Sunday, January 31, 2010

Youth Specialization

Think back to what you were doing when you were 15 years old. My guess is that you were somewhere in the midst of high school, waiting one more year to get a driver's license, and probably not even thinking about college much less your future career. What if your career was already in progress? How would that change your life? For 15-year-old Maddy Schaffrick, the career of her dreams has been underway for the past eight years. This year she is the youngest competitor in the X Games, but the story gets even crazier in the fact that these are her second X Games. Even though she failed to qualify for the SuperPipe finals, the fact that she is competing at this level with only eight years of experience is amazing. When I first found this story on the Aspen Daily News website, I was amazed by the dedication this girl must have for her sport. Most people, myself included, had no concrete idea what they wanted to do for a career when they are 15. However, is this wrong? I can imagine many people arguing that when children are so involved in just one activity, their development suffers. This argument has been developed as a means to oppose AAU teams because the extreme specialization leads to more cutthroat competition. However, in this snowboarding sample as well as with AAU teams, I feel that specialization, if it is chosen by the child, can be extremely beneficial. What I mean by this is that the parent should not force the child to specialize in just one activity to make them a "superstar." If the child truly wants to commit a large portion of his or her time to one activity, then he or she should be able to. In this case, Maddy's interest is also a career. If she truly enjoys snowboarding, I think it is awesome that she is so involved in it. Any opportunity you get to use the talents that you have is great; engaging in a variety of activities is also fine, but why force children to stop doing what they enjoy most just to say they did? Specialization is not necessarily a bad thing for a child; if people have found their passion, any efforts to have them try something else will be in vain. The child will simply gravitate back towards what he or she loves to do.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bad Timing

Don't get me wrong, I love the X Games and the Winter Olympics. However, what I don't like is when these two events are two weeks apart. I almost had a heart attack when I was watching Shaun White compete in the SuperPipe the other night. Here is a guy who will almost surely bring home Olympic gold for the United States of America in two weeks vaulting almost 25 feet into the air during another competition. Again, it's not that I don't like the X Games, but I do feel as though the Olympic Games are just as important if not more so. I would also wonder how many people decided not to compete in the X Games because they wanted to save themselves to compete in the Olympics. As we saw the other day, athletes can fall down, and what if they got hurt? How would you explain Shaun White not being able to compete in the Olympics because he wiped down on the SuperPipe? This might have been enough reason for many competitors to skip the first competition. Therefore, I do not believe that this was a smart business move for the X Games. If they truly believed that there was no threat of injury to the athletes in these games, they would have been afraid to allow the athletes to compete in the Olympics first. Then, they could have had the full slate of competitors and also set themselves up to be the reason some country does not win an Olympic medal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tim Tebow and American Freedom of Speech

I'm sure that any of you who have turned on the news in the past few days have heard about the marketing fiasco surrounding Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. One would think that a story of this magnitude would be something along the lines of the infidelity of a trusted politician or a case of corporate corruption. However, neither of these stories are anywhere near the truth. Tim Tebow is taking an intense amount of scrutiny for appearing in commercial sponsored by Focus on the Family that displays a pro-life message. Please do not stop reading here; I'm not here to lecture you on my own personal beliefs on this issue. I'm here to talk about the issue of basic American rights and the right to free speech. The Bill of Rights asserts that all Americans are guaranteed the freedom of speech. Therefore, where is Tim Tebow beyond his rights? Tebow is being attacked as being "un-American" by organizations such as Choice USA. I don't follow this logic; by actually expressing his right to free speech that is guaranteed under the American government, he is being un-American. I think that most people would not attack Tebow for his own personal views as each person is entitled to his or her own opinions. However, upon seeing how obsessed many people are with absolute fairness, I would be willing to guess that many people feel that this commercial is simply being used to advance the agenda of one side. However, CBS has offered to allow pro-choice groups to run "responsibly produced" commercial as well. If they choose not to exercise their right of free speech in this manner, Tebow cannot be blamed. He has nothing to do with their decision-making.

I support Tim Tebow in this commercial not only based on my own views about abortion but also on the simple fact that he has the right to say respectfully whatever he wants. To deny him his right based simply on the fact that what he said might not be popular would make a joke out of our Constitution. The claim that people are free to share their own personal story is valuable. Throughout my own life, I have heard many views presented that I will never agree with. However, I believe that hearing these views has only helped me further justify my own beliefs through forcing me to really consider why I believe what I believe. People do not have to agree, and many people will never agree on certain issues. Nevertheless, both sides at least deserve the right to be shared and heard. Acceptance is a personal decision; no amount of Super Bowl advertising can force people to accept opposing beliefs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New View

Welcome to the world of tomorrow. According to a recent release from the Associated Press, the British network Sky Sports will broadcast the first live sporting event in 3-D when Arsenal and Manchester United collide on Sunday. It will be broadcast in nine pubs across Britain and Ireland. Maybe I will need to take a trip across the Atlantic this weekend...

