Identity on the Baseball Field

Identity is a major influencer in our lives. People identify with their in-group and exclude the out-group.

You’ve probably heard of Jane Elliott’s experiment with school children. In the 1960s, she instructed her students to treat other kids differently based on their eye color. The moment the in-groups and out-groups was defined, the kids treated their friends completely different.

Sport teams define identity for many people. Players and fans both identify themselves with “my team.” When a baseball player is traded, they’re suddenly “on the outs.” Team supporters no longer care for that player.

More than just support, however, in-groups are willing to injure a member of an out-group as punishment for the entire group. Check out this clip:

Does this bat flip anger you enough to hurt another player?
Does this bat flip anger you enough to hurt another player?

The baseball fans I’ve spoken with suggest that the pitcher should intentionally ‘bean’ or ‘plunk’ the next batter in response to that bat flip.

“[The pitcher] needs to be clear that it was a direct result of the bat flipper guy. That way his teammates get pissed off at [the batter] when he feels the need to do it. Cause they know he was the reason [the next batter] got plunked…not the pitcher’s fault.”

If inflicting injury is the encouraged response in a game, what’s the appropriate response in a more important venue?