Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Super Bowl Pre-Game Speeches from a Sports Psychologist’s Perspective

Have you ever wondered what type of speech you would give to your team if you were a head coach and your team was about to play in the Super Bowl? What type of speech would be most effective from a football psychology standpoint?

There are a few pre-game speeches that any general sports fan could likely recite if asked to do so. Many people would probably choose Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper” speech or perhaps John “Bluto” Blutarsky asking his Delta Tau Chi members if it was “over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor”.

So what does a real coach say to a real team of men right before they play in one of the biggest games of their lives? The best way to find out is to ask them and the people that were there to listen to them.

Here are a few quotes from some of the great Super Bowl coaches and their pre-game speeches.

Don Shula (Super Bowls III, VI, VII, VIII, XVII, XIX)

Don Shula coached his teams to 6 different Super Bowls including two Super Bowl wins with the Miami Dolphins. When asked about his pre-game speeches that he gave before each Super Bowl, Don has said that “What you try to do is do the things that got you to where you are… you don’t want to be someone that you’re not. The thing I tried to do is summarize what it took to get there.”

“Once you reach the Super Bowl, both teams are talked about during the week,” Shula said. “But when the game is over, [the media] only go to one locker room. I told them to make sure it was our locker room.”

Don Shula’s record as a head coach also included 4 Super Bowl losses. After losing one of these Super Bowls and preparing to begin a new season, Shula decided to deliver the same message to his players from the first day of practice right through the end of the season.

“We lost the year before, so my message from the beginning of training camp was that our goal wasn’t to get to the Super Bowl,” Shula said. “Our goal was to win it.”

Brian Billick (Super Bowl XXXV)

Brian Billick led the Baltimore Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Peter Boulware (4-time Pro Bowler and 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) later spoke about what Billick had said to the team in the locker room before the game.

“He said to approach this like any other game,” said Peter Boulware. “We took a very businesslike approach. That’s what helped us. We didn’t get tight. We just worked the same way.”

Jon Gruden (Super Bowl XXXVII)

In 2002 Jon Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. One of his players; Ryan Nece had been injured during the 2002 season and was watching from the sidelines during the Super Bowl. He later commented on Gruden’s pre-game speeches saying that “Coach Gruden always was a great pregame [speech] guy. He was always good.”

Gruden’s words seem to have been intended to stir up more emotion within his players than the quotes that you can read above from Don Shula and Brian Billick. According to Nece, Gruden said something to the effect of “This is the time of your life… go out and take what’s ours. It’s destiny. Just go out there and take what is ours.”

Mike Ditka (Super Bowl XXXVII)

Mike Ditka delivered his pre-game speech to the Chicago Bears on the evening before Super Bowl XX. While many coaches wait until just before the game to do this, I think that this was an interesting yet wise decision.

One could argue that a player is likely to worry about the game the most on the evening before the big game (rather than during pre-game when there are routine things to do like team warm-up).

After the fact, Ditka noted to the media that “Basically I said this was not about me and not about the city of Chicago. I told them this is the one memory you will have of each other for the rest of your lives.”

Chuck Noll (Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV)

Chuck Noll was the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991. He had several great players in his lineup during the 1970s like Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, and John Stallworth. He likely didn’t have to say much in order to inspire these types of players or lead them to victory.

Lynn Swan later said “Chuck was a very level, low-key kind of guy, not a fire-and-brimstone type of guy. Very directed in terms of what he wanted to get done. We didn’t get those type of speeches from Chuck Noll… but we didn’t lose a Super Bowl, either.”

I would imagine that Noll’s pre-game speeches were similar to that of Don Shula.

Vince Lombardi (Super Bowls I, II, NFL Champions in pre-Super Bowl era’56, ’61, ’62, ’65)

How about the man who had the Super Bowl Championship Trophy named after him? Jerry Kramer recently handed over some audio to ESPN from Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl II pre-game speech. You can click on the link after this sentence and listen for yourself what he had to say. Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl II Pre-Game Speech

What Type of Pre-Game Speech is Best?

