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Bird at Play: Stare down the bully

If you've been in sports long enough, you've undoubtedly experienced the arch nemesis that just has your number. No matter what you do, you just can't get the edge you need to get over the control they seem to have over you. You could be playing on a better team or playing in a better system, have a better record or better athletes, but when it comes to playing against your nemesis, you just can't get the job done.

There are athletes that carry the persona of invincibility to the point they would start the game or the match with their opponent already at a disadvantage. Just stepping on the court or climbing in to the ring or walking up to the tee box and their opponents would quake in their shoes.

The 2007 New England Patriots mowed down their opponents through their first 18 games like they were playing high schoolers. Opponents began to believe the press clippings and practically mailed in the result before the pregame introductions. All Tom Terrific had to do was put his helmet on over that perfectly coiffed hairdo and his opponents wilted like Marie Osmond on Dancing with the Stars. That is, until David Tyree made arguably the best catch in Super Bowl history.

Long before the Hangover movies, Mike Tyson was known for being the baddest man on the planet. I watched him beat his opponents many times before they even left the locker room. For those that were man enough to walk down that long walkway and climb into the ring to face their destiny, it didn't take long for them to start counting the lights that were burned out as they were lying flat on their backs. But then came Buster Douglas and all that changed. No longer did boxers fear for their lives just by having Tyson line up across the ring from them. They no longer believed in his invincibility and frankly neither did he.

Tiger Woods was the same way. Woods put the fear into his opponents just by showing up. If he was anywhere on the leader board heading in to Sunday, golfers no longer worried about their own scores, but kept a watchful eye on his score as he inevitably worked his way up the leader board to take what everybody thought was rightfully his, the chance to lift the Cup or slide on the Green Jacket. Then came his own demons and that Thanksgiving night and Woods' invincibility went out the window through the cracks opened by his club-wielding wife.

No longer is the person atop the leaderboard nervous when they see Woods's name creeping up behind them. Adam Scott is talking more about his own game than what putts Woods is missing, something that never would have happened only a few years ago.

No one is so good that they are invincible. All it takes is for someone to stare down the bully and magical things can happen. Each of us has it in us to be that person or that team that others fear in the heat of competition. As English Novelist George Orwell once said, "Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible".

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