In Becoming a Champion, Handling Failure/Adversity, Problems in Youth Sports

Friday night, June 12th. End of the first game of the “subway series” between the Yanks and Mets. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, two on, Mets ahead 8 to 7. The Yanks steroid assisted superstar, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) sends a seemingly game-ending weak fly ball into shallow right field. Luis Catillo, the Mets second baseman and a 3 time Gold Glove winner, lines up under the routine fly ball while Mets pitcher, Francisco Rodriguez, (K-Rod) pumps his fist in triumph. A-Rod slams his bat into the ground in disgust. And then the bizarre and unthinkable happens! Castillo suddenly looks like a clueless little leaguer and drops the ball! Stunned, both Yankee runners score, giving them an improbable 9-8 win on the error. OUCH!

The fans rip Castillo, ESPN’s Sports Center anchors poke fun at his fielding skills and the rest of the New York Sports media join in. What’s that saying? “Those who can’t, criticize those who can.

The problem with pro sports is that everyone fails to realize that our superheroes are merely human. They’re human in their personal lives and sometimes quite human as athletes. They may frequently perform superhero-like feats on the field, court or ice. But the bottom line is that they are just as vulnerable as you and I to tripping, falling and making complete fools of themselves. Unfortunately for the pro athlete, when he makes a fool of himself, it’s in front of 40 thousand fans while millions more watch on national/international TV! To make matters worse, countless sports reporters beat the incident to death for weeks afterwards in print, on the air waves and on TV!

How would you feel continually being under this kind of microscopic scrutiny every time that you stepped into work?

What Castillo needs from us is NOT humiliation, embarrassment and ridicule. He needs a little bit of empathy and compassion. Empathy – Put yourself in his shoes for a brief moment. Imagine what it must be like for him knowing that not only did he single-handedly cause his team to lose a game that they had already won, but he did so in the most embarrassing way possible. Compassion – Forgive the guy, don’t vilify him. What we most need from ourselves and from those around us right after a massive screw-up is forgiveness, not ridicule and anger.

This will not be the last time that Castillo or any other one of your heroes screws up. Today or tomorrow, you too will probably do something incredibly inept and stupid. Why? Because we’re all more simply human tha otherwise and by definition, being human means that you will make mistakes and fail. Do not treat this man the way the fans and media treated Red Sox first baseman, Bill Buckner after his classic gaffe during the 1986 World Series when he let a ball go through his legs, costing the Sox a sure win. Buckner was tortured for this one mistake and ultimately driven out of baseball because of it!


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