Plays of the Panther, and Other Mind Games

In games of spin, it's the arenas of politics, business and entertainment that thrive on plays of influence. Less so in sports where laws of physics trump rules of rhetoric.

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But there is overlap. Consider the mind games that frequent fields of play:

THE COACH of a favored team who heaps praise on the underdog. The play is a red herring, a sandbagger's attempt to manage what goes on the rival's dart board.

THE CATCHER who whispers to the hitter, "Here comes the heat." It's a ping to make him question the fastball that's coming... or not.

THE END ZONE celebration where a scoring player mimes a superhero. It's a screen on strength and invincibility -- all to enlarge the player's legend and weaken the opponent's resolve.

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