Saturday, February 05, 2011

Hey Look Over There

One of the important skills I've acquired and cultivated in the last year has been the art of diversion. Having a baby who is always interested in grabbing things he shouldn't, I've had to frequently resort to creating distractions. Perhaps this is actually a latent trait that I've always had but never had to practice. Or maybe I picked it up in childhood by watching cartoons and sitcoms--whether Scooby Doo or Full House, protagonists would frequently "create a distraction," in order to achieve a desired objective.

Perhaps mindful of the prevalence of this practice in society, the sports media has always been quick to attempt to locate "distractions." When a player underperforms, it is often attributed to off-field distraction, such as a contract negotiation. Apparently in the .45 seconds that it takes a player to decide whether he will swing at a pitch, it is not uncommon for much of that time to be taken up with thinking about performance incentives, and then, bam, the ball is already in the catcher's glove.

And ever so often specific incidents are regarded as "distractions." The Green Bay Packers apparently suffered to a 6-10 record in 2008 because they were distracted by Brett Favre's unretirement. I suppose when Mason Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal that would have beat the Vikings in week 10, he was distracted thinking about whether he would have had to try that field goal if Brett Favre was still his quarterback. Sometimes individuals are referred to as "distractions." Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are walking distractions. Somehow their teams have achieved more success than failure throughout their careers, but obviously the lack of Super Bowl rings on their fingers must be due to their teammates thinking about their latest comments to the press during crucial stretches of games.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, there is nothing like Super Bowl week(s) to amplify the media's fixation on locating distractions. Historically, there have certainly been some high profile off the field incidents involving Super Bowl teams: Cincinnati's Stanley Wilson getting high on cocaine just before Super Bowl XXIII, Atlanta's Eugene Robinson soliciting an undercover officer the night before Super Bowl XXXIII, and Oakland's Barrett Robbins going AWOL before Super Bowl XXXVII. In all cases, those individuals' teams lost the game, and pundits blamed them for creating a distraction. (Never mind that the Bengals lost after a last minute Joe Montana drive, the Falcons were lucky to be in the Super Bowl at all and were playing a much superior Denver team, and the Raiders were going against a coach who knew them inside and out having coached them the previous year).

And while nothing quite on the scale of the above incidents, a couple members of the Green Bay Packers were accused of creating a distraction leading up this year's Super Bowl. A google search of "Nick Barnett distraction" yields over 66,000 hits. (Here is one such account for anyone who doesn't know the story). ESPN's Skip Bayless took the hysteria to another level by tweeting "Jermichael, Nick Barnett should've been fined for tweeting unhappiness about team pic. 2 guys who can't play creating turmoil, distraction!" Barnett apologized saying, "just wanted to say I was never trying to be a distration" (sic).

Whatever happens in the Super Bowl, I guarantee that the Packers will not lose because Nick Barnett tweeted that he was sad he wasn't going to be in the team photo. If anything, having tertiary issues emerge leading up to a high pressure event could actually be a blessing--the opportunity to focus attention elsewhere instead of being mentally consumed by the implications of the impending competition could be just what one needs. I'm sure nobody was thinking about these issues during practices or meetings, and nobody will be thinking about them when the game starts.

Now I've just got to figure out a way to keep my son occupied so that I can focus on the game.


Blogger fiveletters said...

Very interesting.

10:57 AM  

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