For fans, World Series is a marathon, not a sprint

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing

Millions of baseball fans will tune in tonight for the opening game of the World Series. Boston Red Sox versus St. Louis Cardinals. Sportswriters are saying it will be an interesting series between two well-matched teams.

Football fans have it easy. They have to sit through just one big game to decide the year’s champion. For us baseball fans, it could take seven games spread over nine days to determine this year’s champion. (Or it could be just four games over five days, as happened in 2004 when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals.)

That means fans need to approach the series as a marathon, not a sprint. Here are a few suggestions for getting through the Series with your physical and emotional health intact.

Sleep: All seven games are scheduled to start around 8:00 pm Eastern Time. That could make for some late nights. If you have a chance to take a nap on game day, go ahead and do it.

Exercise: Physical activity—and I’m not talking about adjusting the La-Z-Boy or opening a bottle of beer—is a good way to get rid of pre-game jitters. A 20- or 30-minute walk, run, swim, or whatever can help you relax. It’s also good for blood pressure, which can climb high during a stressful game.

Food: The gluttony of Super Bowl Sunday is almost acceptable because it’s a one-day feast. But doing that night after night can give you heartburn and affect your weight. If you routinely snack while watching baseball, try some healthier alternatives to chips and sour-cream dip. Examples include whole-wheat crackers and hummus or guacamole, dried fruits and nuts, or celery and carrot sticks.

Alcohol: If you drink, keep it moderate. Being sleep deprived and hung over for up to nine days isn’t good for your health, and certainly won’t endear you to your family members or coworkers (although some of them may be in the same boat).

Emotions: Some people can watch a World Series game dispassionately. I’m not one of them. As a Red Sox fan, my mood goes up and down with the team’s success. The anxiety that fans like me have is actually rooted in evolution. The human body reacts to a threat—physical or emotional—with the “fight or flight” response. The adrenal glands pump the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream. It causes the heart to beat faster than normal. Blood pressure rises. Extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing alertness. Sight, hearing, and other senses become sharper. Blood sugar (glucose) and fats are released into the bloodstream from storage sites in the body.

That makes sense when the threat is short-lived. But when it lasts for several hours, or several days, this stress response can be harmful. If you find yourself getting stressed, breathing deeply and slowly for a minute or two while saying a relaxing word like “win” can help.

Who knows why we get so caught up in our teams’ fortunes? Evolutionary biologists would tell us that the impulse to identify strongly with a group evolved because our survival depended on it. “Defend your tribe” has morphed into being true to your team. This can sometimes drive us to watch games anxiously, even angrily. Once you’re in that frame of mind, it’s hard to find the pleasure in it.

I have come to recognize that I enjoy watching games more when one of my teams is not on the field. I appreciate the talent and the spectacle. And I am sometimes rewarded with a satisfying, live drama.

Maybe we fans can approach this series with that kind of appreciation. The Red Sox and Cardinals are two very likable teams. Commentators point out that these guys play the game the “right way.” The players themselves say it’s going to be fun.

Let’s see if we can remember that baseball is a game. This World Series should be fun to watch. So whoever you’re rooting for, have fun watching.

Related Information: Harvard Health Letter



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  2. Yankee Bloggers

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  4. I identified what I was looking for. wonderful article, many thanks

  5. Stella Maris

    The tips given in this article is very useful to get signed in in the Marathon.

  6. We Sehat

    it is very true. enough sleep and eating healthy foods.
    Thanky you

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  8. Jose- Noticias de Peru y del Mundo

    The red stockings, win … I am an avid fan.

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  11. Luis

    A championship of any sport arouses passions and enthusiasm and fanaticism, but it basically is just a competition which must be tackled with realism, calm and good sense. The excesses of enthusiasm and fanaticism just cause problems and loss of health. Each one to defend your team, but not losing life.

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  14. Jayculz

    ball games is really fun and interesting game that we should indulge, but we must bare it in our mind to take good care of our health because health is wealth.

  15. Jayculz

    so, therefore as humans it has been said that our boy and good health is the precious gift from God so we must take good care of our body and health by making some valuable activities and make our self busy and indulge in games like soccer.

  16. Sara Loren

    Actually you are talking about a serious issue, and i am thinking to also write aobut the fans of World Series on my blogs which are as follow.

  17. Sara Loren

    Yes you are right about the fans of World Series. The are just taking it as a marathon not a sprint. But after reading your post, it seems that this is the point to ponder.

  18. tipusultan

    For fans, World Series is a marathon, not a sprint.its an wonderful post , thank you for sharing such a informative article. nice work.(Y)

  19. used car dealer st. louis

    I totally agree with Michael. I will add, being a fan first take care of your health and whether its marathon or sprint if you are not the participant you cant change the results.

  20. Eli

    I have to admit, watching your team lose is the worst. I actually read this article from a counselor in town (Cambridge) about Sports Fan Depression.

    It’s pretty interesting but it emphasizes the point you made about this just being a game.

  21. Yes, to be fans of Red sox or st.louis cardinals doesn’t mean we should give everything for those teams. Include our health, we should keep calm and take control the best in everything. For the snack, I prefer nuts and whole-wheat crackers just as you said… 🙂

  22. I’m a 4th generation Red Sox fan and our 4 kids are 5th generation fans. We’re going to be glued! Not predicting anything. Just want to have a solid, good time watching and rooting for my all-time favorite team in the world.

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