Mind Over Sports

Archive for December 2011

I was appalled by a recent column that appeared in the Springfield (MO) News-Leader where a retired chaplain made the ridiculous claim that Albert Pujols was greedy and “grasped for $250 million instead of settling for $210 million where he was loved.” That is one of the most stupid comments I’ve ever read or heard. Let’s set the record straight.

First, it’s important to remember that Pujols was reared near an ocean by his grandmother in the Dominican Republic and I’m sure that he and his wife, Deidre, missed being near an ocean. Who in their right mind would rather live in St. Louis than have a beautiful home overlooking the Pacific?

The columnist further stated, referring to Pujols, that “covetousness is epidemic in our society” without giving any thought to where the money paid Pujols is going to be going. I lifted the following from an article about Pujols on the Internet: “In 2005, Albert and Deidre Pujols launched the Pujols Family Foundation which is dedicated to their ‘commitment to faith, family and others.’ The organization promotes awareness of Down Syndrome and works to support those who have it and their families, aids the poor in the Dominican Republic, and supports people with disabilities and/or life threatening illnesses. Among other activities, the foundation hosts events for people with Down Syndrome. The foundation gave the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis the resources to open and office and hire staff. A center for adults with Down Syndrome bears Pujols’ name (‘Albert Pujols Wellness Center for Adults with Down Syndrome’) opened in 2009 in Chesterfield, Missouri. Pujols has taken several trips to the Dominican Republic, by taking supplies as well as a team of doctors and dentists to the poor who need medical care. The Pujols Family Foundation also holds an annual golf tournament to raise money to send dentists to the Dominican Republic.” The columnist should have known better than to attack Albert Pujols as one who practices what he referred to as the “deceitfulness of greed.”

And finally, I’m sure the people of California will love Albert just as much as those in St. Louis. Albert is one of those star athletes who will be loved no matter where he goes.

When Tiger Woods was going through his difficulty regarding his extra-marital affairs, former NFL running back Eddie George, when asked what percentage of NFL players, in his opinion, we’re having extra-marital affairs, he replied: Ninety Per Cent. If this is true, that means 90% of all NFL players are living a lie and are not performing anywhere near their skill levels. And this lie will show up in the form of fumbles, dropped passes, and missed blocks, not to mention excessive penalties. And I feel confident the percentage of NBA players is probably similar. When athletes and coaches “withhold” about having extra-marital affairs, it’s definitely lying, and it’s this lying that demeans them and lowers their feelings of self-worth creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. When coaches are having extra-marital affairs, it will show up in how they interact with their team members. They are generally short tempered because they have anger that is often “misdirected,” they take fewer risks when making coaching decisions, and if they make an error in judgment, they will make excuses and not accept responsibility because they fear the consequences of their being honest, such as: being fired. These coaches will often experience stress which they’ve created for themselves, and in many instances it will show up in the form of a life-threatening illness.

It doesn’t serve any purpose to name him, but here’s what happened. His team was playing another team from the East Coast Conference and with only a few second left on the clock, his team was ahead by three points.  When the other team was about to put the ball into play, instead of  calling time-out and instructing his players to immediately foul the player the ball is thrown to, he allowed the opposing team to bring the ball down the court and take a 3-point desperation shot with only 1.6 seconds remaining. The shooter was completely off balance but somehow, the ball managed to go in sending the game into overtime and his team eventually lost. “We had our chances” the coach commented after the game and proceeded to make a few flimsy excuses.

What he should have said was, “You know what? I messed up and allowed the other team to take that shot instead of having one of our players foul them. It was my fault and I apologize.” But he didn’t. Which tells you a lot about the coach. It’s possible he is keeping some feelings and emotions bottled-up, resulting in his having a low sense of self-worth (self-esteem) and one of the characteristics of someone who does not feel good about themselves is: they fear the consequences of their honesty.  It takes a confident coach to admit he or she made a mistake.  People are very forgiving if you admit you made an error, but he didn’t do it. Or couldn’t do it. Of course, if he wasn’t even aware that he made an error in judgment, that’s even worse.