So what type of pre-game speech is the most effective for players? Something simple like what Don Shula is quoted as having said? Or perhaps something more likely to stir emotion such as “It’s destiny. Just go out there and take what is ours”?

“There’s definitely a place [for a motivational speech], but it’s all how much the players respect the coach,” Ryan Nece has said. “If guys are just out there and don’t respect the coach, they’re not going to ‘win one for the Gipper’ or anything like that.”

Lynn Swan has also said that “It’s a coach-by-coach thing”.

There is a lot of truth to these statements. One of the last things that a coach should ever do is come into the locker room before the game and do something out-of-character simply in an effort to inspire his players.

This might work after a team plays horribly during the first half of a game and their calm-demeanored coach comes into the locker room and starts throwing water jugs around. That might help to get their attention and change their mindset from whatever it had been during the first half of the game. However, for a pre-game speech, I just don’t think that this would be productive.

Most sports psychologists will tell you that if a coach like Jon Gruden gets his players too fired up or too excited with an emotionally charged speech, this can actually put his players at a disadvantage. I don’t expect athletes to perform at their peak levels if they are too pumped up with energy.

While there are no exact guidelines, and the speech must be appropriate for the team and situation, I’ve always admired the more low-key, cerebral, intelligent approach like we have seen from Don Shula.

Football Sports Psychology Tips From 1972 Dolphins QB Earl Morrall

Sarasota, Florida – April 25, 2013 – By Dr. John F. Murray – A new football season is approaching and every year this brings back great memories for me. I was fortunate enough to meet a great NFL player whom I had watched play when I was a young boy. His name is Earl Morrall; and given his place in history and the overtone of this article, I suspect that he will need some kind of an introduction for the readers here.

It has now been just over 40 years since the Miami Dolphins completed their legendary “perfect season”. They remain as the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl and finish the season with an undefeated record to this day. You will find very few people in the football sports psychology world that don’t view the Dolphins’ 1972 team as “iconic”. I find it startling that the ’72 team can live on in the history books with such notoriety, but yet the name Earl Morrall remains forgotten by almost everyone except for those who were there to see him play.

I was lucky enough to have been in the stadium that year and I was able to watch Don Shula coach his men to greatness. Some of my greatest memories from that season include Don Shula pacing the sidelines and QB Bob Griese throwing the ball down the field with seemingly un-measurable velocity. Alongside of Don Shula and Bob Griese, I also remember Earl Morrall; the sometimes forgotten Quarterback who led Miami to win 71% of their games that year.

Earl began the 1972 season as a backup QB. During the 5th game of the season Bob Griese suffered a broken ankle and Earl was put into the game as the new QB. Earl proceeded to lead his team through the season with an undefeated record. When the championship game arrived, Bob Griese was put back into the game and he won the Super Bowl just as if he had never missed a play.

Since Earl Morrall began 1972 as a backup and finished 1972 as a backup, his name does not receive the same type of notoriety that a winning quarterback from a championship team would usually receive. Earl Morrall played a crucial role in the Dolphins’ success during the ’72 season and his name certainly deserves a fair amount of recognition.

In 2009 I was lucky enough to meet Earl Morrall outside of a local Hyatt hotel.

A small part of me is now glad that I didn’t meet Earl when I was younger. I likely would have asked him the type of questions that you would expect from an 11 year old boy. It would have been entertaining for me of course, but I probably wouldn’t have picked his brain very much from a sports psychology perspective.

Here are some football sports psychology tips that I was able to siphon from my childhood hero on this occasion.

(1) Communicate well with everyone around you and make sure you are all on the same page.

(2) The difference between good and great is often just to do a little bit more.

(3) Sacrifice and keep your focus on the team rather than yourself.

(4) Work hard.

(5) Do the right thing.

I hope that Miami Dolphins fans will do their best to remember Earl Morrall. He led the team to some great victories and played a crucial role on the Dolphins’ team during the ’72 season. I hope that he will be remembered as a leader, a champion, a man that played a defining roll in the greatest NFL team ever, and a guy who – in his day, had one of the finest crew cuts that the professional sports world has ever seen.

