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When players "tank": A form of depression

Hi Raider Nation. In this post I wanted to give you a little bit of clinical information as a way to add variety to these posts, hope you enjoy it. Also, after experiencing some of the depth of your football knowledge, I thought that some clinical stuff might add to your already unfathomable football wizardry. So, what's tanking? Generally, we can say that the players begin to feel bad over losing so badly that they just sort of freeze up. When players feel bad or saddened like that, it appears that tanking is a form, or category, of depression. Note how I say form or category: depression is categorized depending on the circumstances and severity of the depression, and there is much overlap across these categories. For example, the elderly often show depression as mental dullness, lethargy, lack of motivation, and so on, while children tend to show it as irritability and hostility, and both the young and the old may show it either way. Major depression is categorized as mild, moderate, and severe, whereby in mild major depression people tend to cry a lot, but the severely depressed need to be watched because they might commit suicide. Dysthymia is a category of depression in which people sort of have the blahs or the blues over 50% of the time over a 2 year span. There are other forms which I won't review here. About 3 in 4 people who are treated for depression also experience some form of anxiety. Anxiety is most basically described as nervousness as opposed to sadness in depression. Some forms of anxiety are extremely devastating. Consider agoraphobia, which is a disorder in which people are afraid to leave the house for any number of bizarre reasons. For example, if they leave the house, they might have a contamination phobia where they believe they might get germs that would kill them. These people keep their sinks full of soapy water and may wash their hands 500 times a day! If they don't wash or if they go out of the house they might experience severe panic attacks. Those 25% that have depression without anxiety have the purest form of depression and is called anhedonia. Anhedonia means an inability to experience pleasure or be happy, meaning they can be sad and extremely so. I knew of a clinical patient who had been crying practically nonstop for 14 years! When people experience these forms of emotional disorders they usually require medication along with psychotherapy to help them overcome them. Basically, the problems stem from an imbalance of the chemicals (neurotransmitters) that make the nervous system work properly, and the meds help them recuperate the balance.

I went into some depth in explaining these mood or emotional disorders just so that you can see how ugly or AWFUL they can be and the kind of pain these poor people experience. Although the football players are not going through such traumatic experiences on the field, they are experiencing some symptoms of anxiety and depression when they tank and only the individual players can better tell you the degree of their painful experiences and I believe it is much more painful than what they let show. The combination of anxiety and depression they experience in tanking is more commonly known as demoralization. According to a dictionary published by the American Psychological Association, demoralization is defined as, "a breakdown of values, standards, and mores in an individual or group, such as may occur in periods of rapid social change, extended crises (e.g., war, economic depression), or personal traumas. A demoralized person may be disorganized and feel lost, bewildered, and insecure." So, it is losing in a football game that is the extended crises in which the devaluing process occurs.

Psychologists have produced the tanking or demoralization process in their laboratories. I am going to refer to an experiment conducted by Martin Seligman who is currently a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the theory he proposed from his studies called "Learned Helplessness" as an example of the tanking process. This experiment gets kind of gross, and for the animal lovers out there, rest assured that this is an old experiment and there are many rules and regulations that prohibit psychologists from conducting such experiments nowadays. Seligman placed dogs in a cage in which the floor of the cage was electrically charged. The shock the dogs received was not dangerous, but a shock was induced that was strong enough to cause them pain. When the electricity was first turned on, the dogs would run around and howl while they looked for a way to escape but there was none. After a while, the dogs just sat in a corner and howled and quit trying to escape. It got to the point that as soon as the electricity was turned on, the dogs would not even bother to run around or look for an escape and just howl. After so many times of shocking the dogs, they would just sit there and howl even when the cage door was open, meaning that they were "tanked." Seligman proposed that these dogs had learned to become helpless because they just howl and don't try to escape. It was concluded that because these dogs have learned to become helpless their minds freeze or become clouded so that they cannot think right or develop any solutions to their problems and this is the real negative results of tanking. As horrifying as this experiment was, psychologists learned a lot about how people feel when they are depressed or demoralized, or tanked.

Let's now extend this to football. As Tommy Kelley said that during the first Denver game, he said that after the Raiders had scored 21 points, if the Raiders scored anymore that the Broncos would "give it up and just lay down." Kelley said the same thing after the Raiders scored so many points during the Seahawks game. Kelley knows these symptoms so well because in previous years he has experienced tanking in himself and observed it among the other players. This is a phenomenon that Raider Nation has also witnessed when the Raiders have lost in previous seasons. Note that in learned helplessness, the more time the dogs were shocked they tanked that much sooner at the next shock. This is why as the losing seasons took their toll, the Raiders would seem to tank that much sooner as soon as they believed they were playing bad in an extended self-devaluing crises. Their minds become clouded and cannot think about making successful plays, and would just lay down as Kelley said. Many of the players are new and have not been conditioned to tanking and we might be able to do something about preventing our players from learning how to tank or be helpless as I will explain below.

An example of the damage done was, for example, right after the Jaguars game, Mike Mitchell said that he knew the fans were frustrated and he did not blame them, but right now, he needs the fans more than anything to cheer them on and support them. I interpret Mitchell as saying: Look, my neurotransmitters have been knocked out of balance and these feelings of anxiety and depression are just AWFUL! Please cheer me on anyway so that I can overcome these terrible feelings so that I can think more clearly and play better football for you. It means that much to me that you love me! Doesn't it make so much sense why players like Reece jump into the stands after scoring a touchdown - what a cure for the tanking blues! This is also telling you just how important the 12th man actually is. If game by game the tanking process takes root faster and faster, you can see how meaningful the cheers to your Raiders are even when they lose. This is why half price seats were sold at the KC game, why Death Ro said he was not going to talk until the stadium fills, and why Cable keeps trying to encourage the fans to attend the games because they all know the painful consequences of tanking. You really are an important player here. Cheer them on as you are the important 12th man who actually has the power to help control tanking. This is why I always say, win or lose, my team is MY TEAM, and I will always support and love my Raiders no matter what the outcome because I know that my support actually helps them win games!

Signed, DedicatedPsycho

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