Taking pride in your sports team’s wins doesn’t just make you a fan, it also has been shown to have positive mental health effects. BIRGing, or Basking in Reflected Glory, can be witnessed when you wear your team’s jersey the day after a big win or when you say, “we won,” rather than, “they won.” And it makes you feel good long after the game is over.
What is BIRGing?
Basking in reflected glory is an example of indirect impression management tactics, wherein your BIRGing gives you a boost from having a common connection to something or someone notable, famous, or otherwise impressive.
A great example would be if you were interviewing for a job and you cite the prestigious school that you attended, a world-renowned professor that taught you, or your work for a Fortune 500 company. You’re in no way responsible for their good reputations but you identify with them and use their achievements to lift your own reputation.
The same is true in the world of sports. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that when your team is doing well that “fans” start coming out of the woodwork. This sort of behavior can sometimes ruffle the “true fan’s” feathers as more and more people start jumping on the bandwagon of your team that you’ve been loyally following through the good times and the bad, but this is just another example of BIRGing. These fair-weather fans are attaching themselves to your team for the same reasons that make you love your team when they’re doing well — it makes them feel good about themselves and their community.
How is BIRGing Good for You?
While on the surface it may seem like BIRGing is just taking credit for something someone else accomplished, it actually has positive psychological effects.
BIRGing has been shown to improve your public image or self-esteem by downplaying your shortcomings and highlighting your connection with someone who’s perceived as better than you are. One example would be if you did poorly in a basketball game and think to yourself, “I guess my aunt, the WNBA star, didn’t share those genetics with me.” By doing this you’ve saved yourself the negativity associated with failure by reminding yourself that someone in your family is good at sports — and that association bolsters your self-esteem.
BIRGing is a major component in team spirit as it plays a driving force in the morale of the group. This can be evidenced not only in team sports but in much of everyday life, including politics. Studies have shown that you’re more likely to keep a political sticker on your car for longer if your candidate wins than if they lose, for instance.
So, feel free to recount your favorite team’s wins and celebrate the successes of family and friends. Win or lose, self-esteem is an important and healthy mechanism that keeps you feeling good about your work, your associations, and most importantly, yourself.
When our teams do well, BIRGing is bound to happen, and that’s good because the better the self-esteem of a community of fans is the more likely the team will notice, feel better about themselves, and hopefully play better together as a team. Let’s hope this is a great season with plenty of reasons to BIRG!