BYU’s’ Quest for Perfection’ questioned by some, praised by others

The Salt Lake Tribune – Jay Drew – November 20, 2008 – PROVO – Along with winning 31 of his last 34 football games, Brigham Young University’s straight-laced, youthful-looking football coach, Bronco Mendenhall, has become rather adept at picking slogans.

You know, those catchy phrases that are often associated with political campaigns, words such as “Raise the Bar” and “Fully Invested.” The McCain campaign could have used this guy.

The success he has had with those notwithstanding, when Mendenhall, after back-to-back 11-2 seasons, rolled out his latest motto for Cougar players and their fans to rally around – “Quest for Perfection” – before the season it was met with more than a few raised eyebrows.

And those astonished looks didn’t just come from rival Utah fans, who enjoy mocking anything that comes out of Provo, almost to the point of obsession. They gleefully proclaimed it couldn’t be done, then gloated far and wide when the Cougars were pummeled by TCU a month ago while their own team continued to cruise along perfectly.

Many BYU fans also questioned the bold approach, even after being told by Mendenhall dozens of times that it was meant to signify a two-pronged quest – the part about living right off the field even more important than going undefeated on the field.

Which brings us to the here and now.

The Utes are perfect (11-0) and the Cougars are close (10-1) heading into Saturday’s

And Mendenhall isn’t apologizing.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said Monday, while acknowledging that the slogan brought some unintended attention and scorn, in some quarters.

“The intent was to just simply move our program forward.. . . But possibly I could have been wiser to assume where the world is, and where our intent is, because it [has] a dual meaning, and we were [eager] to be great on the field. But as I have said so many times, this is really about who we are trying to become. But to say it didn’t add pressure would be wrong. I think it probably did.”

For their part, BYU’s players have said all season they haven’t minded the approach, and at one point quarterback Max Hall wondered if “Quest for Mediocrity” T-shirts would have been more palatable, but 10 times less provocative.

“Doesn’t every team want to go undefeated?” he said. “Isn’t that everyone’s goal? What’s wrong with just saying it?”

Well, because it is almost impossible to attain – both on the field and off, says John F. Murray Read more »

Miami Dolphins Lift Spirits

Miami Herald – November 11, 2008 – Greg Cote -Have you found yourself awakening Mondays with a bit less dread for the work week? Have you rediscovered the lost bounce in your step or noticed that people seem to be smiling more easily lately?It isn’t just Democrats; it’s Dolphins fans. It isn’t just Dolfans; it’s local sports fans in general. And because that includes so many of us across a complete cross-section, it is South Florida at large feeling its mood and self-esteem lifted.

Sports can do that. Success is a powerful drug.

So many of us suffer and dream vicariously through the teams we love that the line between franchises and fans can get blurred.

The Dolphins are winning? It feels like we are, too.

”It’s absolutely human nature, a very real phenomena,” Palm Beach-based sports psychologist John F. Murray told us Monday.

‘There’s a certain pride of ownership that a fan feels over his or her favorite team. When things are going well, in social psychology it’s called `basking in reflected glory.’ When our team does well, we feel empowered that maybe things could go better in our lives, too. It’s like having ownership in a company when the stock is going up and up and up.”

HIGHS AND LOWS

The feeling is magnified in Dolphins fans because of the extremes that have been experienced.

This is the franchise of back-to-back Super Bowl triumphs, of the 1972 Perfect Season, of Don Shula and Dan Marino. But then it became the franchise of six consecutive years out of the playoffs and last year’s depressing, embarrassing nadir.

Nobody knows what 1-15 feels like more keenly than someone who has celebrated 17-0. Unprecedented high became humiliating low.

Community self-esteem reflected in a championship parade — such as we last experienced with the Heat in the summer of 2006 — sees its opposite in the collective gloom we feel if our teams are doing poorly — or, worse, being embarrassingly bad.

Now it’s as if our deep, dark cloud is dissipating by degrees and beams of sunlight are poking through, spreading warmth. Optimism: What an elixir!

Our flagship Dolphins have their first winning record in three years and a real chance to end that six-year playoff drought — an immediate and potentially historic turnaround from last season’s embarrassment.

