Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Ravens

Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games and joins other NFL players who have also been suspended in the past for physically abusing their wives and girlfriends. This group includes Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa, and former Giants kicker Josh Brown.

Though I haven’t seen the research I would bet they all have a number of things in common: When they were growing up and began showing extraordinary talent, coaches looked the other way when they got into trouble rather than disciplining them. The result was they developed a feeling of entitlement. They seldom shared their emotions and problems with others preferring to keep them bottled up inside themselves. They seldom cried because they were taught at an early age that it’s not “manly” to cry. Later in life when these young men developed relationships with young women and became frustrated they were unable to control their emotions, resulting in physical abuse. And this is why the NFL often requires them to take courses in anger management.

I’m not sure what these courses involve but I’ve learned from experience when you put these young men in support group environments and allow them to talk about their personal issues and problems with their peers, it’s much more effective than one-on-one counseling. You diffuse their anger resulting in much healthier athletes, psychologically. The result is they are less likely to physically abuse their wives and girlfriends.

Since 1986 I’ve been a Sport Psychology Consultant working with athletes and sports teams, most of them African-American, and I’ve found something that really is quite unique to that segment of our society.  That is, and this could be a cultural thing, many African-American parents actually encourage their male children to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up since it’s not “manly.”  In one instance, I even watched a mother discouraging her two year old son from crying and kept admonishing him for doing so.  Again, I could be wrong about this (that it’s cultural) and certainly there are many African-American parents who are loving and nurturing and encourage their male children to talk openly about their feelings and emotions, and these are the athletes I’ve found to be most well-adjusted and least likely to be involved in a domestic violence situation with a spouse.  Also, since some of these young men often make it to the NFL, I don’t understand why the NFL doesn’t require ALL teams to conduct group therapy sessions in the privacy of their own facilities allowing team members to openly discuss their personal problems (and feelings) with each other rather than keeping them bottled-up.  If they did, I think you would find the number of domestic violence cases in the NFL to be greatly diminished

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.

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.

What takes place away from the football field affects what takes place on the football field, both positive and negative. A good example of the positive was a well-kept secret by Joe Flacco and his wife Dana. According to USA Today, the following took place at a post-game family party: “Joe and Dana gathered their parents around a table for the evening’s other piece of good news, which they whispered in the loud and crowded room: Dana is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Coincidentally, Flacco’s parents learned about the first child, who is 7 ½ months old, after the Ravens beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving night in 2011.” When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, they create positive events in their lives and perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis.

I read the review of the Broncos vs Ravens game in USA Today and was surprised that the reporter didn’t mention the bad offensive play calling by the Broncos. With the score tied and 31 seconds remaining until the end of regulation playing time and the Broncos having two time-outs left, with Peyton Manning at the helm, he was instructed to take a knee. it seems to me that whoever was calling the offensive plays for the Broncos was trying not to lose, rather than trying to win. It was such an obvious error that even one of the announcers asked: “Am I missing something?”

The following is from a report on the Internet:

Following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Ray Lewis and his companions and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police, and eleven days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleged that the bloodstained suit was dumped in a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant.
Lewis’ attorneys negotiated a plea agreement with the Fulton County District Attorney, where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Lewis admitted that he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings. Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months’ probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender; and he was fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. Under the terms of the sentence, Lewis could not use drugs or alcohol during the duration of the probation.
Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the crime.
On April 29, 2004, Lewis reached a settlement with four-year-old India Lollar, born months after the death of her father Richard, preempting a scheduled civil proceeding. Lewis also reached an undisclosed settlement with Baker’s family.

Did Ray Lewis commit murder and get away with it? No one will ever know for sure but I believe his involvement in the case put fear in the hearts of his teammates. And I also believe that he, like most superstars, has created internal problems on the team. When he gets in the face of teammates and screams at them, he does more harm than good. But all these years they’ve feared speaking up. No one has ever attempted to rein him in with the exception of Mike Singletary, when he was the Raven’s linebacker coach. I believe the Ravens, in the long run, will be much better off without him.


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