BIRGers, CORFers and the psychology of being a Bafana fan

Last night hurt. A lot.

I didn’t think Bafana Bafana would beat Ghana and make it into the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, but I hoped they would. And at 1-0 up thanks to a sublime goal from Mandla Masango, that hope grew. At halftime, hope became belief.

45 minutes later and that hope played out as despair and anger and frustration. There were almost tears. Almost.

Watching Bafana Bafana like...
Watching Bafana Bafana like…

As my mood changed — and my heart rate along with it — I couldn’t help thinking about just why it hurt so much. So I Googled it.

Your team was trounced and now you want to distance yourself from them and their disgrace as much as possible. It’s not “we,” who lost, it’s “they.”

— Psychology Today

This Psychology Today piece spells it out quite well.

When we win we are BIRGing: Basking in Reflected Glory. “When your team is doing well, you feel great,” said author Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. “Research shows that on the day after a team’s win, people feel better about themselves. They say ‘we’ won.”

Then you get CORFing – Cut Off Reflected Failure. Your team was trounced and now you want to distance yourself from them and their disgrace as much as possible. “It’s not ‘we’ who lost, it’s ‘they’,” said Whitbourne.

My team lost :'(
My team lost :'(

It’s so true, isn’t it. We identify with success. It’s why fans get noisier on social media when their teams win and then go suspiciously quiet when the result doesn’t go quite according to plan. Winners are BIRGers; losers are CORFers. It’s a thing.

There were a lot of CORFers on Twitter last night. I was one of them. When Arsenal lose, I’m a CORFer of the highest order. King CORFer, if you will.

The question is though: What kind of a CORFer are you?

According to Whitbourne there are two distinct types. You’ll instantly recognise them. You have friends, colleagues and family members who fit into each of the descriptions. Think of them.

  • Fickle fans: Fickle fans are always CORFers. Always. They won’t want to wear the team’s kit, cap or logo — or even talk about the result — if it’s anything other than a win. And here’s the thing, they won’t wear it or talk about it. Their identification as a fan rises and falls with the team’s performances.
  • True fans: Like fickle CORFers, true fans won’t want to wear the team kit. But the difference is that the true fan WILL wear the kit, no matter how poor the performance. They will take the abuse from rival fans, irrespective of the severity. “True fans feel dejected, but their heroes remain their heroes,” says Whitbourne.
This is what being a Bafana Bafana fan feels like
This is what being a Bafana Bafana fan feels like

So why did the Bafana loss hurt so much? It’s simple: we’re all BIRGers or CORFers.

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2 thoughts on “BIRGers, CORFers and the psychology of being a Bafana fan

  1. Wow. I didn’t know that these conditions were so well-defined.
    I was going to comment on Twitter last night that it is – from a Twitter spectator’s point of view – quite painful watch the absolute adoration and idolisation swing to utmost contempt and vitriol as with the recent highs and lows our cricket squad took us through.
    Interesting. I am a HUGE BIRGer. I like to think I’m not much of a CORFer – but I have been self-delusional before!

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