In honor of the NFL season starting this past weekend -- and Throwback Thursday (#TBT), of course -- I have decided to share the first story I wrote in my Television Journalism II class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010.
Be warned. This story is no journalistic masterpiece, in fact, I received a disheartening B- grade on it.
And on that less-than-impressive note... ENJOY!
How Location Influences Football Loyalty
There are many factors that can increase an NFL team's fan base… certain players, their winning streak, their cheerleaders... but there is one thing that really influences a fan's loyalty to their team… their location.
According to a study by University of Illinois professor Scott Tainsky, NFL fans maintain a loyalty to their hometown team or a family member's team as a way to assert their identity.
Identification is a real strong motivation in sports consumption.
Champaign may not be home to any NFL teams but it located between three others… the Chicago Bears, the Saint Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts. In a town like Champaign, Tainsky says loyalties between teams are divided.
Maybe some people identify with the Bears because they are the other Illinois team but other fans have probably seen the recent success of the Indianapolis Colts and choose to follow them because if you're a Colts fan, you get to brag every Monday after they win.
Growing up in Central Illinois and reporting sports for local radio station, WPGU, Jacob Bleyer is familiar with the split allegiances. Matching the results in Tainsky's study, Bleyer bases his football fandom with the Indianapolis Colts on the city he identifies with and not necessarily because the team plays well.
It's easier to like teams that win, as any Cubs fan can probably tell you. It's hard when they lose all the time but... I actually have an uncle that lives in Indianapolis so growing up I went to a lot of Colts games with him, he's a big Colts fan and I just grew up as a Colts fan ever since I was born.
Tainsky says that Bleyer will likely remain a Colts fan throughout his life due to the ties he has with the city... Even if he moves to a different part of the country.
Even though they are not part of the NFL, we can't forget about the one football team that calls Champaign's Memorial Stadium home... the University of Illinois' Fighting Illini. Studies show that NFL fans are fans for life. But what about college football? Once many student leave campus, do they still cheer for their I-L-L-I-N-I?
According to Tainsky, yes. After spending years on campus, a person's alma mater plays a role in their identity as well. Tainsky says that a fan's loyalty to their college team may be even stronger than to their pro team.
They are a team that you will always root for.