From BIRFing to BIRGing: A 10-Year Study of the Psychology of Cubs Fans

Jonathan A. Jensen
T. Christopher Greenwell
Cori Coleman
Matt Stitsinger
and Damon Andrew

In the years since basking in spite of reflected failure (BIRFing) was hypothesized, no empirical evidence has confirmed its existence, nor have the various hypothesized antecedents been investigated. This multiphase study makes a much-needed contribution to the sport consumer behavior literature in its investigation of BIRFing behaviors, utilizing a sample of long-suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs. Results confirmed that diehard fans do BIRF, the behavior is predicted by team identification, and that loyalty and camaraderie are antecedents. Data collection for the study’s second phase was completed immediately following the natural experiment of a World Series title and confirmed a statistically significant difference in Cubs fans’ propensity to bask in reflected glory (BIRG) following an improvement in performance, in the form of a long-awaited World Series title. No difference was found in BIRFing, given that it is rooted in one’s loyalty towards one’s team, rather than on-field performance.