Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heroic Deeds

While I was watching the preliminaries to the closing ceremonies for these amazing Olympic games, all of the stories that were covered featured the athletes who had overcome previous adversity to finally reach the Olympic dream. Athletes such as Hannah Kearney and Steve Holcomb took center stage and were honored by the news broadcast. This caused me to think however about the role of the athlete as a role model and hero to entire nations. I found an article from a few days ago in the USA Today that considers the role that athletes play in the public realm. This article mainly focuses first on athletes such as O.J. Simpson and Tiger Woods who have had various publicity problems. It then progresses to analyze the actual role of the athlete in regards to being a role model. Finally, the part that was most interesting to me was the business implications to having a spokesman run into some kind of scandal. Surprisingly however there seems to be a very tiny effect on the brand itself. However, it does make sense because before the hero had been disgraced in some form after influencing perhaps thousands of consumers to use a product. The athlete only convinces the user to buy the product; once the product is bought, it must stand on its own. If the consumer liked the product, then the athlete endorsement would have lost much of its meaning. The only thing that having a spokesman or spokeswoman who is involved in a scandal will change within marketing is the effect that he or she will no longer be able to be as successful in this capacity. However, there are so many popular athletes to choose from that all marketing would need to do is hire another one. Saying this though, there are some athletes who would not be replaceable. The first image that came to my mind was Michael Jordan in his prime. He was the most recognizable figure in athletics and certainly one of the most famous people in the world. It is very difficult to find someone else who has that appeal. Luckily, or perhaps not, there are not many Michael Jordans in the world, so the dilemma of replacing one does not come along very often.

It is a shame however that we even need to worry about scandals. However, public figures are human as well and mess up just like the rest of us. The only difference is that their mistakes are broadcast on international news whereas many of our individual mistakes might not even be seen by another person. Public figures should realize that they are indeed held to a higher standard because they are essentially heroes to so many. Whether this standard is fair or not is not really even the question; the point is that athletes need to realize this standard and do their best to live up to it. When they don't, the public needs to realize that they are human, and while that doesn't excuse what they did, it does reinforce the tradition of sinful humans.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


In watching the four-man bobsled, I am sorely disappointed that there are no Jamaicans. Obviously, I realized that there would be no Jamaicans bobsledding before the Olympics started, but the sad realization has now hit me. I love the movie Cool Runnings based on the Jamaican bobsled team, but I wonder how true it really is. I know that there was a Jamaican bobsled team in Calgary that had never run on ice before. However, I wonder how they feel about being made into a comedy. Obviously, some people, like myself, would not mind seeing themselves as a comedy, but I realize that some people would take serious offense to this. The flexibility within the movie is through the phrase "based on a true story." While working within this realm, filmmakers can really do whatever they want to the less essential facts as long as the general story is roughly approximate. In this case, all of the names as well as the albeit hilarious fundraising sequences are made up (at least according to Wikipedia). However, whether or not the sequences are exactly accurate or not at least emphasize the main point of the story in that if you have talent and enough desire, you can rise above any adversity that arises. The movie also shows how natural talent might be able to be translated in ways that you never saw before. Although the real Jamaican bobsled team did not come from Olympic sprinters, there were military men. They were obviously in shape and capable of becoming world-class athletes. However, watching this movie only makes me wish that we could see the underdog rise again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

World Differentiation

How many companies are there that don't need to worry about sales? After all, doesn't anyone who takes an introduction to business course learn that businesses are there to make a profit? Well, this story from the Winnipeg Free Press changes the rules. The reason that this business does not need to worry about finding potential business partners is because who would not want to have their brand associated with the standard for international competition? If you did not cheat and look at the hyperlink that I inserted a few lines ago, you might be thinking about a brand such as McDonald's or Wal-Mart that are simply everywhere. However, this brand is the famous five rings of the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is able to be extraordinarily selective as to the brands they associate with in and of themselves. In order to be associated with the IOC, the companies must be willing to sign an eight-year agreement. Even though many companies might be willing to do that, the IOC only allows 9 or 10 sponsorships at one time. Through this strategy of product differentiation, the Olympics logo has become a symbol of elite athletes and products. When a product can have this type of brand power that allows it to even turn away perfectly viable companies, you know that they're doing something right with this strategy. This is the type of product differentiation that companies should strive to achieve.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pinstripe Pride

