Entries by: Treasure Gutierrez

How the Texans Helped Change the Perception of Mental Health Issues

Written by :
Published on : March 28, 2017

 

Football and masculinity dominate life in Texas. Feelings and emotions in men are tied to a rigid ideology – you don’t show or talk about them because men don’t do that. Likewise, men across the country may have lived under the same social norms that restrict them from showing emotions other than anger. Former Vice Chairman of the Houston Texans, Philip Burguieres said, “I felt that I couldn’t talk about depression, because it seemed like admitting to weakness, or failing.” He further elaborated on this stifling mentality by saying that it is “really hard for…America to accept depression for what it is: a disease.” This fundamental flaw in consciousness reinforces the stigma that men face – if and when they experience a mental health crisis.

 

This is why it was a breakthrough that George W. Bush signed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This bill requires insurance companies to provide mental health services at the same capacity as it does with physical well-being services to group health plans offered by employers. Two years later, the Houston Texans became the first team in the NFL to offer mental health parity to their players and personnel. This happened largely in part because of Burguieres’ bout with depression. It was the first time pro-athletes were offered mental health services under their contracts.

 

 Philip Burguieres used his own experiences to raise awareness about mental health.

 

Former running back for the Texans, Arian Foster, candidly contrasted the difference of using mental health services at his disposal to destructive self-soothing mechanisms. Foster was crumbling under the duality of growing up with domestic abuse coupled with periodically not having enough food to eat. As an adult, he stumbled into the depth of “mo’ money, mo’ problems”, the pressure that players signed to pro-sports teams face, plus career threatening injuries. To cope with the complexity of his internal pain he damaged himself inwardly by heavily relying on drinking because he could not express himself outwardly. He found this “was extremely powerful.”

 

Contrarily, he added “the emotions that you numb you can’t be selective with… you also numb everything good. So I was blocking out a lot of love.” Blocking out love cost him greatly because it ended his first marriage. This downward spiral alongside falling prey to the stigma of asking for help, “it just got to a point where I just threw my hands in the air and I was like: ‘This is going to kill me.” The weight of his emotional and mental issues took a toll on him; however, he adds, “I went and got help and it was the best decision I ever made.”

 

Mental and emotional disorders can manifest as a culmination of unresolved childhood issues that cross over into adulthood, others have a genetic predisposition to them, or others have both environmental and genetic vulnerabilities to mental disorders. The point is that the range of depressive, personality, anxiety, dissociative, eating, obsessive, substance use, sleep, sexual dysfunction, etc., mental disorders of any kind carry the capacity to self-destruct a CEO of a football team, pro athlete or regular person. Mental disorders are part of a collective human experience. In that sense, we can mirror the Texans and work through our feelings by owning up to them rather than let them diminish the sense of self and will to live.

 

 Arian Foster is the Texans all-time leading rusher and has battled with mental health issues.

 

Surprisingly, it did not cost the Texans more money to cover mental health. Burguieres said, “We have found no increase in our costs for mental health parity… It’s pretty simple. People who have access to mental health programs are healthier employees.” This revelation was highlighted by the reality that serious mental health conditions totaled more than $193 billion in lost earnings per year before the 2008 bill. Sick leave and absenteeism impacted team expenses more than covering mental health costs.

 

Football players are revered for their physicality, intellect on the field, and their remarkable performances that defy average human force. It takes a lot to make men of this caliber admit that they are overwhelmed by feelings and emotions, but in doing so they are paving the way toward a greater social consciousness. Real men in Texas or anywhere are strong enough to confront issues that cause them emotional distress. In the words of Mr. Rogers, “if we… can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable we will have done a great service for mental health.”  The example the Texans have set will help usher in a new era where mental health and mental health services are no longer taboo. People who need help can get the type of care that they deserve to preserve their sense of dignity and self-worth.

 

In loving memory of Philip Burguieres and Mr. Rogers.

 

 


Skydiving Rookies

Written by :
Published on : June 3, 2016

 

Skydiving. It was the morning after, and when I looked at the sky I smiled as the memories of what happened midair replayed in my head.

 

A few buddies, my boyfriend and I decided to “voluntarily jump out of a perfectly good airplane” months ago. We waited a while to do it because we wanted to make sure that the five of us were available to jump on the same day. Not was this the first time any of us had ever skydived, but it was also my first time in an airplane. Regardless, the skydive tandem jump was set for Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 9am. We opted for a 13,000ft jump that features 60 seconds of free fall! We figured we’d eventually do the higher jump of 18,000ft, which is the maximum height for skydiving in the US. Another thing that is noteworthy is that student discounts are available. Our otherwise useless student IDs saved us $20 per person.

