Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shawn Chacon Diagnosed with NPO Affliction

One should think that it would take more than a 2-3 win-loss record and a 5.04 ERA to excuse even a million-dollar athlete for a two-point, by-the-neck, take down of his own general manager in which he hurled him to the floor of the team's dining room during the pregame meal.

That is generally not the proper decorum one would expect to be observed by an employee being paid $2 million a year, who has had only checkered success on four different teams in four years.

No, it's not at all what you expect, unless perhaps the individual is Shawn Chacon, who suffers from NPO -- what psychiatrists have defined as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Evidently the 30-year-old, former Astros right-hander was indignant about being removed from the Rangers starting rotation last week and being relegated to the job of long reliever or -- less generously -- mop-up man. So much was he insulted that he refused to see the team manager in his office; so much so, that he refused to see the general manager, Ed Wade, in his office.

So, Wade decided, regrettably, to admonish the player, at virtually Chacon's own insistance, in public in front of the team. The rest is history.

Chacon is in the unemployment line and rightfully so. It is axiomatic that -- no matter if you are a U.S. senator, chairman of the board of IBM, or a burger flipper at Mickey-Ds -- you never grab the boss by the neck.

This story will be filed in the annals of famous sports anecdotes (read: gaffs) which fans and sportswriters will talk about for years.

The compelling question remains, why would a player snap? Why would an athlete with such tremendous talents, gifts and abilities, a millionaire, at the top of the sports pyramid, commit such a boneheaded ands egregious move?

Riddle me this: what does Shawn Chacon, Milton Bradley, Elijah Dukes, Julio Lugo, and Delmon Young all have in common? Yup, they all play baseball and have trouble responding to authority. Add into the mix a few other notorious sports figures like Latrell Spreewell, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Adam "Pac-man" Jones, Dion Sanders, Allen Iverson, Jermain O'Neil, Andre Rison, Michael Vick, Warren Sapp, Bill Romanowski, Brian Bosworth, Dennis Rodman...the list goes on and on, a group colloquially labeled with a certain eight-letter word beginning with the letter 'a' and ending with the word-root 'holes'.

All are terrific athletes with enormous athletic talent and potential for winning titles for their teams, breaking individual records, and entering the Hall of Fame, but for some reason elect a different path; path of controversy, contentiousness, trouble with management, trouble with the law, trouble with substance abuse, domestic violence; and, trouble with the fan base as well as the front office.

It's very sad, very sad. It's very disquieting. It's also very normal.

Here is verifiable proof of the paradoxical reality that horses asses outnumber horses, with all these guys simply representing a subsegment of the normal population (with traits to some extent shared by each and every one of us) burdened by some degree of personality disorder.

We all have something. Most of us can keep the lid on it, some of us cannot. In particular, the crowd herein, we believe, actively display the narcissistic type of personality disorder. According to Moore & Jefferson (Handbook of Medical Psychiatry, 2nd ed. 2004 Mosby, Inc.) people with a narcissistic personality disorder see themselves as superior to others, regardless of their actual achievements in life.

They feel entitled to admiration and expect that others will defer to their wishes. Relationships are valued only insofar as they enhance these people’s self-esteem; they have little capacity for empathy or any true interest in the well-being of others.

These individuals tend to be very sensitive to criticism, or even a hint of criticism. If humiliated, they may react with overt rage; more often, however, they mask their reaction with an attitude of lofty indifference, as if what others think actually makes no difference to them. Narcissistic traits may first occur in childhood; during adolescence they gradually coalesce into a stable symptom complex.

Individuals such as Shawn Chacon have a lofty opinion of themselves; they see their accomplishments as admirable and often indulge in daydreams or fantasies of glory, power, or idealized love.

Personal defects are not tolerated. Grooming, dress, and makeup capture large amounts of time and must be impeccably done. The grand gesture is preferred, and entrances and exits are preferably done with a flourish.

These people regard themselves as omniscient and omnipotent; they rarely permit themselves to stoop to ask others for assistance. Narcissists tend to gravitate toward those whom, in one way or another, reflect their grandiose image of themselves. The company of other “ideal creatures” is often quite satisfactory, yet if any fault is found within these acquaintances, they are discarded as unworthy.

Admirers are tolerated, perhaps even welcomed at times, but are quickly discarded should any criticism be offered. Others are exploited for what they can do for the narcissistic person; of themselves they seem to have little value. Narcissists do not have truly reciprocal relationships with others. They may be socially correct, even polite, yet they are perceived as frosty and distant.

They seem to lack a capacity for sympathy or intimacy. Should an acquaintance be in need, their only motive for offering help would be to demonstrate their own power. These people do not make “anonymous” gifts of time or money and are rarely willing to sacrifice anything of their own.

People with narcissistic personality disorder do not tolerate unfavorable comparison with others. Should another’s achievements seem to shine more brightly, these people may become intensely envious, even enraged, and often attempt to belittle or devalue the accomplishments of others.

Should this fail to salve their wounded self-esteem, they often seek revenge. If any degree of criticism seems to touch them to the mortal quick; a vicious counterattack may occur, or, if that appears unlikely to succeed, they may withdraw from the field with a cold regal disdain and contempt for their opponents.

Others often feel exploited and manipulated by a narcissistic person. They feel as if they are regarded as mere pawns in the narcissist’s life and, often in short order, come to regard the narcissist as abrasive and arrogant.

Unfortunately, this disorder is chronic and lifelong; with age, however, the clinical picture may change. They are often intolerant of the inevitable decline that comes with age and often develop lingering, mild depressive symptoms. Social and occupational complications follow inevitably from the symptoms of this disorder. The inability to love another or to form a friendship leaves these people with a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Work may or may not suffer. If the narcissistic person happens to be talented, then the drive for admiration and praise may lead to brilliant success. However, should the narcissist happen to have only a normal complement of abilities, the inability to ask for or accept help leaves the narcissist stumbling and failing to accomplish what others, who can work cooperatively, are able to do.

Although theories abound, nothing is known with certainty regarding the cause of narcissistic personality disorder. Moreover, four other personality disorders may at times enter into the differential diagnosis: antisocial, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, and borderline -- each with it's own set of characteristic beliefs and modes of conduct, well beyond the scope of this report.

Patients with narcissistic personality disorder have been treated with individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and family therapy, and each method has anecdotally been reported as successful. However, no controlled outcomes studies have been carried out. Apart from treating intercurrent disorders, especially depression, pharmacologic treatment is of no avail. It is as such for Chacon and the rest. They lack the capacity to see themselves as others see them and have a penchant to flush their teams, their careers, and livelihoods down the loo. There is little anybody can do about it.