I am too young to remember a time without free agency. However, what I've heard about it sounds good to me. Think about it, an era where your favorite player could possibly play his entire career for your favorite team. I know, it's a crazy idea that seems foreign to people of my generation. Nevertheless, it did work once, and I believe it could possibly come around again if more guys were like Derek Jeter. I realize that he is the captain of a franchise that for many seems to symbolize all that is wrong with the free agency system. However, Derek is entering the final year of a massive contract that has kept him in Yankee pinstripes for his entire career. What does he want to do next year? Quite simply, according to a report I read, he wants to stay in New York for the rest of his career. How many players that have retired in the past 10 years can you think of who played their entire careers with one team? The most reason I can think of who actually played for more than a cup of coffee was Cal Ripken Jr. What a radical idea! Ripken played approximately two decades in Baltimore while many players today are lucky to spend two years in one city. The article I linked to earlier cites the fact that the Yankees might not be able to afford the big bucks Jeter will demand. If Derek wants to spend his entire career in New York bad enough, he won't demand more than the Yankees will pay. Also, there is no way that the Yankees would be cheap with Derek Jeter for public opinion sake. He is a popular player; the Yankees I do not believe would risk the public perception of being cheap with a player who has essentially been the face of their franchise. The Yankees are very frugal in only one way; they do not willingly pass out the title of captain. Derek is one of the few and is therefore in elite company. All in all, I hope that Derek stays with the Yankees. He is a great player, and I would hate to see anything that could result from a unhappy separation damage his reputation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Owns the Podium?

Did anybody else watch the US versus Canada men's hockey game on Sunday? Well, you were definitely not alone. MSNBC got 8.22 million viewers to watch this highly touted matchup which was the second most viewed program in network history behind only election night coverage in 2008 which garnered 8.23 million viewers. Wow, it's crazy that the election of the leader of the free world barely outscored a preliminary round hockey game. Don't get me wrong, it was an awesome game; however, who would've known at the beginning that the game would be great? Apparently, everybody must have known. MSNBC has been around for a while, and they have broken some major stories. Why then would a hockey game be so important?

The first obvious answer is because simply it is the Olympics. However, there is a deeper reason why I believe that the game was so important. Near the beginning of the Olympics, Canada set a goal of leading the medal count on their home turf in Vancouver. According to an article that was previously written in the Houston Chronicle, Canada has spent $117,000,000 over the last five years on a program called Own the Podium designed to obviously knock the United States and Germany off the top of the podium as they have traditionally been. These Olympics have been about more than just good fun competition for the Canadians I believe. Until they won their first gold medal of these Olympic Games which was in fact the first Canadian gold medal won on home soil, the media continued to emphasize the fact that these athletes were all under immense pressure to win the first gold. Therefore, I would be curious to see what percentage of this viewing audience were fans of the Canadians. This group would seemingly be the most driven to continue this goal, which doesn't appear to be reachable at the moment, of becoming the top Olympic team in the world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Wide World of... Disney?

People continually worry about the fact that giant corporations are crowding out any hope of a successful small business. Some examples of this are Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and the Disney Corporation. Well, here's one more reason for those people to hate Disney even more.

ESPN, which is owned by Disney, hosts an annual weekend at Disney World that turns into a sports extravaganza. This huge event will be visited this year by a team that for many has symbolized the essence of athletic independence. The Harlem Globetrotters will affiliate their barnstorming game with the corporate giant of Disney. Some may see this as a simple business procedure that will mutually enhance both groups' exposure. Others however will see this as another victim of the age of capitalism and big business. Since the Globetrotters built their image through an almost circus style atmosphere, the affiliation will perhaps make some people believe that in order to be successful, the company must join the system.