I believe that this technology will revolutionize the way people watch sports simply because many people complain about the fact that TVs do not have the same depth as live sports. While nothing will be able to replace live sports in terms of fan interaction and experience, this technology will enable the fan to always feel, as EA Sports would say, "in the game." However, I wonder how this will appear when a player kicks the soccer ball directly at the camera. Will the ball appear to come flying out of the TV only to be intercepted by a player who comes into the picture that the viewer did not notice before? Or will the camera angle be zoomed out far enough that hidden players that I described before would not seem totally out of place when they appear? I don't know the answer, so I guess they'll have to wait until Sunday to find out. However, I think that this is only the first step to a television revolution. What I predict will happen is that once 3-D television is all but perfected, people will buy 3-D projectors. They will attach that projector to the roof so that it will project an image on the floor or some other flat surface. The entire court or field will be visible on the surface so that people will be able to see the entire game as it happens in small 3-D programs. I know this sounds like the tiny holograms that are used in Star Wars; however, once the 3-D television is mastered, I cannot imagine the 3-D projector being very far behind. I personally would love this as it would allow you to view the entire game from an angle that would allow you to see the plays developed and executed to perfection.

Maybe I'm dreaming, and this idea might not turn into the insanely popular idea I think it will be. However, as someone who loves to play with new technology, I am excited for the US media debut when ESPN broadcasts the World Cup in June. People say science fiction should stay as science fiction; in this case though, I think that we can make these dreams of George Lucas and other writers a reality.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Was It For Real?

Okay, I'll admit it; I love a good conspiracy theory. Fortunately, it seems as though the world we live in is overflowing with them. It seems as though our entire entertainment industry is run by nosy paparazzi who are trying to find the "back story" that no one else will have and often times is untrue. For now, I challenge you, the reader, to be the paparazzi.

First, watch this video: This should be a video entitled "David Stern Fixing 1985 Draft Lottery *High Quality*". Look at the envelope that David Stern chooses around second 45. You can see that one envelope on the bottom of the two in the foreground has a bent corner. Conveniently, this is the envelope that Stern chooses which then guarantees the New York Knicks the first pick in the NBA draft. They use this pick to draft a big man out of Georgetown who you may have heard of, Patrick Ewing. Conspiracy theorists say that the NBA rigged the lottery because they wanted New York City to have a star and rise to prominence.

Now, you be the judge. Do you think the NBA played a role in bringing a new face to the Knicks franchise?

I encourage you to comment on this and on the following argument that I will present explaining why I do not believe the bent envelope theory does not hold up. First, when all of the envelopes are placed into the drum, none of them appear as bent as the one that appears at second 45. Watching the envelopes spin in the drum, it is evident that some of the envelopes when they fall back down to the bottom of the drum land on their corners. This is also a possible explanation as to why this one envelope was slightly deformed. However, who says that more than one envelope was not bent? The camera angle does not allow the viewer to see all of the envelopes on our left hand side of the drum. Perhaps they all were dented too. Also, why exactly would the NBA prefer the Knicks as opposed to the Pacers? While the Knicks are in one of the largest markets in the world, why would this automatically make the Commissioner favor them? It seems as though the underdog story from a middle of nowhere town has become very popular. Look at Hoosiers which incidentally takes place in Indiana. This team that had not been overly successful in the past discovers a star player who turns them into a champion. This movie was released in 1986 to great acclaim after being nominated for two Oscars. Why then could a professional version of this story not develop as the new star in Patrick Ewing moved in to an Indiana town and revitalizes the team? As is evidenced by the movie, this storyline was popular at the time. Therefore, the NBA should have known that even if Patrick Ewing had gone to Indianapolis, the results could have been just as eye-catching as the fictional Hoosiers was.

Other theories have arisen such as the Knicks' envelope had been frozen, or at least chilled, before the drawing so that Stern could have felt the temperature differential and therefore known how to find the Knicks. He was pretty lucky if this is true however because he only had to touch two envelopes to find the correct one. We may never know if there was actually some form of conspiracy, but it is fun to engage in what my history professor would call "counterfactual speculation."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Olympian Feelings

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not wishing for another Cold War. However, what I am saying is that in this time, people became much more interested in the Olympics. For example, the contests between the United States and the Soviet Union were about more than just a game. In a way, it seemed as though in a war that was based on comparison and threats, proving your superiority in something as simple as a hockey game became an issue of national importance. It seems as though today's Olympics, at least in America, do not develop the same amount of patriotism that the Cold War era games did. Why was this? Like I mentioned before, this was a war of comparison and status. The Soviet East was saying that communism was better whereas the Western United States felt that capitalism and democracy were the tickets to happiness and wealth. Therefore, if communism could create better athletes, that would be one more mark in support of their style. These beliefs created a very patriotic following as many people did not want to see their country fall to the enemy in "battle." While I do not, as I mentioned before, want another Cold War, I want to see people get excited about America in the Olympics. We do have a great deal of success in the Olympics as a nation; I hope everyone will tune in to at least one event and watch Americans put their talents on display for the world to see and want to defeat as much as we want to defeat them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Controversy Within

