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This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon
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This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  410 ratings  ·  72 reviews
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, ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Crown Archetype (first published January 26th 2016)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  410 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Allen Adams
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing

We as a culture love sports and the men and women who play them. We are fascinated by the nature of competition; we make connections that become passionate lifelong commitments. We root for the home team and admire superstar performers.

But ... why?

That’s the question that “This is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn From the T-Shirt Cannon”, by L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers, attempts to answer. The
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! It's basically Freakonomics/Predictably Irrational/Thinking Fast and Slow combined with David Epstein's The Sports Gene.

Full review here:
Natalie Resendes
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Sports Industry Revealed and It is far from Disappointing
This Is Your Brain on Sports is a book written for the purpose of informing people who love anything and everything about sports and are willing to read example after example of the industry. This book is far from a bore and it is hard to put down once you get into the swing of it. However, the piece is aimed at a specific audience which is compiled of die-hard sports fans, analytic sports enthusiasts, or someone who enjoys a fun read
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Certain athletic events defy scientific explanation: Gus Ferotte's neck-spraining celebratory cement wall headbutt and Bobby Bonilla's Mets contract immediately spring to mind. But as Sports Illustrated's L Jon Wertheim and Tufts psychology professor Sam Sommers deftly illustrate in their new book This is Your Brain on Sports, the social sciences can actually help us understand a variety of perplexing athletic topics of the non-Ferotte/Bonilla variety.

Wertheim is no stranger to breezy social sci
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
This is much more of a cognitive biases and neuroscience book than a sports book. But it's really easy to read and understand, and legitimately funny.

And I learned a lot and took away a lot of good tidbits. Best one was the term "finish line effect." Our brains naturally try to conserve energy when we know the finish line, whether that's running a race or saving a baby. That's why we often collapse when the task is done. But if we could see the finish line further, we'd find the energy to conti
Jenny Kim
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
* Based on a reading of ARC

This is a fun read broken down into 20 chapters dealing with various familiar sport topics from "Why quarterbacks are good-looking?", "Why we love underdogs?" to "Why the best players make the worst coaches" and so on.

What this book is not is a book you will devour in one sitting, rather it's ideal for someone with a limited time looking for an entertaining read. This book felt like a mini version of Malcom Gladwell's titles, but dealing with sports, its myths, its
Feb 14, 2016 added it
Shelves: sports
The premise of the book instantly got to me. I love reading about sports, and a book on the brain was appealing to me.

The book was an enjoyable read, though like others it was not quick. Instead, these books are made to be devoured one chapter at a time. Each chapter is like it's own article, and therefore the book can be read one section at a time, with the order not being very important. I thought some of the chapters were interesting, though I will say that they skew towards American topics s
Ron Starr
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and funny

Very interesting, funny and well-written. Really enjoyed it. A touch repetitive in some places, but overall a good read. Would recommend to a friend.
Taro Yamashita
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoy books on sports psychology, and this one is rather entertaining. It addresses a wide range of interesting phenomena in sports, such as rivalry, the effect of "participation trophies," and why people root for underdogs. Some of the questions it addresses are interesting, but not all. Some of them seem to be included for titillation (studies pertaining to whether sexual activity prior to athletic contests has any effect on performance -- it does not), and some are not as well-researched as ...more
Andy Huette
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoy the sports/psychology/sociology/humor genre and this book fits the bill. It's full of interesting historical sports trivia and the aim of the book is to explain how much of what we see in sports is confirmed by psychological and sociological research. Some great truths about the halo effect (why we think we're more moral than we are), the value of a finish line (how the brain regulates exertion when a known finish exists), mob mentality, invisible audience, etc.

I don't know how interest
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon by L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers is an interesting look at the psychology of sports. Well, maybe not ‘SPORTS’ but more about the how and why we like the teams we like. How and why the quarterback always seems to be the ‘hot’ guy. The how and why we scream for free t-shirt.

Jon and Sam did their homework. With numerous references and several studies, this book is for everyo
Roger Smitter
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This very accessible book links traditional ways of crunching data with insights into sports. The book takes a broad stroke about sports: team sports, individual sports, college, pro, and amateur. It also takes on all kinds of quantative research. Early in the book, the focus focuses on pro sports, with some very engaging data. This includes a very good analysis of winning streaks. The second half shifts gears to individual performance.

Sports fans who want to understand more than scores will li
Vanessa Princessa
I read this book through Blinkist.

The key message in this book:

The world of sports can serve as a window into many aspects of the human psyche. From our love of underdogs to the importance of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off after a defeat, the behavior of both professional athletes and raving fans give us important insights into our day-to-day lives.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I won this as a Goodreads giveaway.

