Is Derek Jeter that Good?

By Andrew Muschel

whats-in-a-word-1055796-sSomehow, Derek Jeter has become one of the most polarizing players in baseball. It is difficult to overrate a player who has won Rookie of the Year, five World Series rings, five Gold Gloves, All Star Game and World Series MVP honors, appeared in 14 All Star Games, and has recorded well over 3,000 hits, the most by a shortstop or New York Yankee.

Yet, after this past week’s All Star Game, Jeter’s final one, the focus on The Captain and the excessive Re2pect awarded to him fueled the debate as to whether despite his accolades, Jeter is overrated by the media. Nobody can debate Jeter’s Hall of Fame credentials, but some take offense to his Divine treatment. In response to the recent “scandal” involving Adam Wainwright’s admitting that he allowed Jeter a hit in honor of Jeter’s final All Star Game, Deadspin founder and writer Will Leitch finally had enough:

“The problem with the way we’ve always treated Derek Jeter is that we’ve repeatedly let — demanded — the story get ahead of the man, a man, I might add, we know absolutely nothing about. It’s never been enough that Derek Jeter had more than 3,000 hits and is one of the 10 best shortstops of all time. He has to stand for so much more than that. True Yankee. Face of Baseball. A Throwback. Mr. November. Class. Professionalism. The Captain. The obsession to turn Jeter into a myth has been present from the very beginning of Jeter’s career. It has never stopped.”

So the debate rages on: Does the media still manage to overrate a superstar legend like Derek Jeter? Though the question is subjective and therefore impossible to answer, we can examine a few reasons people may overrate him.

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Are Cleveland Sports Fans Really Cursed?

By Andrew Muschel

letterWith the release of The Letter, Lebron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His departure was not momentous for the city, and perhaps his return will end the Cleveland sports curse.

despair-592305-sYou see, the city of Cleveland probably has had many redeeming factors, but the success of its sports teams is not among them. Aside from having its own Wikipedia page, Youtube video, and cleverly titled blog, the Cleveland sports curse is an essential part of the city itself. The media has certainly subscribed to the notion of a curse, defined primarily by a 50 year championship drought for a city with three professional sports teams. Aside from a general lack of success, the city has had multiple heartbreaking moments, from The Drive to The Fumble, The Shot, and most recently, The Decision, in addition to the currently unnamed moments of Art Modell’s moving the football team to Baltimore and a tough loss in the 1997 World Series.

So is the curse real?

Probably not. But why not?

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Basking In Reflected Glory (BIRG) – USA!

By Andrew Muschel

brazilian-soccer-603150-sThough the United States soccer team’s World Cup run has come to a disappointing finish, the record breaking viewership numbers continue to accumulate. In general, as  the World Cup took the US by storm, the American media focused significant attention to the noticeably increased interest in soccer throughout the US. Several factors may have contributed to the new found popularity, but the United States’ recent success, advancing to the round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup, was probably a  significant factor.

We have all experienced, often without request, the tendency of people to brag about their successes. Furthermore, actual involvement in success is apparently not required, as people almost as quickly brag about sharing a flight, birthday, or nationality with a celebrity. It turns out that with sports teams we are guilty of the same attempt to self-promote via others, or as researchers refer to it, basking in reflected glory (BIRG).

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Are Athletes Heroes?

By Andrew Muschel

hero-935633-sAs the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Kings paraded through their local streets among thousands of fans to celebrate their recent championships, an objective non-sports fan observer may have wondered about the celebration. These parades, along with the upcoming induction of several players into baseball’s Hall of Fame, and some eulogies written about the late Tony Gwynn all indicate how commonly society treats its athletes as heroes.

Some parents may be glad that their children look up to these sports heroes, while other parents may shudder at the thought that these are the role models for their children. Though Tony Gwynn was remembered fondly by those close to him, the list of non-exemplar heroes or role models may be lengthier. As late-night host Conan O’Brien recently quipped, “A new report out of Chicago reveals that the crime rate plummets during an NFL game. Mainly because the most dangerous criminals are busy on the field.”

Are parents justifiably concerned about their children’s wearing jerseys or hanging up pictures of the convicted criminals to whom Conan O’Brien referred?

Who idolizes athletes, how do they choose their heroes, and should they have heroes? By looking at all of these questions, the answer to the last one may depend on the definition of hero.

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How Fans Choose Their Teams – Go for the Good Guys?

