Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 170

The Positive Psychiatry Baseball Hug of Sportsmanship Seen Around the World

A Little League World Series player just showed the world what sportsmanship should look like.

“Being a good person is more important than being a great player.”

Austin Jarvis, father of Isaiah Jarvis and a baseball coach

Likely due to our innate tendency to pay more attention to perceived danger, the major media tends to focus on bad news in order to attract more viewers. We traditionally have rightly done the same in psychiatry. Our concern has been on so-called disorders and suffering.

I once thought we needed a classification of the better characteristics of ourselves to complement the diagnostic disorders of DSMs. I still do. Gratefully, the fields of positive psychology and psychiatry have recently been adjusting some of that slant.

In my weekly video, "Take Us Out to the Ball Game," taped on Tuesday and posted yesterday, I talked about the rather unique sportsmanship that helps to resolve some potential conflict in baseball and other sports. Serendipitously, a startling example of that also occurred on Tuesday in the Little League World Series that was rare, even for baseball.

The happening has gone viral. Usually, even in baseball, if a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, especially in the head, there is retaliation sooner or later. The batter’s team can threaten the pitcher and a fight can ensue. Sometimes it is hard to tell if throwing at the batter was intentional or not, consciously or unconsciously.

But this time, after the batter, 12-year-old Isaiah Jarvis, was hit in his helmeted head and fell down for some time, he got up and calmly went to first base. The pitcher of the other team, Kaiden Shelton, was visibly upset and seemed to look down at the mound in tears. Isaiah saw that, walked over and gave Kaiden a hug and encouragement. There was no further retaliation.

Maybe this will be an inspiring model of the youth teaching the adults, including those parents who fight in the stands at the games or who bring their anger home to commit domestic violence. I hope both Congressional political “teams” and their “fans” view it. The Little League game sportsmanship is an example of some of the psychological best of humanity, of immediate forgiveness and compassion, is it not?

Probably in clinical psychiatry, some similar opportunities occur when something goes wrong in the treatment of a patient, the worst being a suicide. Do we often enough convey empathy and compassion for our colleagues when that happens and when it is reviewed? I received that concern when I was a psychiatry resident 50 years ago and had my only ever suicide of a patient. I am forever grateful. I think the compassion made me a better psychiatrist and a better person.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.