There are plenty of Packers fans with a strong reaction to what has transpired with Brett Favre in the past year or so. Few of them, we dare say, hold a Ph.D. -- and perhaps only one, Christian End, has written and presented an academic paper about how Packers fans have responded ot the breakup with Favre.
We've been corresponding via e-mail today with End, an assistant professor of psychology at Xavier University. Here is the long and the short of his paper, which End says was presented at the Ohio Psychological Association's annual conference last October (well before the Favre-to-Vikings news, of course, but after he went to the Jets).
Loyal Fans’ Reactions to and Willingness to Forgive a Disloyal Group Leader
Abstract: This study explored sport fans’ responses when the leader of their team abandons the group. Specifically this study examined fans’ perceptions of the Green Bay Packers/Brett Favre “break-up,” as well as their willingness to forgive Favre. The team and player loyalty of 96 Packers’ fans were assessed, in addition to perceptions of responsibility, intent, and forgiveness. Contrary to the hypothesis that team loyalty would predict the fans’ responses to this attempt at social mobility, regression analyses demonstrated that player loyalty significantly predicted judgments of controllability, intent, and forgiveness, while team loyalty did not predict the fans’ responses.
Got that? Not really? We don't blame you. But End took another swing, in slightly simpler speak.
The cliff notes version ... Think of it as, I am a Brett Favre fan vs. I am a Packers fan. Those who highly identified with Favre were more likely to report that they would be willing to forgive him – although most Favre fans reported there was nothing Favre needed to apologize for. Additionally their explanations for the “break-up” were somewhat protective of Favre – Favre had little control over and was only minimally responsible for his departure from the team and the subsequent trade to the Jets. The control and responsibility was often attributed to GM – Ted Thompson. The data indicate that the those who identified with the Packers were more “conflicted” (less agreement, more within group variance, etc.). This is somewhat surprising as the literature indicates that fans value loyalty (even a fan’s loyalty to the team) and often derogate those who abandon the group.
We take that to mean a lot of fans last year blamed he Packers instead of Favre, even though previous research seemed to show fans generally side with the team in matters of loyalty. Of course, as End notes, "when the data were collected Favre was headed to the Jets, a team that is less relevant outgroup than the Vikings who the Packers are in direct competition with. Thus, fans’ opinions about Favre’s latest move may differ."
Indeed. End said his paper has not yet been published, but we have to say we are very curious to read it. We would also be interested in a follow-up case study to see how reactions differed. End might have some time to get that rolling tonight, when Favre makes his debut. When asked if he plans to watch, End said he would likely find an excuse not to watch. He mentioned his dryer might need a good de-linting around 7 p.m. Central.
We imagine a lot of Packers fans feel the same way.