In the next Valentine's-themed installment of Sounds Good's sport psychology series, Murray State professor of psychology, Dan Wann, is joined in the WKMS studio by wife, Michelle Wann. The Wanns discuss the mid-season origin of their relationship and what it's like being in such a sport-centered partnership.
Dan Wann has been featured on Sounds Good discussing BIRGing, CORFing, super-fan origins, and superstition in sports. In honor of Valentine's Day, Wann is joined this week by wife, Michelle, the woman behind his newly developed appreciation for the Buckeyes and NHL. Dan and Michelle's relationship not only flourished due to their mutual love of sport, it's why it started.
"We met at the Racers basketball game...five years ago this month," Dan explains. "Her seats were right behind ours. We probably had those seats with my family in front of [hers] for three or four years. The first year we really sort of started paying attention to each other, the Racers were really good at basketball. It was Cam Payne's second year. We had all the excitement of the Racers, and it was quite the season."
"I asked [Michelle] one time, what first made you notice me? She said, 'Dan, you sat in front of me for three years at Racer basketball games, you're very hard not to notice.' I felt so proud at that moment," Dan laughs.
Ross asks the Wanns whether the success of Racers in that particular season affected the beginning of their relationship. "It's funny, because when I lecture on the different factors that lead to attraction in one of my classes, I talk about proximity - our seats were close to each other," Dan explains. "I talk about excitement and arousal. If the Racers aren't doing so well, we don't hi-five, I don't think there's as much conversation. I think it certainly gave us more to talk about. The excitement certainly played a factor in why we connected."
The Wanns began communicating regularly through text, and Dan recalls the moment in which he knew he had found a true sports fan match. "I think our first set of texts were about the Superbowl," Dan says. "February 1st," Michelle adds. "They didn't give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, and they should have," Dan explains. "I didn't even know if she would be watching the Superbowl, but I texted her that was the worst play call ever, and she wrote back, 'yeah, but he made a great catch.' We just knew early on sport was a part of what we cared about."
Michelle introduced Dan to sport fandoms he had never before experienced. Michelle took Dan to his first National Hockey League game, where he was amazed at the speed and agility of the Nashville Predators. Michelle, an avid Ohio State Buckeyes fan, was even able to warm Dan's Buckeye-booing heart.
"When I say I didn't like Ohio State, it was a true hatred. I really didn't like Ohio State and she knew that," Dan says. After talking over the phone for about a month, Dan and Michelle decided to meet on campus for a walk. "She shows up for this walk around campus with an Ohio State championship sweater on. I just looked at her and stared in her face, and she just had this grin of 'uh-huh, how do you like me now?' I said, 'never in my life have I had a better reason to get the clothes off a woman. Somehow she still stayed with me," Dan laughs. "He's come to the dark side," Michelle adds.
"It's really fun to actually care about college football. [Michelle] was so busy in college, she never had an opportunity to go to an Ohio State Buckeyes game. I surprised her last year in 2019 and took her to the homecoming game. Until you experience something like an Ohio State homecoming football game, you really haven't seen sport fandom. It's amazing that I can do what I do for three-plus decades and still have these experiences," Dan says.
The Wann household centers their lives around sports. With season tickets for the Memphis Grizzlies and Racer basketball and a TV always on some sort of sport game, they "sort of set our calendars by sports," Dan explains. "It's not just a part of our lives individually, it's a part of our lives in terms of our relationship.
When asked if there are any drawbacks to being in a relationship with another person so heavily invested in sports, both Wanns quickly replied that there wasn't. "It's the best of all worlds for me as a sports fan," Dan elaborates. "I did some research with a couple students several years ago where we asked male sports fans what they think of female sports fans, and overwhelmingly, they [said], 'it's a great way for me to find something we can bond with.' They were much more interested in dating a female sports fan than a non-sports fans. As long as the individual themselves is a sports fan. It gives people a link. It's really no different than if each member of the couple is really into opera...Star Wars...there's nothing magical about sport, it just happens to be one thing [Michelle and I] share in common."
Ross poses a final question to the Wanns, perhaps the most sensitive in regards to Michelle's diehard love of Ohio State. "What if one of you had been a Michigan fan? Or a Missouri State fan?"
"That would have been a tough one," Michelle says. "You [Dan] did not like the Buckeyes at all."
"If I can overcome my hatred for the Buckeyes, I can overcome just about anything. But if I had been a Michigan fan," Dan starts.
"That would have been tough," Michelle says, completing Dan's thought. "Ichigan."
Lucky for the Wanns, the only blue and yellow they wear is the blue and gold of the Murray State Racers.