Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Fredrick Steier, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

David Payne, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Abraham Khan, Ph.D.


Discourse, Hierarchy, Community, Spiritual


This study questions the way sports fans create (a sense of) community through online conversations. Here, ‘community’ and ‘internet’ are seen as invitational terms that suggest an authentic social interaction. By examining the language used by fans to sustain a sense of solidarity in the virtual realm, this study questions the ways in which rhetoric frames the situation. Participation in the virtual space relies on practices of identification derived from physical engagements. By using a rhetorical approach, this study illuminates the way individual participants operationalize a rhetoric in virtual conversations that spiritualize the fan’s experience at the base of a sporting hierarchy.

This study centralizes identification as key to participation and the formation of community identity. The same language practices that work to shape the group also reinforce a sports ideology that spiritualizes fan participation. What emerges as a dominant substance is loyalty as key to identification/participation in the virtual community. This value-based substance offers the fan the ability to re-purpose their role as a profit source in the capitalist sporting structure. Therefore, the individuals focus on loyalty is rhetorical due to the internet space as capitalized communication. This study speaks to the way communication fosters virtual organizations, and points to how our cultured understandings conceal the rhetoric in everyday interactions.