By Rich Cordaway
A blown out elbow or knee usually causes a grimace, or at least a wince, from fantasy owners who have the misfortune of having this happen to a player on their team. Not from me, though. Whether it’s my guy or not, you’ll see me with a big grin on my face. Why? Because I follow an old billionaire’s advice:
“Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.”
This type of contrarian thinking is not for everybody. If you like “looking good” for your competitors, then you should probably just go along with the herd and dump, or stay away from the injured player. On the other hand, if you enjoy going against the grain, putting it out there, and making moves that require some balls, then pay attention.
When a certain type of athlete suffers a major, career-threatening injury, not only will they come back, they will come back stronger and better. Allow me to explain . . .
Not all injured athletes improve their game. Only one’s who are Drive Athleteswill. These are athletes who don’t play the game for the money (although it’s an outstanding perk). They play to win. And to win, they need to be playing at their peak, which only happens with the right attitude. The principle behind all Drive Athletes is they are focused on what they are able to do, not what they are unable to do. It’s a mindset. And a conscious one at that.
The Larry Bird Story– In Larry’s autobiography titled, you guessed it, Drive, he talks about how when he was in tenth grade he injured his leg and wasn’t able to play ball for almost the entire season. He couldn’t even practice shooting because he couldn’t jump at all. So what did he do? Work on his passing, which up until that point had been mediocre. Here’s a reminder of just how much that practice paid off:
Another basketball player who just suffered a seemingly devastating injury but will come back stronger is Derrick Rose. The fact that he was injured on his “go-to move” of exploding into the lane to either shoot or pass will not be lost on him. He’ll still be able to do it. But not as frequently or as explosively.
So something else has to improve:
- I’ll bet the first couple of months post-surgery when he’s unable to do anything with his lower body, he’ll get stronger in his upper body.
- Rose will also study more tape to become more of a tactician out on the court.
- He’ll learn his teammates’ strengths and weaknesses better to help improve their game once he’s back in charge.
- I even think Rose will focus more on flexibility as a proactive way to avoid further injuries.
He’ll return to the Bulls a more complete basketball player and, more importantly, a better leader. His knee will be fine. His team will win. And he will own multiple rings before his career is over.
In baseball, here are a few players who have had injuries who also possess the characteristics of Drive Athletes:
- Joe Nathan– I have one vivid memory of Nathan right after he blew out his elbow a few years ago: he was on the dugout steps, post-Tommy John surgery, wearing a brace on his elbow cheering on his teammates. He could have been “rehabbing” in Florida, which translates as two hours of physical therapy each day and the rest of the time spent lounging at a pool or beach. Instead, he chose to still be a part of his team and support them in any way possible.
- Adam Wainwright– This former Cy Young runner-up and Tommy John Club Member was yanked after only three innings during a game this past April. What did he do with the extra time? Went back in the clubhouse and studied game tape of his past performances (as far back as ’07) looking for a way to improve. It’s only a matter of time before he puts it all back together.
- Stephen Strasburg– Aside from garnering outstanding praise from an 18 year vet, Strasburg seems to possess a mature attitude at an early age. In a Yahoo! Sports article by Howard Fendrich, Strasburg commented “I worked extremely hard to get back here. And the job isn’t done. I’ve still got a lot to learn, and it’s going to be that way for a while.” The key word being learn. Watch out when he does. Actually, watch out right now!
It’s a no-brainer that all three of these players are on somebody’s roster. You could make a move for them, but that’s not the point. As a fantasy team owner, you have to have your mindset in the right place too. Going along with the herd will simply put you right in the middle of, well . . . the herd.
You have to keep your mind open to the possibility that a major injury to the right type of athlete, a Drive Athlete, is an open door for you to improve your team. This will separate you from the herd which is where champions, by definition, naturally reside.