Saints Rammed by the Zebras

23 January 2019

The loss by the New Orleans Saints to the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday in the NFC Championship game was traumatic to many of us New Orleanians.

One definition of psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which the individual’s ability to integrate his or her emotional experience is overwhelmed. No doubt about it, I was psychologically traumatized for a few hours after the game. I fear it is going to take the City of New Orleans, and myself, some time to get over the outcome of this game.

Without a doubt, a flag should have been thrown on the blatant pass interference and helmet to helmet contact by Rams’ cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman against Saints’ receiver Tommy Lee Lewis.

My question is, why is the Saints’ loss so much more devastating when it has been taken away, versus a loss due simply to being outplayed? It is crystal clear that, had the penalty been called, as would have been appropriate, the Saints would have had a much better chance of winning the game. With 1 minute and 41 seconds left in regulation time after kicking a field goal, the Saints had an 83% chance of winning the game.

But where does responsibility come in? And whose is it?

The Saints had opportunities to make several big plays throughout the game and did not make them. We kicked two field goals early on; either of these might have been touchdowns, with more effective play. Drew Brees (whose praises have been deservedly sung by me heretofore) threw an interception in overtime. With that intercepted pass, the Rams drove the ball and kicked the 57-yard field goal which won them the game.

So, when you experience an unfortunate, complicated situation with larger implications, how do you effectively see the picture for what it is and what it is not? Drew Brees handled the matter like the gentleman and warrior that he is – how do you deal effectively with such situations?

In the Harvard Business Review series Emotional Intelligence, Tony Schwartz suggests using the following tools:

1. The Lens of Realistic Optimism

Using this lens means asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly:

• What are the facts of this situation?

• What story am I telling myself about those facts? And what outcome do I really want?

2. The Reverse Lens

This lens asks you to view the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view, but rather widening your perspective. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself:

• What do I think this person is feeling, and in what way can I make sense of that?

• Where’s my responsibility in all this?

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, your worth, when you feel it threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

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