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Cut4 Library: 'This Is Your Brain on Sports' explains why we still love teams that lose

Hey, remember this scene from "Beauty and the Beast?"

library

Now imagine that every single one of those books is about America's pastime. Since that library is basically a Mobius strip of printed material, we're here to guide you through it. When we find a fascinating baseball book, you'll be the first to know. Today: "This is Your Brain on Sports." 

Why do we root for teams that never seem to win? (No names, but, uh, Wrigley, we see you.) Why do mediocre players seem to make the best managers? (Again, no names, but again, certain Chicago denizens never even made it to the Majors.) Why does it feel so great when your team's greatest rival loses? (I'm out of Cubs jokes, sorry.)

If you want the answers to these questions, and you want them to go deeper than just "because sports, man," then "This Is Your Brain on Sports" is for you. Co-written by L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers, this book promises chapters like "The Curse of the Expert: Why the Best Players Make the Worst Coaches," and "Why Rooting for the Mets is Like Building That IKEA Desk."

metsfansLike this, but with Allen wrenches.

But why should you trust these people and their Swedish furniture similes? Well, Wertheim is the executive editor at "Sports Illustrated" and Sommers is an experimental psychologist at Tufts, so they know their sports and their … brains.

They want to tell you about some of the most important experiments in science history:

In 2010, Mina Cikara … joined two other colleagues to scan the brains of Yankees and Red Sox fans as they viewed a series of baseball game updates … What they found was extraordinary …

According to both the fMRI and participants' self-reports, when a Red Sox player committed an error, Yankees fans experienced a surge of joy. When a Yankee was thrown out trying to steal second, Red Sox fans felt pleasure. And they did so to the same degree as when they witnessed the positive plays of their own team: Seeing a rival lose was just as gratifying as seeing their own team win.

But the real reason you should pick up a copy of this book (and I do think you should) is because Wertheim and Sommers confirm the hypothesis we've been trying to sell to our own family and friends for so long: "Real life" isn't more important than sports. Real life is sports:

… Sports = everyday life: the rivalries, the rationalizations, the striving for finish lines. Sports are familiar, they are ubiquitous, they are eminently human. Remember what Errol Morris said about the It's Not Crazy, It's Sports short films? "Sports, as we all know, touches on everything."