However, I don't believe this is why the Globetrotters would join forces with Disney for this weekend. I tend to believe that the opportunity to broadcast the game to millions of people would be very hard to pass up. In fact, this almost seems like free advertising because they were invited to play; they did not buy their way in. All they need to do is get there and publicity is theirs. Any publicity is good publicity, so even if some may not like the idea of the Globetrotters affiliating with Disney, even if just for one weekend, this move will ultimately improve their business as well as help ESPN attract as many viewers as possible.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Okay, I know I said that I would be in the middle of a series on an AAU basketball program I would build in Vermont. However, if a piece of news comes along that I can't resist, I will change my plans. This is one of those times.

A while ago, I wrote about the expansion of the NBA into Africa. I commented that "Bringing an NBA office to an area will only improve the exposure to the sport and will hopefully encourage athletes in that area to become more involved in the sport and develop into even better players which will therefore increase the quality of worldwide NBA talent." Well, it seems like this strategy is playing out in more areas. Check out this blog post on NBC Sports that reports that the NBA intends to set up a branch office in Moscow due to the fact that billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is hoping to buy the New Jersey Nets. It seems that this shows an especially strong desire to further globalize the NBA. This might open the door for more foreign ownership. The global economy is huge; it is much larger than just the American economy. Therefore, it seems like common business sense that the way to maximize profit is to invite investments from all sectors of the global economy. The only potential problem might be a cross-cultural since business is done differently in different countries. The NBA is a largely American business model, so as much as American business owners sometimes have problems adjusting to a global marketplace, foreign owners might also have problems adjusting to the American market.

However, I think this opens a brand-new door for foreign ballplayers. While there are many European players in the NBA, there are plenty more talented Europeans who are not being noticed. My theory is that if ownership can see these players right in their backyard, they will be able to more successfully integrate this talent. Diversity is a buzzword nowadays, so I believe that if the NBA wants to follow the lead of much of the rest of society, this is a great move that will develop their fan base around the world.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coaching and Clarification

Part two: how on earth to find the right coaches to coach in this system? First though, let me clarify a main point. The six teams would not be the only six in Vermont. If I were in charge running an AAU club, this is how I would develop it to create what I believe would be a system that would hopefully help players develop into the best they're capable of becoming. There would definitely be other teams operating because there is no regional "boss" who can regulate who creates a team and who does not. Therefore, while I still do believe that there are too many teams that talent out too far, I also realize that just creating the system I am proposing would not change the whole scenario in Vermont. My goal would be to create a system where the best players to play together on a wider scale to hopefully stimulate the development of Vermont basketball. This might sound somewhat elitist simply because I was one the best players to play for my organization. However, how is this different than any other AAU team? No matter how much I have said that there are too many teams in Vermont, I would do nothing concerning these teams other than trying to concentrate the best players within this new system. Why then would I be confident that the best players would want to play in the system? Well, one major reason would be the coaches. They would need to be focused on development, not so much on the final record. While this may seem odd coming from me, stay with me. If you take the approach of winning first, you might overlook faults in players because if they are winning right now, you'd be doing your job. However, if the focus is on development, you would see continual ways to improve because, as we all know, there is no perfect basketball player or team. In fact, I believe that if the focus is on the development of the player the wins will follow because the team will continue to improve and always be searching for ways to improve. Self-evaluation is never a bad thing, so I believe that one of the most important jobs of the coach is to develop this attitude in his or her players so that they will not become overly satisfied once the wins start coming. Tomorrow, I had to evaluate the best talent to put on an AAU team.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