 

We left LA at 6am for Skydive Santa Barbara, which is located in Lompoc, near the UCSB campus. Before we arrived, just 14 miles away from our destination, we got a speeding ticket for going 20 over the limit. The limit was 55, but we never saw the sign telling us that. The officer didn’t care and cited us anyway. That was the only buzzkill we experienced on an otherwise scenic and beautiful drive. The anger from the ticket nearly rivaled the nerves and disbelief of what we were about to do.

 

TreasureSkydive
                                                        Me (left) and a few members of my skydiving crew.

 

After we finally arrived, we signed our lives away on liability waivers in case our chutes didn’t deploy while simultaneously watching a tutorial video. The website suggested that we prepare ourselves to wait half-a-day to jump because of the crowds, but when I asked how long it would take I was told we’d only wait about 20 minutes. This change in the plan made my heart drop before I even saw the plane. The wait was sped up by the fact that we booked an early morning jump, which was scheduled right before a party of 15 UCSB students on summer break. They wanted our small group of five out quickly to make room for the ensuing crowd.

 

The waiting area was fun! There was a foosball table which we used to kill time, and our nerves. There was also a couch to lounge on, water, a restroom, and a T-shirt stand. The waiting area is also where the harnesses are strapped to skydivers and where the chutes are packed into the packs that the instructors wear on jumps. After we got bored with the foosball table, I remember obsessively looking at the chute packers, hoping like hell our chutes were properly packed.

 

Sense of humor is a great thing, but as someone who never boarded a plane before, I had trouble connecting to my funny bone. I was filtering out jokes the guy who strapped us in was telling and only focused on the instructions. We were told to tip our heads back, push our hips forward, kick our legs back to tap our instructors’ butts as we jumped off the plane, and to wait for the instructor to tap our shoulders so we could let our arms free in the free fall. Simple enough, yet I greatly feared I’d screw it up by blanking out when the moment finally arrived.

 

Skydive

 

The night before the jump, our party planned the order in which we would take the leap. The day of, we realized that was a cute and pointless gesture. We jumped in the order we boarded the plane, which violated my wishes to go first. Before I go any further, let me just clarify that the aircraft itself is a well engineered, efficient, and smooth ride, but I was not pleased. I ended up going second to last, which was traumatizing. I saw my friends and boyfriend go before me, which only intensified my nerves. Not only do your friends drop quickly, but by the time you’re up you can’t see them anymore! I saw the land beneath us and the Santa Barbara coastline, and that was it. I also realized I hate the feeling of being in an airplane, so right before my instructor and I jumped I swore I’d only travel by ship, train, or car.

 

So we’re up on the edge of the plane and my instructor says “Okay, Treasure, don’t forget to kick your legs up to my butt,” he holds my head back and we jumped out of the plane with my hands clutching my harness. Thoughts running through my head were “Oh hell no! I hate that feeling of that first drop on a roller coaster.” That feeling only lasted a second and the rest was just shock and awe and the haunting feeling of “oh, crap, what have I done???” I was traveling downward with such velocity that the drop itself produced a loud sound—I wanted ear plugs. All of a sudden the instructor tapped my shoulder, so I let go of the harness while still in free fall, which felt even freakier while staring at the earth from above. When the chute was finally deployed I felt an instant sense of calm and excitement. We were finally floating along in midair: this must be what a bird feels. It was amazingly graceful, surreal, and freeing. My instructor was very easygoing, so I felt safe and happy to be paired up with him. So to you, Casey, once again: thank you so much for an incredibly unforgettable experience!

 

My overall thoughts are I am a complaining brat and there’s only one way to atone for this. I must jump again. 18,000 feet, we’re coming for you!

 

 


ScoreBoredSports NFL Staff Picks: Conference Championship

Written by :
Published on : January 20, 2016

 

 

 

Football is not stupid. It is unpredictable.

 

 

I came in dead last with my regular season picks, which serves me right since my picks weren’t based on anything other than a false gut feeling about which teams would win games.

 

In the postseason, however, I redeemed my shameful last staff member standing and am now in a three-way tie with Bruno and Ryan. And just when I began to feel like a cool kid, I hit a wall.

 

It was helpful to look at the regular season standings to pick teams in the postseason, but this technique wasn’t so helpful in determining which team would take the Conference Championships. The Broncos and the Patriots are both 12-4 in the regular season, which makes this mutually assured destruction with pigskin.

