“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