The look of pride on my 5-year old’s face when he stepped up to receive his trophy at the end of his first flag football season confounded me. The size of the trophy, how they were handed out, nor the reason that trophies were given out at all was not the root of my confusion. What was so puzzling was my reaction to the moment. I was full of pride, happy for my son’s sense of accomplishment - which you could see on his face. I was excited to see how excited he was to accept the award and to take pictures with his coaches and his teammates.
Ok, this all sounds great. So, why am I confounded and confused? I should be over the moon - except for the fact that, up until now, I have always been opposed to “participation” trophies and medals given to kids seemingly for just showing up. But, there I was cheering loudly and with tears in my eyes, so gratified that my son is walking off the field with exactly the thing to which I was so vehemently opposed. How is this even possible?
You may be wondering why I am so against these little hunks of fake gold shaped like a football. As an avid sports fan, I watch athletes all the time face defeat and all that comes with it. Everything from being cut from a team to losing a big game like the World Series, day in and day out athletes are not rewarded for the fact that they show up. If they didn’t win, they lost. That is part of the game and part of what makes you a better athlete. In my eyes, it is hugely important that we teach kids early on that you must put in effort to be your best and that winning only comes when you do so. You don’t win just because your parents signed you up for a sport. And, by the way, I am not the only one at The Distillery, Inc. who feels this way. My business partner, Eira is even more opposed than I am and way more vocal about it.
Why do we feel the need to give kids awards just for showing up or, as Eira likes to put it, “getting an award just for living and breathing?” Are we so deep into the era of political correctness that we need to make sure everyone is treated equally? With a little bit of research, I discovered that the issue is a bit more complex than being “PC” on the field. Psychology has shown that a positive way to reward kids is to focus on their effort and not the outcome of the game. The way they hustle, the way they work through disappointment or failure on the field, the way they practice, and the way they treat their teammates and opposing players is much more important to building their self-esteem. These are the attributes that the original “trophies for everyone” were apparently meant to celebrate. That seems reasonable.
However, over time and through the well-meaning actions of parent-coaches, the trophies and medals have devolved into something given to everyone for any reason at all. This is what I am totally opposed to. It has devolved into giving medals at the end of a game because a kid was the only one who hadn’t received it yet. This is what happened to our kids. They got their medal for good communication on a day when neither of our sons was particularly listening to what the coaches were saying or engaged with their teammates. They were just the only ones who hadn’t yet received a medal and so they got one that day. Darn it, I want my son to get a medal for earning something!
But, as I watched my son receive his trophy with tears in my eyes, I realized that he did show up every week. He participated with enthusiasm - whether he was just the center for a few plays or was sitting out to give others a chance to play. He did, mostly, listen to the coaches during their limited practices. He did do things out of his comfort zone, like pulling off the flag of an opposing team member - which is something that made him a bit fearful. He did score on more than one occasion. He made friends with his teammates, most of whom he had never met before. He never spoke poorly of the other teams, even though most of the time they were beating my son’s team roundly. And, he was always excited to come back and play. For a 5-year old who had never played football before, in my mind at least, he did resoundingly earn the trophy he was given. Whether the coaches had presented it in a way that the kids knew what their effort had truly been, all of the kids had made it each and every week.
I feel like, at the end of the day, for at least at the beginning of a child’s youth sports experience, a trophy for showing up and participating is ok. When you are 5,6, and 7 it really is about the effort and not the win. The effort is often just making it to the field each week and being excited to play. Heck, at this stage, there are very loose rules and nobody really counts or cares about the scores. The kids are still learning what it means to be on a team. They are still learning what the rules of the game are. In fact, some of them are still learning which end of the field is their goal zone - as we saw a couple of times when our kids scored for the other team. I know my softened stance may not be popular with some…particularly, Eira. But, for now, I am going to cheer on any medal or trophy my son earns - even if it is just for showing up. I will let him proudly place it in his room and show it off with pride. But, he shouldn’t get so comfortable with the idea because, when he turns eight, all bets are off!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
Wow! What a game! I don’t think there has been a Super Bowl like this year’s match up between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in a long time. Yes, last year’s game had drama, but this year’s game had tension and great coaching on both sides, plus plays rarely seen in any game much less the Super Bowl! My friends and I were riveted for the whole 60 minutes (that actually took 3 1/2 hours). And we definitely enjoyed the extra benefit of the Eagles winning.