As promised, I now begin my weeklong look into how I would propose to improve AAU basketball throughout the state of Vermont. The first problem lies with the geography of our great state. Other than Burlington, there is no other city with a population of over 20,000 people. Cities are convenient simply because they concentrated people within a small geographic area and therefore make association simpler. In basketball terms, this is also an issue. I have enjoyed traveling around in Vermont and watching basketball in the small schools. However, I also have learned that in these small schools, there might only be one or two kids who are truly good basketball players. This is where AAU needs to do its magic. It needs to overcome the idea that AAU is simply an extension of the school team. Instead of having a bunch of AAU teams with one or two good players, why not create just one that concentrates all of these talented players? The one problem with this aspect lies in the fact that there might need to be a certain amount of travel to get these athletes to practice. However, I have heard of players traveling a few hours to practice with an elite team, so since you can be from one corner of Vermont to the other in just about four hours, if Vermont could manage to create just four of these competitive teams, no player would in theory have to travel more than one hour. Now, I do not know the talent distribution in Vermont. It might be such a thing that out of the 40 best players in Vermont, 14 of them are in the north. Then, the North team would be overloaded or would leave out some of the best players in Vermont. What to do then? Well, in looking at a population density map from the 2000 census (, a majority of the population lives in or around Chittenden County. My proposal would actually involve six teams throughout Vermont. The proposed regions would be:
• Burlington area (Essex, Colchester, etc.)
• Central Vermont (Montpelier, Barre, Northfield, etc.)
• Northeast Kingdom (St. Johnsbury, Newport, etc.)
• Southern Vermont (Brattleboro, Bennington, etc.)
• Rutland area (Middlebury, Vergennes, etc.)
• Eastern Vermont (White River Junction, Windsor, etc.)
The nice part about this system is that if one team is full, there would be another team one hour away. This system would allow for 10 players at any given age group from each area. Within one hour of each of these regions, I'm sure you can find 10 good players or at least 10 players who if given proper coaching could turn their natural athleticism into solid basketball talent. Tomorrow, I will explain as I have previously noted, how I would propose that coaches train and nurture within the system.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Details

Senior night is a great time to be in a gym. To watch the fans honor their favorite players who have in turn honored the fans by playing their hearts out for the previous four years it is somewhat bittersweet moment. Tonight, I sat in such a game and thought to myself, Man, this season is almost over. What am I going to do with my life? Well, after the playoff season and traditional trip to the Barre Auditorium comes the infamous AAU season. I want to qualify my statement by saying that I am a firm supporter of AAU basketball; however, being around it for the past few years, I have realized that it's definitely not for everyone. What do I mean by this? AAU basketball is not for the casual or social basketball player. AAU technically begins as early as eight years old, but a younger child is always allowed to play above his or her age group. Therefore, you may have a seven year old on the floor. In theory, AAU basketball season is a season that allows selective clubs to bring together the best players from various schools and form an area all-star team. As I have previously written in my blog, the theory behind this is allowing the best players the opportunity to enhance each other's skills and therefore improve each individual player as well as the entire team. I have also stated that, for the most part, many teams in Vermont do not do this. I still believe this, but I realized that my proposed solution was just like anybody else's. I can talk the talk and theorize just like anyone else and say that my idea would work. I hope to now develop a miniseries if you will that will emphasize more specific details behind what I think would help this program improve. I don't want to go on and on tonight, so I will now give you the rough outline I intend to follow.

1. Geography: How would my system be geographically distributed around Vermont?
2. Coaching: How would my system decide who would be the best coach for various ages?
3. Player Selection: How would my system ensure that the best talent is enriched through AAU?
4. Financing: How would my system be funded in the current economy?
5. Development: How would my system be any more effective at developing athletes?
6. Competition: Who would my system compete against?
7. Success: Why would the system be better than what we have now?

I hope that you will return to see where my thoughts lie. I may be totally wrong, but you'll never know unless you check it out!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Day the Music Died

It must be just Don MacLean said, yesterday was the day the music died. No, I realize that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper did not die yesterday. The death of the music I am referring to is the first time in six years that American Idol has not led the prime time TV ratings. What was the reason for this you might ask? Well, the Olympics almost doubled Idol with 30.1 million fans as opposed to 18.4 million music fans according to NBC Sports. Of course, they must realize that last night featured all the stories that the Vancouver Winter Olympics have been built upon. First, Apollo Anton Ohno continued his trek as the elder statesman of American short track speed skating. Then, Lindsey Vonn who quickly became the inspirational story of the Olympics by battling an injury arrived at prime time to a gold medal victory. Finally, the ultimate showman and arguably most popular American athlete of the Olympic Games, Shaun White, dropped into the half pipe and utterly demolished the competition while throwing down his newest invention, a double McTwist. Honestly, with all of these already established stars on one night, how could Idol expect to compete when all they feature are wannabe stars? Everyone has to realize that this was by no means coincidental; NBC knew the only way they could compete with Fox's megahit was by loading the lineup. As the article I previously cited on NBC Sports stated, "It's a business, folks, and the goal is to maximize ratings points not during the Dr. Oz and Judge Judy portion of the television calendar but when the majority of Americans are in their homes and watching their televisions." Think about it, why is curling on all afternoon? As I explained in an earlier post, curling does not bother me. However, I do realize that by and large it is among the least popular sports in the Winter Olympics. Also, think about the money that NBC raises while selling advertising for this time period. Buying an advertisement for 30.1 million people to see will not come cheap; therefore, NBC could charge a premium price for the limited spots. Anyway, it's good to see sports returned to their rightful place on top of ratings. I don't understand how reality TV has managed to stay on top of sports for this long...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Athletic Nation

