Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Following Sports as a Pious Ritual of Civic Loyalty

From the Centre College Alumni Survey

I asked if there were any sports teams (professional, college, or other) that the respondents followed closely. 60% of all respondents named at least one team.

The leader by far was University of Kentucky basketball. 34% said they followed some UK team - by far the largest first choice category. Another 11% followed University of Louisville teams. Besides UK and U of L (and the 2% of Centre Colonels die-hards), college teams drew another 18%. Altogether, college teams drew the first loyalty of 2/3rds of those who followed sports.

Professional football, the next largest category, drew only 15%, professional baseball 8%, and professional basketball barely registered at 1%.

As I noted yesterday, half the Centre alumni live in Kentucky and adjacent states. There are no major league teams in any sport in Kentucky, and the Cincinnati professional teams draw the first loyalty of only 5% of the alumni. I read this strong loyalty of Centre alumni to Kentucky college teams as a way of participating in the emotional bonds of the community. As the great sociologist Emile Durkheim noted, our fundamental ties to society are emotional before they are rational. In Kentucky, following UK or U of L teams, especially the mens' basketball teams, is a pious act of belonging in the civil religion.

"How 'bout them Cats (or Cards)?" is part of the litany of building up the community that most Centre Colonels are part of.

1 comment:

michael bush said...

My wife is a Centre alumna who participates, though with a little emotional distance, with our children and me (a UK graduate) in the annual wintertime ritual of living and dying by the fortunes of UK basketball.

But last winter, when all the UK paraphernalia was out and on, she said, "Hrumph. I want a Centre sweatshirt." So she got one for Christmas.

So there are limits to this particular form of civic loyalty, at least where I live!