But it isn’t just one team, albeit our biggest.

The Heat, with Dwyane Wade back healthy and the excitement of rookie Michael Beasley, shows early signs of similarly being a playoff team after a franchise-worst 15-67 mark last season.

The Marlins far exceeded expectations and were playoff challengers until late into the season, and they have a new ballpark and bigger payrolls on the way.

The young, ascending Miami Hurricanes have won four football games in a row to become bowl eligible, and in men’s basketball UM is ranked 16th nationally, best ever, in the preseason polls.

STILL SOME PITFALLS

Don’t forget FIU football, with its new stadium and enough improvement to not yet be out of the picture for a small bowl game.

In hockey, the Panthers haven’t quite kept pace yet, but otherwise all of our biggest sports teams, pro and college, are enjoying a decided rebound from a collective recent downturn.

(The overall feel-good vibe might even include recent indications that Major League Soccer is poised to expand back into town).

Of course, the Dolphins are King Sport down here, with the biggest following and the most emotional grip, so it is this club’s seismic, sudden resurgence that buoys our collective mood most of all.

I asked Dolphins coach Tony Sparano on Monday how winning and losing affects his mood away from the job. He joked that the question would be better for his wife but admitted his mood is affected to a degree that, “I’m probably not as good a guy after we lose.”

Sparano’s livelihood depends on winning and losing. Ours doesn’t — and yet, in some ways, our quality of life does.

”Our purpose-driven nature is engaged,” Murray said. “When our teams win, it makes us feel like Miami’s on the map again. It’s a feeling of collective pride, like if your governor becomes the president. We all want to bask in success.”

In Alabama this week, a Crimson Tide fan, Michael Williams, is charged with killing two LSU fans ensuing from an argument related to those teams’ Saturday game. That obviously is the most extreme example possible of how seriously we take our sports, but anybody who has painted his face, cried with joy over a win or been cursing mad over a loss knows the power games can have over everyday lives.

A 2006 study in the journal of the Association of Psychological Science found that many fans feel similarly about their favorite teams as they do about their nationality or ethnicity — and that fans “can become so passionate about their team that it becomes a part of their identity and affects their well-being.”

It is why, all across South Florida, people are rediscovering that aqua goes with just about everything. T-shirts and jerseys kept hidden in drawers the past couple of years, perhaps subconsciously, are being pulled out again — and not so much worn as flown like flags.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

NFL Hall of Famer Lesley Visser Interviews Dr. John F Murray

Special to JohnFMurray.com – October 31, 2008 – Fox Sports Radio South Florida – Dr. John F. Murray was interviewed this morning by Lesley Visser and Jeff De Forrest of WFTL Fox Sports Radio in South Florida – about the upcoming Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, and you can hear the interview here. Visser is the only female ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first female member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team and the first female to ever present a Super Bowl trophy, in 1992.

Hear the interview at this link. After clicking here you will see a list of interviews. Select it from the October 31 list.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

Dr. John F. Murray to Appear on Fox Radio

Special from JohnFMurray.com – October 30, 2008 – Dr. John F Murray will be appearing on WFTL 640 AM Fox Sports Radio Miami, Friday morning October 31 at 7:30 AM to talk with famed broadcasting legend Lesley Visser and co-host Jeff De Forrest about the upcoming Florida/Georgia cocktail party game in Jacksonville this weekend. You can hear the interview live on the radio or by streaming internet (click “listen live”) at: http://85owftl.com/pages/2443506.php

In today’s story in the Florida Times Union, Dr. Murray spoke with Michael DiRocco about this game.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

“PATRIOTS FOOTBALL WEEKLY” INTERVIEWED DR. JOHN F. MURRAY TO HELP THEIR TEAM COPE WITH PRESSURE AND GO UNDEFEATED

Jan 30, 2008 – The writers for the official New England Patriots Magazine – You can read this article by clicking here!

