Talking Points: The Big Orange Dog of Optimism Wants You to Unlearn Helplessness

The Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball team flirted with disaster for much of the game against Louisiana Monroe last night, but eventually pulled away in the second half for an 85-62 victory. How'd they do it? Skylar McBee's career-high 15 points on 5 of 9 three point attempts, in part, but also with body language, staying positive through the bad until something good happened and ignited a positive cycle of momentum in which confidence and success fed each other.

The football Vols have a much more difficult challenge, of course, having been stuck in the stay-positive-through-the-bad phase for much longer than anyone should have to endure. But they are, and they're leveraging anything at their disposal, including a giant ceramic Orange Dog of Optimism (my name, not theirs) as a helpful reminder:

 

The significance of the dog went back to a metaphor Dooley provided the Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) with on Sunday, one day after their worst loss of the season, a 49-7 rout at Arkansas. Along with throwing out the Arkansas film, Dooley told the players to feed the "orange dog," which symbolizes positive thinking, and not the "red dog," which symbolizes negative thinking.

"We get so emotionally invested in the results in our country that it can really sabotage your thinking," Dooley said Monday. "It can sabotage your performance, and it has our team. I don't think there's any question, those teams that you say, 'We just didn't get the breaks and we were close.'

"You're missing that juice, that confidence and every day you wake up, you've got one side that wants to be negative and wants to feel sorry for yourself and wants to make excuses and blame others. Then you've got another side who thinks good thoughts and has a lot of encouragement, is a little more solution-oriented and isn't so emotionally drawn to the results. That's the side we need to feed ourselves with, and that's hard to do, it's hard for all of us."

While we're on the topic of optimism and breaking negative patterns . . . Tony Robbins teaches a form of intentional interruption. In essence, we all have these negative patterns that we subconsciously play over and over again in our lives. They're like movies. Some outside influence triggers the play button, and the whole show is off and running. He suggests identifying what those negative patterns are and then purposely doing something to interrupt the pattern. Re-write the ending with something more intentional and more positive. If Tony Robbins was in charge of helping the football team out of its second half funk, he'd have the Pride of the Southland Band scratch its halftime show and just do the pre-game again. Yeah, let's run through the T for both halves this Saturday. Crazy idea, I know.

Speaking of cool and crazy, Derek Dooley is doing the Chris Farley STUPID STUPID STUPID routine. Tyler Bray's first handful of snaps under center upon returning to practice resulted in pain and multiple botched exchanges. Then Dooley remembered that quarterbacks are allowed to take shotgun snaps:

"It was him putting his hand under, he took the first snap and (grimaced)," Dooley said after practice on Wednesday. "Forget it, back up, that's the end of that. Think about it, the guy has got a broken thumb, so we're going to start every play by doing this — POW! Right? That's real intelligent."

What does that do to the running game, you ask? What running game, I ask? They ought to just pass on every play because that dog won't only not hunt, it won't breathe. Carrion is stubborn like that. But the Big Orange Dog of Optimism is glaring at me, so I'll simply relay that they're still lining the running back up behind the QB in what's known as the Pistol formation, so we're still two dimensional. It's going to be awesome. That was intended to be sarcastic, but now that I look at it, perhaps that's another intentional interruption in something that wasn't going right that could produce something positive. Believe.

Oh, and after going shotgun only, Bray looked good, perhaps even to the point of having Dooley join the rest of us in La-La Land. Bray's presence alone has made the team feel better. Bray, though, credits the Big Orange Dog of Optimism.

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