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White Sox fans were overcome with euphoria when their beloved team won after eighty-eight years of failure, and the long-suffering Red Sox Nation finally received their vindication in 2004. Now the Cubs are the only “cursed” team left: The team has repeatedly made the playoffs without ever winning the World Series for the last ninety-nine years, and yet thousands who bleed Cubbie blue pack Wrigley Field for every game. The reasons why ardent sports fans in Chicago and around the world buy expensive game tickets ...
White Sox fans were overcome with euphoria when their beloved team won after eighty-eight years of failure, and the long-suffering Red Sox Nation finally received their vindication in 2004. Now the Cubs are the only “cursed” team left: The team has repeatedly made the playoffs without ever winning the World Series for the last ninety-nine years, and yet thousands who bleed Cubbie blue pack Wrigley Field for every game. The reasons why ardent sports fans in Chicago and around the world buy expensive game tickets and memorabilia, fill stadiums, and live and die by their team’s fortunes is the subject of Your Brain on Cubs, an engaging study that delves into why sports engender such passionate emotions in us all.
A group of today’s leading science writers and neuroscientists explore here the ways that our brain functions when we participate in sports as fans, athletes, and coaches, taking baseball as the quintessential sport for all three perspectives. The contributors tackle such questions as: How does a player hit a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball when he barely has time to visually register it? Why do fans remain devotedly loyal year after year? And what allows them to believe in superstitions, such as a curse? Other topics investigated in the book include how a ballplayer’s brain changes as he gains experience and expertise, why there are a higher percentage of left-handers in the major leagues compared to the general population, and the ethical implications of neurological performance enhancement.
An expertly written and thought-provoking read, Your Brain on Cubs challenges us to reevaluate the nature of the sports fan and the athlete, revealing the scientific complexity underlying the seemingly black-and-white world of wins and losses.
The title, implying a focus on the Cubs, may limit interest in a book that really embraces much more. It does look at devoted Cubs fans-and all baseball fans-and their "brainy" obsession with the game, including their brains' ways of reckoning with loss. The essays are by neuroscientists and two or three informed journalists, and they are accessible to all interested readers. Among the subjects covered are the mental machinery of a professional hitter in seeing a pitch come toward him and, with speed faster than the ball, assessing the throw, judging whether it is a ball or a strike, and deciding whether or not to swing; "handedness" in the game (are lefthanders really superior in baseball?); and, more abstractly, our human capacity for dealing with loss and maintaining hope, as well as baseball's long-standing culture of superstitious belief in curses. This is for all curious readers intrigued by the intersection of baseball and the sciences and in exploring old topics in new ways.
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1. The Depths of Loyalty: Exploring the Brain of a Die-hard Fan
Jordan Grafman, National Institutes of Health
2. Developing Talent: Expertise and the Brain
Scott Grafton, University of California-Santa Barbara
3. Why Did Casey Strike Out? The Neuroscience of Hitting
John Milton, Claremont Colleges; Ana Solodkin and Steven Small, University of Chicago
Tom Valeo, science writer, and Lindsay Beyerstein, journalist
5. Risks and Asterisks: Neurological Enhancements in Baseball
Bennett Foddy, Princeton University
6. Baseball and Handedness
Kenneth M. Heilman, University of Florida
7. It Isn't Whether You Win or Lose, It's Whether You Win: Agony and Ecstasy in the Brain
Kelli Whitlock Burton, science writer, and Hillary R. Rodman, Emory University