Mind Over Sports

Archive for May 2013

I don’t think so. According to today’s USA TODAY, Manning was quoted as saying that he understands that he doesn’t have the luxury of time with his current crop of teammates, and certainly welcomes the addition of receiver Wes Welker. But as you’ll recall, four months ago when Denver lost in the playoffs in that double-overtime battle with the Ravens, head coach John Fox made a bad call that eventually cost the Broncos the game. With the score tied and 31 seconds remaining until the end of regulation playing time and the Broncos having two time-outs left, Peyton was instructed to take a knee. I’m sure that irked him and was probably one of the reasons he threw that interception in the second overtime that set up the Raven’s field goal that won the game for them. it seems to me that coach Fox, who has the final word in play-calling for the Broncos, was trying not to lose rather than trying to win. It was such an obvious error that even one of the television announcers asked: “Am I missing something?” So unless coach Fox changes his ways and decides to take risks on the field, the Broncos will never see the Super Bowl while Manning is playing for him.

Maria Sharapova, 26, has a budding romance with 26-year old tennis pro Grigor Dimitrov and she couldn’t be happier.  According to USA TODAY, “Sharapova said it’s not about age…she needs a man who understands the demands of her profession, respects her space and allows her to let her hair down.”  If my theory is correct, that the happier an athlete is and the more his or her life is in harmony the better they perform at their sport, then watch for Sharapova to win over Serena Williams.  It won’t be easy, but she’ll do it.

There are many team owners and coaches who believe that creating support groups within their team structure to help athletes with personal problems and issues is “sissy stuff” and of little or no value.  And yet, all one has to do is look at the trouble that many young players are getting into during their careers and after retirement. Two examples are Rolando McClain and Chad Johnson.

According to a report in USA TODAY: “A day after he retired from the Baltimore Ravens following his third arrest in 16 months, linebacker Rolando McClain, 23, said his priority was cleaning up his off-field situation. ‘I have decided at this time,’ he said, ‘it is in my best interest to focus on getting my personal life together.’”

In the case of Chad Johnson, USA TODAY reported: “A warrant has been issued for the arrest of former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson in South Florida…for failing to report to his probation officer. Johnson received a year of probation in September after pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge involving his former wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada.”

It’s too bad these young men didn’t receive help while employed by their respective teams. Had they broken a leg there’s no doubt a physician would have been called in and x-rays taken. But no help is offered for an issue that may be entirely mental – such as misdirected anger – until the anger surfaces in a domestic quarrel.

I’m not so sure. In the past, I’ve written about athletes who had been diagnosed with cancer but because Angelina Jolie is such a high profile person, I thought I would write something about her decision.

I’ve worked with cancer patients in the past when I lived in Kansas City, Missouri. As a volunteer, I conducted self-esteem building workshops at a local Cancer Support Center. Many of the participants were women who had been newly diagnosed with breast cancer. At the outset I would explain to them that even though they had been diagnosed with cancer, from my perspective, I didn’t think that was their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had a suppressed (or impaired) immune system. I would then explain to them that research has shown that the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions, and we would then have each person in the group stand and tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others in the room and, at the same time, bring their emotions to the surface. After talking about their issues (many for the first time) their repressed feelings began to disappear and they immediately felt better about themselves. Once they began talking about their issues, they experienced an increase in self-esteem resulting in an enhanced immune system.

Research has shown that many individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer are repressing their feelings, which negatively affects their self-esteem. Here’s how it works: When you withhold (repress) your feelings and emotions it’s a form of lying that demeans you and lowers your self-esteem. As your self-esteem is lowered you begin to see your world around you from a negative perspective (“we see things as we are”) and create stress for yourself. As a result of the stress, your body gives off hormones that impair your immune system. According to the “Surveillance Mechanism Theory,” we all have cancer cells in our bodies that are constantly being devoured by our immune system Pac-Man style. But when we encounter stress, our immune system becomes impaired and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. The result is: we are soon diagnosed as having cancer.

Many physicians will agree that a relationship exists between high self-esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness. I’ve found that when cancer patients enhance their own feelings of self-worth, they automatically enhance the potency of their immune systems.

After going around the room, providing everyone with an opportunity to talk openly about issues in their lives that were causing them stress, we were then ready to use a “guided imagery” visualization technique where they would “see” their own healthy t-cells attacking their cancer cells. This exercise was accompanied by Patti LaBelle’s recording of “New Attitude.” At the time I had a story-board that I used in those sessions showing the t-cells coming together, mobilizing, and forming an arrow. The arrow would zoom toward a large glob that represented a cancer cell and the arrow would attack the glob, which would then deflate and dissipate.

Unfortunately, after moving to a new city, I was never able to locate the storyboard. But I believe cancer patients reading this can create their own visual image of t-cells attacking cancer cells and use Patti LaBelle’s recording to accompany it. I’m sure Patti would not mind since she herself is a cancer survivor. Later, patients would listen to only the music track and the images that were embedded in their minds would recreate themselves, automatically. This part of the program can be compared to the “placebo effect” as it applies to health and is currently being tested by Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School.

So my question is: Even though Angelina Jolie may have been genetically pre-disposed toward having cancer, I’m not sure it would have happened unless she had some type of stressful situation in her life. But on the other hand, if she believes that having a double mastectomy will keep her from being diagnosed with cancer at a later date, then there’s a good chance it will. When it comes to matters of health, beliefs can be powerful.

There’s been quite a bit in the press lately about the law suit filed by a group of five American Indians to force Daniel Snyder, owner of the NFL Washington Redskins to change the team’s name because it’s a slur toward American Indians. If Amanda Blackhorse and her group win their case, they would essentially strip the federal trademark rights from the team so that anyone anywhere in the world could produce a product and put the Washington Redskins name on it and market it without having to share any portion of the profit with Snyder or his team. Which could become a considerable loss of revenue for Snyder. From my perspective, I believe if the name “Redskins” is an affront to American Indians it should be changed. After all, what’s wrong with “Washington Warriors?” Or “Washington Skins?”

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