NOTE THIS WEEK’S TIME CHANGE:
Every Tuesday at 5:20pm, I join Radio Active‘s host Adrienne Pan, on CBC Radio One here in Edmonton. You can listen via AM740, FM93.9 (in Edmonton), or elsewhere through the CBC Listen app, or via the web on Radio One at CBC.ca.
Once the show has aired, if there is an audio version available I will add a link to it here. A listing of all of the columns is here. For those without audio versions, I will attach a transcript of the column to the bottom of this post within a few days of airing.
We all know people who get too angry about sports, or who exhibit unhealthy behaviour at their kid’s games. We tend to blame them for the damage they cause, but that doesn’t help the situation as much as helping them to understand how innocently they got that way, and how easily they can change by doing the same thing we want our teams and our kids to do, which is practice.
If you get to hear it and haven’t before, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the show. They have a great team.
Take care everyone. Here’s to a grateful day for all of us.
April 21st, 2020
ADRIENNE: After many years of ups and downs, a lot of Edmontonians are looking forward to an exciting Oilers playoff season. But how do we manage our desire to go deep, with the potential agony of playoff defeat? Today we are joined by our wellness columnist, Scott McPherson, and he’s here to tell us about how we can get the most from the Oilers, win or lose. Hi Scott.
SCOTT: Hi Adrienne. Here’s hoping we can meet in the studio again soon.
ADRIENNE: Yes. And many of us are hoping the team goes all the way to the Stanley Cup too. But you’re here to tell us that, no matter what happens, we can still pull a win out of it?
SCOTT: We can. And we all know that’s possible because we all know people who’ve gone to a losing game and still had a really good time. But, whether it’s at Roger’s Place, or on TV, or even if it’s some parent at their kid’s games; we also all know people who take sports way too seriously. And that sucks for them too, because it’s not like they feel good about ruining things for themselves and other people.
ADRIENNE: So, what is the difference between the people who get angry or bitter and the ones who who can enjoy a game even if we lose?
SCOTT: It’s that the person enjoying a losing game, and the person hating it, are just using different conceptual definitions of what ‘the game’ itself actually is.
ADRIENNE: Okay. Let’s start with the happy person’s? What do they think going to a game ‘means?’
SCOTT: People can think of the game’s as a business meeting. Some people think it’s a date. A kid might think it’s a chance to learn new skills, or a fan can just be watching one player. For some the game’s their job. And some watch from a nostalgic perspective, remembering some family member who used to go with them. Those are all very different game experiences, even though we’ll all use the same phrase ‘I went to the game’ to describe what we did.
Obviously, if the team starts to lose, that’s okay to a lot of people because the score and winning is only part of their enjoyment of the ‘the game.’ They’re also enjoying the food, meeting people seated nearby. All the stuff friendly people do. Who cares about the score if we’re there for a birthday, or to visit with a friend? But the people who pout or who have angry reactions –no matter how old they are– they all went in with a subconscious expectation that ‘a good game’ was defined strictly by winning.
ADRIENNE: How can we keep our desire for the win ‘only a desire,’ rather than an expectation, which we’ve discussed, tend to lead to disappointment?
SCOTT: We can stay aware of the fact that we’re asking for a future we may not get. And as a result we can intentionally spread our focus around. That prevents our anticipation from becoming an expectation. If we don’t put too much value into achieving an expectation, then we can anticipate winning and still be okay. But again, for some, the definition of the game gets so narrow that it blocks out all other potential realities.
ADRIENNE: What do you mean by it ‘blocks out other potential realities?’
SCOTT: If we’re too focused on winning, then everything we see is relative to that. Something as small as ‘too many shots on goal’ from the other team can cue a person to start an angry internal narrative. They’ll compare the reality they wanted to the one they’re getting, and the resulting story scares them, and that makes them mad. Meanwhile, their beer still tastes good, or their friend’s telling a funny story, or if we’d open up our focus, we might notice another old friend sitting only a few seats away.
ADRIENNE: Can the angry person change their definition of ‘the game?’
SCOTT: Absolutely. But they’ll have to consciously practice doing that at first. The people who learned to enjoy the game are rarely doing consciously. They just had others model a different definition of ‘the game.’ But they’re not aware of it. Likewise, if we grow up in a house with a parent we respect, that blows up at losing games, we can easily learn that winning is what makes a game good. That’s why getting conscious about the formation of our personal realities really helps in life.
ADRIENNE: Can the more laissez-faire partner help the angry game watcher?
SCOTT: Yes! Just don’t say things like, ‘don’t take it so seriously.’ That usually just makes an angry person even angrier. Most importantly, the angry person needs to be on board with getting the help, too.
ADRIENNE: What does that look like in action?
SCOTT: First, the angry person needs to make a conscious effort to include more of the game experience into their reality. We have to really listen to our seatmate, or taste the beer. We’re literally rewiring our brains as we repeat that action, and those things can become a habit just like getting angry did. If we surrender our attachment to winning, then we can shift our attention to something better. And if our seatmate senses our mood turning, they can help cue us to notice other things in addition to the score. They can suggest we taste our beer.
There may be some initial resistance. But over time the generosity in the offer becomes more apparent, and the shift in focus will feel more natural. Once we start doing it more consistently, it self-sustains because it creates a nicer life for us, and we can feel the difference in the reactions we get. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about, did you enjoy your night out with your seatmate?
ADRIENNE: So– it’s important to learn that Oilers games –playoffs of not– are also social events, and the score at the end of the night shouldn’t dictate our mood?
SCOTT: If you’re at the game, remember, there’s so much else to enjoy at Roger’s Place than just what’s on the ice. And hey – if we’ve had a long, rough day, and the team’s playing terribly and just reminding us of our day, then nothing’s stopping us from leaving the game to find a happier experience. Our focus should really be on enjoying every moment of the experience, not just on the outcome. If we do that, even losing games can be good. So: we should enjoy our cheering. And with this year’s team we can anticipate winning. We should just remember, that if we lose, there is very literally, more to life than winning.
ADRIENNE: Scott McPherson is our wellness columnist. He is a writer, speaker and instructor at Relax and Succeed dot com, here in Edmonton.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.