 

I have no idea who to pick.  Thanks to South Park‘s Eric Cartman, I know the Patriots will stop at nothing to win even if that means cheating and stealing. For some reason I cannot explain, my gut says Peyton Manning will win it. It’s the right thing to do. My boyfriend has appealed to my emotions by telling me that the former Trojan and current QB for the Cardinals, Carson Palmer, is likely to retire this season or the next. He says it would be nice to see Palmer win a ring before his playing days are over. I say of course! He must fight on for ‘ol SC and it would be cool to see. If that were to happen, and if the Broncos win their Conference game, then the Super Bowl would be a battle of the veterans between Manning and Palmer. I’m not a big fan, but football, you’ve now got my attention.

 

It seems that these upcoming Conference games are toughies and promise to be good shows.

 

So who takes the Conference Championships? I’ve called it for the Broncos, but I’m debating wether I’ll change my mind and call Alex last minute and say the Patriots! As a Trojan, I’m going with the Cardinals.

 

Here are your ScoreBoredSports NFL Playoff staff picks for the AFC/NFL Conference Championship:

 

Conference Championships

 

 

Divisional Round

Wild Card

 

 


ScoreBoredSports NFL Staff Picks: Week 8

Written by :
Published on : October 28, 2015

 

I may be the only football illiterate person on the staff. My wisdom for the weekly NFL Staff Picks is based on which place I’d rather live in, and random tidbits I pick up by listening to announcers.

 

Recently, I heard football spectators commenting on the Seahawks. They argued that they are not offensively ready to go on a winning streak following the royal beating they gave to the 49ers last week. My pick for the Seahawks was justified by Pete Carroll’s trajectory in USC football’s glory years. Trojans stick by each other, which is why I was rooting for him, not the team.

 

Anyway, I was struck by a comment in an email from Alex; “football is stupid.” While making my choices for the week 8 picks, certain thoughts came to mind: I barely watch NFL games, but my picks are doing alright; average at worst and better than I expected. Considering my success in making picks for the first time ever, I’ll wait to till the end of the season to confirm or deny if football is stupid.

 

 

Week 8

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

 

 


NHL Overtime Change

Written by :
Published on : July 30, 2015

Teams don’t carry the same roster year after year, and the world hockey is always evolving. The consistency is that the structure of the game stays the same, but even that is up for review from time to time. The NHL Board of Governor’s approved a change in OT game play which reduces the players from 4-4 to 3-3 beginning in October for regular season games that force overtime. The same shootout rules apply if neither team scores a goal.

 

The 3-3 overtime posits that there will be no less than 3 men on the ice for the duration of overtime. In the case of having a penalty carry over from regulation the teams will begin overtime at 4-3. Conversely, if a penalty is drawn in overtime, the team on the power play gains another man on the ice for a 4-3 advantage, and if an additional penalty is taken the teams will see an odd-man rush of 5-3. Offensively speaking, teams are allowed to pull their goaltender for an extra attacker; however, they risk forfeiting the point they’ve earned by taking the game to overtime.

 

GM’s and players agree that the 3-3 change would increase goals scored in overtime, ending games in this period rather than the shootouts. Coaches are free to strategize how their teams will face overtime and can get creative by having one defenseman and two forwards or two defensemen and one forward with their respective goal tenders. As a Kings fan the shootouts have gone from thrilling to dreadful, so it’s exciting to see that this rule is set to showcase the game, the creativity of coaches, intellect of the players, and what they can produce with more space on the ice.

 

I love that the push to change the NHL overtime format was influenced by OT play in the AHL. The AHL saw 75 percent of overtime games be settled within the sudden death period when the teams went from 4-4 to 3-3 three minutes into their 7 minute overtime period. The NHL Board of Governors was wise to approve changing the format to 3-3, because out of 306 overtime games last season only 136 were of them were decided in overtime. The obvious benefit to having fewer men on the ice is the game more efficient and it preserves the game’s fast paced essence. It keeps hockey authentic and truer to itself a lot more than the shootout rounds ever do.

 

 

Shootouts are labeled “exciting,” but it’s hard to see them as such. The three round format is a bit anti-climactic especially if teams have injury-laden rosters that force coaches to shuffle through players that will hopefully score goals. Additionally, the shootout rounds strip away the feel of watching a live game. It’s almost like attending a practice where you’re watching your team warm-up rather than playing to earn two points. The ugly truth is that if shootouts are occurring it’s because your team failed to deliver in regulation and overtime, so by the time the shootouts begin you’re already feeling disappointment, inadequacy, and if you’ve got a short fuse like me you’re angrily shouting obscenities at your TV or at the game. I’m hopeful that the 3-3 overtime change will not only rejuvenate hockey after regulation, but that it will neutralize the dark feelings that arise in people when teams force overtime.

