Updated: Oct 2, 2018
There is nothing more bipolar than a sporting grand final, particularly in a team sport.
On one side you have the winners in an absolute orgy of ecstasy because they have vanquished the other side and on the losing side you often see great depths of pure depression.
Nobody has died, the sun will come up tomorrow, the world still turns on its axis, a game has been played and life progresses but depending on the sport all sorts of ramifications occur because of the emotional turmoil created by a simple simulation.
The AFL grand final has just concluded and its great news for Western Australia and bad news for Collingwood. To make it even more exciting it was a close game and the result hinged on as little as one kick of a weird shape ball between the right bits of wood.
Written like that it sounds stupid but young men’s whole lives were defined by whether they kicked or caught or punched that ball in the correct way at the correct time.
If they managed to take a mark or kick a goal they now become “heroes” and “legends” and “immortals”… and if they didn’t they are called “losers”, “chokers” and lacking in courage!
Often these terms are used by people who cannot kick, catch or punch a ball them self but they use the words none the less.
The players and the coaches understand this.
Take Nathan Buckley the coach of Collingwood who reflected on his side’s loss like this,
"I reckon it will be a bit of fun to be a Collingwood supporter in the next little period of time," Buckley said.
"It was pretty raw last night, I was no good. On reflection I am feeling a little bit more optimistic. I am seeing the positives of what we have been able to build and I look across [at the players] and I see these guys and I know that we are in good hands going forward. We didn’t get what we wanted yesterday but we have got what we need for tomorrow.”
"This is a journey and the things that we are contributing and the things that we are talking about, the love and the care that we show for each other, the willingness to lean on each other and be open and support each other to do what we need to do not only on the match day but in preparation, not only as footballers but as people, that will stand us in great stead going forward."
“I will let you know what we went with. A couple of the insiders would know this, but Kintsugi is a Japanese form of art or pottery,” Buckley said.
“If I drop that glass — and I won’t — but rather than picking it up and throwing it in the dustbin like it was a bowl or a bit of pottery or a vase that had broken, this Japanese pottery or Japanese art form is to put it back together and to emphasise the parts that were broken, to put gold leaf through the middle of it.
“The philosophy underneath that is about celebrating your hardships, about understanding that the things that break you can actually have you coming out the other side stronger, can actually have you coming out the other side more resilient, a better version of you. I have got no doubt that we have celebrated that this year.
“We are going to be all right. We will keep highlighting those areas that everyone else thinks is going to break us, they will make us stronger and they will make us more resilient on the other side.”
What Nathan Buckley is highlighting here is the distinction between a toxic growth mindset and an enlightened growth mindset.
Winning and losing seems to mean everything to an AFL coach but Buckley found the mindset to encompass the losses with moments of sheer personal victory. He personally consoled the banner lady at the beginning of the game as the Collingwood banner shredded before the team could break through it, he hugged the team runner who blocked a player and opened up the opportunity for the opposition to score a goal, and he took the risk to talk about Japanese philosophy rather than blaming umpires and others.
Unfortunately Nathan Buckley is not coaching the supporters.
It always amazes me when I go to a football game and hear nothing but negativity and hatred spew forth from seemingly rational people because they “love” their team. Often they save their worst abuse for their own players who make mistakes.
Jerry Seinfeld got it right with this simple one liner…
It is truly amazing to hear people saying after a grand final win that “THIS IS THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE!” Really? Better than the day you fell in love and they loved you back? Greater than childbirth and kisses? Greater than puppies and cuddles?
This Toxic Growth Mindset puts winning at all cost above personal relationships and causes all sorts of downstream toxicity.
Take this summary of an article on sport and domestic violence from Triple J’s “Hack”.
Study after study has found major fixtures for some sports are associated with a substantial increase in domestic violence. And in England, there's no bigger sporting event than the World Cup.
According to police data, domestic violence increases 26 per cent when England play. It goes up 38 per cent when England lose.
In Australia, a study released last month found domestic violence increased 40.7 per cent in New South Wales on State of Origin game days.
Sport does not cause violence, but the combination of alcohol, stimulation and emotion may exacerbate existing tensions within a relationship, according to Dr Michael Livingston, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University and author of the report on domestic violence around Origin games.
