Mind Over Sports

Archive for May 2012

“Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will but remember, it didn’t work for the rabbit.” R. E. Shay

There is no such thing as luck. Good or bad. Yet how often we’ve heard others comment about another person’s good fortune saying “Wow, he (or she) is really lucky.” But the fact of the matter is that we create what happens to us in or lives, both good and bad, based on our own feelings of self-worth (our inner-self) and whether or not our lives are in harmony.

The exceptions are if we are walking down a road and a tree falls on us, or if a loved one passes away.  We do not create those events in our lives but rather, we “surrender” to them.

However, people who were fortunate enough to be born into a family where there was much love and nurturing have the basic foundation that is so important when they travel their life’s road, because self-esteem is the foundation for all human behavior. We act, or refuse to act, based on how we feel about ourselves. We take risks, or don’t take risks, based on how we feel about ourselves.

People with a high sense of self-worth are the same people who are successful, healthy and happy. But those who were unfortunate enough to be born into a dysfunctional family where there was very little love and affection are the same people who experience great hardship in their lives and are generally unhappy and unhealthy. This often reveals itself in the form of obesity, heavy drinking, heavy smoking, misdirected anger and poor eye contact. And these are the people who are uncomfortable being happy. When they find themselves experiencing happiness they will often do something disruptive to negatively affect a relationship.

But it’s important to remember, however, that even if you might have been born into a dysfunctional family environment, your life can change dramatically when you encounter a partner or someone in your life who loves you unconditionally. It could be a professor, a teacher, a coach, a close friend or a spouse. Especially, a spouse or a significant other.  Or it could come about as a result of intense counseling and therapy.

We see things as we are. Not as they are, but as we are. People who have a high sense of inner-self see their world from a different perspective than those with a low sense of inner-self. They see the glass half-full rather than half-empty. And because of their positive attitude, they create positive events in their lives. But you can’t fake this and say, “I’m going to start being more positive.” Either you are, or you’re not.

And it’s important to remember that people reflect us. If we want to know how we’re showing up in the world, all we have to do is look at those around us. There’s a famous Hebrew proverb that says: “Liars believe everyone around them are lying.”

I’m reminded of an old Hassidic tale where a couple moves into a new village and asks the local rabbi: “Rabbi, what are the people like in this village?” And the rabbi says: “Before I answer that question, tell me what the people were like in the village you just moved from.” And they reply: “Oh, they were very nasty and backbiting and told lies about us behind our backs.” And the rabbi thoughtfully strokes his large black beard and responds: “Well, I think you’ll find the people here in this village about the same.” The next day, another couple moves into the same village and they too visit the rabbi and ask: “Rabbi, what are the people like here in this village?” And he says: “Before I answer tell me what the people were like in the village you just moved from.” And they say: “Oh, the people there were very nice and very loving, they were always helpful and treated us wonderfully.” And once again the rabbi strokes his beard and responds: “I think you’ll find the people here in this village about the same.”

I’ve had numerous conversations with others who look forward to growing old but only if they are in good health. They act as if there is some outside power that’s going to help them be healthy, as though it’s in the hands of providence, not realizing that the life-style they create for themselves when they are younger shows up when they are older. If someone thirty begins a program of physical fitness and doesn’t abuse alcohol or drugs, they will be healthy as they reach old age. But those who mistreat their bodies and abuse drugs and alcohol are destined to be in ill health later in life. Assuming they live that long. That’s why professional counseling can be so important. Especially support groups.

I must admit, I’ve been wrong for quite a while now when I’ve assumed that Tiger’s current problem is related to his divorce and his relationship to his ex-wife when dealing with everyday issues involving their children. I’ve been dead wrong.

I’ve just finishing reading Steve Helling’s book called “Tiger” and it’s now obvious that what brought Tiger out of his past slumps was a meaningful relationship (not one night stands) with a beautiful well-educated woman whom he admired and would consider marrying. In other words, a “significant other.”