I think that all people feel the need to compare things. Obviously, this tendency also moves into athletic events. I know I have said before that particularly Vermont basketball is not up to par by and large with many other more competitive states. However, if IMG has its way, Vermont may have a chance to prove me wrong. USA Today reported that IMG intends to create national high school championships. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to think about this. In one way, it excites me to think that we could finally have an answer as to who is really the best high school team in the United States. On the other hand, it makes me wonder how the high school students will handle the tremendous pressure that would be put upon them. Nationally broadcasted championship games would be a tremendous amount of media that would flood the students who probably would never have had this type of media coverage by their hometown newspaper. Now, maybe the players would be fine, and the pressure would not affect them. After all, some state championships and so high pressure already that this step would not be quite as high as I am predicting. Also, imagine the amazing publicity that high schools would gain from playing in the national championship. This could mean major sponsorship money that many struggling athletic departments could use. However, any time an event is monetized there is the potential for corruption. This being said though, I would like to think that people are better than this and will not corrupt high school sports.

So, as you can tell, I am undecided. While simply as a fan I would love to see this event, I do understand that many potential issues that might arise. What do you think? Do high school sports need to stay small-scale, or are they ready to be taken to the national stage?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Change In Hobby

When we were little kids, we all had something we wasted all our money on. Of course, the money wasn't wasted in our eyes, but I liked to spend money on sports cards. For me, this was fantasy sports before I knew what fantasy sports were. I would lay out my favorite cards and divide them into teams who would then proceed to play whatever sport they were from. However, as I was a young child without satellite or cable TV, I did not know all of the players yet, so often my decisions on who were the best players depended on the design of the card. Whoever's card looked better was obviously a better player. However, this style of decision-making may be over for any kids who play my style of fantasy baseball. In an article on which was published on December 7, I found that Topps has become the exclusive licensor of Major League Baseball. Nothing against Topps, their cards are nice and affordable, but I worry about the lack of creativity that may ensue. Without competition, all Topps will have to do is maintain the status quo and be able to pick up all the former Upper Deck loyalists who still want to collect baseball cards. Therefore, the innovative designs and constant desire to outdo the rival companies will possibly disappear. How will young children decide who the best players are without seeing what cards look better? I for one hope that Topps continues to advance and perhaps might expand their line to offer many different styles of cards appealing to different markets. The more conservative, traditional approach will appeal to older consumers while perhaps they could develop a more action-based line. When I think of this in my own childhood, I think of Skybox of the mid-90s or Fleer Metal. While some people might think that this style is unrealistic, that's what I liked about it. They were not just like any other brand; they were more bold and original. I hope that Topps can re-create this sense of differentiation that allows them to become diverse enough to appeal to the very broad market of people interested in this hobby and maybe revive it to its former popularity.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Recruiting News!

Every high school basketball player dreams of being noticed by scouts and getting a college scholarship. However, the odds of this are very slim simply because every high school has its own star and there are only so many colleges. However, since each high school has its own star, it is sometimes hard to notice the stars at other high schools. For the average fan, such as myself, I like to use the New England Recruiting Report to see reports on players all over New England. College coaches use this resource for much more as it allows them to decide who deserves these valuable scholarships. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to interview Mr. Adam Finkelstein, the founder and owner of the NERR, and see how this website has become one of the most trusted scouting services in New England.

ZS: First of all, how did you realize that there would be a market for this kind of information in New England? Was this drawn from your coaching experience?

AF: My background was in college coaching with experience at both the division I and III levels and that's when I first had the idea. It wasn't really an original concept, just something that was being done in other parts of the country but not in New England. We subscribed to scouting services from various regions all over the country but didn't have anything to cover New England.

ZS: Also, how can you gather information on all of these athletes? Your group's region covers such a large geographic area.

AF: I'm on the road quite a bit seeing events, games, and players, and when I can't be there in person, I watch a lot of film. While it certainly takes a lot of work to cover all of New England, comparatively speaking my region is fairly manageable. Some scouting services cover entire coast lines or even the entire county. I never wanted to be that big because I wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned in New England. We're in our fourth year now and in that time there hasn't been a single basketball scholarship given to a player coming out of one of the six New England states that we hadn't already profiled.

ZS: On the other side of your business, how do you attract both players and NCAA coaches to your exposure events in such great numbers? Being able to draw the "Elite 75" middle schoolers in New England at the same time is impressive.

AF: Similar to the scouting service we have taken a bit of a "less is more" theory with our events. I run very few events compared to other people in this industry and that's because I want to ensure the quality of what we do. When we ran our first Elite 75 Showcase we made sure we had every one of the top ten players in the region committed before we even announced the event. With the success of that initial showcase it became apparent that we could brand the product and offer it to players at different age brackets. In terms of getting college coaches, there's a direct correlation between the level of talent competing in the event and the number of coaches watching it. If you get the talent, the coaches will come.

