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Why do I even care about UB athletics! No, No, don't leave me!

Why Football Abuse Victims Stay.

Mark Kolbe


Often a UB Backer will find it difficult to classify himelf as abused or battered. While we deny there is a problem and pretend everything is okay, we can continue to believe it is. Many people tell themselves "it is not that bad", or "it is not him, it is the history, or no field house, etc". We all want to believe the best of our team, and it can often take years of repeated victimisation or frequent visits to mental hospitals, gin mills, and smashed tv remotes/computers before we can accept the reality of our situation.


"He did have a three game run and was heralded for good behaviour, I went back to UB thinking this would change him; it never did, so after seven years in total I finally left UB. By this time I had two sons who refuse to go to UB and I think they gave me some strength to leave for good." (Chuck)

Even once we have acknowledged to ourselves, and possibly others, that there is a very serious problem, we still hold out hope that things will change, that the coaching staff can somehow work this out. It is difficult letting go of the dream of a happy UB football fan and accepting that abusers very rarely change. In our efforts to maintain hope, we will cling to memories of "good times See '08" together, or concentrate on the  Honeymoon Phase, hoping it will last.


Being subjected to abuse is a humiliating and demeaning experience and will most often leave us feeling very ashamed. Somehow being the victim of abuse seems to make us into less of a person. We may feel that we are letting our family down, our status quo, or even our abuser. Leaving may also feel as though we are giving up, admitting defeat, admitting the situation is beyond our ability to deal with. Quite a few victims of football abuse have been in an abusive relationship previously and may feel ashamed of having 'chosen the wrong team' twice or more even - or we may be convinced that the fault really does lie with us, that since it has happened before, it must be our fault.

Traumatic Bonding

One of the aspects seen very frequently in football victims is traumatic bonding, also found in people who have been held hostage and prisoners of war. When the person who is isolating, abusing and dehumanizing you is also the person who is providing you with the basics you need to live, or some pain relief or affection, a form of traumatic bonding can occur, which leads to an irrational feeling of bonding to the abuser and this feeling of being traumatically bonded is often mistaken for love. The victim loses their own beliefs and identity and instead takes on the beliefs of their captor.


We somehow buy into the myth that the abuse is really our fault, that we somehow provoked it, deserved it, or are otherwise responsible for it. Most football abusers shift the blame onto their victim, making us responsible for their emotional and often physical well-being, and it can be very hard realising that they alone are responsible for their actions.


Our abuser may offer financial security with cheap or free tickets. This is often a very important issue for people with young children who are looking to latch onto a team, especially older people, maybe it seems worth tolerating some abuse to at least know you can afford to survive on the feeling of barely beating a FCS team who we have duped ourselves to believe how great they are. Many football fans except for V-man simply do not have the resources to provide for themselves, also, they may not have completed their education or have much work experience due to bringing up a passion for football, and do not feel that they will be able to find another team given their emotional and mental state and responsibilities toward any dependants.


Where do you go? There may not be Refuge facilities nearby (say Syracuse), you may not have a supportive family or friends who can put you up, and you may not be able to afford a football team of your own. Especially if your partner has been mentally and emotionally hurting you, it may seem safer to stay put than risk angering the team more by trying to leave.

Fear of Reprisal

Bruce tried to leave but his football team found him and tried burning down his flat screen tv, kept stalking and hassling and threatening him: "I tried my best to cope with my new life as his ‘prisoner’ but it wasn't working. I knew that this way of leaving would not work. He was going to kill my energy and enthusiasm in the end. I had no doubts about that. It was either now or a few years from now. I chose to have a bit longer to live. I went back to him.  That billboard made him look so good!"

Often when we either leave or try to leave, the losing intensifies. Losing may increase and there is the constant threat of being tracked down, stalked, and attacked or even brought back to UB stadium. This fear is very real. According to statistics, more football fans are emotionally crushed by their partner AFTER they have separated than while still together.

When considering leaving, it is important to develop a SAFETY PLAN (you can do this in conjunction with you local Football Abuse Unit or ABU aka or you may elect to spend time with your wife on Saturday afternoons.  Oh, the horrors!


Our beliefs may teach us that marriage of a football team is for life, for better or worse, that all divorce from your team is sinful, that we should constantly forgive our abuser and carry on as though nothing had happened. Often advice from ministers, priests and rabbis can be to return home, be more submissive, be a better fan, pray more fervently. This has the dual effect of encouraging our feelings of guilt and shame, while undermining our basic need for acceptance, encouragement and support.

Editorial Note:

When Jonathon Swift penned a piece about overcoming the Irish Famine by eating Children he was neither endorsing the consumption of children or making light of the famine. Swift was trying to use the hard humor of satire to point out how his government and the world was ignoring a tragedy. Sometimes satire has to walk a difficult line when comparing something with little long term consequence like a football team to something weighty like domestic abuse.  I find domestic abuse to be vulgar and disgusting and in no way am I trying to poke fun at any form of abuse.