A Fan's Reflection: On Positive Thinking


Out of the many lessons I experienced in life, I would say the idea of positive thinking is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking concepts I learned. Indeed, it seems that positive thinking itself is a bit of a fallacy, because after all, who can be happy all the time, let alone think happily all the time? Sooner or later everyone experiences sadness, frustration, and/or negativity - it's a facet of life. Society also has gradually strayed us away from this concept, almost brainwashing us into thinking the exact opposite; How often do we judge people based on what they don't have rather than what they do? How often do we seek something purely because we see others having the same thing? Our lives have been consistently streamlined and diluted into one word: more. We want more: More power. More money. More security. More friends. More time. More.

This subconscious resolution is even more exaggerated in the terms of a sports fan, primarily because we are empowered through our emotions. Personally, I think being a fan of any sports team is physiologically taxing, (especially with football, since the season is the shortest in all North American professional sports leagues) and thus, we usually tend to extremes within the emotions spectrum, from full, joyous elation to downright depression and even to violent, psychotic rage. Even in Field Gulls, the smartest, the most logical and analytical sports blog out of all the rest of the Seahawks and NFL, are we still prone to knee-jerk reactions (See: Game Threads).

As a fanbase, we also frequently compare rivals and opposing teams with holes or missing pieces rather than our strengths. We sigh at the teams who already have established franchise QB's, ready to lead their team to success. We grimace at the sight of a raging pass rush who frequently provides pressure. And most of all, we tighten up in silence at the mention/discussion of the Super Bowls. It seems that, with what ever conversation or topic someone brings up, it turns negative after a while and turns into something not worth talking about.

So I thought to myself: what if fans started to think positively?

(Bear in mind however, the things I describe below only applied to me. I am in no way in control of how you root as a fan - all I'm saying is: this is what worked for me.)

First of all, let me be clear: Optimism is not positive thinking. Optimism, by definition, is:

A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. -

To me, optimism is this: During a post-season game, the Seahawks are down 34-17 in the fourth quarter against some dominating team and thinking to yourself "I think Beast Mode and the O can get a few scores together, and the defense can put up some three-and-outs in the process. Having Red at the end will also stop much of their run game, so we won't have to worry much about the clock. We got this!"

Positive thinking, however, is more along the lines of this: "Oh the Hawks are down by 17, but they did pretty good considering it's the _________. Marshawn has 100 yards against them, Earl has two interceptions, and they didn't get too much yards off the ground either. This game's been an exciting one, and probably the best since Beastquake!"

See, with optimism, people tend to hope that things will, in the end, turn out for the best. But with positive thinking, people don't need hope - they just do. They turn things they are presented with into a benefit or a advantage. Positive thinking is also concrete evidence. Where optimism fails in being a hope or a dream, positive thinking is based on facts and not what you think will happen, but rather on what you already know.

With all that said, why is this so important? Two things will answer your million dollar question. The first, of course, is that positive thinking makes me a better fan and 12th man overall. Instead of cursing/badly reacting to anything I see happen with this team, I try to see things in a different light. Is this process tough? Yes. Ridiculous? Maybe. Helpful? Definitely. Now bad blocks or wrong assignments on the game tape turns into a potential room for improvement. Every tackle or sack that missed would be one inch closer to that euphoria of success. Every yard a opposing quarterback pass for would increase my respect of their offense. In the end, I still get the positive emotions off of big gains or big hits, while keeping away the negative emotions that constantly taunts us week in and week out.

The second is, surprisingly, due to the emergence of Pete Carroll. I been reading a lot on his book, Win Forever: Live, Work and Play Like a Champion, and I realize that one of the things he incorporates into his philosophy is positive thinking. Observers already notes his boyish and enthusiastic personality maybe a step forward into that philosophy. However, Carroll sees himself as a teacher as much he is a coach, and his mantra is to build players up, not to tear or rip them down:

I strongly believe in the power of intentions and wanted everyone in our program to speak in the affirmative. Whereas a negative mentality attracts negative thoughts, a positive approach creates the power of possibilities.

This is not to say that I wanted to sweep problems under the rug or deny that they existed. Far from it. If a player had a direct problem with me or how I was coaching, I not only wanted to hear about it, I felt I needed to.

He goes on, with an example on then-standout recruit Carson Palmer in USC:

During the final workout which was our annual spring game, Carson tossed his first two interceptions of the spring, and as we stood at the team barbecue afterward, they were obviously affecting him. I asked him what he thought about his performance, and his response was the last thing I expected:

"It's so typical. I always play well and then screw it up when it matters most."

At that moment, I stopped him in his tracts, made him put his tray down, and firmly told him one simple thing:

"Carson, you never, ever get to talk that way again."

It was a great example of the power of negative self-talk. Rather than accepting the challenge to compete to get the best of his self-doubt, he had given in to negative expectation and expressed it as fact.

Self-talk can be powerful and ultimately can create anticipated outcomes. In Carson's case, it helped to create a negative outcome. But it can also be used to create positive outcomes, and I was determined to help Carson alter his language.

And so forth. One of the most powerful impacts of Carroll's ability to think positively was also the 2003 season, which the BCS controversially left USC out of the championship despite being ranked #1 by the AP and Coaches. In the end, Carroll told his players to be thankful instead for playing the Rose Bowl and instilling a "positive voice". That, to me, is central to Carroll's idea of competition and "Win Forever" - in making everyone on the team better, you have to envision and see them at their best first.

In our consistent focus on the QB competition and our drought of football related news, it's easy to forget what this team is built on: a bruising, powerful running back that has shown he can carry our offense; a nasty, unforgiving offensive line that's still young and improving; Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane; the best young duo of cornerbacks and safeties in the league.

And of course, the loudest and most passionate NFL fanbase ever.

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