Mind Over Sports

Archive for August 2010

Now that Bobby Thomson has left this world, perhaps it’s time to discuss something that many of us were unaware of; that is, that his “shot heard round the world” in the autumn of 1951 was based on a system of sign-stealing through the use of a centerfield telescope, an idea devised by Giants’ manager Leo Durocher, who coined the phrase: “Nice guys finish last.” At the time, it was perfectly legal to do what Durocher did. Legal? Yes. Ethical? No. It’s spelled out in Joshua Prager’s book, “The Echoing Green.” In their amazing 1951 stretch run, the Giants made up a 13-game deficit to force the playoff with the Dodgers. And they did it by cheating. If that happened today, there’s no way Durocher would be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. One has to wonder how many players in the past who are in the Hall of Fame were also cheating by using performance enhancing drugs.

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When the divorce of Mets first basement Keith Hernandez became final on a Monday, in his next seven at-bats he hit three home runs and drove in nine.  “Maybe I should get divorced every day,”  he said.  “I’d be broke, but I’d be in the Hall of Fame.”  Daily divorce may be unnecessary, but Hernandez obviously needed to shift his focus from marital strife to baseball.  When Tiger Woods gets his divorce, and his life is once again in harmony,  his game will automatically return to normal, and even above normal, which means he’ll start winning tournaments like mad. All those pundits who are saying he’s finished must not realize…What takes place away from the golf course affects what takes place on the golf course.

I’m reminded of a story told to me by a friend of mine who is the athletic director of a Midwestern College. When he was in high school, he was one of the top basketball players in the state of Kansas. In fact, he was written up in a book that documented high school athletes in Kansas who scored 50 or more points in a game. My friend did it twice. Once he scored 50, another time he scored 54.
I asked him if he could recall the time he scored 54 if anything special happened in his life just before the game. He thought for a moment and then answered, “Yes, in fact something did happen.” I asked him if he could share that with me and he told me that the night before the game, his girlfriend called him and wanted to get back together.
I’m making this point because it’s important to remember that off-the-field issues affect athletic performance, both positive and negative. In my friend’s situation, it was positive because his life was suddenly in harmony. And by the way, in order for my fiend to have scored those 54 points he had to have the skill level to do it.

Tom Krattenmaker’s book, “Onward Christian Athletes,” is a must read for all owners, general managers and coaches of all professional sports teams. When they allow evangelical chaplains to become involved with their teams the results are often the opposite of what they had intended. There is often unwanted proselytizing and the creation of cliques within the teams. Instead of building team chemistry, the presence of an evangelical chaplain often negatively affects team chemistry. If you’re the owner of a professional sports team, you should hire Tom Krattenmaker as a consultant.


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