Beyond the great play, the fun party, delicious food and drink, plus the Eagles winning, I felt that this Super Bowl offered up some pretty impressive life lessons that, while well known and something to aspire to, are really hard to see played out in real time as powerfully as was the case last Sunday night. This is why Eira and I feel so passionately about sports and why we dedicate ourselves to working with athletes. The field of play and the unique characteristics that athletes possess show us how to be the best, and sometimes the worst, that we can be. Sports give us daily, tangible examples of what the game of life truly is and how, by being a student of sports, you can be a better student of life.
Lesson 1 – Seize Every Opportunity
If you watched the Super Bowl or any of the media leading up to it, you know the story of Nick Foles. Backup quarterback on a few teams; always well respected but never really getting a chance to play consistently; and looking at retiring because it just didn’t seem like his chance would come. Sitting on the bench behind superstar quarterback, Carson Wentz, he was always supportive, always engaged, and always ready to play. So, when Carson went down to injury, Nick was ready. But, I don’t think even he realized how ready he actually was. And, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it was more that he was ready to step up and seize the opportunity he was being given. What I saw in Nick Foles was a person who didn’t doubt himself, didn’t doubt the circumstances that led him to the field from the end of the regular season to the Super Bowl, and didn’t let the doubters shake him. He seized the opportunity without fear.
Lesson 2 – Take Risks
Both coaches, Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson, are great coaches. They wouldn’t have teams playing in the Super Bowl if they weren’t. But, the lesson I learned from Doug Pederson is, if you want to win big then you must take risks. The odds were against the Eagles. The Patriots are a seasoned team with more experience in winning Super Bowls than perhaps any team in the NFL’s history, which put the Eagles at a significant disadvantage, having very few veterans on the team who know what it is like to play at the championship level. And, while the Eagles had the best record and many other “bests” in the NFL this season, they were still considered the underdogs. It is understandable why Doug Pederson had to take risks but, honestly, against Bill Belichick’s Patriots team led by Tom Brady, I think most coaches would have played it safe. Go for the easy points, punt on fourth down, don’t pass to your own quarterback for a touchdown. Doug Pederson recognized that greatness requires the desire to risk greatly and that he did. Now, risking big certainly can have its downsides. But, I was reminded that, in life, when you always play it safe, it is hard to push yourself to your next level of excellence in whatever you are doing.
Lesson 3 - Be Humble
I am not a Tom Brady fan. From the outside, he appears to be arrogant and smug and entitled. Of course, that is what we often see in the media and, because he doesn’t have my phone number on his speed dial, I can happily believe whatever I want to about him. I was pleasantly surprised by the interview aired by NBC prior to the Super Bowl. Anchor Dan Patrick talked at length with Brady, asking him about many things but always focused on his status as possibly the best quarterback of all time. No matter how Dan asked the same question, Brady’s response always came down to the fact that he still feels like the same sixth round draft pick and the kid who wasn’t good enough to start in his junior varsity year in high school, rather than a legend of his sport. He humbly talked about the fact that he can never compare himself to those players he calls heroes, even though the comparisons to the likes of Michael Jordan had started years ago. His humility seemed very real and, in a time when many athletes are, in fact, not humble, it reminded me that humility is a characteristic that the great ones always have. It is what really drives them to be great because they keep striving for more.
And, finally, there was an overarching theme of gratitude. There were so many opportunities for sour grapes before, during, and after the game, from Tom Brady himself to Malcom Butler to Carson Wentz. They all had reasons to feel slighted by their plight. But, what I saw on and off the field was gratitude. Gratitude to their higher power, gratitude to their teammates, to their coaches, to their support staff and fans, and gratitude for even being able to walk onto the biggest stage in football. Despite the millions they make or the glory they achieve, gratitude oozed out of the players like syrup out of a maple tree.
At the end of the day, if I can look at a game like the Super Bowl and walk away with important lessons, and practice these lessons each day as I amble (or, as I am known to do, run) through my daily life, I will always be on top of my game. God, I love sports!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
I was having a casual conversation with my son’s physical education coach at school a couple of days ago. Of course, the Super Bowl topic came up, as it would given that the big game is coming up this Sunday. Coach asked me the obvious question, “Who are you rooting for?” I have been an Eagles fan for a long time - since my grandmother had a crush on former head coach Dick Vermeil - so my answer was simple for me...no other agenda. I just want the Eagles to win because I like the team. Coach, however, had a much more fascinating response.
