A brief definition of Dr. Murray’s n Abasement: To submit passively to external force. To accept injury, blame, criticism, punishment. To surrender. To become resigned to fate. To admit inferiority, error, wrongdoing or defeat. To confess and atone. To blame, belittle or mutilate the self. To seek and enjoy pain, punishment, illness, and misfortune.
It is very clear at this point that n Achievement in sports, complements n Abasement, especially in the brutal game of football. There is no one that discounts the brutality in this so-called sport. Thursday on ESPN, Hall of Fame, quarterback Steve Young said something to the effect that football is not natural as you have people running full speed at each other colliding with each other. We’re also going to see huge compensatory concussion settlements in the NFL.
Returning to Mike Keller’s story illustrates, insecurity, along with the sadomasochism [Another term related to n Abasement] experienced during his playing days at the University of Michigan and for the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. Keller played high school football in Grand Rapids. He rated that competition at the fourth tier regarding football in the state of Michigan behind the Detroit, Bay City-Midland, and Lansing area high schools. He knew he was a big fish in a little pond and that he was going to become a little fish in a big pond, in Ann Arbor. He wondered why he was offered a football scholarship, and hoped to make the traveling squad before he graduated. He rationalized that at least he would receive a terrific education even in the event that he didn’t play.
Physically, he was injured while playing at Michigan. He didn’t dare miss practices or not being able to play in a game, out of fear of the demotion to second string or below. He even warned opposing players. In practice, to take it easy or otherwise, there would be a battle of consequences. He thought that playing on Saturdays was a relief from the physical brutality and punishment during the hard-fought Wolverine practices. In 1969, after the Ohio State game, Mike said he was aware of his game day exhaustion, especially on the last play of that momentous game. On the field for the last play, his legs buckled. He was fearful that he was going to be trampled on by the joyous students as they rushed on the field in celebration. Mike remembered that instead of being trampled, they lifted him and carried him halfway up the tunnel out of harm’s way to welcomed safety.
Playing for the Cowboys, Mike’s insecurity and brittleness surfaced again when he admitted to himself “these guys are good; how can I make first string; is this really what I want to do; how long am I going to be here; I do not like being a backup; it’s not much fun.” In his second season, Mike suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery [The same shoulder he had injured at Michigan]. He was eventually placed on injured reserve and he knew that psychologically that was a kiss of death. He frequently got twinges and pains like a needle or knife entering his body. He said the pain was constant, and frequently returned especially, when playing. He knew that after any major surgery, that no one really comes back from these career ending injuries. Basically, he had a gradual tearing of the tendon in his shoulder. In his most recent x-ray, it was revealed that his tendon was gone. He had a supraspinatus muscle tendon issue. Today, this mountain of a man, is unable to hold a 20 pound dumbbell outstretched with his right arm.
Mike talked about mental toughness as a player. A football bruiser had to differentiate, between pain and injury. It was important for the player to know his body. It’s also important to rely on information given by the team trainers. He said it’s possible to play with pain, especially when your body was taped along with cortisone and other painkiller injections prior to the game. Professional football players undergo many extraordinary treatments, partly because of the belief that they are needed to be on the field at all times. It’s considered important to be on the field regardless of how you’re feeling. And of course is difficult to think clearly when adrenaline is cursing through your veins. Mike’s playing days ended with the Cowboys as a result of his football injury. We talked about mental toughness and the fact that players are expected to play with pain. Most of the players have a high pain tolerance because daily pain is a major component or part of the game. He said it’s hard to think of professional football as just a game-it is a job. One can have pain and still have torn ligaments. However, a player can still play and should play. He added that despite the pain killers, this game is always about current performance, not what the player did yesterday.
A football brawler accepts injury, blame, criticism, and punishment. It’s not a secret that injuries are part of the game. Nor, is it a secret that NFL means not for long as three and half years is the average playing time. Players are criticized by the media and the press. The punishment is being fired, or cut from the team and that happens frequently. Of course there are exceptions.
The n Achievement and n Abasement of Jim Brandstatter to follow.