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

MIND GAMES: PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS PATS HAVE GOTTEN INSIDE COLTS’ HEADS

Nov 4, 2005 – {Note from Dr. Murray: Phil Richards writes a good article in accurately describing the truth of winning streaks and losing streaks which cannot be ignored, but Phil will be the first to say that I did not in any way make a prediction on this game or claim that the Pats have the Colts number! He is simply using the headline to demonstrate that any team which has lost 6 straight to another team has to deal with this reality and remove that pink elephant from the room! He does not mention in this article that I also advised that any team facing this kind of challenge (similar to my rationale for the MPI in focusing on every play of the game) needs to focus only on every moment and every snap, and not on that big pink elephant in the room!}

Indianapolis Star – Phil Richards – If the subject is numbers, then consider these: The Indianapolis Colts have lost their past six games to New England, including playoff defeats that ended their 2003 and 2004 seasons. They have lost their past nine appearances in Foxborough, Mass., where they will meet the Patriots again this week on “Monday Night Football.”

In the vernacular of sport, New England might be said to have the Colts’ “number.”

“A lot of coaches will say, ‘That’s hogwash. Forget it.’ But you know what? You have to deal with reality, and the reality is you’ve lost how many in a row?” said John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist who has worked with NFL teams and players.

“Oftentimes, the solution is to forget the streak, but how do you do that? It’s like saying, ‘Let’s not think about this pink elephant in the middle of the room right now. Whatever you do, don’t think about this pink elephant.’ ”

Colts coach Tony Dungy is inclined to neither feed peanuts to that pink elephant, nor ignore it. His team will study its losses to New England, but only in an effort to learn, to improve, to get it right this time.

“I guess you can’t ignore it because it’s history,” Dungy said, “but it’s not going to have an effect on what happens in this game.”

John Rauch, Harvey Johnson, Lou Saban, Jim Ringo and Chuck Knox might have recited the same motto. They were Buffalo’s head coaches while the Bills were losing 20 consecutive games to Miami from 1970-79.
That the Bills were persistently pathetic through most of that stretch explains away much of the Dolphins’ magic. But Buffalo went 9-5 in 1973 and did it again in 1974. Of their 10 losses those two seasons, Miami inflicted four.

People were beginning to say that Tennessee had the Colts’ number when the Titans ended a 13-3 Colts season with a victory at the RCA Dome during the 1999 playoffs, then came back in 2002 to sweep the Colts and win the title in the new AFC South.

The Colts have climbed that mountain. They have won their past five games against the Titans.

“Now they’re probably saying we have Tennessee’s number,” Colts linebacker David Thornton said. “I’m not too big on people thinking, ‘I’ve got your number. We can always beat you.’

“This is a new team, a new season.” New team, fresh hopes

It is indeed a new team. A 38-34 loss to New England at the RCA Dome during the 2003 season cost the Colts home-field advantage and a first-round bye during the playoffs. The Colts had to go to Foxborough for the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots won it 24-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Colts went home.Fewer than half of the 53 players from the 2003 Colts remain on the active roster. This is a new team.

Chris Carr, a sports psychologist with Methodist Sports Medicine Center, said research indicates that a focus on the present facilitates optimal performance.

Play not just one season at a time or even one game at a time. Play one snap at a time. Each snap is a game within a game; win enough snaps and the accumulation wins the game.

It also occupies the focus to the exclusion of distractions such as streaks, one team having the other’s number, and the rest.
That’s why Carr, who has worked with the Kansas City Royals the past six years, forbids his pupils’ use of the word “slump.”

“If you’re telling me you’re in a slump, that means you’re using a description of past performance, being 0-for-20, as an excuse for your next failure,” he said.

Carr used to work with the U.S. Ski team, and he remembers well Sports Illustrated’s preview of the 1994 Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway.
“They used the phrase ‘Uncle Sam’s lead-footed snowplow brigade,’ and that we hadn’t medaled since 1984,” Carr recalled. “It was a description of the past. Our athletes were able to go into the Olympics, Tommy Moe in particular, and be very focused on race day.”

Moe won the downhill gold and became the first U.S. skier since 1964 to win two medals. The U.S. won five, a team record.

“From a story line, it’s intriguing to say, ‘Here’s the history,’ ” Carr said. “From a performance standpoint, those past games in Foxborough should be totally irrelevant to Monday night.”

