Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sports Psychology & Our Competitive Advantage

Your mind is what makes everything else work.
-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball player

What is best in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
-Conan, barbarian

NFL teams are basically even. Yes, there are teams who consistently win and those like the Lions who do the complete opposite. There are a handful of reasons for this but the amazing athletes in this talent pool still represent the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. So this begs the question that if they are all on the same physical playing field, where does one gain the competitive advantage? By hitting the gym harder? Sure, a focused effort may produce a small degree of separation. Through illegal means? This has proven to work but the inherent risks are too great for most. The answer, my friends, is by mastering the mental game.

If you think about it, players do almost nothing but mentally prepare for games. They watch film, discuss strategy and even as they practice on the field and prepare their bodies, they are being mentally groomed for the action that lies ahead. Professional athletes, especially, should be as mentally strong and focused as a person can get. To compete at the highest level, such as Super Bowl 47, it’s simply a necessity.

But what happens when a player loses his mental edge? Or on a grander scale, what happens when an entire team loses its collective mental strength? Then that player and that team become no more of a worthy opponent than the buzzing of flies is to Vigo the Carpathian.

Nothing I have said thus far can be disputed. This knowledge is plucked from both recognized sources as well as conventional wisdom. However, the means with which I propose the Packers systematically dismantle our opponents’ psyche is indeed far from convention.

To do this, I need your help envisioning the Packers scoring a touchdown at Lambeau. Let’s pretend that Rodgers just hit James Jones for a 50-yard bomb to start off the 2nd quarter. The crowd cheers, Jones spikes the ball and then this video plays on the Jumbotron as loud as it can possibly go…

Yes, they will laugh. Yes, they will scoff and throw tomatoes in your general direction. It is because they do not know and therefore cannot possibly understand. However, do not throw the tomatoes back. Eat the fruit (tomatoes are a fruit, btw). Let them fully digest. Then throw them back in their faces while you laugh.

You may have laughed. And that is OK. But just for a moment, I invite you consider the alternative, and truly embrace this Trololo concept, and think of the rewards. Think of how humiliating this will make our opponents feel when it’s played on the Jumbotron. This video is almost three minutes long, allowing ample time to rub salt in their collective wounds. Upon one single viewing, opponents will be rendered almost completely deflated. And may the Lord have mercy on them on a day when QB1 really goes off.

While 70,000+ fans are all dancing, singing and laughing, the other team will ooze with contempt, waste precious energy through their anxiety, lose focus, discipline and ultimately, assuredly fail. Each score and subsequent Trololo viewing will be another proverbial nail in the coffin of any hope of winning and probably make them lose their damn minds in the process and scream “ENOUGH ALREADY! I CAN’T TAKE THIS.” And we will laugh and play the video again. No, there will be no comeback. After all, how can one come back – or go anywhere – when they can’t even escape their own insanity?

This type of grotesque psychological warfare does not go without consequences. The vision of being laughed at by Trololo man Eduard Khil may haunt opposing players for weeks, or in some cases even throughout their entire careers. For that, I do apologize, because I have no desire to ruin a player’s career. However, in the spirit of my own satisfaction and thirst for winning, I accept this collateral damage with the knowledge that the end justifies the means.

Unfortunately for the Packers and their fans, our season is over. But while you’re placing your bets on the Super Bowl at or at your Uncle Eddie’s, I ask you to let this idea marinate. If someone takes the Niners, take the Ravens or vice versa and play this video every time your team scores. If you make it to halftime without getting into it, I'd be shocked.

If you think I’m joking, think again. My agent (and fine auto parts dealer), Tidewater, has made phone calls and emails to the Packers, people. We are looking to have a business meeting with Mark Murphy and Ted Thompson in early spring for a formal proposal. And while I’m there, I’ll be sure to take care of that whole annoying G Force thing, too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Phriday Phablet Phun

Note: this is not a Packers-related post.

As some of you may know, Franklin and I were each recently given an early Christmas present from the good folks at Verizon – a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note II – with simple instructions to have fun with it. And if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s having fun with things. Hell, I once turned some recyclables and a broken vacuum into a game of the ring toss (true story). I’m not sure if Verizon had heard about this, but I think they were hoping for some sort of creative execution or another.

