Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Your Brain on Cubs edited by Dan Gordon

When I heard the title Your Brain on Cubs, I pictured an ironic collection of confessional stories from die-hard fans. I expected to enjoy reading about long afternoons of watching the Phillies and the Cubs run their scores into double digits and of the heartbreak of seasons lost. I did not expect a serious book about brain science and psychology.

Your Brain on Cubs is a collection of essays by neurologists who tell about what is going on in the players' and fans' brains during the game and away from the park. Central to the discussion in "The Depths of Loyalty: Exploring the Brain of the Die-hard Fan" by Jordan Grafman is the idea that Cub fans actual find social benefits from the team's losing tradition. Around the team is a community of disappointed fans who live with a sense of mission from year to year. Members of this group exhibit great ability to delay gratification, to accept other hardships, and to reflect on life. Rooting for the team is thus character building and good for self-esteem.

Later essays deal with many serious issues, such as player use of performance enhancing drugs, the superstitions of fans and players, and the psychology of winning. It is best to allot ample time to read.

Your Brain on Cubs is not for the casual reader, as there is professionally serious vocabulary at points. If you have time and patience, there is a much to ponder. Warning: serious fans may see themselves in the clinical studies.

Your Brain on Cubs. Dana Press, 2008. ISBN 9781932594287

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