Mind Over Sports

Archive for August 2007

m_singletaryI’ve waited quite some time before writing something about the Michael Vick saga, and I want to go on record and state that what happened to Michael Vick had nothing to do with race. It didn’t make any difference what color he was, he broke the law and is now going to have to pay the penalty. What happened to Michael Vick was created by Michael Vick.

Which brings me to the subject of why so many professional black athletes have been having problems with the law. It isn’t because of their perceived wealth. In almost every case, if you look back at their childhood, many were treated as though they were young superstars destined to do great things in the world of sports, which would eventually translate into their becoming millionaires. It was a world of entitlement for them, and they were allowed to do whatever they wanted without having to face the consequences. And who is to blame? Their coaches and their parents. They looked the other way and didn’t hold these young men accountable because they had such fantastic talent (talent that began to reveal itself even when they were as young as four years old.) They were seldom disciplined by their parents and coaches (especially their coaches.) When they got into trouble, no problem. The coach (or somebody) could fix whatever needed fixing. They were not responsible for their actions. There was always somebody waiting to bail them out. But when they got out into the real world, they found out pretty quickly that that didn’t work when it came to breaking the law.

While watching television, it’s ridiculous to see these young black sports journalists blaming our society for what happened to Michael Vick and other black athletes. There’s no question that we live in a racially biased society, but when someone breaks the law, regardless of their color, they need to be held accountable.

I even heard one person call in to a sports talk radio show and compare what Michael Vick did with people who have abortions, and that “killing babies” was much worse than “killing dogs.” But what he failed to mention was that abortion is legal, dog fighting is not.

I also watched ESPN-TV while the sports pundits talked about the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals, whose players have had many run-ins with the law, have opted to recruit “Choir Boys” and then one of the announcers mentioned that NFL football was a violent sport and that they may not be up to the challenge. Excuse me. I wouldn’t exactly call Mike Singletary a choir boy. Mike Singletary grew up in a family that had strong Christian beliefs (and he still does.) He once told me that he was the youngest of (if memory serves me) eight children and because he was the baby, his mother heaped mounds of love on him and he felt that the love he received from his mother was primarily responsible for the success he experienced as a Chicago Bear and the success he is yet to experience as an NFL Head Coach. You would never find someone like Mike Singletary mistreating a pet, because he was brought up to know that every living thing is one of God’s creatures. When he was linebacker coach for the Ravens, he and I once spoke over the phone and he told me he was not only preparing his players for the NFL, but also for life after the NFL. It’s too bad there aren’t more Mike Singletary types around.

We all know what momentum is. An example would be a train going down a steep incline and continues to pick up speed and go faster and faster. But there’s a big difference between a train and a sports team. For starters, a train doesn’t have a belief system. A train doesn’t have issues in its life. A train doesn’t have to worry about team chemistry. In short: A train isn’t human. I really don’t believe there is any such thing as momentum when it comes to a sports team. Every game a team plays is new, and whether or not the team will be successful in one specific game depends on many different factors going into each game: team chemistry, baggage being carried around by team players, negativity on the team, how coaches interact with their players. Even one negative person on a team can influence the chemistry of an entire team and affect the outcome of a game. It’s similar to a crap table in Las Vegas. When everyone is hitting numbers and everyone is winning, and everyone is whooping it up and hollering happily, all it takes is for one player at the crap table to get into an argument with the croupier and presto!..just that quick, the table becomes cold and everyone begins losing. So from my perspective there really isn’t such a thing as momentum when it comes to sports competition since every game is new and different. The real issue is what’s going on behind the scenes with the coach and his or her team. When a team is successful in consecutive games, it’s a sign that they have the talent to be successful at their level of competition and that everything is going well behind the scenes with that team. Players are feeling good about themselves and their lives are in harmony. And of course, teams are often helped by problems being experienced by opposing teams. I’ve always maintained that teams lose games more than teams win games.

Most people are unaware that the death of a dog was partly responsible for the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl. In 1969, New York Jets quarterback Broadway Joe Namath had an Irish Setter named Faro that had been given him his rookie year as a birthday present. The dog was so hyper Namath had to keep him on a farm with a friend. One day Faro was hit by a car and killed, but Joe didn’t find out about the accident until the night before the Jets played Kansas City for the AFL Championship. Namath was miserable and it showed up in his performance. The turning point in the game was when the Chiefs stopped Namath and the Jets three times from the 1-yard line at the outset of the final period. Final score: Chiefs 13, Jets 6. The Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating the Minnesota Vikings, while the Jets haven’t been back to the big game since. If something important happens in an athlete’s personal life the night before a big game, it’s certain to affect his or her performance.

There’s a definite psychology of “winning” that, once experienced by a team, can have a powerful positive effect on the entire season. And if I were advising an NFL head coach (which I’m not) I would also recommend that he play his regular season starters as much as possible during the pre-season games, with limited playing time for his new talent. The reason for this is so that the starters will be in better physical condition when they actually play their first league game. Some teams lose their first or second game of the regular season primarily because their starters didn’t get enough playing time during the pre-season and appeared to run out of gas.


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