When USA Today Columnists Tom Weir and Reid Cherner wrote about Kobe Bryant’s pending divorce (“Ringing in the season with Kobe”) and other celebrity divorces, what they don’t realize is that divorce represents a major “unresolved issue” in an athlete’s life and once that issue is resolved, and their life is back in harmony, their performance in their sport is generally elevated to a new level. Example: When the divorce of former New York 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. And now that Tiger Woods is divorced, it appears that he’s finally getting his life in order, especially issues regarding his children. When there are children involved, divorce doesn’t end your relationship with your ex-wife, it merely transforms it. Once Tiger and his ex agree what schools the children will attend, how and when he will be able to visit them, and a myriad of other issues, his game will then be elevated to a new level. And when he finds another girlfriend, and he’s happy and his life is in harmony, he will enter a new phase in his life and you will see an even more successful Tiger Woods. He will start winning tournaments like mad. And judging from his recent performance, it’s possible that phase has already begun.

Dr. Dean Ornish, one of the country’s leading authorities on the treatment of heart disease, wrote: “The mystics say what happens in your mind creates what happens around you. ‘As You Think, So You Become.’ What you think about intensely is what you begin to manifest in your life. What you meditate on or visualize tends to become actualized.” Dr. Ornish is correct. However, it’s possible to actualize negative events in your life if you have a low sense inner-self. For example, if you are an athlete with unresolved issues and are keeping your feelings bottled-up, you are lowering your self-esteem. Unless course corrections are made you will begin to develop a negative belief system, generating negative thoughts and negative events will begin to happen in your life. And you can be sure this will affect your performance in your sport. Some sport psychologists (and also Nike) would have you believe that you can “just do it” – replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. My experience is that negative thoughts cannot be eliminated unless you attack their source. Even the late Earl Nightingale, in his book Earl Nightingale’s Greatest Discovery wrote: “We become what we think about.” But unfortunately, he – like so many others before him – believed that by simply changing your thoughts you could easily change your life. But there is no such thing as a “quick fix.” That’s why so many professional athletes who have been through months of therapy and counseling eventually find their game elevated to a new level.

If your coach tells you you’re overweight and need to drop a few pounds, here’s an easy way to do it without really dieting. As almost all weight loss “experts” will tell you, the secret to losing weight is to reduce the number of calories you consume daily. And if you exercise, so much the better. Here’s all you have to do: CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS SO THAT YOU EAT ONLY TWO MEALS PER DAY. Your first meal, breakfast, should be around 9 or 9:30am. Your second meal, lunch/dinner, should be around 3 or 3:30pm. No later. And that’s it. It helps if you cut down on your starch and sugar intake but not essential unless you’re consuming massive amounts of them. Most physicians or weight loss experts will tell you that it’s that last meal you eat around 6 or 7 or 8pm that does the damage. It will stay with you all night long and will sit in your stomach like a log. And with this program if you get a bit hungry later in the evening, just have a piece of fruit (maybe an apple or a pear) or a carrot or celery stick. And it also helps to consume a substantial amount of water. In order for this program to work for you, it’s important that you change your mindset so that after a while it will only seem natural to have two meals a day. Try it. You’ll be amazed at the results.  If you’re under a doctor’s care, be sure to run this by him or her before you begin.

Yoenis Cespedes is a 6-foot, 215 pound baseball star who led Cuba’s domestic league last season with 33 homers and 99 RBI in 354 at-bats and hit .333. He defected over the summer and is in the process of establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. Cespedes is expected to do well in America but there is one major consideration.

By way of background, a story in USA Today once pointed out that when Cuban baseball players defect from their homeland and come to America, their performance levels drop. One of the reasons (in fact, it could be THE reason) is that many of them leave their families behind and are constantly concerned about their safety.

A good example was Amaury Marti, who was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and played for one of their farm clubs, The Springfield (Missouri) Cardinals. According to the Springfield News-Leader, Marti “refused to talk about his defection from Cuba where he left his parents, brother and a son behind. The former member of the Cuban National team said he left for the chance to play baseball in the United States and, hopefully, in the majors.” Unless he has received counseling regarding his situation, and didn’t  just keep the issue bottled-up inside himself, it’s doubtful that he is performing in America at the same level he did while on the Cuban National team.

Which brings me to the situation involving Yoenis Cespedes. It’s unknown if he was able to bring his family with him, and if not (unless the Cuban government has softened its policy regarding the treatment of families of athletes who defect) then it’s quite possible that Cespedes will not perform anywhere near the level he did in Cuba. What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond.

Note: Since writing this entry, I found out that Yoenis Cespedes did, in fact, leave some of his family behind:  His two-year old son and his girlfriend, who is the mother of his son.  Whether or not he has been successful in getting them out of Cuba and joining him in Oakland is unknown, but his batting average has jumped considerably in the last month so it’s possible they are now residing in the U.S.


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