The professional football season is under way, and megastar CBS sportscaster John Madden is once again “on the road”—crisscrossing the country in his luxurious, customized motor home. Why doesn’t he take a plane from one game location to another? Because, we’ve been told, he has an overwhelming fear of flying.

But most sports figures are not so fortunate as to have Madden’s status and schedule. Take, for instance, the exciting collegiate player who was a first-round choice in the National Basketball Association draft a few years ago. An all-around great player with natural gifts, unusual stamina, and crowd-pleasing charisma, he was a play maker, a powerful rebounder, and the leading scorer in his university’s conference. He was potentially a “franchise maker” with expectations of a brilliant career as a highly paid super-star. Sadly, that promise was not to be.

Major league teams travel by air, often flying four or five times each week. Air travel is simply an occupational requirement for most professional athletes. But this young player had a deep and paralyzing fear of flying. He simply couldn’t do it. He took advantage of an airline program designed to reassure reluctant fliers. He tried counseling, therapy, and even hypnosis in a sincere effort to overcome this powerful phobia. Nothing worked. Within a few weeks, his career ended with his unconditional release by his team.

What Are You Afraid Of?

My work requires a good bit of travel, and there are times when climbing aboard a plane for yet another business trip is the last thing I want to do. But planes are a way of life—and a necessary nuisance—for college and seminary presidents as well as professional ...

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