He told me he too was rooting for the Eagles, but only because he HATES the Patriots. I figured he hated them because he was a fan of a rival team. But, no. He explained that he just hates the Patriots. In fact, he went on to extol that he hates the Patriots even more than he likes any other team in the NFL! WHAT?! No deeply rooted rivalry…just hate. In his mind, it doesn’t matter who the opposing team is…if the Patriots are playing, they MUST lose. When I asked why, he said, “Because they always win.” I have to say, for whatever reason, I kind of agreed - although not to the same degree as Coach. But, it did start me thinking: why do we love to hate athletes and teams that always win?
In a world where we value hard work, focus, discipline, and success, it seems that, when it comes to sports, we only want to see that in small doses. If a team sometimes win, we are ok with it. If they “always” win, we don’t like it so much. If they are hit with adversity, we cheer that on. We eagerly await getting to see the mighty fall. We delight in their failure. I tried to do some research on this subject but there really wasn’t as much out there as one might think. The only consistent theme that I found was that “we love underdogs.” While I agree with this premise, this doesn’t explain the phenomenon that I am talking about. What I am referring to is actually wanting an athlete or a team to not be too successful. It really isn’t about the underdog overcoming a challenge. It is about actively wanting to see a team lose. And, as it is in this Sunday’s case, it is about stopping lengthy winning streaks.
As I contemplated this concept further, I realized that I, too, am a perpetrator of ill will against super success. I am a big Formula 1 fan and, for sure, I wanted to see Michael Schumacher’s multiple-year championship reign come to an end. Heck, although I am a solid Lewis Hamilton fan, if he wins one more season, I might stop watching F1 for a while. I couldn’t stand the Chicago Bulls after their ‘91-‘92 and‘96-’97 wins. I didn’t want to see them “three-peat” either time. The NY Yankees of the late nineties really annoyed me. Even Usain Bolt in the last two Olympics got under my skin! And, how about the Crimson Tide? I mean, come on! How many times can you win a National Championship in a decade? And, don’t start me on Manchester United. It drove me crazy how much they won - and I was even friends with the coach! The only exception to this phenomenon, of course, is if the winners are my team. I know that there is not a single Patriots fan, Bulls fan, or Man U fan in the world who would not want to see their team win over and over again.
So, the question still remains as to “why?” Why do so many of us want to see limited success in the field of sports? After deep consideration, the only thing I can really chalk it up to is boredom. In a world of fidget spinners, multi-tasking, multiple screens, and instantaneous delivery, I believe that, as a society, we are getting more and more bored - more and more quickly. It isn’t that we don’t like to see people perform at the top of their game or that we begrudge athletes a win when they put in years of hard work to be the best at what they do. I think we just get bored. We get bored of seeing the same team or athlete win over and over again. In a sense, it takes away from the excitement of the game. We miss the anticipation that we all love to experience during the build-up to a big sporting event like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, where everything is going to be on the line. For weeks, we wonder who will win. How will they do so? That tension is awesome. But, if the situation feels one-sided, then we go back to being bored. This leaves us feeling deflated at best, or angry and resentful at worst.
So, if you are feeling bored during the run up to this week’s Super Bowl, my advice is to quickly become a hardcore Eagles fan (even if you like the Pats) and enjoy the sensation of anticipating a possible underdog win at the Super Bowl. If boredom strikes you in any other case, my advice is to appreciate the hard work that the athletes have put into getting where they are, enjoy watching excellence in motion, and remember that every streak does eventually come to an end…it’s just a matter of time. I know this for a fact. I am, after all, a Trojans football fan!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
The last few months have seen many big names across all industries brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. It has been served as the hot topic at many lunches and dinners in my social group recently with a lot of debate and opinion. A very serious topic that, for sure, deserves serious conversation. Amid all the mealtime debates, a question was posed to the women at the table: Who can count themselves in the #metoo campaign? This, of course, being the campaign where people hashtag “MeToo” in order to signify that, at some point in their lives, they have either been sexually harassed, abused, or felt the effects of gender discrimination. Eira and I have been the only ones over several meals that profess to not in fact had that real, obvious experience...until now!
I want to be clear up front. We at The Distillery, Inc. take the #metoo campaign seriously, so the story that I am about to tell does not diminish in our minds anything that any woman has gone through. But, it does show how deeply ingrained gender discrimination is in our society.
