Thursday, October 2, 2014

Looking in the Mirror Can Be a Lesson in Itself in Sports

Narcissus was the son of a Greek god and a Nymph.  He was "Hollywood" handsome back in the days before the movies--well actually millennia before the movies.   He was pretty much stuck on himself and spurned a few admirers with tragic consequences. One of those spurned called on Nemesis, who was the goddess of revenge for evil deeds and undeserved good fortune to make things right.  Her job was easy.  Narcissus was coaxed into viewing his reflection in a pond and he fell in love with it.  His love of the image, which he never quite understood to be an image, led to his death.

We all know people who take special joy in looking in the mirror.  And many understand the inherent dangers of spending too much time there.  But the mirror can also be a very good place to look. It's not always about Narcissism.

Athletes in the Mirror

An athlete can also be someone who like Narcissus gets a lot of attention. In their games, they see success and failure.  If they are a very good athlete, perhaps the failings they see most are those of teammates. But certainly in team sports there is room for improvement all over the field.  

An athlete who looks around and sees teammates failures and overlooks his or her own, does  not grow and improve.  The athlete who "looks in the mirror" and sees imperfections and focuses on those, is the one who grows better and better.  In a team, the coaches look at everyone and each practice addresses weaknesses and seeks improvement.  

A good athlete really does take responsibility for his or her performance and then does what can be done to help teammates as well.   When everything clicks, the team excels.   

In team sports, right-minded athletes work together and win or lose as a team.  A victory is to be celebrated by everyone who contributed.  An athlete who is full of himself or herself, can be a stain on the victory and an extra thorn or barb in the loss. 

If you watch professional football, there are little celebrations that can often spotlight accomplishment. Some players make an excellent play and then several come together in kind of congratulatory clutch--a mini team celebration.  Each man knows that without working as a team, these little victories would not be possible.  

There is also a frequent show of selfish celebration that I think is telling.  Often, I see two or three pass rushers putting pressure on a quarterback.  Often, you see one man who is getting close to the quarterback and comes within inches when a second or third blocker stalls his progress.  As this double- or triple-teamed player is fighting tooth and nail for every inch of progress, another rusher finds his blocker missing and comes in for the sack.  The man who makes the sack jumps up and begins some kind of celebratory dance with arms pumping to the crowd in the stands.  The triple-teamed man has also made his way up and comes over for the celebration, but the man credited with the sack is so into himself that he ignores the man who gave him the opportunity.  

I see this more and more--and some players really are prone to this.  I often wonder how this works in the film room when the team is reviewing the prior weeks performance.  Do the teammates point out to the man who got through clean that if it didn't take three men to stop his teammate, he may not have gotten within 5 yards of the quarterback.   Do the coaches and teammates straighten this guy out?

In professional team sports the "man in the mirror" business comes up  often.  The best coaches really work hard to instill the sense of team and really make it a priority to see that athletes limit their finger pointing. During the week, when the films are reviewed, the players can see every little flaw in their game and every flaw in many others.  In a positive locker room, fixing mistakes is just another part of the work they do--another challenge.  But everyone must realize that getting better is about improving your game and becoming a more trustworthy teammate. 

Owners in the Mirror

I think it's also interesting to see how owners have to look at themselves in the mirror as well.  I think some fans and players foolishly believe that owners have little to do with the success of a team.  Although, they find it easy enough to point to the owners when failures occur.  

First, in today's game, the complexities require a management and a coaching team.  Members of those teams have to work together just as their athletes.  Owners are part of a team.

An owner can look in the mirror and see privilege and reward; another can see responsibility and leadership.  The best owners are a living example of how those with great resources and wealth can behave admirably, can work towards improvements in the community, can use position to make a difference---and yes can also work with teammates to win championships.

I can't help but believe that the owners who use their position and wealth to do good, are healthy human beings; those who seek happiness in excessive possessions and self indulgent behavior are not. 

Thankful Celebration


One of my favorite sports photos was taken in the Steelers locker room after their first Super Bowl win.  Everyone has taken a knee and is saying a prayer.  The greatest team of the day, a group with many Hall of Famers, tremendous coaches and an owner who like everyone around him wanted to be part of it all. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships and other fine books.