Football Mania

Inside the minds of risk-taking players and die-hard fans.

This Is Your Brain on Football

This is your brain on football.
With 3 minutes and 26 seconds left in the third quarter, Phillip's Anterior Cingulate Gyrus had had enough. There was the Amgydala again, crass and rude as always, ready to raise all manner of hell, banging on the synaptic doors and issuing its usual ill-defined rant against control and civility. "F**k that," it screamed, like a drunken jilted lover, "Time for action, you flaccid pile of goose crap."

The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus considered for a moment Phillip's unfortunate predicament. Phillip's Right Parietal Lobe had badly misjudged the trajectory of the opposing fullback, thinking that the running back's Cerebellum could not possibly coordinate in time with its Basal Ganglia to make it past the big mother-f**ker playing outside linebacker without stepping out of bounds. In fact, deep in the recesses of Phillip's brain, his Occipital Lobe had noted a very sexy Sharon sitting next to his dear mother. This had caused a paradoxical mix of nausea and arousal, and, given the lack of adequate time for his Frontal Lobe to properly assess these feelings with any sort of satisfactory finesse, his Right Parietal Lobe was temporarily discombobulated and just plain got it all wrong. After all, discerning what or who could fit where required focus.

All of this conspired to allow the Fullback to streak past Phillip, and Phillip's Adrenal Gland kicked up a healthy aliquot of Norepinephrine north to his cortex, demanding pursuit less the wayward fullback should garner more yardage. Alas, amidst this kind of shame, Phillip's Amgydala was not to be ignored. It intercepted with the grace of All-Pro cornerback the perfectly tossed Adrenaline and prevented it from generating any higher cognition. About the most sophisticated response his brain could muster with any sort of unified agreement was the dawning realization that if things didn't change pronto, there was virtually no way he was getting laid tonight. This cognition awakened his Hippocampus, which responded with a dim mixture of fantasy and imagined romance, Sharon all beautiful in her red holiday dress and his mother and father downstairs in the living room watching Detroit continue the tradition of losing on Thanksgiving Day.

It was this image that absolutely enraged his Amgydala, and, like a stallion at a rodeo with the ball-crushing belt freshly tightened, it banged on the door of the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus and burst forth from its confines with primitive and lustful revenge its only thoughts. The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus saw this coming, sensed the influx of noradrenergic rage, and sent a quick note north to the Executive Regions of the Frontal Lobes.

"This is impulsive," the note read. "It's what Ms. Toomey was talking about on Wednesday." The Hippocampus was quick to abandon Sharon and her red dress and now pictured Ms. Toomey, her nose running and her perpetually bloodshot eyes, the bottom of her ancient slip showing just below her rumpled frumpy dress. She sat with her legs crossed and looked tired and weather-beaten, like she had smoked too many cigarettes, and she echoed the word "impulsivity" over and over in Phillip's Wernicke's area until his Brokaw's region had thankfully put the whole thing to bed with a faked uncaring "Whatever," and then a signal to the Basal Ganglia to get up and leave the room with feigned disrespect.

"Ms. Toomey is kind of sexy" his right brain had timidly ventured, but the Amgydala had seen enough, and the higher brain was none too happy either. If Phillip wasn't gonna get laid tonight, it certainly wasn't gonna stop the rampage of a healthy fight or flight response...

"Fine," sighed the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus, stepping to the side this time rather than sitting on the Amygdala's relentless rant. "Fight or flight my friend...Fight or flight."

There was venom, it seemed to the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus, not fear, in the eyes of the Limbic thugs. It was easier to tolerate venom. (The Super-Ego, however, kept watch from on-high, secretly pleased that the near forgotten Unconscious, sprinkled frugally along poorly mylenated tracks, did in fact sense terror as well as rage. Its voice was muffled by a badly insulted Id, now willing to trade a real-time Philistine act for a dream later that night that the Unconscious was cooking up with the Super-Ego. This dream would involve something about impotence and Phillip's mother, the details of which would have to be hammered out later when less was going on.)

As it turned out, the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus barely saw the Amgydala. The herd of emotions shot past like a cat in a downpour, angry, claws out, and before any more meddling from the 100 million neurons and the 100 trillion connections that conspired to act in unity as Phillip's brain, it kicked the fullback in the testicles, threw its helmet into the crowd, and abruptly flipped the bird at the opposing team's fans. The Unconscious blithely noted that it was the non-dominant hand that was extending its middle finger so defiantly, sensing at least some reluctance on Phillip's part to go down so completely in flames, but, like the dream, this would have to wait-- more grist for frumpy Ms. Toomey and her Wednesday counseling mill.

Football Mania