Here's proof that sports can be more than just a game. As many of you know, Sri Lanka has had intense civil war for about 30 years. However, according to a report on BBC News, a new era of political stability is coming to this nation. How then do they propose to revitalize this war-torn nation? According to Maxwell de Silva of the Sri Lankan Olympic Association, "A nation has to be healthy to achieve anything and sport is the best path to get there." This may seem like a bold statement to many of you, but I like to propose a few reasons as to why this strategy to nation building might not be quite as radical and outlandish as it sounds.

First, this statement is being made by a representative from the Sri Lankan Olympic Association. There's nothing like worldwide competition to stimulate national pride. Think about events like the Olympics or the World Cup. By evaluating how well you stack up against the rest of the world, a spirit of competition is inspired. As I learned in my Modern European History class, nationalism can bring a country together regardless of their past or the seeming sustainability of their future. Helping build a sense of national pride seems to me like it will help bring the nation together as one cohesive unit.

Also, this article seems to indicate that people in Sri Lanka that sports are already a major part of the culture. It states that most children know how to play sports but do not often have organized teams or leagues to play in. Therefore, they never learn the values of teamwork, fair play, leadership, and other skills that are inherent in organized athletics. While it might not seem like this investment in youth sports would pay dividends immediately, think about another generation of Sri Lankan youth who would be brought through a system that would be inherently beneficial for their character development and would therefore help them develop into the kind of leaders that a redeveloping nation would almost surely require.

I think I have made an investment in sports seem much more reasonable in the process of nation building. I realize that many people will see him that sports are simply entertainment and are not essential to the national development. I would argue in this situation that sports are highly relevant because Sri Lanka, at least from the impression I received from this article, is not in a terrible economic state. They are not starving the poor simply to provide sports for the rich. What this country really needs is people to get behind, people who they can cheer for, people who inspire them to see what unified Sri Lanka can do. See, sports can be more than just fun and games...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


We live in a highly customizable world. Everything can be made to order; even the computer I'm working on was made with features that I chose. At least I have come to expect that any product I buy will fill the needs that I intend it to fill. In turn, businesses create their products to fill my needs so they can maximize profit. Seems pretty logical to me. However, what I read on PC World today made me think of customization in a whole new light.

In Europe (everything happens first in Europe), Puma has released a cell phone. Okay, so now your thinking, so what? This phone is tailored to the needs of a sports fan! The features that the article highlights include essentially an application that acts as a pedometer, counting the number of steps and calories burned. Also, for my eco-friendly readers, there is a solar panel on the back of the phone that will help reduce your carbon footprint. Who would not want a phone that can fill in many of your needs in one device rather than carrying around five different devices? According to the report, this phone should quickly be available in most of the world although pricing has not been announced.

I wonder if this multi-use device will be all it promises to be. The only reason I say this is that new devices can have bugs. When devices do not work the way they're supposed to, the consumers get upset. Consumers get even more upset when they have used the broken device to run many aspects of their life and have disposed of the outdated devices. Then, the consumers realize that bundling their equipment into one machine is not worth the time and will not buy them again. Therefore, I hope Puma is careful because if they do not produce a quality electronic device on the first swing, people will not trust the company again for future needs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shuffleboard On Ice

There is no other Olympic sport that seems to have raised so much confusion as curling. Many people have no idea how this game is played beside the fact that they throw a giant rock down the ice and use funny looking brooms to guide the rock onto a relatively small target. However, I felt that I would do a little research tonight to get all of us fired up for the first Olympic round-robin matches tomorrow at 9 AM.

