Visualization could be sight for sore eyes

August 31, 2007|By RICK MAESE

The losses continue to mount. A baseball nation laughs as a baseball clubhouse weeps. Fans can't eat, players can't sleep and the Orioles just can't win.

There is hope, though. There is reason for optimism. As the Orioles take their nine-game losing streak on the road, I've figured out how to snap them out of this funk. I've found the secret! Or more accurately, The Secret.

You've heard about The Secret, right? It has been featured on Oprah and spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Wikipedia calls it a cultural phenomenon, which sounds pretty legit to me. It's a school of positive thinking built around the Law of Attraction - yes, we're getting technical here, so roll up your intellectual new-age sleeves - wherein one's thoughts can control the entire universe.

(I know what you're thinking, and it's true - I probably should've mentioned this handy little technique back in April. My bad.) Figuring better late than never (and fearful the Orioles could extend their losing streak into 2008), I called up John Assaraf, best-selling author of The Street Kid Guide's to Having It All, who was featured prominently in The Secret DVD. I begged him for tips on how the Orioles could use The Secret to turn things around.

Just as I suspected, it turns out the Orioles are not losing because the bullpen is as dependable as Wal-Mart jewelry, not because of any All-Star shortstops who suddenly have the defensive prowess of a tree stump and not because a late-inning lead is about as safe as an M&M at a Weight Watchers meeting. This is a team that's losing the mental game.

"When you have a losing streak, what you're doing is giving your brain the message to focus on the losing," said Assaraf, chief executive officer of OneCoach, a motivational coaching service for the business sect. "The more you focus on what you don't want, the more instruction you're giving your brain to seek out more of the same. The brain is very literal, and as a batter or a pitcher thinks, `How can I get out of this?' you're actually giving your brain the message to stay in the slump."

I love this idea of controlling the universe with my mind, and the concept is getting love from folks such as Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Larry King. I'm not positive Oprah can hit a curveball, but the goal is the same - visualize something positive and it can happen.

That seems impossible if you've observed the Orioles play baseball, and it's apparently even more difficult if you're physically playing baseball for the Orioles. (For me, I've been visualizing a burrito, which hasn't really helped with much of anything.)

Look, laugh if you want, but this stuff worked for Oprah, so I think Jim Hoey can afford to pay attention, too. I know it's tough to believe, and you probably think I've choked on my crystals, but people are controlling the universe - the universe - with their minds, so I think it's possible for the Orioles to break out of a little slump.

"Anytime we have a thought, if we're focusing on a bad game, a bad pitch, a few bad games, we're actually releasing the thalamus in the brain," Assaraf says. "It actually produces a chemical that is the exact same chemical as the negative thought. Then you have a doom loop, as we call it."

Funny because the Doom Loop is what the rest of us call the Orioles' pitching rotation.

Of course, it's probably much easier to think about moving forward when you aren't constantly reminded of your recent failures. "It's been one of the roughest weeks of my career," reliever Jamie Walker told The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec yesterday. "If anybody says that they are getting sleep, they're full of it."

The Orioles are running out of options and really should embrace some positive thinking. Instead, the relievers are admitting they have no confidence on the mound. The veterans are saying they're embarrassed. And the manager, a born optimist, might be realizing his dream job is more like a nightmare. What do they have to lose (except several more games)?

Assaraf explains that baseball is like life - which I think he stole from the Bible ... or maybe from Chico Escuela - and that we're all going to experience profound and prolonged periods of winning and periods of slumping. You can't break out of something if you're dwelling on it, though.

"We get addicted to the highs and the lows," he says. "Your brain is addicted to emotion. ... What you need is to find pattern interruption. If you think about a pitcher pitching and not doing well, you break the pattern of the game by bringing in a new pitcher. It's the exact same process that needs to be done."

Sounds simple enough, right? So, don't watch last night's game footage; envision tomorrow night's highlights. Let go of the nine-game losing streak; plan the one-game winning streak.

Maybe Oprah can save the Orioles. Maybe The Secret can really work. All the team has to do is stop thinking of the season as a whole, and instead break it down into a Million Little Pieces, instead of a million repeated misses.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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