Mind Over Sports

Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

The Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett has been suspended for swinging at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Garrett maintains Rudolph used a racial slur in the final minutes of the game. But evidentially the powers who control disciplinary action in the NFL believe otherwise.

So who are you going to believe?

It reminds me of something I once read in a book by the late Israeli Child Psychologist Haim Ginott. According to Dr. Ginott, if you have two young children who get into a confrontation in their upstairs bedroom and you arrive to find out who started the problem so you can discipline the guilty child, when you ask who started the fight each blames the other. And so you have to find a way to come up with the truth. You hand each of them a blank sheet of paper with a pencil and tell them to write down exactly what happened. The one who is telling the truth will immediately vigorously begin writing his side of the story, while the one who is not telling the truth will almost always say: “That’s stupid. I’m not going to do that.” And throws the paper and pencil on the floor and stomps out of the room.

Ginott, by the way, never had children of his own, but did possess a great amount of insight and creativity.


In the summer of 1950, while attending the University of Missouri, I played basketball in the Catskills Mountains in upper state New York. Two of my teammates were from CCNY and Long Island University, both of whom were later convicted in a court of law for shaving points.
It was common at that time in the Catskills that for every game there was a pool that included a sizable amount of cash and the winner of the pool was the person who could correctly predict the total number of points that would be scored in a particular game. For example, if someone had the number 121 and the final score was 61 – 60, they won the pot. And they always shared the pot with some of better players on the team, of which I was not one. It never occurred to me at the time that some of my teammates might be controlling the outcome of the game for financial gain, but I’m sure that was the case. It was a breeding ground for their behavior later. And I recall during the end of each game the public address announcer would constantly mention the score and also mention the total number of points at that time.
As for paying players, I’m all for it. But I would put a cap of $1000 per month on the amount a player could earn so that an over-enthusiastic alumni couldn’t lure a player away from a team, or get involved in attracting a top player to a particular school by offering that player a sizable amount of money to become involved in his business as a spokesman on television, or whatever.

If you’re an NFL athlete, you should not be consuming large amounts of alcohol away from the football field.
I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Tommy Burnett who spent 40 years as a professor at Missouri State University. Dr. Burnett has a PhD in Sport Psychology and is also an expert in Sports Law and Risk Management. He told me that based on his experience and knowledge, he’s found that the consumption of alcohol interferes with an athlete’s oxygen supply making him or her more susceptible to injury. Here’s how it works: The consumption of alcohol interferes with the transportation of oxygen to the body’s muscle cells and is not being delivered to the ligaments and tendons. When the muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, the athlete is more prone to injuries. This is pretty common knowledge among personal trainers who work on college and professional athletes but it’s a fact often hidden from public view since there is a close association of the marketing of alcoholic beverages and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read or see on television where an athlete is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a high probability that particular athlete is also consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his or her personal life.

Much has been written in the media about how America’s women have been sexually abused by their bosses and supervisors and until now, have been reluctant to speak up because they feared the consequences of their honesty.

But something very similar is happening in the field of sports (and has been happening for a long time) based on the way some white coaches treat their black athletes behind closed doors. If a white coach treats an African-American athlete badly and the athlete speaks up, more than likely he will not only be kicked off the team but other teams will be reluctant to have him join them because he is immediately identified as a trouble-maker. The ramifications of this are enormous, especially since the athlete will be deprived of the opportunity to obtain a college degree. Rather than fight their coach and the front office (who is aware of their coach’s behavior but still support him) they clam up, saying nothing, especially to the media. Here’s an example:

A number of years ago, half-way through the season, I was called upon to help an NCAA Missouri Basketball team who, up to that time, was 3-15. My job as a sport psychology consultant was to help build team chemistry and help the players improve their performance. This involved each player standing and sharing with his teammates what was on his mind, with no coach present. There were twelve players on the team, ten of whom were African-American. At our first session, which was much like a support group meeting with all comments made to be kept in complete confidence within that room. What I heard from players was startling and amazing.  Since the players wouldn’t speak up about how their coach was treating them, I took it upon myself to approach a friend who was on the board of the university. He took action and when the season ended, that coach was fired. Unfortunately, word leaked out that it was I who approached the university and from that day on, no one at the university would hire me.

One last note: Once the “players only” weekly team meetings began, the team went on to win 8 out of their last 10 games.  The coach, who was highly superstitious, thought it was because he hadn’t changed his undershorts.


I watched the Frisco Bowl last night and saw the Louisana Tech football team blow out Southern Methodist University 51-10. The SMU Mustangs fumbled on the first play of the game and then things got worse. SMU had six turnovers and was behind at the half 42-10. But what caused SMU to have such a poor game? In my opinion, it was the fact that their head coach, Chad Morris, decided to leave the team and accept a higher paying job with the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas BEFORE the Frisco Bowl even began.

Morris took quite a few of his staff with him, creating a confused and discombobulated situation among SMU team members who were stunned by his decision to leave before their bowl game with LA Tech.

So much for an NCAA football coach telling his team all season long how much he loved them and would be there for them, until, that is, another team offered him more than three million dollars a year as head coach. In my opinion, this showed a huge lack of character on Coach Morris’ part. He should have accepted the job but only on the condition that he be allowed to finish off the season with his SMU team.

Cheer as you may for your favorite NCAA Division I team but the fact of the matter is that NCAA Division I is a business. Talk about a team distraction…Louisiana Tech didn’t win the game, SMU lost it. Thanks to Coach Morris’ early exit. I’m looking forward to the day when SMU plays Arkansas while Morris is still head coach and gets his you-know-what whipped.

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