ZS: Finally, what do you believe is the future for your service? Surely as the Internet continues to grow, the possibility of a direct competitor entering your arena grows. How will you stay ahead?

AF: Truthfully I'm not exactly sure what the future of our business is. While we obviously value quality over quantity, our business model is fairly diversified with scouting, event management, and even training/instruction. We've grown consistently in all three areas over the years and have room to continue to do so, but the biggest lesson I've learned is that this isn't your typical business and typical rules of business don't always apply. Our particular market is an unpredictable one that is influenced by a number of outside sources and so while long term plans are obviously important we also need to ensure that we're flexible enough to adapt.

Obviously as with any technological business, an adaptation-friendly approach is always a benefit. However, it looks as though the NERR will continue to bring information to college coaches regarding the best athletes New England has to offer. I would like to thank Mr. Finkelstein for this interview, and hope you will check out his website here. Until next time...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Inspiration Sells

It seems like foreign made cars are all the rage lately because they are more reliable, less expensive, and more fuel-efficient. However, as Honda, Toyota, and Mazda have been gaining momentum, little has been said about Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti despite the fact that they have been selling well since 2000. This is about to change though.

Earlier today according to an article on the PR newswire, Infiniti has decided to play Cinderella. Through an agreement with ESPN, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the SEC, and the Big Ten, Infiniti will unleash a new marketing campaign that will run until the national championship game on April 5. This article also notes that the campaign will run through television, print, and digital media. This way millions of people will see these advertisements, and Infiniti hopes that by unveiling the 2011 Infiniti M during the tipoff of the championship game will generate enough buzz to make the costs, which I assume are ridiculously high, worthwhile.

Despite the price, I believe that this marketing strategy will work for a few different reasons. First, when a product can associate itself with the elite of a group, it gains the reputation of being the choice of the elite regardless of whether or not this upper-class really uses the product. Several interviews with the perceived best coaches in NCAA such as Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, and Roy Williams will explain to the viewer how important inspiration is in college basketball. I assume then that this will then be expanded for the need of inspiration in each of our lives. Wow! What a coincidence! Infiniti prides itself with the message of "Inspired Performance." So the message will be clear that without inspiration life would be less exciting or possibly less successful.

Another reason I believe this marketing strategy will pay off is because of the sheer number of people who watch the NCAA tournament. According to The Nielsen Company, last year 136.8 million unique viewers tuned in to at least one minute of an NCAA tournament game. Even if Infiniti only influences .1% of viewers, they will still sell 136,800 vehicles. This would be amazing considering in the calendar year 2009, the entire Infiniti division only sold 81,089 units according to PR Newswire. I do realize that many television viewers would not be able to buy these vehicles due to age, price, or a multitude of other factors. However, the ability to reach such a large market for a few months while appealing to America's obsession with March Madness I believe will allow Infiniti to move ahead and improve their position in the fight for sales.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coaches Need This! A Review

Basketball Playbook, produced by Jes-Software, is about as self-explanatory as a piece of software gets. The program allows its users to create animated diagrams of offensive sets, defensive sets, and even practice drills. I intend to highlight some of its best features here and also show some areas that I had to learn from. I have not been in contact with the software creators, so this is my honest opinion of a piece of software that I use myself and am not being endorsed in any way.

What makes this software worth downloading?

• Ease-of-use: I was able to pick up the software and begin designing plays right away. The only slight learning issue I had was with animation as the players move in between the slides you create. However, this system made sense when I realized that it was not dependent on the arrows you can draw to explain the motion. The player will not just move down the line. Nevertheless, in under an hour most people will have a solid grasp on how to use this program and most of its features.
• Price: Initially, you will download the full version of this program and have full use of it for 30 days. Then, you will have two options: you can pay $34.95 for continued use of the full product, or you can continue to use a more bare bones program that still has many of the same vital features. The reason I wanted to possibly upgrade to continue with was because once the free trial kicked on, I was not able to choose the option that allowed the diagram to be displayed with the high school and college three point line. However, I found a way around this; make sure that you create at least one play before the free trial is up that uses the high school three point line. After the free trial is over, rather than creating a new play, select the Copy Play option from the file menu. Choose the play that had the high school three point line, and you will have another file that has accurate court dimensions. All you need to do then is rearrange the players and/or delete unneeded players to have another accurate play without paying the price. All the features I needed were in the free version, so I believe that this software is a great bargain.

