American Pharoah and Mental Health: Part II

A June 15, 2015 Sports Illustrated article ends with the following:

Twenty minutes after the race, Belmont remained nearly full, spectators in thrall. “Look at that,” said former New York jockey Richard Migliore, witness to every past failure. “People still standing. Look at them.”

This appeared in the Sports Illustrated issue I just received today (June 15, 2015) and is available online: a well-written article by Tim Layden about American Pharoah’s Triple Crown victory.

Horse 2


How can the meaning of this accomplishment to many sports enthusiasts, and even casual observers, the crowd’s reaction, and the “people still standing” in an almost full stadium “twenty minutes after the race” not convey a combination of cognitions and emotions that impact in some way, emotional status even if temporary, and may, in the long run, reflect a “tool” that can have an impact on mental health?

Many of my patients were unaware of the event; many were aware but it was not on their radar. One talked about how it was too bad he hadn’t placed a bet, but he had a history of excessive and problematic gambling (an obvious downside when it comes to mental health). For him it was a good thing that he eschewed interest.

I was surprised by two female patients who relished about the race and talked about it with delight, enthusiasm, and sparkles in their eyes.

The sport par excellence that most of my patients who have an interest in sports is soccer. As much as they soak it in when they can access games on T.V., and as enthused as they were about FIFA last year, so too were they aware of and concerned about the FIFA scandal that that has shaken up the soccer world. This was covered extensively by Sports Illustrated in the June 15, 2015 issue I referred to above.

On May 27, U.S. prosecutors announced indictments on 14 FIFA-connected officials and marketing executives for bribery, fraud, and money laundering.


FIFA corruption is not new.

Kissinger once said, “The politics of FIFA, they make me nostalgic for the Middle East”, and in his involvement with FIFA, found that FIFA “was anything but transparent in its dealings with billion-dollar bids for its global tournament.”


Several of my female patients followed the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I have yet to see how much interest the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup commands.


The attention of my soccer enthusiasts was turned recently to the European Cup; Barcelona won its fifth title this year.


Clearly, there are cultural and cross-cultural components. I am fascinated by this and will continue to observe and study the impact of sports on mental health, with an eye towards curative aspects among the patients I work with and cultural background and role of acculturation.


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