Welcome back to our open thread.
Today’s question is brought by John Lofflin:
Gabe my question is about fun vs logic. I notice ballplayers perform better when they have fun even if what they are doing isn’t logical. Billy Butler hits better, with more spirit, when he plays first base rather than DH. Zack Greinke will never go back to the American League because he enjoys hitting so much (I think he may have asked the Royals if he could play short between starts). Mariano Rivera hurt himself shagging flies in centerfield before a game — something he loved to do. What role do you think having fun has in reaching peak performance?
Thanks, John. This is a powerful question with strong philosophical undertones. I’ll bite.
Let’s start with some science regarding fun which inherently makes us happy. From sageworld.com:
Happy people are healthy people. Many scientific studies have found a connection between psychological and physical well-being. One reason for this is that happy people are more likely to exercise, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep than those who report lower life satisfaction. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University exposed subjects to a cold virus and found that people who considered themselves happy were less likely to get sick — and expressed fewer symptoms even if they did contract the virus. Therefore, happier employees could mean fewer sick days and lower health insurance costs for your company.
Fine, this narrative seems like a stretch, but let’s take it a step further. Suppose that by enjoying himself on the baseball field, Billy Butler’s immunity is marginally stronger. He thereby avoids a single game out of 162 in which he would have been held out of the lineup due to illness. Just one game. In that game, he blasts a home run, and they win by a run. Now suppose the Royals sneak into the playoffs by that one game. Don’t laugh, it could happen.
Having fun is also a proven stress reducer. Players enjoying themselves inherently are more relaxed. Loose, relaxed muscles fire faster than once that are perpetually tense.
Reciprocal inhibition describes the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint.
If the opposing muscle does not properly relax, the max force production and rate cannot be achieved by the prime mover.
So yes, having fun should (theoretically) lead to better performance.