Would You Rather Travel to the Past or to the Future?

By Hal Hershfield

In an analysis like this, there are really an endless number of factors that such a variable (that is, time travel preference) could map on to.

About nine years ago, on a chilly October night, Ichiro Suzuki hit his 258th hit of the year. In doing so, he broke the record for number of hits in a season that was set by George Sisler way back in 1920. As the whole team rushes out of the dugout to celebrate with Ichiro, the camera pans over to the third base line, where we see an older woman wearing a cream-colored jacket and a reserved smile. It’s Sisler’s octogenarian daughter.

In one of the classier moments from baseball history, Ichiro leaves his teammates, runs over to her, and bows. The tears that were already in her eyes spill out a bit more and she graciously thanks him for acknowledging her, as well as her now long-deceased father. It was impossible in that moment to not only think back to the time when Sisler first set the record, but also ahead to the future, when someone will inevitably best Ichiro’s accomplishment. This is one of the things I love about baseball: it’s both a timeless sport as well as one that makes mental time travel relatively easy.

All of this came to mind a few weeks ago as I watched David Ortiz hit a grand slam to put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers in one of the playoff games. I found myself wondering about similar dramatic playoff moments from the past (like Carlton Fisk’s ’75 walk-off homer), and the ones that would occur in the years to come. I’m not sure if it the grand slam prompted TBS to start playing classic baseball footage or if I had just had a bit too much pumpkin beer, but I had a thought: would I rather travel back to the past to witness one of these incredible moments or zoom ahead to the future to see what might yet occur?

Read the full article as published in Psychology Today.

Hal Hershfield in an Assistant Professor of Marketing.