorne, Walker, Freeman and Sloan 1976) and CORFing (cutting off reflected failure) (Snyder, Lassegard and Ford 1986) are seriously challenged by subscribers to this newsgroup. Instead, the subscribers’ relationship with the team appears to be based upon a set of shared, traditional values that remain present despite the win / loss record of the team. These non-transitory values provide subscribers with a feeling of rootedness.

REFERENCES

Cialdini, R.B., Borden, R.J., Thorne, A., Walker, M.L., Freeman, S. and Sloan, L.R. (1976) "Basking in Reflected Glory: Three (Football) Field Studies," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57: 626-631.

Eitzen, D.S. and Sage, G.H. (1978). Sociology of American Sport, Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers.

Etzioni, A. (1993). The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society, New York: Touchstone.

Sewart, J.L. (1986). "The Commodification of Sport," in Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach and Muriel G. Cantor (eds.) Media, Audience and Social Structure, Beverly Hills, California: Sage.

Snyder, C.R., Lassegard, M., and Ford, C.E. (1986). "Distancing After Group Success and Failure: Basking in Reflected Glory and Cutting Off Reflected Failure," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51: 382-388.

Talbott, S. (1995). The Future Does Not Compute, Sebastopol, CA, O’Reilly & Associates.

Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the Screen, New York, Simon and Schuster.

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