Friday, April 06, 2012

The Irrationality of Being a Fan

Today is opening day for the Orioles.  I'm a lifelong O's fan and my kids have been junior Orioles for the last five years -- I figure, well, you have to learn to cuss sometime.  In long discussions about the nature of bring a fan with Playground regular Jeff Maynes, he points out how irrational it is.  First, you are putting your hopes in something beyond your control.  But further, it is something that is most likely to lead to your ultimate disappointment.  The expectation value of being a fan is negative.  The likelihood of joy and the degree of happiness you can hope for when compared with the likelihood and depth of disappointment makes the decision to be a fan irrational.

This seems to be true even if there is a higher expectation value for success.  If you are a fan of a team in a large market that goes out and buys the best players every year, then you expect to win and thus get less joy from the actual success and deeper disappointment when they don't.  Increasing the likelihood of success does not seem to change the irrationality of being a fan.

So, why then do we do it?  Why do we willingly tie our happiness to the slim chances of others on the playing field?