This book was a lot of fun to read. The authors managed to straddle a science/entertainment line very well. Lots of good and interesting information in an easily digestible format. It was clear the authors had fun writing and researching it (and it was researched quite well).
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: popsugar-2019
This collection of short essays about sports and psychology is really fun! Good writing and engaging examples throughout. 3.5/5 stars.
Ryan Reed
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun book. Basically, people and sports are crazy.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fun book--loads of interesting tidbits!
Bruce Nieminski
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
288 pages

Great cross of sports pop culture and psychology that really got my brain moving about what drives the average sports fanatic. I've seen a lot of my own tendencies indirectly mentioned in the pages of this book. For anyone who gets excited, discouraged, or just wired into any sporting event, This is Your Brain on Sports will be an enjoyable journey.
David Ball
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
If you’ve come across any of my previous reviews you’ll know that I have a weakness for sports and statistics (and German music from the 1970’s, westerns, and E. M. Forester, but enough about me). So This is Your Brain on Sports should have been right up my alley. But sadly it wasn’t. Despite some encouraging chapter titles such as Why the T-Shirt Cannon Has Something to Teach Us About Human Nature and Why We Want Gronk at Our Backyard Barbecue - and Why He Wants to Be There, very little of this ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports-general
Very interesting read. A must for sports lovers.

This is a book not just based on observation, but also using various scientific studies to support different questions in sports. It definitely puts a lot of perspective into various issues in sports. Having said that I think there's still a lot that can be developed, such as the issue of drug usage or performance enhancements. Would be nice to have more visuals in this book.

A good read.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The authors have a witty sense of humor and it's easy to follow their premise. Great non-fiction read!
L.A. Kelley
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I’m not into sports. I don’t root for any teams and have no interest in the Olympics, World Cup, Superbowl, or anything that requires sweaty people to vie for a trophy. The quirky aspects of both fans and athletes has always been a mystery to me, but thanks to Wertheim and Sommers I have a better understanding of people who sit in a stadium with giant cheese wedge hats on their heads. The nature of sports turns out to be not much different from other forces that shape human behavior. Athletes an ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a quick read, translating some social psychology research into insight about sports and especially sports fan-dom. It's written accessibly but not dumbed-down, although it's not quite as insightful as The Sports Gene (but what is?), which the acknowledgements note as one of the book's inspirations.

Ultimately, I thought the sports applications were interesting, but more so found it useful how the sports analogies made it easier for me to understand applications to parenting and/or to bus
Miriam Zuo
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Sports can sometimes be divisive -- there are those who love sports and those who would not be caught dead watching a sports game. Admittedly, I fall into the former category, but this book is a compelling read even if you don't particularly like sports. Yes, it does talk about sports quite a bit, but there is value stored in the psychological research scattered throughout that is useful outside of sports.
Derek Bycraft
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very entertaining read. Many of the ideas presented will not shatter your understanding of the world, but they will connect different areas of life in a fun and interesting way.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After seeing this book’s title, it was one that I knew I had to read. Like me, one might ask what the heck CAN we learn from the T-Shirt cannon that shoots cheap shirts into the stands where groups of screaming fans may push and shove each other in order to grab that precious piece of cloth.

That question, along with many others, are answered in this very entertaining book by Sports Illustrated executive editor L. Jon Wertheim and experimental psychologist Sam Sommers. Interspersing serious disc
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it
fun, quick read linking various sports-relevant topics to behavioral science research. Being a fan of Yankees or Red Sox is sort of like being a subject in a minimal-groups social psych expt. Knowing where the finish line is, and that it's coming up, enables you to override your brain's inhibitory effect on all-out effort [Noakes' "central governor" stuff, though they don't use this term]. Alcohol disinhibits aggression among tailgaters, etc. etc.

This is at the intersection of my two main intere
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
This book reminds me of several others I have read in terms of style, subject matter, and presentation: The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality, and Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

It illuminates many ways competition affects our brains, psychology, and ethics. It touches on the m
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! I got it for free to review from Blogging for Books, so it's not one I would normally pick for myself, but I thought I would give it a try. It was a really quick read and easy to digest. Some of the chapters were more interesting than others, but overall I liked it. It came out very recently, so all the facts, stats, and references are up to date. I don't know if it will be quite as interesting in a few years when everything is more dated, but for right now it worked. ...more
Cem Guvener
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As a sports geek and a psychology nerd wannabe, I loved this book. You can easily finish this one over a weekend.
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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).
“so often the appearance of lunacy in sports isn’t lunacy at all. As outlandish as sports conduct might seem, it is rooted in basic human psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive tendency.” 0 likes
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