Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘NFL

While watching the Chiefs-Patriots game on tv this evening I noticed an ad for Crown Royal and it reminded me of an interview I conducted with former NFL player Dr. Tommy Burnett. Dr. Burnett has spent more than 40 years as a professor at Missouri State University. He 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 (ala Crown Royal) and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read where an athlete is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a possibility that particular athlete is consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his or her personal life.

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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.

In the coming NFL season, quarterback Kirk Cousins should have a fantastic season and the Washington Redskins should make it into the playoffs. I’m making this prediction based on what I’ve learned over the past thirty years: That is, when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, they’ll perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. Kirk Cousins and his wife Julie are expecting a new member of their family in September…just as the football season will be getting under way. Even their dog, Bentley, is happy about it. News of the new baby was posted by Julie on Instagram with a photo of Bentley, holding up a sign that read: “Mom & Dad are getting me a human.”

Neil Greenberg, sports writer for the Washington Post, sent out his predictions for the NFL games this weekend and has picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Carolina Panthers. According to the news release, here’s what it said about how Neil goes about picking his weekly winners and losers: “Each week, Neil Goldberg makes NFL game predictions based on a multitude of factors that will have an impact on game day. These include efficiency stats such as success rates, yards per play and yards allowed per play, plus points scored based on strength of opponent. Point spreads are the consensus odds from multiple sports books in Vegas.”

No consideraton is given to any type of mental issue a player may be experiencing, both positive and negative, that impacts that player’s performance. For example, Neil isn’t able to measure a player’s self-esteem even though there’s a strong relationship between feelings of self worth and performance. And when an NFL player is performing for a child who is ill, (I call this “excelling for a higher order”) his performance increases dramatically.

This past week, Quarterback Cam Newton visited an Atlanta children’s hospital and surprised a ten year old boy who has a serious heart condition and got a big hug in return. That hug had a powerful positive effect on Cam. Taylor Deckard (the 10-year old) was wearing Newton’s No. 2 Auburn jersey at the time and I’m sure he didn’t realize how powerful that hug was. It was very emotional for Cam. According to the newspaper account: “When Newton asked him how he was doing, Taylor climbed out of bed and hugged him. During the long embrace, Newton said, ‘I feel your heart. It’s going 1000 miles an hour.’ Newton appeared touched by the moment in the video posted by Auburn.”

Watch for Cam to have one his best games ever. And I’m predicting a Carolina win.

Footnote: I was wrong. The Panthers lost 17-16 when they tried for a two point converstion with just seconds to go and missed it.  And Cam threw three interceptions though it’s important to rememer that sometimes the receivers are at fault if they run the wrong pattern.  No one will ever know.  But it was definitely not one of Cam’s better games.  Could he be having some kind of personal problem?  Or an attitude problem toward one of his coaches?

When NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the choice to kneel during the national anthem, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he disagreed with Kaepernick’s choice. “I support our players when they want to see change in society,” Goodell said, “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that.” Unfortunately, Goodell didn’t believe strongly in the right of his NFL players to know the truth about the research conducted by Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against Goodell and the NFL when they tried to repress his research on CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy, suffered by professional football players.

When San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland retired from the NFL after just one year, it was because he was concerned about long-term brain damage as a result of concussions received while playing football. After his retirement, the following appeared in ESPN The Magazine:

One day in April, the NFL asked Chris Borland to take a random drug test. The timing of this request was, in a word, bizarre, since Borland, a San Francisco 49ers linebacker, had retired a month earlier after a remarkable rookie season. He said he feared getting brain damage if he continued to play.

Borland had been amazed at the reaction to his decision, the implications of which many saw as a direct threat to the NFL. And now here was an email demanding that he pee in a cup before a league proctor within 24 hours or fail the test. “I figured if I said no, people would think I was on drugs,” he said recently. That, he believed, “would ruin my life.” As he thought about how to respond, Borland began to wonder how random this drug test really was.
What did the NFL still want with him? Nobody could have held out much hope that he’d change his mind. On Friday, March 13, when Borland retired via email, he attached a suggested press release, then reaffirmed his intentions in conversations with 49ers officials. Instead of announcing Borland’s retirement, the team sent him a bill — an unsubtle reminder that he’d have to return most of his $617,436 signing bonus if he followed through. That Monday, Borland, knowing he was forgoing at least $2.35 million, not to mention a promising career, made the announcement himself to Outside the Lines. He has since elaborated on the decision to everyone from Face the Nation to Charlie Rose to undergraduates at Wisconsin, where he was an All-American.

Borland has consistently described his retirement as a pre-emptive strike to (hopefully) preserve his mental health. “If there were no possibility of brain damage, I’d still be playing,” he says. But buried deeper in his message are ideas perhaps even more threatening to the NFL and our embattled national sport. It’s not just that Borland won’t play football anymore. He’s reluctant to even watch it, he now says, so disturbed is he by its inherent violence, the extreme measures that are required to stay on the field at the highest levels and the physical destruction (he has witnessed to people he loves and admires — especially to their brains.

Let me go on record that I am a big Tom Brady fan and when news came out that he was aware that his team’s footballs had been deliberately tampered with, I couldn’t believe it. And now, a knowledgeable sports reporter from the Washington Post says that he was deliberately mislead by Commissioner Goodell. Here’s an excerpt of what Dan Steinberg wrote:

“Still, that’s mostly trivia and fact-checking. Being deliberately misleading about whether or not Brady openly admitted to discussing the allegations with the assistant during those conversations is not. This isn’t about whether or not anyone took air out of footballs, or whether or not a quarterback knew anything untoward was happening. This is about whether the commissioner of the NFL cares at all about accuracy, and whether he can be believed when he belches out his 20-page decisions. Last week, I made the mistake of assuming he could. I’ll try not to do that again.”


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