There’s No Crying in Baseball

It’s one of my favorite times of the year… Little League Baseball tournament time.

As you may know, one of my hobbies is umpiring for these 11 to 13 year old kids. (Yes, that’s me punching #6 out at third. –> ) It’s a terrific experience to be that close to the action. At this year’s tournament, I heard something that got me to thinking. But, before I get to that…

There’s famous line from a great baseball movie is by Tom Hanks (Manager Jimmy Dugan) in A League of Their Own.

Here’s the transcript if you can’t watch the clip:

Mgr Jimmy Dugan: Evelyn, could you come here, you got a second? Which team do you play for?

Player Evelyn Gardner: Well, I’m a Peach.

Jimmy Dugan: Well I was just wonderin’ why you would throw home when we got a two-run lead. You let the tying run get on second base and we lost the lead because of you. Start using your head. That’s the lump that’s three feet above your [butt].

[Evelyn starts to cry]

Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!

Doris Murphy: Why don’t you give her a break, Jimmy…

Jimmy Dugan: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pig[poop]. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?

Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.

Jimmy Dugan: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?

Evelyn Gardner: No…

Jimmy Dugan: Because there’s no crying in baseball. THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!

No Crying

Well, if you’ve watched any of the Little League games over the past few weeks, you know that there IS crying in baseball. It happens every game. One time I overheard a coach tell one of his players who had just struck out, “Stop crying. It’s a selfish thing to do. Focus on your team not yourself.”

Wow, that hit me pretty hard as a former (recovering) baseball crier. I never thought of it that way. I remember crying at most of my Little League, high school, and college sporting events. I cried every time I made a mistake from a strike out in baseball or softball to a turnover or missed free throw in basketball. I cried. Oh, and it didn’t stop there. Crying became such a habit of mine that whenever I felt criticized by my supervisor or had my performance considered to be below par, I would start crying during the feedback session.
Now, you may not be a crier. But, do you have a substitute for actual crying that is one of your reactions? Do you ever “zone out” complain or blame, whine or deny, make excuses or belittle others, feel shame or embarrassed whenever you are criticized or fall short? These reactions may be your form of “crying.”

Me-centric Reactions

Let’s look at why we have these types of reactions. I’m going to refer to crying, but feel free to substitute blaming, excuse-making, whining or lashing out as you see fit to suit you.
Think about the thoughts that cause the “crying.” When you are reacting this way, what are you thinking about? I know for me I was thinking:

  • I should have hit the ball or performed better.
  • I should have made a better pass or had better skills.
  • I’m sorry that I suck so bad and disappointed the team.
  • I wish I could’ve done better.
  • I’m an idiot.

If you would have asked me why I was crying, the first word out of my mouth would have been “I.” That’s a pretty selfish thing to say… “I.” So, what is it that causes this focus on “self?” As I look back and relive these experiences, it boils down to my reaction to an apparent threat. I was threatened by my poor performance… or rather by being judged or possibly rejected for my poor performance. What happens when we feel threatened?

As we have discussed previously in other articles, when our brain recognizes a threat the amygdala goes into action. The amygdala is the prehistoric part of our brain that reacts by causing a fight, flight or freeze response to the recognized threat. This causes us to narrow our focus to find the cause of the threat and protect ourselves against it in the future. This reaction contracts our perspectives, narrows our vision and makes our focal point self-centered.

The brain reacts this way whether the threat is imagined or real… whether it comes from internal beliefs or external expectations. When reality doesn’t measure up to the expectations, the amygdala processes this as a threat. If you watched the Little League tournament games over the past few weeks, you may have noticed there were a lot of apparent threats. You may have also noticed this at work last week or at home over the weekend. 😉

We-Centric Responses

However, did you see any uplifting responses like when Jahli Hendricks, one of the Philadelphia’s clutch hitters, struck out and jogged directly to the next batter and told him, “Watch out for the slow curveball. You got this.” then tapped him on the helmet?

Are there areas in your life or work where you respond to setbacks by “crying?” (Please note: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cry. This article is about looking beyond the brain’s selfish tendencies that occur because of expectations.)

Ask and You Shall Achieve

So, what can you do about it? When you recognize this type of reaction, pause, choose to think a different thought, and focus your attention on creating value for yourself and those around you.

  • Ask yourself, “How can I lift up and encourage my team members?”
  • Ask others for help (and maybe forgiveness). You may be surprised by their response to your authenticity.
  • Prepare others for what is coming (like Jahli did for his teammate).
  • Ask yourself, “What would I see if my focus was broader and beyond myself?”
  • Ask yourself the Central Question: “What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest value?” Focus on long-term and short-term, you and others, intrinsically and extrinsically.

These questions will help your brain to focus on a solution. Sure, you can try to tell your brain to focus on the big picture but your brain might see that as a threat as well. Try asking yourself more questions to lift yourself up and broaden your focus. Neuroscience tells us that our brains love to solve problems. Asking yourself questions will provide you with the buoyancy to lift your thoughts above me-centric crying to we-centric flying and find better solutions.

Remember, there’s no crying in baseball because it’s a team game and crying is a selfish thing to do. May you learn to clear your mind of the self-centric thinking, step up to the plate, and do your best.

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