Premature championship tattoo prediction gone wrong.  The New England Patriots ended up winning and Dallas wasn't even one of the teams playing.

Is it a bad idea to get a tattoo promoting the championship of your favorite sports team?  What if the team has not yet won the title depicted in the tattoo?  Known as a premature championship tattoo, entry into this subculture is gained by taking a risk that has some interesting psychology attached to it.

Imagine a die-hard Los Angeles Dodger fan getting some ink proclaiming they have won the 2017 World Series.  Or the New York Mets.  Or the… you get the idea.  Here are four social and personality factors that might help to explain why photographic evidence of this trend is posted all over social media.

Claiming Identity

We interact with the physical world in so many fascinating ways, and our involvement is not just limited to the office chairs we want or the way sunsets relax us.  We wear the logos of teams and organizations we support, put bumper stickers on cars, and hang paintings in our work and living spaces.  These are all examples of identity claims, or ways of telling others who we are.

Tattoos also belong in this category, and a championship prediction tattoo is a massive identity claim that takes place before an event.  You could have selected 20,000 different tats but you chose that one.  You are broadcasting a message to the world that you are not just a dedicated fan, you are so insanely committed that you would pay for essentially irreversible skin art.  That’s just who you are.

Magical Thinking

If I clean my car today, I might get a promotion at work next week.  If I put this tattoo on, my team will win.  It’s not that different from an athlete wearing a lucky shirt or hat.  The BIG difference is that the athlete actually has some control over the outcome.  In a sense, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If someone gets a tattoo that says “medical degree 2019,” or “world’s greatest dad” that may give him a label to live up to and something to work for.  It is a part of his identity that he can actually shape.  But a sports fan has no control over the outcome of the game.  Joe Namath does, and he can predict a win that motivates him to get it.

Honest Signal of Commitment and Confidence

A tattoo like this is also an honest signal of how committed and confident you are in your team.  It is honest because it is public and, for the most part, permanent.  It is a claim that you really cannot fake or take back.  The process is akin to making a wager you really cannot afford, but the difference is the public embarrassment might be less for a bet.

The intent on the part of any male who gets one of these may be to project an image that says “this guy has really got it all figured out, and he’s confident.”  However, the actual perception from the general public might be something closer to “what’s the deal with this dude?”  Note:  The term “male” is appropriate because I have yet to see one example of a female with this type of tattoo.

Social Network Status Gains

Anybody can get a tattoo after a team wins – that’s easy – but the premature championship tattoo crowd prefers to be ahead of the curve.  These days it is not too challenging to get thousands of people to look at photos of your newly acquired tattoo on social media.  I’m sure the rate of these tattoos is much higher than 20 years ago, mostly due to social media.  If you got one of these in the 1980s nobody except your friends would see it.

It is quite possible that these guys are surrounded by friends who enable this behavior and even dare them to do it.  If your right arm says “2018 Cleveland Browns World Champs” you are the de facto crazy guy in that group.  In many friendship groups that carries with it significant status. 

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