Id, ego and dumpster fires

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Whether it’s a professional athlete gone nuts or a politician who just can’t call it a day, we ask this question often — what’s going through THIS guy’s mind?

The names of dumpster-fire cases in the news off this reporter’s head come easy enough. So, why not play a little psychology with these fellas, shall we? Freud’s concept of the id, ego and superego, though a little dated and abstract, is simple enough to understand. We humans like to pigeonhole people and ideas because it’s convenient.

Let’s begin with failed U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel. The right-honorable trial lawyer from Ellisville is challenging his narrow loss to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the June primaries in the court system after the state party gave him the shoulder. The guy seems to be pretty driven, much like former veep Al Gore was in 2000. I’m thinking it’s going to be tough to prove wrongdoing in the election in a state where people don’t register by political party. “Can’t you tell they weren’t Republicans?” seems to be what his inner dialogue is these days.

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He’s squarely in the “id” category, as are many others who, by Freud’s standards, don’t have enough of an ego. Confused? Freud proposed in his 1920 essay “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” the ego is the moderator between the primitive id and the overly cautious superego. It reconciles basic, sometimes undisciplined human desires with the desire to be accepted, or simply going along to get along — a concept that is sure anathematic to the tea party. So, color McDaniel’s dominant desire to be trending closer to the id these days.

In the sports world, we have several examples. We have Ray Rice, the three-time Pro Bowl running back for the Baltimore Ravens. In February, he was caught on camera outside an Atlantic City casino dragging his fiancé by the hair during an obvious domestic violence incident. He was indicted by a grand jury for third-degree assault in late March, wed his lover the next day and, a few weeks ago, received a whopping two-game suspension from the NFL. The suspension is laughable on many levels, but for the purposes of being concise, we’ll put Rice in the “under the influence of id” category.

We have Johnny Manziel, the soon-to-be bust rookie quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Again, here’s a case where Freud’s definition of ego clashes with modern-day society’s. He likes to party, as we can see from photos and videos of him in recent months. He has some misdemeanor charges on his record from before he took a snap at Texas A&M. There’s also the autograph scandal for which he served a 30-minute suspension (on the game clock, that is) to start his second and final college season. The id drives Manziel as much as his quick feet do, as we can plainly see. I suspect linebackers league-wide will give him a hug on the field for his troubles, and not the soft kind. He should ask Reggie Bush how straight-up flash translates to the pro game.

This past weekend, I added Tony Stewart to this list. The stock car racer is at the center of a tragic incident in which a sprint car he was driving at an event in western New York struck driver Kevin Ward Jr., who died of the injuries sustained. Ward had emerged from his car to protest — in the middle of the track — his being bumped out of the race by Stewart by a classic auto-racer’s nudge. Authorities are still determining the legal ramifications of the incident, but Stewart’s penchant for on-track trouble puts him in the id playpen with the others. In 2012, he and his whole pit crew engaged in fisticuffs on the track with driver Joey Logano after the latter boxed him out of a win at Fontana. Prior to that, he once downplayed a win by Dale Earnhardt Jr., the son of the sport’s modern-era king, by saying “it’s not a national holiday.” Crazy indeed, when you consider that could have had him similarly run over in certain social circles in the world of auto racing fans.

Freud would say it’s the id that drives these guys, not the ego. We in the current millennium would say it’s ego run amok. Perhaps vanity is the best term. Sometimes, the best way to extinguish a dumpster fire is to pay it no attention at all.

Danny Barrett is a reporter and can be reached by email at or by phone at 601-636-4545.