Most basketball coaches are looking for easy ways to explain their plays to young minds. I believe that this animation makes the learning of the plays much easier simply because the players on-screen move instead of just having arrows pointing to where they go. I highly recommend this product to any coach who wants to actually show their genius to their players rather than just talk about it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Building Lone Wolf

A few days ago, I had written in my post on AAU basketball in Vermont that while I was not thrilled with everything about the system, some teams did AAU right. Today, I've decided to put one of these organizations on the forefront. Lone Wolf Athletics was founded five years ago and since has developed into a Vermont AAU powerhouse. I contacted Wayne Lafley, Lone Wolf's creator, in hopes to find what has made this program stand out and attract many talented athletes. So without further ado:

ZS: How have you built this reputation as Vermont's premier AAU basketball team that these girls should play for? I realize now that your teams and the results they produce have begun speaking for themselves; however, this reputation I assume was not instantaneously acquired. How did you convince your first team that Lone Wolf Athletics was the organization that was most capable of developing them into athletes who would be competitive at the next level?

WL: When I started Lone Wolf Athletics I originally had no plan to have AAU teams as part of my programs. The original intent was to build a business that would help develop players thru skill camps, clinics, and individual lessons. I was lucky enough to have some very talented players work with me early on and then thru word of mouth more players came. My first year I had some high-level girl players training with me. When it got to be AAU season, they all wanted to play together so some of them asked me to coach a team. I accepted the challenge and coached them. We ended up being very successful with two kids getting basketball scholarships to D1 colleges. Everything on the girls' side just snowballed from there and it seems like every year we've just gotten better. In 5 years we have had 20 girls get D1 or DII college basketball scholarships. We are very proud of that. However, none of it would have been possible without having the support of the kids, their families, and the high school coaches who supported the program.

In year two I decided to expand the program by adding a boys AAU team. Again I had some very talented boys training with me at the time and they started talking to other players and soon enough we had a very good boys team. Good players want to play with other good players so it just kept making sense for them to play together. Over the years I have assembled a very good staff that has been great with the continued development of the program and players. The boys have developed a good reputation in the northeast and many are playing at fine colleges. When you have good players and a good staff who work hard, good things happen.

ZS: Also, I was wondering how you keep AAU basketball affordable given that the economy is not quite what it once was. I noticed several sponsors on your webpage; I'm not asking for actual dollar amounts, but given all of the traveling your club does throughout spring, are these costs mainly paid through sponsor money, or do the athletes themselves have to pay those?

WL: I decided about 5 years ago to make the AAU side of things separate from the skill development business side. Lone Wolf Athletics remained the business portion which I continue to run today. I then created the Lone Wolf Basketball Club as the AAU organization. The staff and I made it a 501c3 organization which means it is tax exempt and can accept donations. Over the years we have been lucky enough to get corporate donations for the AAU program. We have also done a lot of fund raising. Obviously there is also a financial commitment from the families. I can safely say we charge less than many other programs. Another thing I should mention is that none of our coaches receive a salary. They all volunteer their time and knowledge. We do pay for their travel expenses. Many organizations pay salaries, etc. This obviously raises the cost.

ZS: Looking through your list of coaches, I noticed that the Vermont Basketball Group has merged with your organization. This will add the U16 boys' state champion to your ranks. Does your group intend to keep expanding by getting younger as I believe last year was the first year you had a U15 girls' team? Or do you intend to maintain Lone Wolf's image as Vermont's premier high school AAU basketball club?

WL: This is a good question. I want to help as many Vermont kids as possible but there is only room for so much. We have added a 15u girls' team to go along side our 17u girls' team. We also added a younger boys' team to give us two teams there also. Right now I think we are comfortable with that but you never know. I think we will expand but it will be more in the facets of programming not teams. This will be the third year of our girls summer tourney and we want to keep growing that. It has become a solid stop for the D1 & DII colleges in the northeast during the summer evaluation period. Last year we started a boys' showcase that featured the top 50 high school boys' players in the state. We had 20 colleges in for the day to see the boys play. We felt it was very successful and we would like to continue to grow that also.

I hope you have enjoyed this small preview into the business side of Lone Wolf Athletics. These types of results encourage me; as I mentioned in my previous post, when the best players play together, they are able to develop to a level where college scholarships are not beyond the realm of possibility. I would like to thank Mr. Lafley for this interview. The Lone Wolf website can be found here, and please support all AAU basketball! Highly competitive experience will indeed benefit all basketball players.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New Sport for Many Americans

Everyone needs to admit it; we all love YouTube (unless, like some of my readers, you live in an area that is still left in the ancient world of dial-up Internet). However, I at least would love to see more sports broadcasted on this extremely popular and addictive medium. Attention sports fans, this is about to change! In an article I read on, it was reported that the Indian Premier League has struck a deal to broadcast all of the third season matches on YouTube! When I first read this name, soccer immediately came to my mind given the popularity of the Premier League in England. However, I was surprised to see that this league actually plays cricket! I don't even know the rules of cricket, so this is of immediate appeal to me. I love to learn about popular games that I just don't happen to know about yet. When I heard that an acquaintance of mine went to college and took up cricket, I thought it was really cool, but I had no idea how to play this game other than the fact that it is somewhat like baseball.

