Hidden Cost of Baseball Fever: Edgy, Weary Workers
Wed Oct 20, 6:25 PM ET U.S. National – Reuters
By Greg Frost
BOSTON (Reuters) – An epic Red Sox-Yankees baseball showdown may be denting worker productivity as bleary-eyed fans call in sick, show up late to work or linger too long around the water cooler dissecting every play, experts said on Wednesday.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that after more than a week of nail-biting, marathon playoff action between two of the most bitter rivals in all of professional sports, millions of Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fans may be weary and unable to focus on their jobs, relationships — or even their families.
In Boston and New York, employees have openly admitted to arriving late or missing work over the last few days because of games that set length records. Employers, meanwhile, have noticed sluggish, distracted workers seeming to need more caffeine to function properly.
“There are just a lot of tired people at work — people needing a couple of extra cups of coffee to get through the day,” said Ellen Molle, a spokeswoman for Sovereign Bank in Boston.
Stephen Greyser, a professor of sports marketing at Harvard Business School and a Red Sox season ticket holder, likened fans’ anxiety to the stress of taking on a second job.
The games’ impact has even been felt on Wall Street: Financial players overseas have noticed U.S. colleagues appearing distracted by the contest.
“I did see that they took a little time to respond to the good news from IBM and Texas Instruments,” said David Buik, head of business strategy at spread-betting firm Cantor Index in London, speaking about reaction to favorable earnings reports from the technology bellwethers. “They seem to be focused on the ball game.”
LIKE ‘AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP’
Life should return to normal for half of the fan base after Wednesday night’s showdown in the Bronx, where either the Yankees or the Red Sox will win a trip to the World Series (news – web sites) — baseball’s championship.
But for fans of the winning club, it could be more of the same as their team plays another best-of-seven series against either the Houston Astros or the St. Louis Cardinals.
The sense of anxiety is arguably more acute for Red Sox faithful, who are desperate for their club to defeat the arch-rival Yankees and advance to the World Series.
Some believe their team is cursed, noting the Sox have not won a championship since 1918. The Yankees, meanwhile, have won 26 championships over the same 86-years — an astonishing mark of success.
David Barlow, director of the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at Boston University, said being a Red Sox fan has similarities to being in an abusive relationship — and that becomes more pronounced during the playoffs.
“You get beaten down, battered down, slapped around, then all of a sudden you get picked up,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised about worker productivity dropping this week among fans who are so intently focused and anxiously anticipating the outcome of each game.”
A Red Sox fan himself, he admitted to arriving late at work on Wednesday because he stayed up to watch Tuesday’s game.
Yet another source of the baseball fever gripping the Northeast is that for observers of America’s Pastime these are not just ballgames, they are historic milestones laden with emotional peaks and troughs.
The Red Sox came into the American League Championship Series favored to win; they promptly dropped the first three games to the Yankees, including a humiliating 19-8 loss at home on Saturday night.
Pundits had written them off on Sunday, as no team in Major League Baseball history has managed to force a Game Seven after trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series.
But the Red Sox proved the naysayers wrong, winning two back-to-back, come-from-behind games in extra innings to set up Tuesday’s Game Six. They won that, too, in a 4-2 stunner, which set up Wednesday’s decisive Game Seven.