Friday, August 28, 2009

If you'd just stop doing THAT, LJ's attitude would be fine

"Larry Johnson says better supporting cast improves his attitude." That's the headline in the Star. And it's a great headline, because it alerts the reader that, in important ways, absolutely everything that is about to come out of Larry's mouth is wrong.

LJ has an attitude problem. He's had it since the day he showed up, 6 years ago. He had one under Dick Vermeil and a 13-3 season. He had one under Herm Edwards, winning and losing seasons both. He had one when his fellow players were more experienced winners than him, and when they were not. We know he can contain the attitude, if things are done his way. At least until you give him a new contract. And this is where he seems to be today. Everyone else is doing things differently and that has improved his attitude, according to him.

But that's not how attitude problems work. When you've got an attitude problem, you're processing the world through a framework that serves some narrow set of emotional goals. An attitude problem causes you to misinterpret the actions and motives of others. An attitude problem causes you to miss or reject opportunities for constructive engagement that could result in outcomes you claim to want. The symptoms of an attitude problem will fade away if the world just happens to align in a way that satisfies your emotional goals, but the problem hasn't gone away. And those alignments don't last long. Which is why LJ's explanation of the (external) things that have changed his attitude is really just a list of things Larry will blame, other than himself, when life doesn't proceed as he wants it to.

An attitude problem, as I know from personal experience, is the kind of thing that can only be fixed from the inside. Fixing it is neither easy or fun. And just because you have an attitude problem doesn't mean you're not in a bad situation, or that no one else is responsible for fixing problems in the situation. But the bottom line is that your attitude is creating more problems for you than the situation warrants, and only you have the power to fix that.

Sadly, I'm not sure LJ will realize any of this before his NFL career is done. His remarks about his teammates were pretty dismissive (guys off the street who are ok with losing). But they also displayed a very short-term memory. This will be his 7th season with the Chiefs. He's been around plenty of veteran players. Most grating, ok, back to 2nd person -- Larry, you played with Tony Gonzalez! How much more role-modeling do you need to maintain an attitude of professionalism and ambition on a crappy rebuilding team?

The easy prediction is that nothing will come of Larry Johnson's alleged attitude change. For the sake of the fans, I hope I'm wrong. For LJ's sake, well, he spends enough time worrying about that.

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