I’ve always maintained that when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony they will perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. And Tiger is no different. In 1999, after a two year slump, he met Joanna Jagoda, a pretty blond co-ed at Cal-Santa Barbara who was not only beautiful but also intelligent and ambitious with an intent on attending law school. As soon as they began dating, including her taking trips with Tiger to tournaments around the globe, Tiger returned to dominance and as Helling points out in his book, “beginning a three year winning streak that would cement his spot as one of golf’s best players.” But in 2001, his relationship with Joanna began to fade (along with caddie problems he was experiencing) and his game suffered. And it was then that he met Elin Nordegren, another highly intelligent, beautiful, statuesque blond. In 2003, he ended his relationship with Joanna and began dating Elin exclusively and suddenly, his game returned to the Tiger of old.

But today, Tiger does not have that meaningful relationship with a beautiful, intelligent well-educated woman. Unfortunately, many of the women who appeal to Tiger are turned off by his past behavior and so it’s probably pretty difficult for him to find a “significant other.” But it will happen. And when it does, you’ll be able to tell. Just watch the leader board.

Those of you who follow women in boxing know the names of daughters of some of our most famous fighters: Laila Ali, Jaqui Frazier and Freeda Foreman. But in the May 7, 2012 issue of The New Yorker there was an excellent article about young women, especially African-American women, who have taken up boxing in an attempt to improve their quality of life and the quality of life for their families. One of these young women is named Claressa Shields and she was expected to win a gold medal in the London Olympics. And she did.  I highly recommend this article for those of you who are interested in boxing.

The thing about professional athletes is…they are human being just like the rest of us mortal beings. They have feelings. They have emotions. They get upset just like we do. And as I’ve often said: What takes place away from the baseball field affects what takes place on the baseball field. And if I were paying Albert $250 million I would ask his opinion about anything that involved him.
Case in point:
When Albert first arrived in California, the Angels began marketing him with a billboard campaign centered around the nickname “El Hombre,” a nickname Pujols doesn’t like. The reason he doesn’t like it is in deference to St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial. At the time, the Angels vice-president for communications said the “El Hombre” signs represented only 20 of 70 Angels billboards in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. But even if it only represented one billboard, if he doesn’t like the concept, they should have gotten rid of it pronto.
And that could be just the tip of the iceberg. It could be an indication of what’s taking place behind the scenes. That the Angels are making decisions involving the marketing of Albert without any input from him. And if this is what’s happening, no small wonder he’s irritated and not performing at his skill level. One thing Albert is probably finding out. They do things differently in California than they do in Missouri. Unfortunately.

Someone recently asked me what I did for a living and I told them I was a writer. When they asked what I wrote about I said: “Self-esteem and how it affects performance in both positive and negative ways.” They wanted to know more so I explained to them, for example, that if you were an athlete (or a corporate executive) and you are “withholding” – that is, keeping your feelings and emotions bottled-up inside yourself – it impacts how you feel about yourself. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans us and lowers our self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that affects our ability to focus and process information.
And because “we see things as we are,” when we withhold, we begin to think negatively and see the world around us from a negative perspective. We create a negative self-image cycle and begin to create negative events in our lives that not only affect our performance, but also our health.
But if we don’t withhold, if we are honest with our feelings and emotions, we will create a positive self-image cycle and begin to create positive events in our lives.
If you are reading this and would like to have a complimentary copy of an e-book I’ve written entitled “Mind Over Sports. The Relationship of Self-Esteem to Athletic Performance” send me an e-mail and I’ll send you a copy. The book is for athletes, coaches and parents. My e-mail address appears on the upper right side of this website. But in case you can’t find it, it’s marv@mindoversports.com.

