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The Head Coach: A weekly column in The Leaf Chronicle with Motivational Speaker Dr. Gregg Steinberg

The Head Coach: A weekly column in The Leaf Chronicle with Motivational Speaker Dr. Gregg Steinberg
February 4, 2013 Ignacio Fiallos

Are you going to paint your face for the Super Bowl?

People do some crazy stuff on game day — ergo, the term fan comes from fanatic.

The Super Bowl is “The Big Game”, and there will be plenty of fanatical face painters in the colors of the Forty-Niners and the Ravens all over Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

But why do people go to such fanatical extremes?

Okay, maybe you are not a face painter, but why do you wear your team’s colors on game day?

The answer is simple: People engage in BIRGing.

This is psychological principle that stands for Basking In Reflected Glory. In a nutshell, when you identify with a team (in any sport), you get a rush of positive emotion when your team wins. You are living vicariously through your team, and its victories are your wins. Your self-esteem is bolstered when your team makes a touchdown, and the more personal investment (i.e., more face paint) you have with your team, the greater the joy.

You can see BIRGing on any college campus. Psychologists have discovered that after a big victory on the gridiron, coeds are more likely to wear their school colors. Can you imagine what the University of Alabama’s campus looked like after their win in this year’s national championship game?

Interestingly, I have also seen the opposite of this process, which I have labeled BIRDing. It happened almost 17 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday. I was teaching the undergraduate sports psychology class at the University of Florida at that time, and the school was to play Auburn. There was a lot of hype in the air and all the students thought the Gators would be victorious. The pundits were also saying that the winner would most likely go on to be the national champion.

Unfortunately, Auburn was victorious, and that Monday, I could literally see all the students Basking in Reflected Depression (BIRDing). There was a palpable feeling of sadness that pervaded the classroom.

Even if you are not a sports fan, you may still engage in BIRGing or BIRDing. Do you own an Apple product? Do you feel good when Apple comes out with new wonderful products? We can also identify with a business and feel good about ourselves when that company does well.

Or, we might feel bad when that company tanks in the stock market, even when we don’t own any stock.

This process can also apply to parenting. Have we not seen a million bumper stickers with the saying “Proud parent of an APSU (place any college here) student?” Parents live and breathe the victories of their children, as well as get crushed with their defeats.

While BIRGing and BIRDing are neither inherently good nor bad, it is always conducive to understand what factors sway our emotions in one direction or the other. In that way, we can become the master of emotions, instead of our emotions being the master of us.


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