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
This collection of smart and witty essays by Sports Illustrated executive editor Wertheim (Scorecasting) and Tufts University experimental psychologist Sommers (Situations Matter) reveals the roles that human psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive tendencies play in sports and in life. They ask several seemingly unrelated questions: Why do football players such as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman spout nonsense in postgame interviews? How is running on a treadmill like running a business? And why do spectators fall over each other trying to grab a free T-shirt they probably will never wear? The authors, whose writing styles and backgrounds nicely complement each other, cite relevant research, specific studies and (absent available data) conduct their own experiments. The authors wonderfully weave in aspects of science, business (Ikea's business model, expert Lego builders) and sports figures (Serena Williams, Brett Favre) to help readers better understand the games people play both on and off the court, the field, the ice, or in the case of boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his disrespect complex the ring.