"The obvious driver is people drinking a lot and having a stimulating evening and people are drunk and excited and things get a bit nasty sometimes," he told Hack.
"This is especially the case in sports that are heavily male supported."
A comparison of police statistics from the 2010 World Cup found that although domestic violence is worse when England loses, it still goes up significantly when they win - suggesting disappointment plays some role, but is not the only cause.
Domestic violence rose by 31.5 per cent the night after England's 4-1 loss to Germany in the 2010 World Cup. But it also increased dramatically after England won the previous match.
When England draw, domestic violence remains steady or goes down. It decreased by 1.9 per cent following a 1-1 tie with the United States in 2010.
Interpreting the results, statistician Allan Brimicombe said "one may have thought that a draw would heighten frustration, which might be taken out on partners; psychologists would have to tell us instead it flattens emotions to a more apathetic state."
He went on: "It is not that football tournaments cause the violence, but rather that the excitement, disappointment and flow of adrenalin resulting from watching a national team play may exacerbate existing tensions within a relationship."
What about alcohol? The link between alcohol and domestic violence is well established.
"We can say from a public health perspective there is a causal link here too. It's not just people drinking at the ground but the encouragement of people going to pubs and clubs to drink and if they're not doing that they're taking packaged liquor home."
He said it was not just sport. Australia Day and Anzac Day - both known for heavy drinking - were also associated with spikes in violence.
"If you increase the amount of alcohol you increase the amount of risk," he said.
For this to change we need to start educating everyone as to how to change their mindset so that we can love our team, enjoy a game win and lose, be ecstatic or disappointed and still go me and not beat up on our partners!
Visit White Ribbon for support and guidance if you are a victim or witness of domestic violence:
1. We need to learn what our feelings are.
2. Then we need to learn the metacognitive talk that works us through a problem. A bit like this from Prince Ea...
3. We also need to be able to debrief just like the sports teams do.
I would love to set up some really cool proactive devices to help us think through our toxic mindsets before they begin.
How would it be if before you couldn’t buy your tickets until you said “The Pickle Pledge”.
The Pickle Pledge was designed by the fabulous Joe Tye to combat toxic talk in the workplace, but in particularly hospitals.
How much fun would it be if the 100 000 people at the MCG stood as one and pledged this before and after the game. Joe designed this he said to deal with people who had been born with a dill pickle in their mouth and whop found it hard to be anything else but critical.
Here’s Joe talking about how it works.
The other day I was standing in the McDonald's line at the Denver Airport.
The woman standing next to me was vociferously complaining about how long she'd been waiting (at this point it had been about three minutes). When someone who'd put in their order after she had was called first.
She became downright irate. "Did you forget my order?" she demanded, and was clearly offended when the busy server ignored her.
When her food did come out after another 90 seconds (I timed it), she snatched her two bags and huffed, "About time!"
I smiled at her and said, "How about thank you?"
Combine the visages of Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort and Donald Trump at their most viciously angry and you'll have some idea of the way she looked at me before she stormed off.
I cannot imagine that she enjoyed her lunch, and am pretty sure she carried that sense of wounded entitlement onto the next flight with her.
Had she taken The Pickle Pledge to heart, she would have turned her complaint into a blessing. Instead of whining about the fact that the already rushed McDonald's crew (who were clearly doing their best while working at their minimum wage jobs) had not rushed her to the front of the line, she would have been grateful for the fact that she didn't have to board her flight hungry.
And she would have come up with a constructive suggestion. Instead of standing there playing the victim role ("poor me, they aren't all bending over backwards to make my life easy") she would have found something constructive to do with those two minutes.
She might even have had a short and pleasant conversation with the man standing next to her.
Imagine how good it would be if you had to take the pledge to buy any alcoholic drink or use public transport or teach a classroom.
Sounds silly I know but it is eminently more sensible that beating someone because a team of young men can’t kick a ball in a straight line or if your team won or lost or if it’s a holiday.
Would you take the pickle pledge?
Yours, Greg Mitchell
We hope to see you on Friday the 5th of October for our Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop. You will walk away with over 50 new strategies and resources to help you nimbly respond to stress and challenges. This gives you the freedom to enjoy Term 4 and SMILE!