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As the Giants made their great run toward the World Series Championship (full disclosure: Giants fan since 1953), a story appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle about the social skills of manager Bruce Bochy. It quoted third-base coach Tim Flannery:

AP David J. Phillip

“There’s so much more to Bochy’s art – and it is that – than the X’s and O’s,” Flannery said. “What he does best, I think, is keep a team together from February to October. People from a distance may not understand, but when you’re together for 162 games, the only thing that gets guys to play hard is their respect for you.”

That is a striking claim: “the only thing that gets guys to play hard is their respect for you.” We’re talking here about individuals who are highly-trained professionals, who have competed in this sport since childhood, who are paid millions for their work, and who – more than in almost any other occupation – understand that their next contract depends very precisely on exactly how well they perform right now. Yet coach Flannery says that the “only” motivator is respect for the manager.

Stories on the Giants’ magical season also add another social dimension: their team camaraderie, the upbeat atmosphere of their clubhouse, their bonding. One local columnist invoked “community” to explain the team’s success. (The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates invoked the slogan, “We Are Family.”) The cynic in us scoffs. (And that cynic may recall that the Oakland A’s in their heyday were noted for internal fighting.) Yet, history and social science research have shown that solidarity and personal bonds often matter more than individual interest in critical settings.

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