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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Grad student finds Gators losses can emotionally damage fans

As the Gators struggled against the Louisiana State University Tigers on Saturday, one Gators fan described the last few moments of the game as a mixture of her heart sinking and being punched in the stomach.

"All I wanted to do was go home," Ashley Strickland, a UF junior, said of the Gators' defeat.

But while Strickland considers herself the ultimate Gators fan, the effects of a Gators loss can be more severe, according to one UF graduate student's research.

Wins and losses can have emotional and psychological consequences for the diehard Gators fans, said Melanie Mousseau, who is doing her doctoral dissertation on the psychology of sports fans. The team is no longer a separate identity, but rather a part of the fan's identity, she said.

There are two types of sports fans, Mousseau said: those who are "highly identified" and those who are less committed. For a "highly identified" Gators fan, wearing school colors on game day and participating in game day rituals, like chanting the "Mr. Two Bits" song, are only the beginning.

Less committed fans are more likely to let go of the loss against LSU more easily than a committed fan. They pick up next week's student tickets and wait for the next game.

Strickland said she does not let herself get psyched out about the losses.

"When you go to school here, you know it's about more than just winning," Strickland said, "It's about the education, the degree and the whole experience."

Mousseau said most UF students are not the "highly identified" fans they think they are.

The results of Mousseau's dissertation were skewed because students misunderstood questions meant to measure their dedication to the team, she said. UF students interpreted wearing team logos often and friends considering them big fans as being a "highly identified" fan, not realizing that "highly identified" fans experience emotional and psychological consequences.

UF junior Marcela Campo agrees that although extremely "upset" and "shocked" about the results of the past two games, life goes on.

"What are you going to do?" she said. "Classes still go on, and we are all here to get an education."

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