Why do athletes chew gum?
October 20, 2004 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Why do athletes chew gum? [no more inside]
posted by mdeatherage to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
Because they aaaaallll smoke.
posted by interrobang at 9:12 PM on October 20, 2004

Baseball is a long and sometimes boring game. Gum--and sunflower seeds and chaw--helps pass the time.
posted by werty at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2004

On hot and dusty fields (like in high school or the minors) it is useful to prevent a dry mouth. I don't understand the sunflower seeds, though, as they're salty as hell.
posted by mookieproof at 9:30 PM on October 20, 2004

Almost every Major League Ballplayer chewed tobacco once upon a time. Gum is a substitute for those who wish to keep their teeth.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2004

yeah. it took me ages to figure out that "Big League Chew" was actually CANDY TOBACCY.
posted by fishfucker at 10:31 PM on October 20, 2004

Response by poster: I mean athletes, not just baseball players. A recent ESPN story on the OU Football program says that every player gets a pack of gum in his locker on game day, and apparently lots of them chew it. The football fields on game day are hot, but not dusty.

What's the deal?
posted by mdeatherage at 10:40 PM on October 20, 2004

Part of it is that they probably get it for free, so why not chew it?
posted by headspace at 4:19 AM on October 21, 2004

It's a nervous outlet, and it works on a couple of different levels:

1) "Game day" is obviously a high-adrenaline day--unlike normal days, you've been ramping up to try and get to a physical and emotional peak, and you've got nervous energy to burn. Anything that helps moderate the edginess is going to be very common behavior. Drumming your fingers, pacing, punching your glove--it's all part of the same thing.

2) On a little deeper level, look at athletes and the folks who tend to excel at it, and think about who the really squirmy kids were in kindergarten and first grade. Chewing gum has actually started to be accepted in classrooms, as a way to help the kids who are just naturally a bit overamped sit and focus. (They also have these great bouncy chairs--paradoxically, by letting a kid bounce in place, they help them stay at their desk and focus on a task.)

I'm not claiming that all athletes have some kind of condition like ADD/ADHD, but it definitely wouldn't surprise me if there's a preponderance of folks like that in athletics. If you're the type of kid who has a hard time sitting at a desk all day, and just want to get out and play, doesn't it make sense that you'd focus on athletics?

Even the tobacco kind of plays into this--ADD/ADHD is commonly treated by stimulants (like Ritalin). I'd also think it's credible that a large number of athletes with this tendency have found a way to basically self-medicate.

So, I know, that whole second point is maybe a crackpot theory, with no real evidence to support it, but it has the ring of sense to me. Anyone who's competed regularly in athletics, though, will tell you that you're always looking for ways to just takes the edge of the peak you've been building up to.
posted by LairBob at 5:34 AM on October 21, 2004

All I can say, as someone who is a bit gum phobic to begin with, watching baseball games is an exercise in eww.
Don't they know the cameras are on them? Don't they know how gross they look spitting and popping and extending gum-enshrouded tongues into other time zones?
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:59 AM on October 21, 2004

Don't they know the cameras are on them? Don't they know how gross they look spitting and popping and extending gum-enshrouded tongues into other time zones?

Does this man look like he cares?

When Rod Beck (above) played for the Red Sox, he once accidentally lost his gum onto the turf at Skydome and promptly picked it up and popped it back into his mouth. In front of 20,000 people and two sets of television cameras.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2004

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