We arrived at the sports field on Sunday for our boys’ flag football game. Things on both sides of the field are improving, meaning that I am progressing as a neophyte sports mom and our sons are learning more and more of the game. I got my canopy chair and brought snacks for the whole team…although not wrapped in neat, brown paper bags like some other moms do But, it is a start. The kids are starting to really get into playing. The one thing that still seems to need help is our coach - who has great intentions but is still struggling. Remember the coach’s son from a couple of blogs back? The one who didn’t want to play on the first day? Well, the coach let us know a couple of days before last game that he would be missing the game on Sunday for that same son’s birthday party. WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Not only is it game 3 out of only 6, but it is PICTURE DAY! The day when the kids take a picture on their own but also with their whole team... including their COACH!!! I don’t begrudge the man or his son the right to celebrate his 5th birthday but, come on, it is not like the coach didn’t have the schedule even before we did.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the point. After a bit of chaos and some help from the substitute coach (another dad on the team) and another father, the boys have their individual pictures taken. It was now time for the group photo. Wanting to ensure the picture had at least a couple of “coaches” in it like the other teams did, the substitute coach grabbed the other dad and brought him in to strike a pose. No problem. But, then, for some unknown reason, it seemed like substitute coach wanted to one-up the other teams and asked another father to join in and strike a pose. Ok, excessive but fine. And, then substitute coach went one step too far.
My husband was standing behind Eira and me watching the scene unfold when the substitute coach started waving to what seemed like Eira or me. Hands were waving and the “hey you” started to float in our direction. I gestured back pointing at myself as if to say, “you talking to me?” No clarity from the group. So, after another few seconds of this, I started to walk over and, as I got closer, they said, “No, not you, the guy behind you. Tell him to come get in the picture.” Uh, excuse me? There are 6 kids there with only 4 dads in attendance, and you only want the dads in the picture? My husband, who was totally uninterested in being the picture, reluctantly went while Eira and I were transformed into two lionesses, stalking their prey back and forth and ready to pounce as soon as they were done smiling for the camera. How DARE they exclude the moms from this picture?
The moms who, most likely, took the time to sign the kids up in the first place. The moms who had all shown up all three weeks. Only one of the dads in the picture had been there for the three games, and it was not even my husband. The moms who organized the snacks for the kids each week. And, at least one mom, that being Eira, who pushed the substitute coach in the first week to step up and help out our fumbling, first-time coach and gave feedback to the coach and the league! It was pretty shocking the idea that only the men should be in the picture with the kids came so unabashedly naturally to these guys.
Now, I don’t think our substitute coach had any mal intention. I just think it has been so ingrained in our culture that certain sports are for the guys and the women’s participation is more as cheerleader than anything else. We did a whole show on women in sports and the facts are showing a completely different story. But, for sure, a shift change in thinking is still a long way away if this type of gender discrimination still pops up on the football fields of youth sports.
And, while we, meaning Eira, pounced on our worthy substitute coach and gave him an earful at how ridiculous the scenario played out, I think the only way to create a shift change is for sports moms to take bigger roles. We should step up and coach more…heck, I know way more about football than my husband. We should put ourselves in a position to run the leagues…they always need more volunteers. We should show our kids that stereotypes can and should be broken for their sakes, not ours, because limited thinking limits everyone. I know I want my son to think big in his life. So, watch out flag football…you may see a new female coach next time around and her name is Mommy!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
4 teams, 2 playoff games, 2 incredible endings, 2 different outcomes, but 1 common theme: NEVER GIVE UP. Our mantra at The Distillery Inc. is “sports is a metaphor for life.” When you study sports and athletes, you are looking at a microcosm of each and every one of our worlds...for better or for worse. I think this is one of the reasons that we love sports so much. My partner Eira and I see ourselves in those moments of victory or defeat, challenge or synchronicity, that happen in every sport in every part of the world. Those moments help us make sense of our daily lives. I think is why Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff games sparked something in me about life that is clearly seen in sports all the time: it is important to NEVER GIVE UP.
In both games on Sunday, the teams had to persevere until the very last seconds to come from behind and have a shot at winning. In the Vikings vs. Saints game, both teams had to overcome significant deficits at different times. The Saints were behind by 17 points at the beginning of the second half, yet came back and took the lead with about 3 minutes remaining in the game. In those short 3 minutes, the teams traded field goals, leaving the Vikings 1 point behind with 25 seconds to go. Yes, I said only 25 seconds with the ball on their own 20-yard line! Impossible one might think! That doesn’t even seem like enough time to make it into field goal range, despite the very talented athletes on the field. 25 seconds…think about what 25 seconds are. Even with the ability to stop the clock, that really is not a lot of time. And, yet, somehow, without seemingly thinking about how impossible it was going to be to even get close, the Vikings strung together 4 plays that culminated with an often practiced, rarely executed, pass toward the sideline that inexplicably resulted in a touchdown with zero seconds remaining on the clock. Proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that one can NEVER GIVE UP!