Now, the first thing you need to know about the Note II is that this is no ordinary smartphone. It’s way too big to be labeled a phone, and yet it’s smaller than any tablet I know of. It reminds me of that whole “is he a linebacker or D lineman?” argument. Truth be told it’s actually a hybrid that’s been dubbed in some circles as a phablet (or if you prefer the lesser-known and much-much-lamer title, taphone). Check out the size of this bad boy next to an iPhone 4s.
Photo via
Getting to know this smartphone has been as fun as sampling beer and cheese at the farmer’s market. There’s more available features and functionalities than I'll probably ever get around to so I thought I’d just let you know what I’ve been using it so far.

And that is… videos, games and pictures. OK, I’ve made calls, texted and emailed with no issues but what obviously sets this thing apart is the 5.5-inch vibrant display. For me, that means entertainment. So along with tapiture games where you fling imaginary foul fowl through the air, video streaming late night and at work (sorry, boss), I’ve been watching highlights on Verizon’s NFL Mobile app every week. Simply put, it’s ridiculous. The technical term is “HD Super Amoled Screen” aka Bad. Ass.

All of this wouldn’t be available if the Note II wasn’t supported by Android’s 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, a quad-core processor, a rather impressive battery life and of course, Verizon’s lightning-fast 4G LTE network.

Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with this bad boy. It’s definitely a handful (that’s what she said?). A lot of times you’ll need both hands to operate it effectively (too easy) and I found out the hard way that one should definitely remove it from his/her pocket when sitting down. And while I appreciate the capability of the S pen, to me it still feels unnatural and slightly inaccurate although I haven’t used it a ton.

You can learn more about the Samsung Galaxy Note II here.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Fans program and have been provided with a wireless device and five months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Frank the Stank and The Old 96er

The playoffs.

I remember playoffs growing up. 7th grade. October. Crisp air. Coach Dewayne Butts.

We were having our last practice before the first round game at the home of our rival middle school. Nothing was abnormal about this particular practice, but what happened that afternoon really stood out to me. We were running 1st team defense, and I was supposed to blitz from my linebacker spot. Well, if there’s one thing everyone likes, it’s hitting QBs, especially when the guy running the scout team QB is a jerk. Well, I got a wide open hit, and it was a good one. I mean he got completely blindsided. I hopped up and trotted back to the huddle while he moaned on the ground, and his dad screamed from the bleachers about “illegal hit” or some such nonsense.

As I’m making my way back to the huddle, Coach Butts comes sprinting across the field and slaps my helmet so hard I almost dropped to the ground. He grabs my facemask and screams, “Now that’s a hit Frank! Way to put some extra STANK on it! You know what? I’m gonna call you Frank THE STANK from now on. OOOO-EEEE! Now’s when nicknames are earned, STANK, the playoffs! Get back in the huddle and do it again.”

As you can imagine, I took some heat in the huddle for that one, Frank The Stank, not being the most glamorous of nicknames. But what coach said stuck with me….no, not FRANK THE STANK. STOP CALLING ME THAT! Sorry, I spent a few hundred hours in therapy to get over that, and sometimes I regress…but seriously, don’t call me that. What stuck with me, is the part where Coach Butts said, this is when nicknames are given.

Since that’s the case, I thought I’d share with you a moniker that I find to be incredibly appropriate for a Packer who has a been a real boost to the Packers D-line and pass rush. I don’t know how you all feel about the movie, “The Great Outdoors”, but I find it to be some of John Candy’s finest work. Candy is a happy, go-lucky dad who just wants to spend a week in the Pechoggin, Wisconsin, with his family. And who doesn’t? Problem is, no one wants their brother-in-law, Roman, and his family to join them.

If you've ever been to Pechoggin, you know there's a restaurant called Paul Bunyan's there with a particularly famous menu item. A menu item that takes determination, preparation, inspiration and perspiration to consume, and this item bears a striking resemblance to Mike Neal. The former is 96 ounces of 100% prime, Grade A, American-raised beef, and the later is number 96, 100% prime Green Bay Beefcake. I mean seriously, look at this and look a this: 

One is huge, and the other is huge. 

I think you know where this is going. Mike Neal, it being the playoffs of the year 2000 and 13 of our Lombardi, and the time of year when nicknames are earned, I now dub thee, "The Old 96er". That should fit right in with "Big Greaseon the D-line.

Let's hope the The Old 96er gives Colin Kaepernick some debilitating indigestion today. Listen, if he can bring him down twice, I'll throw in some Paul Bunyan hats for the kids.
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