The “Billy Goat Curse” is the granddaddy of all Major League Baseball superstitions. For those of you who may not be familiar with the curse, here’s what happened based on information gathered from the Internet:

On Oct, 6th 1945 a Greek tavern owner by the name of William “BILLY GOAT” Sianis (that was his nickname because of the goatee he always had) bought box seats for the 4th game of the World Series in Chicago against Detroit. He bought one ticket for himself and one for his goat Murphy. The Cubs had won 2 out of 3 in Detroit and were favored to win it all in Chicago. In the past Billy Goat had always been allowed to bring his goat to the games, Murphy always had his own ticket. This time, however, as Sianis walked into Wrigley Field the ushers stopped him, telling him that no goats were allowed. When Billy Goat asked for an appeal directly to owner P.K. Wrigley, P.K. told them to allow Billy Goat in but not Murphy. When Billy Goat asked why, P.K. said, “Because the goat smells!” That upset Sianis and standing in front of Wrigley Field, in retaliation, he raised both hands and said, “Cubs, they not gonna win anymore. Never again will World Series be played in Wrigley Field” Casting what has become known as the “BILLY GOAT CURSE” over the Cubs. Subsequently, the Tigers won the next 3 games and the series and the Cubs have never been back. The Cubs’ loss prompted Billy Goat to send a telegram to P.K. Wrigley asking, “Who smells now?” Perhaps when the Cubs move out of Wrigley field, the curse will disappear?

I’ve mentioned the “Billy Goat Curse” because baseball is a sport with a long history of superstition. According to Wikipedia, from the very famous “Curse of the Bambino” (see below) to some players’ refusal to wash their clothes or bodies after a win, superstition is present in all parts of baseball. Many baseball players—batters, pitchers, and fielders alike— perform elaborate, repetitive routines prior to pitches and at bats due to superstition. The desire to keep a number they have been successful with is strong in baseball. In fact anything that happens prior to something good or bad in baseball can give birth to a new superstition. Some players rely on a level of meta-superstition: by believing in superstitions they can focus their mind to perform better.
Some of the more common superstitions include purposely stepping on or avoiding stepping on the foul line when taking the field, and not talking about a no-hitter or perfect game while it is in progress, a superstition that also holds for fans and announcers. Others include routines such as tapping the bat on the plate before an at bat, and drawing in the dirt in the batter’s box before an at bat.

What an athlete believes to be true is true for him or her, regardless of whether or not it’s true in the real word. Wade Boggs believed that eating only chicken before a game helped his performance on the field, and it did. When he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he thanked his father, who was sitting on the front row, but it seems to be he should also have thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken. ☺

As for the “Curse of the Bambino,” the Red Sox finally ended it by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, 4-0. But they had a little help. What most people don’t know is that immediately after the season ended the Cardinals fired their hitting coach, Mitchell Paige, and sent him on his way, encouraging him to enter an alcohol treatment center, which he did. In most situations, when a player or coach with a “drinking problem” is let go, it’s generally understood they can return once they have their addiction under control. No so with Mitchell Paige. He was flat out fired. Period. Which tells me something pretty bad had taken place behind the scenes during the series. Something that affected team chemistry and subsequently caused them to lose four straight games to the Red Sox. So much for that “curse.” Mitchell, by the way, recently passed away, March 13, 2011.

This is a question often raised and the answer is pretty simple. They don’t have a Bobby Brett to handle their finances, as he did for his brother George. When George was playing for the Kansas City Royals, I lived in Kansas City and owned an advertising agency and on occasion hired George to do commercials for my clients. And in order to get that accomplished, I had to go through Bobby, who was his financial adviser and confident. Bobby was a tough person to deal with but he was always straight forward with me and was always truthful. And I believe it was because of his diligence in handling George’s cash flow that helped George to be as successful as he was. When he came to bat, he never worried about his finances because he knew he had Bobby in his corner. Today, both are multi-millionaires and own a couple of minor league baseball franchises in the northwest United States.

It’s too bad Warren Sapp, Michael Vick, Mike Tyson, Johnny Unitas, Bjorn Borg and Mark Brunell didn’t have a Bobby in their corner. It’s been estimated that 78% of all NFL players will declare bankruptcy or face joblessness and divorce a mere two years after they finish their careers.

Citing the rate at which pro athletes declare bankruptcy after their professional careers end, former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville wrote in one of his magazine columns that the problem lies with the speed at which the money comes in. He advises strong financial and life planning for athletes to avoid money woes after the playing stops. And I advise that they find someone like Bobby to cover their backs.

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