Sports Psychology: For the Depressed 'Dawg Fan on the Eve of the Georgia Bulldogs' College Football Season Opener

As you undoubtedly have noticed, and as you have been reminded, in any event, game week is upon us, which means, inter alia, the resumption of our regular fall posting schedule, complete with all the ordinary features to which you are accustomed. Ere we get back into the swing of things, though, I have a couple of housekeeping details to which to attend, one of which concerns yesterday’s mail delivery.

This year, I joined the Football Writers Association of America, the membership directory for which arrived on Saturday. (For the record, I am listed alphabetically immediately before Mel Kiper, Jr.) Also in the mailbox was the September/October issue of Scientific American Mind, which contained a book review by Frank Bures of Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. Writes Bures:

The crux of Ghaemi’s argument is that people who are depressed exhibit what psychologists have dubbed "depressive realism"---an all too accurate view of the world. Since the 1970s, when the concept of depressive realism first surfaced, some studies have suggested that people who are mentally healthy actually have overly optimistic ideas about their place in the world.

Being depressed, on the other hand, can give people keener powers of perception and heightened abilities to assess complex or tumultuous situations. In fact, various studies have shown that being bipolar can make people more creative, resilient and in tune with their environment. . . .

Ghaemi offers an anecdote in support of his point: the sane British prime minister Neville Chamberlain thought Adolf Hitler was someone who could be reasoned with, but Churchill saw from the beginning that the strategy would never work.

If ever there was a characteristic apt to be exhibited by a fan base that has been through a three-year period akin to the one Bulldog Nation experienced from early January 2008, following the Sugar Bowl win over Hawaii, to late December 2010, through the Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida, "depressive realism" is it. As we gear up for next Saturday night’s contest between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Boise St. Broncos, I hope two things fervently: first of all, that I will be able to bring Realistic Kyle to bear regarding the opening outing of a critical autumn in Athens; and, secondly, that this will be the first fall since 2007 whose outcome leaves me feeling pleasantly surprised.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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