The first recorded instance of curling was in Scotland in 1541, and the first club was established in 1716. Ever since, curling has been tied to Scotland and has since become a major world sport, or at least major enough to earn a spot in the Olympics. However, very few people have any idea how this game is scored much less won. Using the most trusted source on the Internet, Wikipedia, I discovered that there are 10 rounds in a game of curling. Each round, each individual team has eight stones to shoot at target. Now once the eight stones are thrown by each team, the game is scored like bocce. For many of you, bocce may not be any more help than curling, so I will explain further. The team that has its stone closest to the middle of the target gets one point for each additional stone that it has closer to the middle than the closest of the opponent's stones. In my rough sketch shown, the dark team would score 3 points in this round.

Well, I hope I've been able to help you understand the sport a little better. If anybody wants to, shoot me an e-mail and we can go out curling on Lake Champlain! (You know I'm joking, right?) Either way though, if you're watching this sport in Torino in 2006, I've come to appreciate it more than I previously had. Think of it simply as shuffleboard on ice and the rest will make sense.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


When you win the Super Bowl, you go to Disney World. When you win the NCAA championship, you get to meet the President. When you win a gold medal and you're from Vermont, what do you want? Hannah Kearney is just like any other Vermonter I guess; these she wants her own flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Citing the fact that Hannah Teter got her own flavor for winning the snowboarding half pipe in Torino four years ago, Kearney knows that she wants the same treatment. She told the Seattle Times earlier that he desired flavor would be "coffee ice cream with Oreos." Beyond sounding amazing, I love how Vermont chooses to honor its best athletes. The biggest dilemma for Ben & Jerry's will not be whether or not the ice cream will sell because it will definitely be a hit; the biggest dilemma will be what to name this amazing flavor. What do you name an ice cream that is relevant to a moguls skier that also incorporates Oreos and coffee ice cream? Anyway, I definitely think Ben & Jerry's would be smart to capitalize on this amazing feat simply because Ben & Jerry's sells itself on making quirky flavors based on people (think Cherry Garcia). Also, by enhancing their image as a premium Vermont brand, even naming ice cream after famous Vermonters will further throw this image into the minds of their grateful customers. Hopefully, Ben & Jerry's will extend an offer to Kearney not only because she is one of the most famous Vermonters in the world at this moment but because if as a company they can capitalize on this fame to increase their bottom line.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


The sports world is becoming smaller and smaller. While this movement has been particularly evident in Major League Baseball as many Japanese baseball players have been coming to the American ranks, the NBA is looking to make a move of its own. In a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I read that David Stern announced the opening of a new NBA office in Johannesburg, South Africa. I think that this move will allow the NBA and basketball in general to tap into the potential of a continent that holds about 1,000,000,000 people. Only 25 players from Africa have ever played on NBA rosters, yet I wonder what would happen if more African players came to the NBA. I think about what happened when Yao Ming came to America after playing in China. He became an even bigger star in his homeland than when he was still there. I bet the same would happen in Africa; players who would be superstars in their own land would become even more than this by entering the NBA simply because it is the ultimate stage for professional basketball. Nothing against the various other professional basketball leagues around the world, but many great players have been recruited from these leagues to join the NBA. From a business perspective, imagine the potential of drawing approximately one seventh of the world behind their continental athletes. Again, think about how many All-Star votes Yao Ming receives every year because of the vast support he receives by being one of the few Chinese players.

Basketball may have been developed in America, but it has become a world sport. It is one of the few sports that seems to have caught on in all corners of the world. Bringing an NBA office to an area will only improve the exposure to the sport and will hopefully encourage athletes in that area to become more involved in the sport and develop into even better players which will therefore increase the quality of worldwide NBA talent.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Everywhere You Want to Be

