Stockholm Syndrome

Folks please welcome Achilles - one of our newest frontpage on BN. - Nestor

Hey everyone, Achilles here, friend of Nestor's since the Mt. Olympus days ...

In the course of rehashing the Notre Dame game this morning, a colleague asked me why I thought so many fans were so passionate about defending Karl Dorrell's coaching performance.

I replied without thinking:

"They have Stockholm Syndrome."

Use Google to research Stockholm and Wikipedia's entry ranks first. While not an acceptable source for a philosophy paper in Westwood, it's sufficient (and sufficiently similar to many other web definitions) for our use here. Wikipedia says:

The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage exhibits loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as battered person syndrome, child abuse cases, and bride kidnapping. This recognized psychological condition takes its name from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm Sweden, where the robbers held bank employees hostage for nearly a week. The victims became sympathetic and emotionally attached to their captors and later defended their captors after they were freed. The term was coined by Swedish psychiatrist Nils Bejerot.

Further research reveals that there are four conditions which must be met in order for Stockholm syndrome to be diagnosed:

1.    Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one's captor is willing to act on that threat
2.    The captive's perception of small kindnesses from the captor within a context of terror
3.    Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor
4.    Perceived inability to escape. As they pertain to Dorrell supporters, let's start at the end and work back.

Number four is a "perceived inability to escape."

This is obvious.

Read any of the popular UCLA fan boards. On any given day, in any given thread you will find those who make the claim that "there is no point in complaining about Karl Dorrell. He isn't going anywhere."

(Of course, this is only a perception, it isn't necessarily a reality.)

Condition three reads: "Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor."

At this point, we have to wonder if the conditions may be self-imposed.

Clearly, Dorrell supporters live in a world where they are exposed to perspectives other than that of their captor. But, do they choose to hear them?

My feeling is this. The message boards are not representative of the rest of the world. The outside world no longer respects the football program. The outside world does not consider UCLA football an elite program; rather it's an afterthought in the national college football conversation.

It's only in the isolated and insular world of the message board are they free from perspectives other than those of their "captors." Obviously, the message boards allow - to some degree - the presentation of other points of view. But it's only here that the status quo viewpoint that supports the coaching regime is dominant.

Condition two is also present, It relates to the captive's perception of small kindnesses from the captor within a context of terror.

Laugh out loud, does this circumstance even require elaboration? In an environment where a couple of passes out of the shotgun in a spring practice are taken as proof positive that Dorrell is "opening up the offense," where looking good against Utah is cause for concern that the quarterback might "go pro after this season," and where falling being three scores to Oregon but outscoring them in the second half is seen as progress, it goes without saying that the happy-and-content crowd will latch on to any small crumb to nurture their support.

The first condition is more problematic, if one's goal is to prove that Stockholm syndrome exists within Bruin fandom. I'm going to argue that it is in effect, but that the perceived threat is metaphoric and not actual.

A similar phenomenon existed during the latter days of the Lavin-era. Those who supported him longest (most supported him for a short period, at least) were in part unable to admit their error because their very personas were linked to his success. The admission that Lavin was not a good coach was a threat to their psychic survival. Simply put, acknowledging it was time for a coaching change required admitting one was wrong.

And in the alpha dog atmosphere of fan message boards, admitting error risks credibility survival.

Use a search engine to research Stockholm syndrome and you'll find any number of entries relating to battered women, crime victims and other survivors of abuse.

None of the links, however, lead to UCLA fan message board - it seems suffering through season after season of poorly coached football has yet to make it into the literature.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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