Commentary

Confidence can be an infectious riff

Originally Published: January 19, 2011
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

The word "confidence" may very well get bandied around too much when it comes to everyday life. It's not something that I think should be taken lightly if you think about the larger impact of what confidence will help bring you in life. If you take just one guy, things such as playing NFL football, writing songs or creating a relationship with your workmates all stand better when a good dose of confidence is parlayed into something better for all.

[+] EnlargeRick Nielsen, Slash
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesJay Cutler has shown traits of Rick Nielsen, left, and Slash, right, at different times this season.

With any rock band that I have been with, it has been my experience that a good dose of confidence in one guy can and will in fact make the whole group better. If one guy starts to excel on his particular instrument, everyone wins. When Guns N' Roses started, Slash was already a particularly gifted shredder on guitar. Where his gift may have seemingly only benefited him, it actually made Izzy Stradlin and me much more adept at our given crafts. Where Slash's initial confidence in his instrument was great, it parlayed into all of us one day feeling completely in sync and bullet-proof [no pun intended].

At the beginning of this football season, it just didn't appear that Jay Cutler had much of anything going for him. Cutler was a guy who threw more picks than Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen [that is a dumb rock reference joke]. When your offensive line cannot protect you, all sorts of things can and will go wrong. A quarterback's sense of well-being can get turned upside-down; a team's season can very well follow in quick succession.

But somewhere around Week 8, after having a bye week to dwell on Cutler's four interceptions to Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the Bears' offensive line started to protect their headstrong and strong-armed quarterback. Cutler was given the chance to perform without as much fear as before. By Week 10, the dude had so much going for him that he was suddenly charging headlong into the opposing team's defense. That is impactful confidence.

The Bears' defense seemed to somehow pick up on Cutler's confidence, and turned it in its favor on the other side of the ball with unbridled aggression. I guess that when you are satisfied as a defense that the whole game doesn't rest on your shoulders, you can just plain ol' go out and hurt people. The Bears did that Sunday [much to my dismay; as I am a Seahawks guy through and through]. I can appreciate a good team, though, and the Bears seem now to have a ton going for them on both sides of the ball.

Confidence, too, has come to the Los Angeles Clippers as of late. They have suddenly become a very dangerous team and are no longer one that the others look forward to playing for an easy "W." Rookie Blake Griffin has a silent and upward mobility to his style of play that has instilled a new fight to what was the joke of the NBA. With Baron Davis bringing cageyness, I suddenly like this team. Hey, anyone who beats the Lakers is good for me [old Sonics rival … that is another story to which I will get to one of these weeks].

Confidence is something that is earned, whereas simple bravado can be done without one iota of worksmanship. The New York Jets had a ton of bravado this season, without the backup of a dominant season. A win like the one the other day against the New England Patriots, however, will instill in a team a sense of confidence that actually wins games when it matters most.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good bit of braggadacio when it is meant to get a laugh as well -- and I do like the Jets -- but "smack" talk without backup gets a bit trying in my opinion. The Jets now have some tonnage to go along with the bluster. Like a steel-toed, well-heeled and polished boot. [Sorry, Rex, I couldn't help myself. Patriots receiver Wes Welker actually gets the "props" for best interview last week.]

By writing about only the Bears and Jets this week, do I mean to pick either of them to win the Super Bowl? I like the Pittsburgh Steelers' sense of weight I suppose. [Don't get me wrong, Hawks fans, I won't be getting a Terrible Towel anytime soon.] And sitting there quietly are the Green Bay Packers and their confident quarterback Aaron Rodgers … probably liking their own chances.

What's your pick for the Super Bowl? If your team is already out, do you have a "default" team? For me, I hate the fact I usually don't have "skin in the game" at this juncture in the season, and so I find something to like about another city's team. Steelers? No … they beat my Hawks in the brutal "ref-game" Super Bowl a few years back. Green Bay? Maybe … a little boring though. Bears? No, they just beat up on my team. The Jets? Hmmm … maybe. I love that city when I visit.

Let's see how this sits with me for a day or two.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."