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Behind the science of sports obsession

Raider Nation.jpg

Millions of people are crazy about sports, whether or not their teams are any good. Exactly why that is is the subject of Eric Simons’ new book: The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession. Simons sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny to talk about the chemistry of fandom.

TREFNY: So, one thing you get into this book is about identity. You actually have sections about love, relationships, and identity. I want you to get into this identity thing. The team I'm interested in talking about is the Oakland Raiders, who are really no good. But they have the most identifiable fan base, maybe in all of football. You've met a lot of them. I'd like you to tell me who the key components of the Raider Nation, the “black-holers” are.

SIMONS: A lot of guys in costumes. Actually, I love the Raider Nation. I'm trying to explain why. They have a fan convention every year. The first time I went was in 2011. It was in Downtown Oakland in the first weekend in November. It was two days after the massive Occupy General Strike. So I get out of BART in Oakland and there are still tear gas canisters out. There's still police in riot gear everywhere. There's spray paint. Then there's the Raider fan convention. You step inside and they are having a family reunion. This is a sweet, pleasant group where people of all ages and races and genders are getting along, hugging each other like long lost brothers.

Click the audio player above to hear the complete interview. 

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.