What is it about sports fandom that possesses otherwise composed individuals to caterwaul, obsess, and decorate their bodies in paint and team apparel — particularly when they know that there’s a better-than-average chance that their team is going to lose?
Most discerning consumers wouldn’t go to a movie if there was a 50/50 chance of utter disappointment, so what gives? Actively rooting for any professional, or amateur sports team is a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from elation to despondency.
The draw is part chemical and part psychological. The pleasure and anxiety of fandom create adrenaline and dopamine in the body. These two hormones are associated with arousal, which causes positive stress or eustress. For the same reason people climb mountains, skydive, or bungee jump – people invest in their teams for the rush.
The Winnipeg Jets “Whiteout” is a communal affair
There is also the communal aspect of local sports idolatry. Fans don’t typically judge those around them by their politics, religion, or sexuality, but instead, they cheer together as one. Very few activities in contemporary society can say the same.
Finally, continuity theory holds that we try to maintain our psychological patterns as we age. Fandom can be a lasting touchstone for self-identity. Very few pastimes are transferrable into adulthood, but being an uber-fan is one of them. I can’t play street hockey anymore, but I can still root for the Jets.
Psychobabble aside, the research is clear on the positive effects on fandom – which brings us to the Winnipeg Jets “Whiteout”. On Saturday, the Whiteout was back in Winnipeg for the first time since 2019. It felt like reuniting with an old friend. Not a steady and reliable one, but rather your ‘cool’ friend you ironically used to go to Vegas with.
Although the 5-4 overtime loss to Vegas didn’t produce the desired outcome, Canada Life Center was buzzing. For a city in need of a rallying cry, the Whiteout was once again the perfect vehicle. The pandemic robbed fans of playoff hockey in 2020, and the Jets failed to make the playoffs in 2021 – so the itch was there to scratch.
Winnipeg is not a burgeoning metropolis filled with a pulsing entertainment hub (although we do OK in that regard). Hockey is the culture and a pervasive one. The Whiteout represents community and a common goal, a rarity in an era of bifurcation and isolation.
Think of it this way: for decades, TV entertainment consisted of only a handful of popular shows. The Seinfelds and Friends of the world dominated the pop culture zeitgeist. Now there are literally hundreds of shows to consume, catering to niche tastes and sensibilities. The commonality of TV has all but evaporated.
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Sports is the one last bastion of community entertainment. The Whiteout brings an energy the sum of which is greater than its parts. Regardless of the outcome of this first-round series against the Golden Knights, Jets fans once again get to experience the pinnacle of sports fandom in Winnipeg – the Whiteout.