By Ken Reed
The coronavirus is certainly testing us all. In times like this, it’s natural to look for guidance in dealing with challenges. Wise guidance can come from all areas of life, including the world of sports.
I recently came across some wisdom from two sports figures that I think is applicable to the situation we’re in. These men come from different sports and different eras. Neither is known as great philosophers but their philosophies on how to deal with uncontrollable events and situations in life can help us all deal with the pandemic.
The first sports figure I’m referring to is Urban Meyer, longtime successful college football coach for Utah, Florida and Ohio State. I’ve never been a Meyer fan but I love one of the things he stressed with his players through the years. It’s a simple but powerful equation: E + R = O. Event plus response equals outcome.
“We don’t control the events in life, and we don’t directly control the outcomes,” says Meyer. “But we always have control over how we choose to respond.”
Meyer says the R factor determines the quality of one’s life. Meyer’s goal was to make his players’ R stronger than any E they might encounter during a season.
The second sports figure I want to mention is former Major League Baseball pitcher Don Carman, who primarily pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. Carman, who’s now a sports psychologist, has a similar life and sports philosophy as Meyer.
“A big part of my philosophy is I don’t get to write the script,” says Carman. “Whatever it is, I just get to respond.”
The philosophies of Meyer and Carman are similar to that of famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who once said:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Meyer says an important step between the E (event) and R (response) needs to be a pause (P). It’s important to pause and not just react emotionally to an event or situation. A pause gives you time to accept the event or situation and then ask: Now what? What’s important now? What does this situation require of me?
This allows you some time to reflect and for your response to be driven by your values. So the equation can be modified to: E + P + R = O (event + pause + response = outcome).
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response,” said Frankl.
The coronavirus pandemic is a reality. It’s the E in the equation. Now we get to respond (R). How we all respond will impact the ultimate outcome of this pandemic.
I’ll end this discourse with the philosophy of another sports figure, legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith: “Play hard, play smart, play together.” That was Smith’s mission statement for each of his teams throughout his hall-of-fame career.
It applies to all of us. In cases like this, we’re all on the same team. If we’re all smart about what we do during this pandemic, give our best effort to find a way through it and remember that we’re all in this together, we can come out the other side stronger than ever.
And that’s an outcome we can all strive for.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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