 

As we speak there are only 69 days left until hockey starts and the LA Kings will begin the season against the SJ Sharks on October 7, 2015. With the bad blood and rivalry these teams have built over the years I could not think of a better match to debut the 3-3-overtime format change. In the months leading up to this season opener game an old quote from Drew Doughty comes to mind, “We want to beat this team. Especially this team, the San Jose Sharks.” I remember an old colleague once proudly boasted that his SJ Sharks had made the playoffs 19 out of 24 seasons to which I said that is an admirable accomplishment, but it’s still no Stanley Cup.

 


How I Became a Kings Fan and Fell in Love With The NHL

Written by :
Published on : July 17, 2015

My earliest memories of sports were that they were boring. As a first generation Honduran/Salvadorian American my initial exposure to sports was soccer on TV. I never understood the matches and found them to be excruciatingly long. They would enslave my biological father to the tube so my weekend afternoons had me wishing I were out somewhere having fun like the rest of the kids.

Unfortunately my father was not an adequate one, so my indifference to the sport was because I associated soccer with my negative feelings toward him. Can you say damaged? I’ve worked all that out in therapy. El futbol , soccer, or football for my Europeans out there is fine by me, but my true love in the sports world does not involve a field of grass.

The road to find my love in pro sports took 18 years. Throughout the years I dabbled in the sports world because I wanted to feel the rush, energy, love, and passion of being a fan. That hometown pride. I dabbled in the NBA by cheering for the Lakers in their 1999-2000 season when they beat Reggie Miller and the Pacers to break a 12-year championship drought. It was so exhilarating to feel a sense of dominance and accomplishment for my hometown of Los Angeles.

I remember how charismatic that roster was with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry, Rick Fox (he was and still is so beautiful), and Derek Fisher on the team. They were truly sensational to watch; however, I did not feel an immense love for the Lakers. Not even after the three-peat Championship era that followed. I felt like I liked it but it was not love.  I followed basketball throughout junior high and high school and although it was not my true love I recognize that the game continued every single season uninterrupted.  Conversely, the disruption of another major sport lead me to my soul’s true counterpart in pro sports.

Following the 2004-05 lockout, the Staples Center gave away tickets to for an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim before the 2005-’06 season officially started. Live games were something I was not used to, so this was not only a new sport to delve into, but a whole new experience altogether. The sight of the ice as we entered the Staples Center was electrifying, plus the cool breeze from it gave a higher sense of realness to the game. It was also a culture shock considering there isn’t much of a use for a jacket in September. But there I was September 17, 2005 seated up in the nosebleeds, letting the speed, adrenaline, and aggression of the hockey world bewilder me. I had no idea what the rules were, names of players, and even up to now that first game is blur in my mind—I only remember the important parts: the fights and that the Kings won which was perfect because by default they were my team. I was a newborn L.A. Kings fan.

I began watching Kings games on TV but also watched other NHL teams to continue absorbing hockey. My next live game was January 19, 2006, which had the Kings playing the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) in the Staples Center. By then I knew my roster, positions, penalties, and Kings history so I walked in a more confident fan. Additionally, I knew that Luc Robitaille was the highest scoring left winger in the game.  He was just a few goals shy of breaking the record for most goals scored by a Kings player. I found myself up in the nosebleeds admiring Marcel Dionne’s retired jersey. I remember wondering if this night would have me witnessing the history of Robitaille breaking his franchise record of 550 goals. And the moment came. I was there to witness the 551st goal ever scored by our alternate captain, Luc Robitaille. Out of excitement I hugged my hockey comrade who showed up to the game with me, high fived random people in the crowd, and felt a rush of momentum and energy from the venue. Before that I thought hockey was very cool, but after witnessing this moment I was hooked.  At the end of the ’05-’06 season I did something I never did with the NBA—I kept up with post-season signings, trades, and other league news. I realized that not only do I love this team, but I love the sport. I wanted to know as much as I could about the NHL.

 


To this day I am a proud Kings fan. Six years passed before I saw the Kings hoist the greatest trophy in all of sports, Lord Stanley’s Cup. In total I have been with this organization for 10 years and have seen 3 coaches, 3 captains, and 2 Stanley Cups. I love that the first hockey team in California was set in Los Angeles and that Kings were the first to win the Stanley Cup twice in this state. We have no real winters so the fact that hockey has thrived in California with the Kings greatly speaks of the impact and lure of the sport. The Great One’s era with the team is another of the many highlights in Kings history. With all this pride for my home team it’s funny that I found sports boring once upon a time, because now it’s me who is enslaved to the tube watching a game.


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