Skip to main content

The I in Team

Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity

The I in Team

Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity

There is one sound that will always be loudest in sports. It isn’t the squeak of sneakers or the crunch of helmets; it isn’t the grunts or even the stadium music. It’s the deafening roar of sports fans. For those few among us on the outside, sports fandom—with its war paint and pennants, its pricey cable TV packages and esoteric stats reeled off like code—looks highly irrational, entertainment gone overboard. But as Erin C. Tarver demonstrates in this book, sports fandom has become extraordinarily important to our psyche, a matter of the very essence of who we are.
Why in the world, Tarver asks, would anyone care about how well a total stranger can throw a ball, or hit one with a bat, or toss one through a hoop? Because such activities and the massive public events that surround them form some of the most meaningful ritual identity practices we have today. They are a primary way we—as individuals and a collective—decide both who we are who we are not. And as such, they are also one of the key ways that various social structures—such as race and gender hierarchies—are sustained, lending a dark side to the joys of being a sports fan. Drawing on everything from philosophy to sociology to sports history, she offers a profound exploration of the significance of sports in contemporary life, showing us just how high the stakes of the game are.


"[A] detailed account of how sports fandom creates and reproduces identity in contemporary (principally American) society.... Players will be practicing through the dog days of summer. Fans should stay busy, too — we have some important preseason reading to do."

Chronicle of Higher Education

"Given that spectator sports are both massively popular and a major source of identity for fans, The I in Team demonstrates why we ought to take them far more seriously."

Times Higher Education

"The I in Team is an impressive and careful piece of scholarship. Although the book will be of greatest immediate interest to people working in the philosophy of sport, its import goes beyond disciplinary boundaries. The book makes a significant, original, and much needed contribution to feminist philosophy. . . .  Erin C. Tarver has done a fine job of uncovering the oppressive ills of mascotting and sketching the outline of an alternative feminist model of sports fandom."

Hypatia Reviews

“The I in Team takes up a timely and important—and interesting—topic. It aims to understand sports fandom in relation to social identity, most saliently race, gender, and economic condition. In so doing, it illuminates controversial contemporary phenomena like our debates around racialized sport iconography—team names like 'Redskins'—and a majority white society’s peculiar and ambivalent investments in black male athletes. This is a book I’d want to teach and to read.”

Paul C. Taylor, Pennsylvania State University

“This is a very interesting book, unusual and clearly relevant to many people’s lives—especially those who are not sports fans but are surrounded by them. Tarver explores how sports and our relations to sports and communities of teams and fans shape our social world more broadly—a very important issue, well worth philosophical attention. I know of no other text that brings Foucault to bear on sports culture. There is really nothing like this in the literature.”

Ladelle McWhorter, University of Richmond

"This is an excellent book that should encourage us all to think far more deeply about the importance of fandom and the moral risks it brings...After all, Tarver makes clear why this is important: fandom is a constituent of our very identities."

Jake Wojtowicz | Journal of the Philosophy of Sport

Table of Contents

Introduction: Sports Fandom and Identity
1 Who Is a Fan?
2 Sports Fandom as Practice of Subjectivization
3 Putting the “We” in “We’re Number One”: Mascots, Team, and Community Identity
4 Hero or Mascot? Fantasies of Identification
5 “Honey Badger Takes What He Wants”: Southern Collegiate Athletics and the Mascotting of Black Masculinity
6 From Mascot to Danger
7 Women on the Margins of Sports Fandom

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press