Baseball Magazine

Fear and Arrogance

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
Given the number of times I have referred to the film Bull Durham, you can probably guess by now that I’m a fan of the movie.  Even though there are some exaggerations in the film, just about every scene has some element of truth to it when it comes to the game of baseball.  In my mind, the best quote of the movie comes towards the end shortly after the young pitcher (Nuke LaLoosh) is called up to the major leagues.  In the locker room prior to leaving, Crash Davis has some words of wisdom on how to succeed in baseball. 
“You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance.”

Fear and Arrogance

Nuke LaLoosh prior to leaviong for "the show."

Fear. Ever see the popular t-shirts that say “No Fear!” on the front?  I’m not a fan of them because, in life and in baseball, every person needs a healthy dose of fear in their mind.  Fear can be a very positive thing if handled correctly.  In baseball, fear keeps us focused.  Fear keeps us looking for ways to get better.  Fear doesn’t allow us to play down to a lower skilled opponent.  Fear causes us to “bring it” every pitch, inning, game, and season.  Fear makes us aware of those who want to take our position and motivates us to not let that happen.  Fear is what brings out the best in us in pressure situations.  On the other hand, too much fear can destroy all of the things mentioned above.  Too much fear keeps us standing still.  It prevents us from unlocking our potential as players.  It gets us looking over our shoulder instead of what’s in front of us.  Sports psychology is not meant to show athletes how to get rid of fear.  It shows players how to manage it correctly and use it to the player’s advantage.

Arrogance.  Like fear, arrogance is easily seen and largely misunderstood.  Arrogance is another word that is mostly defined in the negative.  Ask virtually anyone and they will say they don’t like arrogant people.  But arrogance is very beneficial as well in the proper amount.  Arrogance is what causes a line-up to jump all over the league’s best pitcher.  It causes a closer to enter a game in a jam and blow away the opposing hitters.  It gets an average or below average player to consistently overachieve.  It turns a player with very good skills into a superstar.  It’s the quiet confidence of Cliff Lee in this post HERE.  Also like fear, though, arrogance has another side of the coin.  Too much arrogance gets a player to think his ability alone will carry him forever.  Too much convinces a player that previous success will last forever without the need for constant adjustments.  It makes a player think that lesser opponents will just lay down in awe and just roll over without a fight.  It makes them uncoachable.  It makes players talk a good game and seek to look good but rarely back it up with performance.  When things go wrong, too much arrogance gets players to point to everyone but themselves for the blame.   
All successful people have a healthy dose of both fear and arrogance.  Having the correct amount of both provide people with a system of checks and balances each keeping the other in line.  When players are not playing to potential, it is usually a case where the levels of one or both get out of control.

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