In the Steelers vs. Jaguars game, the Steelers were down by two touchdowns with only about 5 minutes left to play. One wouldn’t even think it feasible to overcome that kind of insurmountable deficit, or to even get a chance to win, with such a small amount of time left. The Steelers struggled the whole game, at times down by as much as 21 points. Every time it looked like they were completely out of the game, they would rally until their deficit was ONLY 10 points with 1:45 to go in the game. NEVER GIVE UP…this sentiment must have been going through the players’ heads as they stepped out onto the field. Even though their outcome was not to be the same as the Vikings’, Pittsburgh managed another touchdown in that last minute, giving them at least a shot of tying or winning the game. NEVER GIVE UP.
This scenario plays out in sports all the time – teams fighting back against ostensibly overwhelming odds. Whether on to victory or not, athletes are trained from their early days to know, not just believe that they can win a game no matter how far behind they are or how little time is left. The actual outcome of the game is almost irrelevant, meaning a win is what they want but they know that it may not happen. It doesn’t matter what the outcome might be…NEVER GIVE UP. That mindset is what makes athletes unique and what provides the drama in sports that we all love to watch.
Can you imagine how that kind of mindset would play out in your life? If we lived by a certain number of innings or had a clock running with a certain amount of time on it, what choices would we make differently? Would we tap into and hone our natural skills to a higher level? Would we push ourselves harder in those moments when we are falling behind or be more comfortable being uncomfortable? Would we be more willing to let go of the outcome and be satisfied with just leaving everything out on the field? Would we be more excited at the prospect of having to come from behind? Would it be easier for us to never give up?
In a real way, and without being too morbid, we do live our lives against a clock, but we don’t always have the “two-minute” warning or a sense that you are in the bottom of the ninth to, perhaps, push us to elevate our “game.” I think that is the lesson I learned from watching football this weekend. We all have the opportunity, probably every day, to never give up on something that is happening in our world. If we take a cue from athletes and exercise our muscle of never giving up, of letting go of the end result and pushing onward no matter what, we might see our lives evolve in a completely different way.
So, get out there…channel your inner athlete, and NEVER GIVE UP! I’ll bet you will be happily surprised by the results.
By: Wendy Rosenthal
We had our son late in life. While I was pregnant, even though I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl, I constantly talked to my nascent child and reminded him that he was being born into a family of passionate sports fans. I would assure him that, while I would love him no matter what, he might find it more comfortable joining our family if sports were something he was interested in. Well, he entered the world and, by the time he was three, it became very clear that sports are indeed a passion for him - which makes me very happy and a little nervous. Why a little nervous? Well, because now I am going to have to be a Sports Mom. I will have to be a part of the legions of parents that stand or sit on the sidelines and watch their kid win, lose, not play well, get hurt, feel the highs and experience the lows. Can I handle it? I didn’t know until today, when my son started to play in his first league…flag football.
We expectantly waited for this moment for about three months: January 7th. My son knew the date by heart and asked everyday for several weeks when it would arrive. As dawn broke on this Sunday morning and my son awoke, I realized that life was going to change a lot for the next several years.
I was smart enough to order the league shorts, so he knew at least half of what he was wearing. It was the fastest he has ever gotten dressed. I got the checklist of things we needed to bring: mouthguard…check; practice football...check; water bottle...check; snacks…check; light-up sneakers…um, check? Maybe I should have bought some cleats. Oh, well. Starbucks…check. We are ready to go.
My son is nervous and, when we get to the field, I feel a little jittery myself. To make matters worse, the coach hasn’t shown up. Um…where is he? All of the other parents are wondering, too, as we are watching the other teams get organized with new jerseys and practice drills. How is my son going to learn and be able to compete? He is missing practice time!!! Calm down…remember, he is five. Phew! The coach finally shows up. He seems nice, although a bit scattered and distracted. You see, his son is supposed to play on our team but is instead in tears because he doesn’t want to. So, our coach is now spending a good bit of practice time cajoling his son to play. Ahem…what about the rest of our kids? They WANT to play…focus on them! Oh yeah, they are five. Right. But, we will have to have a chat with the coach…maybe later.
