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Being a fan and why it’s good for you.

Hayley Davinson explains a few of the reasons why each of us Fulham Lillies get silly levels of excited about our favourite Fulham players, our devotion to the club and the wider sport, and explains that watching football is actually very good for your health.


It’s not just my partner who shakes his head in disbelief at some of my Fulham geekiness. From the trivia, like naming the 2000-01 Fulham squad in squad list order, or the excitement with which I tell him that I spent an hour with a friend reminiscing about an away day 15 years ago, to say he doesn't get it is an understatement. 


He jokes and calls me sad and can’t believe that there is a gang of us who are all equal levels of geek. However, he is delighted that we have found each other, as it means he doesn’t have to be subjected to the conversation. 


The funny thing is the joke is on him. And even the science backs me up. 


Not the Fulham bit, not even the football bit - he is a QPHa fan, but nowhere near the same level of devotion. No, it’s the fan bit he misses out on, not that he realises.


I’ve always known this because I feel the joy in my bones. But I’d never understood why until recently, listening to an episode of ‘The Happiness Lab’ podcast focused on the joy of being a fan. The Happiness Lab is presented by Dr. Laurie Santos, the Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Each week, it attempts to explain the scientific reasons behind happiness, its effect on our bodies, and why it is so important to harness.


Wonderfully (for me at least), the episode itself had nothing to do with sport, which made it fascinating to listen to with my Fulham fan head, applying what Dr. Laurie discussed with guest Tabitha Carvan while using the example of ‘Cumberbitches’ - the elaborately named fans of Benedict Cumberbatch. 


The podcast points out that sport has managed to do what very few other leisure pursuits have managed to do - to create a space where it is OK to be a fan. The problem with becoming a Cumberbitch is admitting that you have become one. Admitting you have become a football fan (unless it’s the blue ones up the road, of course ;) ) brings no such shame.


Describing the love of Benedict Cumberbatch sounded entirely nonsensical to me, a person who struggles even to recall if I’ve seen him in anything, certainly nothing of note. I have nothing against the guy, but he doesn’t stir up devotion. But it doesn’t matter, as I get it. The way she talked about him, his shows, his personality, the devotion - I recognised it all. We shared those feelings of being a fan.


But the brilliance of a science podcast is that it digs deeper. We recognise the feeling, but why do we have it, and why does it matter?


Without reciting the episode - that is highly recommended - word-for-word, here are the key reasons why being a fan is indeed wonderful for your soul.


IMPROVED WELLBEING

It’s been proven that social connection is often found when you love your geeky thing and not just in finding other fans who think like you do. The term ‘para-social relationships’ explains the relationships you build with people you don’t know - be they (actual) celebrities or fictional characters. Having these relationships can often be shown to have the same positive effects on people that real-world relationships do. So, that love of Tom Cairney? It’s good for your health & wellbeing.


BOOST YOUR REAL WORLD CONNECTIONS

As long-term match-going fans already know well, indulging in your passion usually turns into finding other people who enjoy that thing just like you do. And it’s not just finding friends and a community, but a far more profound feeling of ‘this is where I belong.’ This feeling has a hugely positive impact on building a person’s pride and self-esteem. Craven Cottage is a second home in more ways than one.


GOOD ENERGY

There is a feeling of comfort and joy in belonging to a like-minded crew without any shame or guilt. People naturally feel free to be their most authentic selves. Football may traditionally have a bad reputation as perhaps ‘too much’ outlay of spirit. Still, any person who regularly goes to matches can attest that is a minority, and most fans are people making the most of their free time where they can do their favourite thing.


PLAYFUL SPIRIT

It’s proven that there is power in the world built in para-social relationships, too. Similar to how kids enjoy fantasy and role-play, imagined realities bring incredible energy to them that, once absorbed by the person, ‘playing’ has numerous positive effects on the body. So, the next time you visit non-football friends after leaving the high of Craven Cottage after a win, you know why you are enjoying such a buzz and that it’s impossible for those who haven’t been in attendance to understand.




As well as wanting to share the fantastic news that my geekiness is a happiness superpower, I pen these words to inspire anyone who hasn’t already discovered the power of being a fan and recommend football as a perfect place to start (and I hear Fulham is an excellent place to visit). 


As Tabitha Carvan reminisces about the time in her life when she first discovered Benedict Cumberbatch, it was a period in which she had no time for herself or her emotional needs since becoming a mum. Discovering she loved Benedict Cumberbatch enabled her to pursue something that was hers and purely about enjoyment. Once she overcame the guilt of taking this time for herself, she found more joy, connection, and happiness than she could have imagined.


Football is just sticking a ball between two sticks when you want it to be. And when you’re in it, it isn’t just a matter of life & death; it’s far more serious than that.


If you’re on the fence about attending a match, particularly if you’re thinking of flying solo, look at our pre-match meetup dates, get in touch, and let us know that you’d love to come to a game. We’ll tell you everything you need to make coming to Fulham the experience that starts your lifelong devotion as a fan!

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