They will be as big a factor as the Colts let them.

That’s the opinion of Challace McMillin, a mental training coach who teaches psychology at James Madison University, where he founded the football program and spent many of his 20-plus seasons as an NCAA Division I-AA coach.

McMillin’s position echoed Carr’s and was supported by another sports psychologist who has worked with NFL players, Rutgers University psychology professor Jim Mastrich.

“Let’s say the first play of the game, quarterback sack, fumble and the Patriots recover,” Mastrich proposed. “The Colts have two choices: They can walk around with their heads down, ‘They’ve got our number. Who’s kidding whom? They’re going to beat us anyway.’

“Or they can say, ‘Let’s go. Every snap of the ballgame is a game within a game. Play it one snap at a time. This is the only thing that matters.’ ”
Unbeaten, unfulfilled

The Colts (7-0) are in an interesting position. They are the league’s lone unbeaten team. They are 31/2-point favorites to win where they haven’t won since 1995, where quarterback Peyton Manning is 0-9, where their trips to the Super Bowl have been canceled the past two seasons.

They know they will face adversity. New England (4-3) is hobbled by injury, struggling on defense and inconsistent in the running game, but it has the champion’s presence. It is proud and poised. It has won the Super Bowl three of the past four seasons.

And it has committed 11 turnovers against the Colts in 12 meetings since Manning moved under center in 1998. The Colts have committed 34.

“The past is the past,” Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor said. “This is the now. The same way they hunt for us, we’ll hunt for them.

“We’re not going to panic. We’ve come too far. We’ve been through too much. We’ve had our share of ups and downs but we’ve grown as a team and we know how to handle those situations if they show up.”

The Colts have won 15 of their past 16 regular-season games. Winning, like losing, becomes a habit, and habits will collide Monday. The fire will be burning on both sides of the field.

“You have to channel it in the right way,” Dungy said. “People that win big games are people that can function in a pressurized environment and do the same thing they do in a training camp practice.

“That’s what we have not done against New England. We’ve gone there and false-started on the first play of the game. We’ve done those kinds of things, which you can’t do because it’s hard enough to beat a good team when you do everything right.”

Stay in the moment. Play the game snap by snap. The mottos are trite but true. The Colts know them. The pink elephant waits.

Record of futility

The Colts have gone 2-14 against the New England Patriots since 1996. The record:

Season Winner Score
1996 Patriots 27-9
1996 Patriots 27-13
1997 Patriots 31-6
1997 Patriots 20-17
1998 Patriots 29-6
1998 Patriots 21-16
1999 Patriots 31-28
1999 Colts 20-15
2000 Patriots 24-16
2000 Colts 30-23
2001 Patriots 44-13
2001 Patriots 38-17
2003 Patriots 38-34
*2003 Patriots 24-14
2004 Patriots 27-24
*2004 Patriots 20-3

* Playoff game.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

MEASURING NFL FOOTBALL GAMES MORE ACCURATELY

Oct 7, 2005 – Bloomberg Radio, CNN Radio (derived from 2003, 2004, and 2005 on-air interviews of John F. Murray by Bob Goldsholl, host of Bloomberg on the Ball, and others) – The Mental Performance Index or “MPI” is the first ever measure of mental performance used in sport, in this case American Football.

The index was developed by Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in 2002 to demonstrate the importance of mental factors in football such as “pressure management,” “focused execution,” and “reduction of mental errors.”

In three major public tests of the accuracy of the MPI on radio and television stations worldwide, the MPI has accurately estimated the performance of the teams in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXVII 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX 2005), beating the spread each time, going counter to public opinion, and correctly estimating the ultimate course of the games.

In 2003 the Oakland Raiders were favored to win easily over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MPI showed that Tampa Bay, by contrast, was much better.

In 2004 and 2005, the MPI analysis showed the teams to be relatively equal with a very close contest even though the New England Patriots were predicted to win by at least 7 points in each game.

