Lisa’s Turn: My Super Bowl Fantasy . . . Look Who REALLY Won

The televised game is over.  As far as that’s concerned, the Baltimore Ravens came out on top (just barely.)  They’ll be celebrating all night long in New Orleans, as they should.  Just promise guys, no drinking and driving.  Drink all you want, since you think that’s what’s expected of you.  Know it’s also expected you to keep yourselves and the innocent safe.

I prefer you not give Commissioner Goodell the chance to force all of you to sit down together in an auditorium and listen to a lecture delivered by MADD.  I have nothing against MADD.   Their work is tremendous and extemely important.  I have doubts, though, whether herding you all together, to listen together, in a place where you’ll all be tough and impenetrable together, will do any good.  The NFL culture that creates a winning team can often be comprised of broken individuals.  News flash:  It doesn’t have to be that way.

In my Super Bowl fantasy, NFL players take responsibility for their behavior, throughout every season and the entire year as well.  Enough open-minded team owners, general managers, coaches, agents, and even some players remember a place exists where a player can go at it, one-on-one, with their SOUL SHERPA.   With a zipped pair of lips, and the intention, training and intuition, a SOUL SHERPA makes it a priority to work with each player individually.  That each guy is safe and understood is vital.  No matter how severe his demons (and everyone has at least one) a player is never judged.  He’s encouraged to let it all out, knowing NO ONE else will ever hear about it (provided, obviously, he’s not a danger to himself or anyone else.)  A lot of different hiking trails get stepped on, but the players and their Sherpa keep in great physical shape.  And their minds, well, their minds become settled and their problems eventually find solutions.  Amazing.

In this fantasy of mine, on December 8th of last year, Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent realized he had no business driving a car with his best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown, Jr. as a passenger.  Instead of getting behind the wheel, he already knew he needed to ask for a ride before leaving the establishment that served them that night.  (If he didn’t, someone with his back would have forced it on him.)  In this dream of mine, both players took rides home.  (Whether the idea was liked at the time or not doesn’t matter.  SOUL SHERPA rules.)  And both would be winners today.  Tragically, we all know Jerry died and Josh has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.  It’s enough to make a Sherpa weep.  Not to mention the people who loved them before they became NFL stars.

Another fantasy scenario brings me to Jovan Belcher, who would have realized that, at only 25, being a father to Zoey, living with Zoey’s mom, Kasandra, and playing in the NFL had become overwhelming.  Jovan would have known, either on his own or through his coach or agent, that he could unload on the trail.  In the land of “dealing with it,” Jovan and his personal SOUL SHERPA would’ve spent a day (or as long as it took) at 14,00 feet surrounded by the beauty of nature and the gift of anonymity.  With no one else around, he likely would have confided his feelings of being overwhelmed.  Instead of telling him to “man up” or worse, “you have nothing to complain about — you’re earning millions,” his Sherpa would have heard his dilemma and thought it out with him.  Soft-spoken Jovan would have learned he had options.  And with options, the need to be tough and holding it all in (to the point of being driven to losing it with a gun) would not have been a likely outcome.  Jovan would have known he needed help.  That help would’ve been made available to him and never known publicly.  Today, Jovan, Kasandra, and their baby, Zoey, would all be in a much better place.  Whether they’d all still be living together, I don’t know.  But each of them would be a winner.

Why is the NFL so uneducated about emotionally supporting their young, vulnerable players?  Unless healthy options are revealed in the proper setting, some of their players can easily become repeatedly intoxicated, take drugs normally not taken, or never grow out of sleeping around indiscriminately, all in futile attempts to distract themselves from feeling uncomfortable.  It’s that “uncomfortable feeling” the leaders of the NFL need to address first, not symptoms such as a player being drunk or exhibiting signs of a sex or gambing addiction, or becoming suicidal.  At that point, it’s almost always too late before some tragedy occurs.  Why not intervene before the unfortunate episode unfolds?

Learn to recognize the danger signs.  In addition to emotional challenges facing a player, there may also be medical challenges.  Think brain trauma.  Before you can see proof, an active or retired player may exhibit symptoms of a significant problem.  Episodes of depression and alcoholism, gradually worsening.  It appears this was the case with Junior Seau.  It’s quite possible if he had been matched with the right SOUL SHERPA, his symptoms could have been recognized.  Seau could have been referred to a medical specialist who would have the expertise to diagnose and treat him before he felt suicide was his only option.  If NFL personnel are not equipped to help their present and former players in this manner, the league should seriously consider hiring professionals who can.  Medical studies with Harvard, just announced, are but one option.  What about one-on-one, 24/7 reliance with a known, trusted advocate who isn’t a strange voice answering an 800 number crisis hotline?  Think of this player benefit as protecting your investment and doing the right thing.

Whether the NFL is aware of it or not, there is plenty in professional football to make a player feel uncomfortable.  If it weren’t for his wealth and heroics on the field, a player may wonder, and rightly so, “why is that person paying so much attention to me?  Is it because of how I perform on the field, my money, or is it really me, me without that other stuff?”  And with brain trauma injuries recently in the news, don’t think some players won’t have that fear tucked away in the back of their minds somewhere.

These lessons have been taught to SOUL SHERPA over the last 23 years, by many different men, women, and their families.  The icing on my cake is my own brain trauma (2007) from trigeminal neuralgia.  SOUL SHERPA knows to truly understand a person’s situation, you must be able to know them on the inside first.  It hardly takes a therapist to meaningfully connect with another human.  It’s simple emotional intelligence.  You don’t have to be a doctor to understand when a quarterback is pushing himself too hard physically before his knee does the unthinkable side swing and cripples him.  You don’t need to be a lawyer or a financial adviser to offer common sense support to your NFL player client.

But, again, I come back to my premise:  It will take a group of truly wise and unimpressionable women, old enough to be these players’ mothers, to reach them.  NFL players will interact with them differently than is possible with someone (usually male) advising them on their wealth, performance, and who wants to paw their ripped bodies.

I’ll end my Super Bowl fantasy by sharing something with the NFL’s people in charge:  Do your players a huge favor.  Help them all become winners in life.  And do it the right way.  One-on-one interaction, not group shaming disguised as education, is crucial.  Invest in your players’ lives and not only in their performances on the field.

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