After the strike year of 1994 had left baseball fans disenchanted with the game, Mark McGwire (70 homers) and Sammy Sosa (66 homers, next page) brought a unique brand of excitement to 1998, an invigorating year that sparked new life in the game and renewed fan interest.
An example of joy under pressure would seem to be St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball slugger Mark McGwire with his record-shattering 70 homeruns in 1998. While McGwire has battled emotional demons throughout his career and has regularly seen a psychotherapist, he said there were numerous factors as to why he shattered Roger Maris’ hallowed record of 61 homers: his strong mind and positive thinking, a willingness to embrace the media pressure, and the fun and excitement of his season-long race against Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, who had 66 homers.
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In basketball, Michael Jordan admitted that he reached the zone more often when he took criticism or challenges personally. When opponents like Shaquille O’Neal, LaBradford Smith, Gary Payton, and Larry Bird questioned his ability, especially his ability to beat them one-on-one, Jordan raised the level of his quickness, his defense, and most of all his shooting and scoring to prove to them he was the king of the court.
Such reactions often trigger anger and fear and those are the biggest boosters of powerful hormones, according to Yuri Hanin, a pioneer Russian sports researcher, now professor and senior researcher at the Research Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland. In fact, many professional and international athletes are not as successful as others because they don’t tap into the so-called negative emotions, such as aggression, fear, and anxiety. Hanin adds,
High-level mobilizing energy comes from negative emotions; they are often untouched reserves. Positive emotions (joy, contentment) are not as quick to act or as intensive as negative emotions. Not all athletes are ready for competitions because they don’t have enough negatives, or they don’t channel or allocate them in the right way.