On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS April 28, 2014 #486 Up next…Mind Games!
After further review…With the NBA and NHL playoffs going “full blast,” let us consider the relationship between the word blast and the term “mind games”. Players try to get into their opponents’ heads with verbal taunts. Or blasts, if you will. This is not something new. Talking to your opponent during the heat of battle has been a practice since the very first kickoff, opening pitch, or dropped puck. And mind games start even before the game itself begins.
Did I see it during my tenure in the NFL? Sure did. Some years back the verbal taunting was also racially demeaning, as minorities began to participate at the highest levels of professional sports. Tolerance for racial taunting has diminished, thankfully. The predominance of microphones and cameras has something to do with that. So does the attitude of the NFL, when it establishes a rule that would penalize a player 15 yards for the use of the “N-word”. Good riddance to racism on the fields of play.
Mind games exist is most relationships. Can they be positive in any way? Sure they can. Motivational tools often rely on some form of psychological manipulation. But a mind game that is used to distract one from his or her intended purpose can’t be described as positive motivation. Imagine a catcher slyly telling a batter, “Sometimes our pitcher’s curve ball doesn’t break, so watch out”. I remember hitting a rare single as a high school player and then taking my lead off first base. So happy to be there, I got chatty with the first baseman and lost my concentration. Next thing I knew I was picked off. I’d forgotten my dad’s advice, “Be friendly to an opponent, but don’t talk or listen to him”.
Trash talking by today’s professional players has not only escalated, but has filtered down to the college, high school, and Little League levels. Derogatory comments are intended to incite an opponent into a hostile response. That response is where the damage gets done; focus and purpose can be lost. Boxing trainers remind their fighters to battle with purpose, not anger. Losing one’s temper is the fastest way to make the goal disappear. Renowned martial arts artist and actor Chuck Norris said, “People are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth”.
Will you maintain your personal worth when being attacked with mind games?
To get Jim’s new book “101 Best of Tunney Side of Sports” go to tunneysideofsports.com