As practice finally begins, I notice my son is struggling with his mouth guard. I say it out loud and another parent asks if I got the one that you boil and mold to his mouth. HUH? One that you boil? Ummm, I didn’t see that in the instructions. When I told the parent that I got the mouthguard at Target, he literally rolled his eyes and cracked up. He said, “Have you heard of Big 5?” Of course I have, but who knew that there are special mouthguards that you can mold to your kid’s teeth? That note wasn’t include in the equipment list that the league sent. Then he asked to see our practice football. Yikes! I asked him as I handed it to him, like a young Jedi asking Master Yoda, if the ball was ok because I also got it at Target, much to my chagrin. He smiled, chuckled, and said I had done well, despite the store that I bought it at. Thank goodness. At least I got that one right.
Next faux pas, I ordered a small shirt for my son, which came down to his knees - not particularly good when you are trying to run down a football field. I swear they didn’t have the option for an extra small on their website. At least I could switch the shirt out for a smaller one! The weather forecast had said that it was going to be about 60 degrees, so I came bundled up. After the first hour, the sun was so hot that all I wanted to do was strip down to my underwear. I am sure that is something the league would have frowned upon and, for sure, the other parents would not have been too excited about. Now I see why those seasoned parents bring umbrellas and folding chairs with awnings. Ok, that will be on the list for next week!
At last, after all of this, they start the game. They needed one of the kids to sit out because they play 5 on 5. Who volunteers first to sit out? You got it... my son. What?! I have waited a lifetime for this moment...to see my child playing in a real game. And he volunteers to sit out?! The thoughts race through my head. Why would he want to sit out? Why doesn’t he want to play? Why?! Then I remember to take a deep breath and realize that he is five, he is a bit nervous, and he is unsure. He just wants to check things out. Remember, this is not about you, mom. This is about him. In that moment, I learned my first lesson of being a parent with a kid in sports. This is about the kids. It is about building their confidence, making sure they have fun, helping them to see that they can do it, and helping them see how important it is to work as part of a team. So, I took a deep breath and encouraged my son to watch the game so he would be able to see what he was going to do when his turn came up. And, guess what? On his first play in the game, he made a touchdown. A real touchdown. I was in absolute tears, literally crying! I was so excited for him as he got the high fives and pats on the back, feeling like a part of a team.
I am sure this path of a sports parent will be paved with tears - some created out of sadness and pain for my son’s journey as much as from joy and pride for his accomplishments. I am excited and still a little nervous, but truly happy that my son had fun, got involved, and learned a lot. After all, isn’t that what it is all about?
By: Wendy Rosenthal
Oh, there is so much to talk about in sports today. As I thought about what I wanted to talk about this week, I realized that so much of what is on my mind was focusing on the negative. A rant regarding this topic or an annoyance about that. Boy, have I got a lot to say. But as I sat down to write this blog, I decided all of those topics could wait, at least for this week.
As the holiday season is upon us and we are starting to feel the unity and love that overtakes us as we inch closer to the end of the year, I want to celebrate one of the best things about sports in general and its athletes. The way they give back.
This world has experienced an exceptionally high number of tragedies and has endured very difficult events this year. Natural disasters, evil acts and the daily exposure of selfish and egotistical behavior by people, corporations and governments. All of these have impacted each one of us, either directly or indirectly. We have all known someone that has been there for or felt the pain of….fill in the blank. The world is in pain and we are all clearly feeling the “heat” of all that is going on. Luckily for many of us sports provide a welcome distraction from the seemingly never-ending barrage of bad news. But sports and its athletes are doing so much more than merely serving as a means to distract ourselves periodically through our weeks and months.
Athletes are giving back. They are giving their time, reputations, money and in-kind contributions to support local and international charities.
The total amount of money being donated by sports leagues or their athletes is a hard number to pin down. There are bits of information from different sources, but from what I can piece together if you just look at cash donations we are talking hundreds of millions each year. For example, this year sports teams and athletes raised approximately $55 million in aid relief for Hurricane Harvey alone! Every sports franchise, at least in the U.S., has a charitable foundation through which it donates to local charities sometimes giving upward of $5 million per year. Every major sports league takes on numerous giving back campaigns during its season. One of my personal favorites is the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” which even though it doesn’t specifically raise money for different organizations it raises awareness in a big way through promotion and personal stories shared during the week of the campaign. I guarantee the organizations that are supported by each athlete who runs on the field wearing their cleats see an increase in donations as a result.
There are so many charitable initiatives organized each and every year in sports. And so many things to say about sports as a platform for giving back. Mostly good, some maybe not so good. But the bottom line is giving back is one of the best things about sports. At The Distillery Inc., we espouse to our clients that sharing is one of the major foundations to building lasting fulfillment in life in general, not just when one is playing professional sports. The old saying of “the more you give, the more you get” is not just a clever cliché. It is a universal truth, that for some reason is easier said than done.
