This past week, psychological warfare has roamed the sports world with predictions and pulse-pounding points from various athletes. Boxing champ Bernard Hopkins formed his tactics by way of trash talk about race and pure domination. The Atlanta Hawks say they aren’t scared of the number one Celtics and believe they will win with the “no pressure on us” mentality. And the recent confidence of Manny Ramirez is off the charts. Just the other day he spoke of staying relaxed, having fun, and inviting challenges. Result? The next game, he beat the Yanks with two impressive home runs and looked as calm as the Charles in January as he cranked numbers 493 and 494.
There is often much made of the sensational statements that athletes produce before sporting events, probably more the sake of media prodding. After all, interviews and interrogations provide reporters, analysts, and fans with considerable amounts of data to discuss. Sure, coaches, athletes and teams draw upon emotions and prophetic words intended to motivate and focus folks for upcoming competitions. Yet, once the match begins, those notions are (thankfully) disregarded like John Rocker’s ticks. Depending on the personality of the athlete and the type of battle about to begin, the cognitive combat is more significant. Imagine Tiger yelling out a Muhammed Ali-like line in the pre-PGA tourney press conference: “Mickelson is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life!” That could stir much more emotional coffee than the prototypical pleasantries of golfmanship usually encourage.
Heated verbal exchanges and flamboyant forecasts may enliven events, but most of the time they don’t mean much once the competition is under way unless the words were so mentally damaging to the opponent that he fell apart (recall Scottie Pippen’s promise to Karl Malone: “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sunday.”) One can ignore or even forget the mind teasers…at least until the conclusion when the interviews begin again.