Compartmentalizing emotional reactions has never been my strong suit. Were that it was! I have spent many a year with many a different teacher trying to master this skill, but it remains elusive, like the grail or a good artichoke in the U.S. I am less like an emotional windsock than I once was -amen!- and that has helped, but if I'm worried or angry or upset about something, it's a good bet that no amount of "Stick that in a box and put it on a shelf in the deep recesses of your closet" is going to work in any quick way. I deeply admire this quality in others -unless it's so extreme that they're cold sociopaths or unemotional meanies- and rarely do I witness it in such vivid, impressive fashion as I do in pro football games. That could be a result of my not watching any sports other than football, but I maintain that the game o' the pigskin offers many examples of incredible compartmentalization.
Though I'd not let my boys play football, I do love to cheer through a good game. I recognize the hypocrisy in that, but no one's perfect, so I'm going to let it slide. What I think can be learned, repeatedly, by watching battles on the great green expanse is the power of mental toughness. The best players take calculated risks, never give up and learn from mistakes. And all during a very intense, relatively compact, much-riding-on-it time.
Taking Calculated Risks
Who watched the Super Bowl last night? If you did you might remember that six seconds before the half, when the Seahawks were near the end zone but on a 3rd down, they decided to GO FOR the touchdown rather than take the safe bet and kick a field goal. Tom was aghast: "That is so ballsy and pretty stupid!" I thought it was awesome though definitely a bit risky. Even schlubby, non-emoter of the world Bill Belichick was probably like, "WTF?!"
Was it an uncertain gander? Indeed. Did it payoff enormously? Because Chris Matthews caught it, yes. And by the way, that was Matthews' first-ever touchdown in the NFL. Just minutes before, he'd caught his first NFL reception ever. His story (Foot Locker to free agent) is incredible!
Not all risks pay off but if they're well-considered, they're often worth taking.
Never Giving Up
It's late in the game and Russell Wilson launches a pass. Jermaine Kearse is hauling ass down the field with a Patriot hot on his tail. Kearse jumps, he catches the ball, both men fall, Kearse loses control of the ball but never takes his eyes off it. Realizing that it's bounced on him but NOT touched the ground, he keeps his wits and grabs. It's good! That was unreal.
If Kearse had let his attention lapse for a second, had given up when he fell and the ball went flying, it'd have been a failed play. Instead, it was epic. And another reminder of why "Don't take your eyes off the ball/prize" is such a fantastic piece of advice for life in general.
Learning From Mistakes
Do y'all think Russell Wilson and the entire offensive line and coaching staff had horrid nightmares last night about that game-losing pass intended for Lockette but intercepted by Butler? That was an inexplicably bad play decision from the get-go. When you're about to win the game because you've made it to the no yard line and have no more than 30 seconds to go and aren't short on downs, you DO NOT throw it in until you have to. You run that puppy down. Hullo, Seahawks! Marshawn Lynch and his beast power are ON YOUR TEAM. Use that man's gifts, people.
You can be sure the entire team will never allow anyone with whom they're playing to make this mistake again.
It's like why Richard Sherman might as well have been taking a nap on the sideline last night. No one is throwing to the guy he's covering for a reason. Lesson learned. ~~~
The best athletes never let a bad play intrude in defeatist fashion into their psyches; at least not for long. They consider what went wrong and how to avoid that mistake in the future and then move forward. They also refuse to give up.
It's incredible to watch these processes in action. Count me inspired!
*As a complete aside, Julian Edelman had a hell of a game, yes?