Which is why I am infinitely proud to be a sports fan. Because no matter the motivation behind the giving, the industry certainly gives and it gives in a big way. Maybe even more than other comparable multi-billion-dollar industries. The leagues and their athletes worldwide set great examples for those that look up to them of what it means to give back. They show us that sharing does pay off. That caring is a crucial element in all we do as a community and a society and that without a doubt, the more you give the more you get. Happy Holidays everyone!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
There must be something in the air - and I don’t mean Christmas. I’m not sure what it is, but something has to be causing the extra aggression and unreasonable behavior exhibited across the NFL this season. I know this is a sport where aggression is perceived as a component that helps win games. The aggression is expected, even seen as necessary. I like to think of it more as passion than raw aggression but, whatever it is, the NFL definitely has it. It is something that we, as fans, are used to - something that we don’t always love about the game but accept. Football is, after all, a game where 22 players are purposefully chasing, hitting, sacking, and blocking each other on every play.
There is something different about this season though, a season where it seems that every other play sends yet another yellow flag flying from a referee’s pocket - followed by ejections and, oftentimes, suspensions and fines. In all my years (and there have been a lot of them at this point in my life) of watching and loving the game of football, I have never, ever seen this preponderance of intentional, unsportsmanlike - even cruel - conduct. Even the famed “Steel Curtain” defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70’s, whose reputation for being big, burly, and mean, were never called out by fans or the press for steamrolling way past the line of unsportsmanlike conduct.
The incidents in just the last few weeks’ games have definitely gone above and beyond unsportsmanlike conduct. They have become “un-humanlike” conduct. Hitting a man who is already down or out of bounds at the end of a play; running across the field to tackle someone from behind; instigating physical fights and punching people when they aren’t looking. This is all over-the-top behavior. And, players who have NEVER been known for fighting, or even been seen caught up in the middle of a fight, are suddenly taking cheap shots. Rob Gronkowski? Seriously?
It is crazy! There has to be something in the air.
Does the air smell like frustration about team management? Does the air have the ashes from fires of corruption within the league? Does the air carry the cold frost and numbness that comes from being criticized for choosing to take a stand against social injustice? Does the air contain the fallout of players struggling with impulse control because they’ve taken too many hits to the head over the years? Or, is the air simply filled with the sweat of pampered players who feel entitled and just want to do what they want, whenever they want to?
Whatever is in the air, as a loyal and hardcore fan of football, I am begging the players to figure this all out and STOP IT already. You are debasing a beautiful game that is already facing its share of critical problems. As a fan, it is hard enough to watch players get injured. It is hard enough to accept that you are comfortable watching a sport that can oftentimes have long-term physical issues for the players who put themselves out there each week for the glory and for the fans. You are making it so difficult for us to stand by you. You are making it so difficult for us to watch you - for us to let our children watch you - and you are making it so difficult for us to support all of the other good things that you do.
Maybe this is a bit naive, but perhaps you could run around the block a few times before each game. Hit a punching bag? Talk to your kids, or share love with your significant other? Have you considered therapy of some sort? Do something to help you control those aggressive impulses that lead to “un-humanlike” behavior on the field, and get back to focusing on being the very best player you can be on the field...and the very best person you can be off the field. Your fans, particularly your youngest ones, thank you!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
Transitions are hard. Often times, very hard. Human beings, with few exceptions, don’t like change very much. And, when we are forced to change, the transition is almost always the most difficult part of the process. In fact, there is a whole industry built around making business transitions and how to effectively do so without creating corporate havoc. So, if we know that transitions are difficult, and we know that even large multinational corporations hire expensive consultants to help them through those, why are we surprised that a 20-year old NBA rookie is having trouble adjusting to life in professional sports?
Lonzo Ball has been taking a lot of heat from the press and other players in recent weeks, as he has been thrust onto centerstage of one of the NBA’s most winning and iconic teams - a team that is trying to rebuild in hopes of regaining its glory from years past. And, yes, Ball was brought onto the team to be a linchpin in that rebuilding process. That is a lot of pressure - even for a more seasoned player. And, yes, his father has spent a lot of time hyping him up and telling anyone, anywhere, who will listen that Lonzo is the “next coming” for basketball. And, yes, Lonzo’s numbers are not as stellar as everyone wants them to be.