I think that in the same way that I want to learn about cricket, many other people would enjoy learning about a popular sport in the rest of the world. Using YouTube is also very smart for the simple fact that it is free. In order to build an audience, free views go a long way. Many people like myself also would have a hard time paying to see something with such low familiarity. I'm sure that cricket is a great game, but since I do not know this for sure, I would have a hard time spending my money on a whim. Therefore, YouTube appeals to me, and maybe if this deal completes itself, I could indeed become a cricket fan. Then, I would be more willing to pay a price for this service. Even though free media outlets do not generate as much profit as they could make through some system of either pay-per-view or pay-per-season, it will be more important to introduce cricket as a popular sport if it's easier for fans to access this material.

Please comment on this if you know much about cricket because I would love to learn more!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Fantasy

Casual hobbies rarely develop into two billion-dollar potential industries. However, when this growth takes place over just 25 years and relies on many free services, it is even more remarkable. What on earth could I be talking about? This industry that has influenced and on occasion messed up the lives of many, many individuals is the industry of fantasy sports. I know I've written about my obsession with fantasy baseball prior to this, but an article I read on CNN International brought this issue to my mind once again. (

This article states that 26,000,000 Americans play some form of fantasy sports in one year. According to the U.S. Census, there are just over 304,000,000 people in the United States. Therefore, by crunching these numbers, almost 9% of Americans of all ages play some fantasy sport. This article highlights the fact that this industry is going to attempt to branch into the world market through utilizing the international passion for soccer. I think this is a great idea; I wish this had been done earlier. I think that if this trend can catch on and prove to be profitable, it will perhaps encourage American companies, such as ESPN, to attempt to sell international soccer to Americans. I don't mean to insult Major League Soccer, but I would like to be able to watch and be aware of the higher quality soccer that is around the globe. Given the intense observation that fantasy sports require, any Americans that would play fantasy soccer would demand greater coverage through American media outlets.

I hope this phenomenon extends to soccer, and I hope this extension occurs in America as well as around the world. Soccer is a great sport, but I feel that many highly skilled soccer players get their maximum media coverage in high school by the hometown newspaper simply because soccer has for some reason not grabbed the prominent position it has in the rest of the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Love Nostalgia!

I was so excited yesterday when I saw the Coke Zero commercial featuring Troy Polamalu during last year's Super Bowl. It is a remake of one of my favorite commercials of all time featuring "Mean" Joe Greene coming off the field and receiving a Coke from a little boy played by Tommy Okon. However, in this commercial, the little boy is about to hand Troy a Coke Zero when the Coke guys swing in claiming not only taste infringement, but now also commercial infringement. I believe that this is an amazing marketing tool. First, the original commercial was one of the most popular commercials of its era. However, it has a new and ridiculous twist. It almost reminds me of the ending of Monty Python And the Holy Grail when they are about to storm the castle. This is going to be the defining moment of the entire movie in the similar sense to which Polamalu receiving the Coke Zero from the boy will be the defining moment of the commercial. However, these "epic" moments are interrupted by people who seemingly have no place in this scene with newspaper reporters interrupting the movie and Coke brand managers invading the commercial. This commercial made me also think about the time when this commercial was first developed. In 1979, although I wasn't there, I've heard that the world was a much different place. In today's world, people seem to want to return to their childhood and to escape the admittedly trying times the world is in right now. Nostalgia is a powerful advertising tool as many people who had been famous in old TV shows are back to advertise new products. Their fans will follow their previous favorites and buy products. It is amazing how powerful these images from the past can be.

I hope I don't sound like an advertisement for Coca-Cola, but I believe that this is ingenious advertising. Prior fame can be drawn upon again in the right circumstances. When something has become synonymous with a brand, it must be executed until it is no longer useful. Assuming this commercial is as popular with many others, I think that this image will not prove by any means to be too old.

This is a link to the newer commercial!
Here is a link to the classic!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Answer

As I stated yesterday, today I will present my defense of AAU basketball. Now at the beginning I want to state that there are teams that do AAU correctly in Vermont, but I've also seen things that don't make me feel too excited about my proposed solution. First, I think the key to a good AAU program that would produce solid players from Vermont is indeed to be competitive. Ouch, we live in an era where we want everyone to win, and no one to lose. However, I think Vermont basketball would improve if the best AAU players were concentrated on a lower number of teams. The reason I believe this is simply because players improve when there are good players around them. If some AAU team was able to concentrate the most talented players from one area onto one team rather than be dispersed among the many teams they have right now, all of these players would be better off. I know this idea would be unpopular as some players would be lost without a team. However, there are a few reasons why this might not be such a terrible thing. First, if the cut player really loves basketball and wants to play, he or she will work really hard over the summer and fall in hopes to improve and make the team next year. Therefore, his or her ability will rise and therefore raise the quality of competition in Vermont

The other result is that this athlete might realize that there is another sport that he or she is better at. To use an example from my life: anybody who knows me knows that I'm not an artist. I do not try to hide that fact, but I do not waste needless time trying to develop that talent. While artists need to be developed and taught throughout their lives, some people have a knack for art at the beginning. I, needless to say, do not. If I had been told my whole life that I was a great artist, I might not have invested time in other things that I really am good at and have a natural ability for because I would have been trying to develop the talent I don't have. I am more content because I know I'm good at what I do, and I might be able to help somebody with the new talents I discovered. Nobody loses when I find something I'm really good at, so helping people realize the talents they do possess is valuable for everyone.

