At the beginning of August, Phillies shortstop Trea Turner was mired in an epic, season-long slump.
Two days prior, Turner had gone 0-for-5 at the plate and committed a critical fielding gaffe that cost the Phils a victory against the Marlins in Miami. After the game, Turner fessed up to his error and dejectedly acknowledged he was the reason they lost the game.
Upon his return to Philadelphia for a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, Turner came to the plate and received a thunderous ovation from the crowd, an overt show of support from a fanbase attempting to send good “vibes” his way.
Friends, it worked.
Turner’s season has completely turned around. He authored the game-winning single in last Tuesday’s 9th inning comeback, and has finally looked like the player we all thought we were getting when he signed as a free agent this winter.
On the latest Hittin’ Season podcast, I spoke with vibes expert (yep) Jason Del Gandio.
Del Gandio is a professor at Temple University who specializes in how vibes work in sports. His website features videos to help athletes learn how to recognize the good times when they come, stay in the moment longer, and become the best players they can be.
“The vibe in general is a big part of sports,” Del Gandio said. “I can’t imagine going to a stadium and paying $100 for a ticket, $10 for a beer, $20 for parking, with no vibe embodying the experience.”
But how much can fans’ vibes really affect a player on the field? It depends, per Del Gandio, but there’s definitely a non-zero answer.
“I do think it’s a real phenomenon,” he said. “To what degree is debatable, but as an athlete, you can feel the positive support or the negativity of fans, and that will translate to your psychology, your emotional state, ability to focus on the game.”
He pointed to the Trea Turner example as the latest proof.
“The Philly fans decide ‘We’re going to support this guy,’ give him a standing ovation, and [it] obviously translated to production on the field,” Del Gandio said. “That’s not always the case, but here we can see how the collective vibe of the fan can translate to results on the field.”
What is the definition of a “vibe,” then?
“The exchange of energy between you and the world,” said Del Gandio, who began exploring the effect in the early 1990s after getting into the rave scene and Phish fan festivals.
“From a philosophical standpoint, the question is, what is this energy?” he added. “Is it a physical phenomenon, or is it metaphysical? Is it spiritual or scientific? Is it material or immaterial? Is it all of these things or none of them?”
Go deeper and hear the entire interview on Hittin’ Season, along with a conversation with New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner on the Phils and the NL Wild Card chase.