A short piece on the role played by sleep science in the San Francisco Giants' victory in the baseball World Series of 2010.
Earlier this year we posted on celebrities who have nodded off in public. This week an unsuspecting member of the public has become become something of a cause celebre precisely because he has fallen asleep under the watchful eye of the TV cameras. Andrew Rector, a New York Yankees fan, was singled out for some wry remarks by the ESPN commentary team when the camera caught him napping in his seat during the 4th inning of the Yankees/Red Sox game on April 13. Rector has now filed a $10 million defamation suit against the team, the network, and the ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk for their "avalanche of disparaging words." At the time of writing, the YouTube clip of Rector's snooze has attracted some 750,000 views (though it seems only likely that the lawsuit and attendant publicity will boost this number into the millions). The comments thread that accompanies the clip makes for instructive reading. On the one hand, there is an all-too-predictable avalanche of disparaging and abusive comments about Rector's behaviour and appearance, a gleefully heartless discourse in which the public sleeper is deemed to be fair game for public ridicule. On the other, there is a much more sympathetic thread of speculation about whether Rector may be suffering from some form of sleep-related illness, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. Whatever the truth of these amateur diagnoses, they do risk giving the impression that public sleep is a seriously eccentric behaviour, excusable only if it can be explained as a symptom of a medical disorder. A more thought-provoking perspective on this somnolent Yankees fan is offered by those online commentators who pathologize not the sleeper but the context in which he sleeps: according to several YouTube wags, Rector's sleep is the appropriate and indeed inevitable response to a sport as soporific as baseball.
As England prepare for tonight's crunch World Cup fixture against Uruguay, football fans will be wondering if their star striker Wayne Rooney will finally be able to deliver on his huge promise on the world stage. Sleep aficionados, meanwhile, will remember that Rooney once admitted that he is unable to get to sleep without the noise of a vacuum cleaner, or his partner's hair-dryer, in the background.