The 2004 game was tied with 4 seconds remaining (3 point New England win) and the 2005 game was the first game in Super Bowl history to be tied entering the final quarter of play. New England won by 3.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

DIVA RECEIVERS FLOURISH IN NFL

Palm Beach Post – Sep 21, 2005 – Hal Habib – Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman entered the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor on Monday night, rekindling memories of glory days for the big, blue star.

Honor and glory aren’t what you would associate with what happened five years ago, when Smith rang up Irvin, his former teammate, seeking moral support, if not to give Irvin an earful about his receiving brethren.

One day earlier, then-San Francisco receiver Terrell Owens had Smith and all of Texas Stadium aghast by dancing all over the Cowboys’ star at midfield. Certainly, we have better perspective now. We expect more ingenuity Sunday when Owens and the Eagles face Randy Moss and the Raiders in Philadelphia. But in 2000, trampling all over a star qualified as hot stuff for wide receivers.

“What about… ?” was as far as Smith got before Irvin cut him off at the pass.

“If you had a problem with what he did, why didn’t you win the game, and it would have fixed all that?” Irvin barked. “Then it would have made him look like a fool. So don’t come calling me because he stepped on your star. You should have stepped on his head after he stepped on your star. It was early in the game. You guys went on and let them beat you anyway.

“Shut up. Goodbye. Get off the phone, man.”

Today, Irvin, the former University of Miami star and current ESPN analyst, slips into a droopy, wistful tone â€â€? if you can imagine thatâ€? as he recounts Smith’s reaction:

“Yeah…. I guess you’re right.”

Didn’t Smith know whom he was calling?

“I am the original,” Irvin says. “Those are my disciples.”

The original what?

“The original diva.”

For sheer entertainment value, you have to give props to today’s wide receivers. They’ll also be happy to supply their own. Sharpies, cellphones and Pepto-Bismol have become essential accessories for the men whose ability to grab footballs is matched only by their ability to grab headlines.

With Diva Bowl I around the corner, Irvin, the former first down-signaling, fur coat-wearing “Playmaker,” figures he deserves credit and blame for what receivers have become.

“I get phone calls from receivers in the league now, the guys who we would call divas: ‘Hey, man, we’re just trying to continue this thing you started,’ ” Irvin says. “I’m saying, ‘Ooooh, don’t take it too far.’ ”

Now what would make Irvin think these wide guys would do that?

The player who once asked teammates to cut him slack in practice because he just had his nipple pierced? That would be David Boston, now of the Dolphins but then with Arizona. A receiver.

The player who quit football the night before a game, immediately was cut, but still figured he could show up for work the following Monday? Eddie Kennison. Denver. Receiver.

The player who dropped a touchdown pass, then reportedly pouted when his quarterback threw a TD pass on the next play to someone else? Moss.

At the height of Owens’ contract squabble with the Eagles this off-season, Moss, of all people, was asked if T.O. (Owens) needed a T.O. (timeout).

“Who am I to tell him anything?” Moss said. “I’m Mr. Distraction myself.”

Sheesh. A distraction, and a diva.

“Man, that’s a damn women’s term,” says former Dolphins receiver Mark Clayton.” I don’t know who came up with bull like that.”

Clayton has a point. Webster’s defines a diva as, a leading woman singer, esp. in grand opera.” How about “flamboyant”?

“They’re all competitors,” Clayton says. “Them complaining about not getting enough balls or wanting to catch ballsâ€? that makes them divas?”

Them writing books about iâ€? Keyshawn Johnson’s Just Give Me the Damn Ball!â€? that doesn’t make them divas?

“I don’t know anything about the diva thing,” Dolphins receiver Marty Booker says. “To play receiver in this league, sometimes you have to be demanding and selfish.”

Across the room, Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers is asked about all those times he wanted to pull a Sharpie out of his sock to autograph a touchdown ball, like Owens.

“Never,” Chambers says. “Never, never, never, never. I wouldn’t even think to do anything like that. I wouldn’t even want that much attention. It’s unnecessary and sometimes it can backfire on you. I just feel like being a professional.”

Chris Chambers: good receiver, lousy diva. Right?

