Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Are you ready for some… reflected glory?

August 23, 2013 

It's about time for college football season.

Which means it's time for basking in reflected glory.

Come on, you know what I'm talking about.

"Basking in reflected glory" is the term social scientists use for the cognitive process of feeling like a winner by associating yourself with a winner.

I confess I've been a victim of this phenomenon. My parents were both University of Georgia graduates, but my camp counselor, Keith Pugh, played wide receiver for Bear Bryant and was a starter on the 1979 national championship team.

So at the age of 11, I was a die-hard Bama fan.

The next year, I realized it was disrespectful and callous of me to live under my parents' roof and not root for their alma mater. This probably had nothing to do with the fact that Keith had graduated and no longer played for the Crimson Tide or that a guy named Herschel Walker had enrolled in Athens.

So at the age of 12, I was a die-hard Bulldog fan.

In 1983, I realized that since I lived in the Chattahoochee Valley and all my friends were Auburn fans, it was only right that I start cheering for the Tigers. This probably had nothing to do with the fact that the Loveliest Village on the Plains was now home to a three-sport letterman named Bo Jackson, as well as a 300-pound power forward named Charles Barkley.

So at the age of 14, I was a Dye-hard Auburn fan.

I stuck with the Tigers for four years, then realized my pathetic pattern of basking in reflected glory. Never again.

I was now a Vanderbilt student, and it seemed only right that I also become a Commodore fan. I have been one ever since.

It hasn't been easy, of course. At Vandy, students have long coped with brutal defeat by chanting things like "That's all right, that's OK, you're gonna work for me someday." It felt good at the time, and was in its own way a form of basking in reflected glory, but to this day I've never had the opportunity to boss around a graduate of the University of Tennessee.

Everybody basks in reflected glory. Just look at the bumper stickers and window decals.

There are orange-and-blue flip flops and houndstooth flip flops. There are Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets.

There's "Obama" with red, white and blue in the "O," and there's "Won't get fooled again" with the same red, white and blue Os. And before that, there was "W" The President, and "F" the President.

Parents want you to know that their children are honor students -- or if not, capable of beating up your honor student. They want you to know that their children wear a certain number in Little League -- or better yet, play on an elite travel ball team.

Still, others want you to know that they're Rangers or conservationists or Apple users or members of a large family of stick figures.

Some folks proudly display the fish symbol used

by early Christians, while others counter with a fish that's sprouted legs and is labeled "Darwin," while others counter with the original fish opening wide to devour the Darwin fish.

That'll show 'em.

It's only natural to want to be a winner, and if you don't feel like a winner, then to at least associate yourself with one.

Studies have shown that fans are more likely to wear their team's colors after a win, and to refer to their team as "we" when they win and "they" when they lose.

Voters will likely leave a campaign sign in their yard longer if their candidate was a winner.

When a referee throws a flag against a team, there's usually a consensus: That team's fans think the ref's blind and/or mentally impaired, and the opposing team's fans think he's a genius.

We scan the Internet for ratings that show whether our city is safe, our schools are good, our career choice was wise, and the automobile, dishwasher or cordless drill we've purchased was a Consumer Reports Best Buy.

Look long enough, and you'll get enough information to feel like a winner or a loser.

Your choice. But starting next Saturday, the scoreboard won't lie, and you're going to be either a winner or a loser.

Here's a word of advice:

If your team loses, wear a neutral color and when the Alabama fan in the Crimson cubicle next to yours won't stop yelling "Roll Tide!" just respond by saying, "You're not a winner. You're just associating yourself with a winner so you can boost your self-esteem and mask your feelings of fear and doubt."

And if your team wins? Wear the plaid pants in your team colors, affix the team flag to your car, and stand in the middle of the office and shout, "We're No. 1!"

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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