But, let’s be a bit more realistic about what is going on here. We are literally six weeks into the season and it will last another five months. Since the season started, Lonzo has had to transition from being a college player to a professional athlete. Even some of the greatest professional athletes across all sports have commented on how difficult this transition is, and how the level of play and skill goes up a great deal. Only 1-2% of college athletes even go into professional sports. So, all of a sudden, Lonzo is playing with the elite of the elite, rather than the typical college blend of the good, the great, and the spectacular. He has also had to deal with his father’s antics, his brother’s antics, and the constant spotlight glaring on him. I don’t know about you but, when I was 20, that type of pressure would have had me under a table, curled up in the fetal position, and wishing it would all go away.
At The Distillery, Inc., we share with our clients who are transitioning to a life beyond competitive sports that the transition period is the most critical. What you do during that time can dictate how your entire life will unfold. The key thing we share is that change, no matter how difficult, must be viewed as a tool to ignite one’s desire, and unlock one’s potential, so that growth can be experienced. This process is much like the one an athlete engages in by working out in order to build physical strength, stamina, and so much more. Change and transition are crucial ways to make ourselves better at who we are and what we do.
What I have seen is that Lonzo has already had a triple-double. He is watching and analyzing the film on every game and trying to figure out what he can do better, what adjustments he needs to make, and so on. He has kept a relatively cool head, despite the media bashing and all of the other noise going on around him. Ok, maybe he received his first technical foul against the Nuggets the other night. That might actually show that he is starting to step up and play more along the lines of a professional player. I think if we all go back and look at how we performed in the first six weeks of anything meaningful that we ever did, we would see that it took us time and effort to make the transition and grow into a success.
I say, let’s cut Lonzo some slack and let him transition into his professional career with a bit more mercy and compassion, understanding that it takes time to be a true superstar.
By Wendy Rosenthal
“Cognitive Consistency”: A theory in psychology that states “people anticipate consistency; inconsistencies create imbalance and dissonance in individuals; and that tension motivates the individuals to create consistency in order to achieve balance.” By that definition, my cognitive consistency has truly been put to the test recently, as I have been in a state of imbalance and internal dissonance when it comes to the way major sports leagues are dealing with infractions, large and small, from their athletes.
In a recent episode of Distill It!: A 360 View of Life in Sports (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-nA811Z5PY), we explored this very topic. The antics that athletes engage in on the field often have a variety of consequences, some of which make very little sense to the average sports fan. Take the case of Mike Evans, wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who ran across the field to retaliate against Saints’ defensive back Marshon Lattimore for shoving Bucs QB Jameis Winston. In front of millions of viewers, Mike Evans took his frustration and anger out on Lattimore by tackling him from behind. I am pretty sure a hit like that would earn a penalty flag if it happened in the middle of a play. For some odd reason, Mike Evans was not ejected at the time of the infraction. He was, however, given a one-game suspension with loss of pay afterwards.
On the other hand, AJ Green, wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns and cornerback Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars got into an all-out brawl on the field, which looked more like a bunch of high school kids duking it out at lunchtime than two highly paid sports professionals playing a game that, again, millions of fans are watching. The two were rightfully ejected from the game, but there was zero penalty after the fact.
Here is where the dissonance sets in. Both incidents were out of control and not befitting for grown men who are paid a lot of money to play a game. Both incidents were equal in terms of severity. Nobody really got hurt, but someone could have. Both stopped the game for many minutes while things got sorted out, disrupting the viewing pleasure of the fans. Both represented what is not so good about football, which is often seen as a sport of aggression. But, which players got the better deal: ejection from half of a game, or missing an entire game plus losing your salary? Why should Mike Evans suffer more than either AJ Green or Jalen Ramsey? I believe the consequences of both infractions should have been the same. CONSISTENCY, my friends, CONSISTENCY. It helps the players, helps the leagues, and helps to take the pressure off of the commissioners, who seem to want to get involved in day-to-day decisions that are really better left to the referees on the field.
Look, we are all human and sometimes forget to keep our emotional impulses in check. But, the leagues…the leagues have the ability to create the rules and dole out the consequences in a fair and consistent manner. It would be nice and, from a psychological standpoint, healthier for all of us fans, players, owners, managers, and coaches if they could figure out how to be CONSISTENT! I am hoping that, by definition, the tension around these inconsistencies helps to drive a wave of change that will encourage the leagues to look at how they deal with players who make poor choices on the field.
Oh, and don’t get me started on Yuri Gurriel…I will have to leave that for another blog post!
Author: Wendy Rosenthal