This is Your Brain on Sports is the book for sports fans searching for a deeper understanding of the games they watch and the people who play them. Sports Illustrated executive editor and bestselling author L. Jon Wertheim teams up with Tufts psychologist Sam Sommers to take readers on a wild ride into the inner world of sports. Through the prism of behavioral economics, neuroscience, and psychology, they reveal the hidden influences and surprising cues that inspire and derail us—on the field and in the stands—and by extension, in corporate board rooms, office settings, and our daily lives.
In this irresistible narrative romp, Wertheim and Sommers usher us from professional football to the NBA to Grand Slam tennis, from the psychology of athletes self-handicapping their performance in the boxing ring or the World Series, to an explanation of why even the glimpse of a finish line can lift us beyond ordinary physical limits. They explore why Tom Brady and other starting NFL quarterbacks all seem to look like fashion models; why fans of teams like the Cubs, Mets, and any franchise from Cleveland love rooting for a loser; why the best players make the worst coaches; why hockey goons (and fans) would rather fight at home than on the road; and why the arena t-shirt cannon has something to teach us about human nature.
In short, this book is an entertaining and thought-provoking journey into how psychology and behavioral science collide with the universe of wins-and-losses, coaching changes, underdogs, and rivalry games.
— Boston Globe, Best Books of 2016, Sports
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About the Author
L. Jon Wertheim is the executive editor of Sports Illustrated. A sports journalist with a passion for psychology and economics, he is the author of such New York Times bestsellers as Scorecasting (written with Toby Moskowitz) and You Can’t Make This Up (written with Al Michaels). A huge sports fan, Sam Sommers is an experimental psychologist at Tufts University who studies the psychology of everyday life. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Situations Matter.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Your Brain on Sports 1
Why the T-Shirt Cannon Has Something to Teach Us About Human Nature 4
Why Tom Brady and Al1 Those Other Quarterbacks Are So Damned Good-Looking (or Are They?) 10
Why We Channel Our Inner May weather and Secretly Crave Disrespect 30
Why We Are All Dog Lovers at Heart (but Not Deep in Our Hearts) 43
Why Hockey Goons Would Rather Fight at Home 59
The Curse of the Expert: Why the Best Players Make the Worst Coaches 68
Acting on Impulse: Why We Aren't So Different from the Sports Hothead (L-O-B, Crabtree!) 90
Why Athletes Don't Need an Empty Bed Before Competition 105
Why the Coach's Seat Is Always Hot 111
Why So Many Successful Ultra-Endurance Athletes Are Also Successful Recovering Addicts 127
Why Giving Every Little League Kid a Trophy Is Such a Lousy Idea 137
Why Rooting for the Mets Is Like Building That IKEA Desk 144
Why We Need Rivals 161
Why We Want Gronk at Our Backyard Barbecue-and Why He Wants to Be There 177
Tribal Warfare: Why the Agony of the Other Team's Defeat Feels Just as Good as the Thrill of Our Team's Victory 191
Why We Are All Comeback Kids 196
Why Running on a Treadmill Is Like Running a Business 209
Why the World Cup Doesn't Lead to World Peace (Even If J. Lo and Pitbull Claim Otherwise) 224
Why Our Moral Compass Is More Flexible Than an Olympic Gymnast 230
Why Unlocking the Mystery of Human Consciousness Is-Like So Much Else in Life-All About Sports 244
Reference Notes 252