Friday, September 19, 2014

A Reflex to Damage

Sports and all the training and repeated drills aimed at honing an individual's skills all depend on one thing, a reflex. No, this isn't the reflex you expect to see in a physician's office where they tap your knee or elbow with a rubber hammer. These reflexes are more dependent on your immediate, instinctual reactions that are almost unconscious. There are certain sports, however, where the reflex can become an impediment when not engaged in this actual physical and mental combat aimed at winning.

The success or failure in a sport is highly dependent on these reflexes. Some are intended to defend against a blow, others to quickly respond to a volley on a tennis court.  Likewise, some sports are intended not only to develop a sense of self-confidence, personal mastery over emotional impulses but a respect for others. There is no need in sports such as karate or aikido to be seen as more than the master of the execution of the moves as well as the master of one's self.

Asian martial arts are a personal physical and emotional journey of control over emotion with the knowledge that you could easily inflict a formidable injury, if not death, to any opponent. Killing, especially in karate, is ridiculously easy. This understanding of the danger in one's hands and feet is not to be taken lightly and must be ever under control. It's the same with prize fighters whose hands are considered lethal weapons.

Endless hours are spent in learning this control and the masters constantly reinforce skill with restraint. The same is true in many other sports, of course, but in too many sports there is an emphasis on massive attacks on the opponent of the moment. The reflex is to injure, to stop at all costs and to insure the opponent will not be able to continue. Muscle is behind much of this effort as well as a credo to "rip their heads off" as I've heard high school coaches urge their football teams to do. It isn't a sport, it's a clash to demolish the opponent.

If you are constantly training to "rip their heads off" or you're paid a bonus for causing major physical damage to the other team, how do you put that philosophy into your pocket when you leave the field? The reflex you've been taught is always there, but you haven't received any of that special training found in the Asian martial arts and that's where a major void exists.

Overriding all of this training is years of being pampered and "handled" when interpersonal problems arise off the field. There was always someone there to make sure you didn't fumble because you were a war horse churning out billions of dollars every year for your owners. Yes, you have owners even though you think of yourself as having a contract. Lose the contract and you lose your livelihood, something you worked for your entire life. It ain't going to be pretty, but this sense of entitlement and the reflex were both there working against the sports workers.

New term, yes, but aren't they "workers" and aren't they chained to contracts that can be terminated for infractions (aka loopout for cancellation) or failure to produce? They are surely workers just as anyone in an office is a worker. Call them athletes, if you must, but it's just another name for them. Yes, I dismiss all those years of toil to perfect their athletic skills, I know.  Pare the skills away, if you can for a moment, and you have a worker. Just that simple and without a job, what is a worker, especially one with no other skills than the one he used in the job he just lost? Unemployed.

The recent spate of domestic violence incidents among football players and even a judge in the South have, as the media is hammering home, opened a window into the private pain caused by this sense of privilege and reckless reflexes to damage. Perhaps there is good from bad again in the form of social media outcries to begin to take more stringent actions against the offenders and to help the objects of their viciousness.

The primary question now is whether there is true conviction or convenient public relations actions to quell the outcries. The game has changed, but we can expect that it may not change that much. Everyone has rights and the athletes or others who fail to act in a civilized manner will sue whenever any action is taken against them. Major advertisers are already standing back, waiting to see just how strong and effective these new social media forces are or if they will die out given enough time and some tepid corrective actions.

The NFL had a mandatory course in domestic violence for new team members when Ray Rice joined the team. Now, it must be questioned as to the effectiveness of this program and how successful the new programs that are being formulated will be. It's not just domestic violence or violence toward others, a major change in personality seems to be needed. But how could any employer do this? Seems highly improbable, especially when the star athletes will still be pampered and protected for the good of the team and the corporate sponsors.

So where do they begin in order to address this particular psychological infection? It begins where everything begins, in childhood, but there's no going back for those adults who have lashed out in violence. They will have to look deeply into themselves and see who they are, if they can, and then take any actions they can to redress these egregious actions against women and children.

And let's help them with a beginning question for their inward look: What man beats a child to the point that he has a gash on his head and/or legs and includes his scrotum in the lashing? And, for good measure, what type of man knocks a woman out and then drags her out of an elevator? Was she a match for him? Cheap shot in the extreme.

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