I bet you're wondering who these few Vermont teams will play because there will only be a few. My answer is that these teams need to travel. I'm not saying cross-country road trips or month-long barnstorming tours, but I am trying to emphasize the need to be aware of a higher level of competition. Having traveled the tournaments around New England with my sister's AAU team, I have seen how good and how much different the competition can be just three hours away in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her team was competitive in Vermont; they could beat most teams. However, after making the three-hour drive, the competition was notably different. Neither game they played on that Saturday turned out well, but it was definitely worth the trip. These girls were exposed to a whole different level of competition that made them better players. Many people argue that this cost of traveling would be way too high for many people given the current economy and other similar concerns. However, as I cited in my last post, people in Vermont love basketball. I believe that if a logical presentation was made to potential sponsors explaining how all of Vermont basketball would benefit through AAU basketball, sponsors would come to help lower costs simply because they love the game and want to see it at its highest level possible given the available number of athletes.

I bet there are at least a few of you out there who don't believe a word I said. Please comment below and argue with me; I appreciate it. My goal here is to present the many benefits of AAU basketball and demonstrate how the system will benefit Vermont basketball as a whole. I know that you have this goal at heart too, but your strategy might be different than mine. Therefore, tell me about it; I'm not ashamed to say someone's idea is better than mine if it is!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Competitive Advantage

As of right now, I am in basketball mode. I love going into the various gyms around Vermont and seeing the pride of the small towns as they come behind their local boys and girls because quite frankly there is nothing else to do in several of these small towns. There are no alternatives to basketball; therefore, basketball has found a special niche in the center of many Vermont communities. You would think that this form of dedication lead to higher quality players because if many children played basketball, one or more would break through into the land of NCAA Division I scholarships. This does happen, but it is major news when it does. When Varsity Magazine used to be in publication, the online message boards with full of skepticism as to where that year's top senior would be attending college and whether or not he or she would be playing ball there with or without a scholarship. I think that the real reason that this is such a rarity is because unfortunately there is a lack of quality competition. Even though every child may play basketball in one town, if only one of them is good, she will not receive the recognition she would deserve because of the fact that the rest of the team is not very good.

I do not mean to sound negative or complain about Vermont basketball in any sense. After all, if I did not like it, why would it occupy my life for about one quarter of the year? There still is this dilemma though of producing higher quality athletes who are able to compete with athletes from other states. I know my solution will be controversial simply because I have heard it in my own life. I believe the answer lies with AAU basketball. I will leave you for now with this answer. Think about it, ponder it, and comments are welcome as to your opinion. Tomorrow, I will post my defense of AAU basketball and why I believe it will be able to help Vermont basketball become more competitive in terms of NCAA scholarships and to not be overwhelmed upon meeting other states in competition.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comparison Shopping

I was surprised to see the new marketing strategy unveiled by DirecTV. As I was watching Deal or No Deal while eating dinner tonight, I saw the new DirecTV commercial. It consisted of two identical flatscreen TVs set on a solid background. One TV was labeled DirecTV and the other was labeled Dish Network. The narrator proceeded to explain that despite the fact that Dish had been advertising a lower price for the same service, there were hidden costs to subscribing to Dish that you never need to worry about if you subscribed to DirecTV.

I really should not be surprised by this competitive strategy as Apple has been duking it out with PCs over whose product is really cheaper and more effective thereby having greater value. However, I thought of these two companies in a different light. Through very shallow research on both companies websites, I found that DirecTV offers cheaper coverage and more channels on every level of programming except for the "Family Package" which are of comparable size and are offered by Dish Network for $24.99 whereas DirecTV charges $29.99. The only feature I did not compare were the actual channels in each package. I compared the bulk number of channels offered, but admittedly I do not know how they compare.

The reason I mention all this is because it is very interesting that DirecTV has to advertise that Dish Network is more expensive because of added on fees. From all I can tell, DirecTV is cheaper, but Dish has become the brand that represents the value in satellite TV. DirecTV is forced to advertise this way because they have become a differentiated brand; therefore, it is very difficult for them to also appeal to consumers as a price leader. Dish has found a way to become a price leader in image without leading in price. That is good marketing and good use of cornering their opponents into one category of consumer perception.

If anyone wants to double check my information and tell me if I'm wrong, here are the sites I used to draw my pricing information from:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Unexpected Discovery

Recently, I read The Art of War upon reading that it was tremendously applicable to many areas of life beyond its intended purpose of teaching military tactics. I had heard especially that this book can teach a business major more than many textbooks have in the past. Therefore, while on winter vacation and dying for an excuse to use my new Kindle as much as possible, I downloaded this classic for $.95 and was simply blown away.

