The Frontal Cortex

Baseball and Dopamine

Christopher Vrountas, of Andover, sent in a very astute letter to the Boston Globe in response to my recent article on dopamine and gambling:

I read Jonah Lehrer’s article “Your brain on gambling” (Ideas, Aug. 19), about how gambling hijacks the brain’s pleasure centers. The gambler’s brain remembers and desperately seeks a repeat of unexpected and unlikely pleasure events, such as winning a slot machine jackpot. I was struck by how the description of such an addictive obsession fit the brain of the typically hopeless Red Sox fan. We remember the thrill of “Impossible Dream” victories and extra-inning World Series heroics from decades past, and we got a huge fix with the 2004 World Series championship.

Fenway Park, the great green slot machine, will be hosting desperate Sox fans well into the future as we maniacally pull the lever, year after year, looking for that October jackpot.

I can feel it this time, this is the year!

I’m afraid that Mr. Vrountas is right. The 2004 championship has indeed raised the dopaminergic expectations of Red Sox Nation – we hit the surprising jackpot – and now we are bound to get depressed and disappointed every time the team is swept by the Yankees in late August, which is what happened yesterday. The only problem with an unexpected win is that it makes losing that much harder.


  1. #1 Ghost Of Babe Ruth
    August 31, 2007

    Serves you right, the Red Socks suck, as the kids today say. Now, gimme another damn hot dog. Go Yankees. 27 rings and counting.

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