“You know what’s so crazy about it?” Chambers says. “In high school, I played basketball and I was a trash-talker. Basketball is such a one-on-one sport and if I know I’ve got the ability to beat the guy, I can talk trash.”

Chambers says he doesn’t lack confidence in football, just opportunities like Owens and the Bengals’ Chad Johnson, who see enough passes to stack up 1,000-yard seasons.

“I think once I’m at that level, I don’t know how I’ll be acting,” Chambers says.

Johnson also is the guy who sent cornerbacks Pepto-Bismol to cure the nausea he planned to inflict on them.

“My mom loves Chad Johnson,” Chambers says.

Chris Chambers: diva-in-training?

“I haven’t heard that term, but it’s definitely the position to be,” Chambers says of receiving, not diva-ing. “You go back to when you’re growing up, man. Everybody wanted to be a receiver. Everybody wanted to score touchdowns.”

John Murray, a Palm Beach sports psychologist, says Chambers has latched onto something.

“He’s the big playmaker,” Murray says of a star receiver. “He’s the guy who has to make it happen, and he’s got to get the attention of the quarterback. He’s got to be fearless because people are trying to take his head off going over the middle. They have to be agile yet durable and certainly expressive in a very showmanlike way.”

Irvin, whose 12-year career was shortened by a neck injury, knows about risks and rewards. If a lineman misses a block, Irvin says, it could go unnoticed.

“If you drop that ball out there, everybody knows: ‘Man, Michael blew the game,’ ” Irvin says. “Jackie Smith. Tight end. Dropped the ball. That’s the only thing I know of him, because he had it right here in his hands. Now, you make the play… The Catch. Everybody remembers it.”

It’s what separates Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith, who dropped a touchdown pass in a loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIII but otherwise had a Hall of Fame career, and 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, whose last-minute TD beat Dallas in the 1982 NFC championship game.

Clayton caught 79 touchdown passes from Dan Marino, yet says he never felt more pressure than when Marino threw one encore ball to him to end his Hall of Fame induction speech last month. Still, Clayton celebrated that catch with a few simple high-fives.

“These cats now, these are a different breed of receiver than we were,” Clayton says. “They’re way more flamboyant … I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”

Jets coach Herm Edwards, a former defensive back, wonders if perception has changed more than receivers.

“You go back to the days I played in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you had guys like that, but the TV coverage wasn’t so immense,” Edwards says.

Perception plays a role. Joe Horn’s image was as the showboat who pulled a hidden cellphone from a goalpost, but that might be changing as he poignantly speaks of the Saints trying to give fans “some kind of hope” after Hurricane Katrina.

Even Owens has a flip side. He’s auctioning his NFC championship ring from last season on eBay to raise money for Katrina victims.

Isn’t this what divas do, keep you guessing? Maybe it just takes a diva to know a diva.

“Everybody’s got a little bit of diva deep down inside,” diva Kristen Bentley says. “We all want to be that star.”

Bentley is president of Chrome Divas Inc., a 1,000-member group of motorcycle-riding women (although by day she’s a 32-year-old court reporter in Tallahassee).

Bentley says Owens chalks up diva points for the Sharpie, but what clinches his position as leader of the pack is the “Chocolate Room,” his chocolate-colored VIP lounge that requires an electronic pass code for entry.

The Chocolate Room is in his house in Atlanta. Owens is single.

“I wonder what kind of chocolate he has in there,” Bentley says. “If he has Godiva chocolate, now, he’s a diva.”

If it’s Russell Stover?

“You don’t need an entry code for that,” Bentley says.

Former All-Pro receiver Cris Collinsworth welcomes women into this equation. Collinsworth cringes at the soap opera between Owens and his quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

“Probably more than anything else, he needs a wife, honestly,” Collinsworth said last week on HBO’s Costas Now. “If he had a wife, the minute he takes after Donovan McNabb, his wife would have said, ‘What are you doing? Pick up the telephone and call him and apologize. You’re so out of line.’ ”

To which fellow panelist Tim Russert said, “Of course, if he had a wife he would say, ‘Honey, you’re lucky to have me.’ ”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.