Before we begin our tour of my top five favorite quotes from this book which is only approximately 50 pages long, I will give you a little background on Sun Tzu himself based on information I found on and Wikipedia. Sun Tzu was a Chinese general who lived around 500 BC. His work only reached Europe around the French Revolution when they were translated by a Jesuit priest. Since then, the Western world has loved his rules of warfare and the conduct of warfare. So without further ado, my top five favorite quotes in no particular order:

1) "Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."

This quote automatically drew me to an image of a half court trap in basketball. The team on defense will allow the offensive player to drive up the sideline unimpeded, hence the bait. However, once that player crosses the half-court line, he gets crushed by a double teaming half court trap. Although it might seem that the offensive player had a free drive down the sideline, this false disorder led the player to get crushed and ultimately turn over the ball.

This happened in business as well. I am reminded of a story about the original land acquisition to build Walt Disney World. Walt Disney had several different agents purchased the land in Lake Buena Vista that would eventually hold his amusement park. He did this because he knew that as soon as word got out that Walt Disney was going to build a theme park in Florida, the land prices would skyrocket. Therefore, all of this disorderly buying through a variety of agents allowed Walt Disney to then step in and crush all other amusement parks. The businessman cannot tip his hand too early, or his competitors will sweep in and eliminate any first move advantage that man had.

2) "Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force."

I realize this quote is not what people want to hear. Many people like to believe that through hard work, anything is possible. However, sometimes the fights cannot be won. If I decided to start a small soft drink business in my basement, I could not compete with the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. While my product may be superior, which I guess is entirely a matter of taste, these companies' immense resources, brand recognition, and diverse offerings would never allow me to compete in the market on a large scale. In order to compete, I would need to become a large force. How does one become a large force you might ask? Namely, by acquiring more capital. A small independent soft drink company would never be able to output anywhere near the same volume of Coca-Cola. Therefore, I believe that this point emphasizes the need for small businesses to realize that they are small businesses. There is nothing wrong with a small business; it will just have a hard time competing blow for blow with an industry giant like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, or any other company that has a large market share in their segment.

3) "One may know how to conquer without being able to do it."

This applies to many areas of life along with business. For example, if I am the CEO of a major company, I may know how to dominate the market. However, if my company does not have the means at that moment to allow me the flexibility to overrun that market, it will not happen. I might know how to create a new product, market it perfectly, and distribute it effectively, but I may not be able to do it due to cost, environment, or several other areas of red tape that seem to plague many businesses. This emphasizes again the need for a large amount of capital. There is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea but not being able to explore it because of financial hazards. As was said in my freshman business class, a company should have twice as much money as it needs when it starts up simply to make sure that this situation does not occur. Granted, funding is not easy to come by. Therefore, make sure before you set out to conquer a new project, market, or venture that you are able to do it or else frustration will ensue.

4) "To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself."

Many people fail to realize that no matter how good a business gets, the competition will always be there. Google has a large market share of Internet searches; however, Google could sit back and do nothing, content for the moment. However, eventually Google would defeat itself once new companies with fresh ideas and better technology would overcome it. Assuming Google is the enemy here, the only way Google can fall from its platform is by failing to innovate and advance with the market. Google has become a verb for crying out loud! Instead of saying, "Search for that on the Internet," we say, "Google it." That is market domination when even the use of a product in that market is known by a brand name. It truly is amazing how insurmountable Google's market share is. Therefore, the only one who can make Google fall is itself. Being a technology driven company, Google must maintain a higher standard and a higher quality product as it continues to attempt to secure itself against defeat.

5) "What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease."

I would like to end with this quote because it defined the need to give full effort to any project. The point here is that it is not enough to beat someone on a final exam when I got a 50 and my opponent got a 49. I did win, but I did not win well or easily. Great businesses become great because they pour endless energy and passion into their products. After reading the book First in Thirst, I discovered that if anyone is going to create a product, he or she better be willing to put in overtime that is most likely unpaid. In this book, the reader sees that the development of Gatorade was by no means simple. University of Florida doctors spent hours in the laboratory to develop a beverage that would lower the incredibly high fatality rate on southern football teams at all levels due to dehydration. They did not need to do this; it did not appear to be profitable at the time. However, they went the extra mile to turn this product into the industry giant that it is today even when it met head-to-head with Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the sports drink market. (Note: Pepsi eventually did buy Gatorade, but not before it tried to run its own line of sports drinks.)

So, I hope I have convinced you, regardless of the discipline you study, to go to your library or a local bookstore and get this book. I applied these principles to business because that is what I know; I would not even know how to begin to apply this book to music, art, or medicine. However, I bet those ties are in the book as there always can be ways to make yourself more competitive. By competitive, I don't always mean when you win; making a hospital more competitive would mean a higher recovery for example. I never thought military tactics could combine with business, but I was wrong. I said in my initial post that my topics would be diverse; I guess I'm living up to that so far.