Happy feet, the yips, and the twisties

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when Simone Biles, the greatest woman gymnast, pulled out of a lot of the Olympic competition because she had the “Twisties.” I had never heard of such a thing, and I thought that the Olympic pressure just got to her. Then, I listened to several other Olympians who have experienced the same thing: losing your orientation and the amount of twists you have done in the air. It is sort of a mental block, or lapse. This causes a complete loss of confidence in oneself. That’s the Twisties. I can’t imagine anything worse than being high in the air and losing where you are in rotation, or in a flip! So, I owe an apology to Simone Biles, and want to congratulate her for having the guts to not compete in the biggest stage of her career. I am sure she wanted to, but realized she may jeopardize the whole team. That is how to be a team player, doing what is best for everyone.

This “twisty” thing got me to thinking about this malady in other sports. In golf, the “Twisties” are called the “Yips.” The yips are a putting problem that no one wants! It is when you just can’t pull the trigger on a putt because of lack of confidence in what you are doing. Bernhard Langer, the great German golfer was the most notable to have them. He had them so bad that he actually thought of quitting the game. He was saved by being one of the first golfers to go to the long putter. Ernie Els, David Duvall, Sam Snead, and the great Harry Vardon had them. Keegan Bradley once missed a 6-inch putt at the 2013 Byron Nelson classic he had them so bad! I play golf and I have seen some amateurs who have the yips…it ain’t pretty! You would think that rolling a ball a foot and a half would not be a big deal, but if you have the yips, it could look like 50 feet to you! Some golfers recover from this, and some never do and just quit the game.

One of the worst cases of this sort of malady football quarterbacks can get is “Happy Feet.” Happy Feet usually happen to quarterbacks that have a good year throwing the ball, but are constantly getting sacked, or hit, while doing so. This causes the quarterback to think about the pain they are getting after 1 or 2 years of this beating. It gets in their head, and they lose all fundamentals, they just want the ball out of their hands before they get clobbered! They choose to run out of bounds, bounce around in the pocket, never getting their feet set, causing poor throwing fundamentals, and throwing the ball early (usually causing an interception) or throwing it out of bounds. It mostly happens on teams with bad offensive lines. That is why I hope the Bengals can solve that problem because several of their quarterbacks have developed “Happy Feet” in the past. (David Klingler comes to mind). Klingler was sacked 10 times in his first pro game against the Steelers! That right there is enough to shake up anyone. In his three years with the Bengals, he was sacked 82 times! Ouch! No wonder his career was short due to injury. Joe Burrow took a beating in his first year too, and was not able to finish the season. (Ask Randy Breaden and Dale Ary if I did not predict that!) He is due back, looking good in practice, but that first hit in their first game can cause terrible flashbacks for the young star (the Bengals could be decent this year…if they can keep Joe upright!) Let’s hope Joe can fight off the “Happy Feet” syndrome!

Being a professional athlete is a hard job, requiring a lot of physical and mental exertion. The mental part of the games are often forgotten, but they have ruined many great athlete’s futures. Simone Biles and Bernhard Langer recovered (Simone did compete in the balance beam and won a bronze medal). Keegan Bradley did too by going to the longer putter. David Klingler was considered a bust, although I think that is absolutely wrong considering the beating he took that amounted to injuries shortening his career. Will Joe Burrow be able to forget his first year and the injury? I hope so. I really rag on the Bengals a lot, but in reality, I wish them well. (I just don’t care for the Bengals management). Hopefully, athletes that get these maladies overcome them so we mere mortals can enjoy watching their excellence some more. In the words of the PGA tours advertisements “THESE GUYS ARE GOOD!” and all pro athletes are good, for sure! That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.