By Andrew Muschel

shooting-the-basketball-ball-1-1374670-sAs the Spurs and their fans wake up as NBA champions with a series win over the Miami Heat, one reason America seems to be celebrating with them is because of Lebronenfreude (after losing in the 2011 finals, a Google search for Lebron+Schadenfreude produced several results; this year, not as many). Not only are fans still seeking justice for Lebron’s tormenting of Cleveland, but they also feel cheated out of competitive basketball by his formation of the Big Three in South Beach. Lebron’s inability to win every championship confirms the competitive nature of sports that fans desperately desire.

But there may be another reason fans were pulling for the Spurs. Because they’re the good guys.

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What Makes an Athlete Clutch?

By Andrew Muschel

With the New York Rangers’ win on the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, their star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist continued his spectacular play in a hope to lead them to a miraculous comeback. Lundqvist has been superb for the Rangers, stopping 92% of the shots he has faced in his career and allowing only 2.26 goals per game. Last night, The King, as he is known in New York, lived up to his reputation as being a “clutch” performer.

goal-saves-2-535933-sWhen facing elimination over the last three years, Lundqvist improved to 11-2 with a .959 save percentage allowing a mere 1.3 goals per game, significantly better than his average performance. But some are wondering, is it really possible for a professional athlete to perform better in a higher pressured situation?

The sports media has answered that question in the affirmative, labeling athletes Mr. Clutch or Captain Clutch, and writers have written about Lundqvist’s “clutch” abilities (perhaps King Clutch?). Broadcasters also invoke the term, or its dreaded conterpart “choking,” to describe a play or player.

In scientific terms, what do these words mean and is there any truth to these claims?

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Schadenfreude in Sports: What’s the Deal With #Lebroning?

By Andrew Muschel

Since his famous “The Decision,” in which Lebron James publicly announced his decision to leave Cleveland and “take his talents to South Beach,” it seems that basketball fans across the country have turned against him. After losing in the finals in his first season with the Miami Heat, the sports world, led by Cleveland, engaged in excessive celebrations.

The city of Cleveland was laughing while the governor was awarding the champion Mavericks honorary Ohioan residence. Many tweets joked about Lebron’s failures late in the game and many writers appeared gleeful as they put their pens to the paper.

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The Effect of Behaviorism on Sports Suspensions

By Andrew Muschel

The discussion of Pete Rose’s status in baseball is an old one (just ask Jim Gray). The trend to compare his crime of gambling on baseball to ostensibly more severe crimes is more recent. Joe Posnanski, for example, focuses on the insignificant punishments allotted to NFL players and staff involved in “Bountygate,” which was essentially a socially acceptable version of assault and battery.  (Bountygate was the scandal in which New Orleans Saints’ players allegedly earned bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players that forced them to leave games).

What Pete Rose Did Wrong

In contrast, Rose’s crimes were harmless, in the sense that no person’s physical safety was threatened, yet he remains excommunicated. A recent Sports Illustrated article provides an excerpt from Kostya Kennedy’s new book, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma and compares Rose’s crimes with the trendy topic of performance enhancing drug (PED) use. Kennedy notes that while neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens–two players linked to PED use–were inducted to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, both, unlike Rose, had the luxury of being placed on the ballot.

Why It Matters

Posnanski and Kennedy’s points, questioning the mismatch between Rose’s crime and punishment, are interesting. From a purely moral and intellectual perspective, they may even be correct. However, the fundamental difference between Pete Rose’s gambling and the Bountygate/PED scandals can be simplified to one thing: money. Posnanski quotes a commonly cited explanation, “that what Rose did is worse than what Williams and company did because betting on baseball calls into question the legitimacy of the game while the bounty does not.” To better understand the meaning of this accurate explanation, and its relevance to money, a brief review of behavioral psychology’s learning theory is in order.

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Welcome to Sports on the Couch

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Have you ever watched a great game, then tuned into a sports talk radio the next day to hear all the analysis of the game? Many people have, and it’s great fun listening to commentators and experts talk about their perspective on the game.

That perspective is often limited to a discussion of strategy and personalities, without a lot of psychological insight. Have you ever wondered, What drives a player to play great one game and then bring a less-than-stellar performance the next three? Why do some star athletes seem to be laid back, while others are serious?

And what brings fans to follow one sport and care less about another? What drives fans in certain cities to be so rabidly supportive of their home teams, while fans in other cities seem like they could care less?

Wonder no more. Andrew Muschel, MS is here to help answer some of these kinds of questions in his new blog, Sports on the Couch.. Andrew is a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student at Long Island University Post. You can learn more about him here.

Please give Andrew a warm Psych Central welcome!


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  • Ben: Very interesting post. While you note the BIRG factor can be applied to the teams you mentioned, I wonder if the...
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