Sports
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Episode 44
Featuring Sam Walker
Humans naturally gravitate towards sports. But it's about more than competition. Our love for athletic performance offers a glimpse at millions of years of evolution – at the impulses and urges of our ancestors. Here, Sam Walker discusses what sports reveal about the traits we value and the evolutionary forces that shape team selection.

People love sports. As we love watching the teams we adore try and fight their way towards victory. Their wins are our wins, and we celebrate these triumphs with feelings of joy that are difficult to match or even describe. Their losses are equally ours, and the pain of those losses can feel like a personal failure.


Much has been said about the psychology of sports, about those things that draw us in and keep us spellbound. However, scientists have failed to locate exactly what it is that draws us towards sports or, equally, what draws us towards the teams we love.


Is it the rivalry and the satisfaction that comes through conquest and the defeat of the opposition? Is it the fun, the entertainment, or the freedom that sports give us to let go of the stress and struggles of daily life? Is it a kinship felt towards a particular player? According to Sam Walker, author of The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams, the answer is a resounding “no.”


Human beings naturally gravitate towards communal displays of athletic performance. We crave friendly competition. But according to Walker, our love affair with such exhibitions isn’t really about rivalry or entertainment.


Rather, as our lives become increasingly intermediated by computer interfaces, spectator sports provide one of the few remaining ways of experiencing the elegance and power of the human body. Herein lies the secret of our love affair with sports: In a world that is constantly changing, sports are a window into the into millions of years of evolution – the impulses, characteristics, and behavioral urges of our ancestors. Team sports, in particular, give us a front row seat to the unfolding drama of the human experience and the evolutionary forces that have shaped human selection.


Over the course of this episode, Walker speaks with host Demetri Kofinas about what he has learned about the forces that shape the world’s greatest teams. The conversation is, in some sense, a search for the DNA of greatness.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Sam Walker is The Wall Street Journal’s leadership columnist, a keynote speaker and team-building consultant. In his two decades at the Journal, he has served as sports columnist, deputy page-one editor and founding editor of the paper’s prizewinning daily sports coverage. His bestselling 2006 book, Fantasyland, chronicled his bid to win Tout Wars, the world’s top fantasy-baseball expert competition (of which he is a two-time champion). He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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