Mind Over Sports

NBA brawling: misdirected anger

Posted on: December 19, 2006

carmelo-anthonyIt’s really very sad. More brawling by millionaire basketball players resulting in fines by NBA Commissioner David Stern. A few of those being fined: Carmelo Anthony, Mardy Collins, Jerome James, Jared Jeffries, J.R. Smith, Nate Robinson and Nene. In the past there have been NFL fines for such notable athletes as Darren Woodson, Donovin Darius, John Lynch, Mark Carrier, Brian Dawkins, and Warren Sapp.

But you can be almost certain that the brawling had little or nothing to do with the game itself, but was rather a case of “misdirected anger.”. NBA players, and NFL players, are no different than any of us other mortal beings. They have issues and problems in their personal lives just like we do. But the main difference between them and us is they often refuse to deal with them because they fear the negative publicity that may be generated if they go public. So what do they do? They keep everything bottled up inside themselves until it explodes during athletic competition. Or they get into some stupid fight in a bar. Once in a while you have someone like PGA Golfer John Daly who does go public, but most of them bottle it up, which, is the worst thing they can do.

But here’s the good news. They really don’t have to go public with their issues but just have someone in their personal lives with whom they can share their issues without that person being judgmental. What amazes me is that, to my knowledge, no one in NBA or NFL management seems to have required teams to provide any kind of ongoing internal system that allows the players to discuss their issues and problems in a support group environment. I’m not talking about anger management since you really can’t manage anger. The idea is to acknowledge, resolve (or attempt to resolve) whatever issues in your life that are creating the anger in the first place. That’s why team meetings are often so effective. Because they provide players with a forum to bring up an issue that’s bothering them, and then move on. In the past, I’ve often been approached by a player I was working with and told that he had an issue with his coach. “Well,” I would say, “tell him how you feel.” To which he would answer: “It won’t do any good. Coach isn’t going to change.” And of course, my response to that is: “You can’t change anybody. When you tell a coach (or even your wife or girlfriend) how you feel, you’re doing it for yourself.” But there’s another part of this puzzle that, for obvious reasons, gets very little publicity. And that is, many of today’s professional athletes are cheating on their wives or girlfriends (or both) and keeping it bottled up, not realizing the damage it’s doing to their self-esteem and to their game. You show me an athlete who is living a lie and I’ll show you an athlete who isn’t performing anywhere near his or her skill level. If I were an NBA or NFL coach or general manager, I would make it clear to all athletes and coaches involved in my organization that if they were having affairs outside their relationship with their wives or girlfriends and just couldn’t help themselves, they should either begin immediate counseling or they would be released from the team. Even one bad apple can affect the chemistry and performance of an entire team.

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