As I sit here watching the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, I am reminded of my first Olympic Games. Even though I had been alive for a few Olympic Games previously, I remember the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games most clearly. This is a somewhat sad fact, but I cannot remember many athletes individually. What I do remember of these Olympics are namely figure skating, ski jumping, Mount Fuji, and extensive advertising by Visa. It's kind of sad when as a seven-year-old kid I was already being influenced by extensive advertisement. I remember the tagline "Visa, it's everywhere you want to be." Visa has been a major sponsor of the Olympics for as long as I can remember, but according to an article I read on the Portfolio website, Visa will be even more prevalent during these Olympic Games. The company has tapped the potential of YouTube to create a channel that broadcasts Olympic footage along with Visa commercials. Also, they unleashed an unprecedented campaign where Visa cardholders can be entered in a sweepstakes for lifetime tickets to the Olympics. Honestly, this is an amazing prize, but I wonder how effective this promotion will be. I think that a prize of this magnitude will be a great incentive, yet I wonder if the profits and new customers that will be gained through this approach will outweigh the obviously hefty expense that will accompany this prize. Visa wants to maintain its hold on the Olympic market, and I feel like this is a great way to do it that will appeal to people of all ages.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hookin' the Horns?

There used to be a day when teams would play those geographically close to them. That was the theory I assume behind the NCAA conference set up. For example, logically teams on the East Coast would play other teams on East Coast to reduce traveling expenses as well as time away from the classroom. Apparently, the Texas Longhorns feel like bucking the system according to a report on the Columbia Daily Tribune website. The rumor has it that the Big Ten has talked to Texas about making the Big 12 and Big Ten into perhaps a pair of Big 11s. Okay, maybe I stretched the names a bit, but this idea of two conferences of 11 teams would indeed become reality. I realize that perhaps some of my readers may not realize the significant difference geographically between these two conferences. The Big Ten is mainly a Midwest conference that stretches from Pennsylvania to Minnesota. The Big 12 is basically the center of the country stretching from Missouri to Colorado. The only state that overlaps in these regions is Iowa as the University of Iowa is a member of the Big Ten and Iowa State University is a member of the Big 12. This means that if Texas joined the Big Ten, the closest in-conference game they would play would be at the University of Iowa which would be roughly the equivalent of the farthest game they play in the Big 12 at Iowa State. This would mean much more time out of the classroom for the student-athletes and the added demand of much more attrition from the extended traveling. All in all, I cannot say that this move would make any sense at all for Texas especially but also many of the other schools in the Big Ten who would need to travel all the way to Austin. I hope this doesn't go through; having the competition nearby only enhances the competition!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


As you might have guessed by now, I enjoy a good superstition. The Curse of the Bambino, which has since fallen, and The Curse of the Billy Goat are two of my favorites. I don't particularly believe in these curses; however, I like looking at the lengths people will go to avoid falling victim to a "curse." I'm sure many of you have heard of the Madden cover curse that plagues any athlete who graces the cover of this amazingly popular game (if you are not familiar, check out the Wikipedia entry for the Madden curse). However, I discovered a new curse today that was brought to my attention through the recent injury to potential Olympian Lindsay Vonn. For details on how this curse has come through history, check out this article on the Sports Illustrated website. It's amazing how consistent this has been throughout the history of the magazine. Even from the original cover boy Eddie Mathews who suffered a hand injury one week after he appeared on the cover of SI that caused him to miss seven games, the curse has progressed to nip even the most talented athletes. In 1993, Barry Bonds was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as he was having an amazing year. Within two weeks of this accomplishment, Bonds' batting average dropped 40 points! 40 points on a batting average can be the difference between an All-Star and a second rate starter. For example, think about the difference between Yadier Molina who was the All-Star starter last year and ended the year with a batting average of .293 and fellow National League backstop Jason Kendall who batted .241. Granted, Kendall is a fine player who makes other contributions to his team through his above-average speed for a catcher. However, this difference was a significant decrease in production from Bonds which "coincidentally" followed the magazine cover. Coincidence? Yeah, I pretty much think so. However, I think that without this aura of superstition surrounding various athletic traditions, the "magic" and "mystique" surrounding professional athletics would be lost. If people can't dream through sports, where else can they imagine what could have been if only fate had not been against them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Brave New World

When I was a young child in daycare, my friend Isaac and I would play Madden 95 on his Sega Genesis. Talk about high-tech! Looking back on what the videogame was, I wonder why I was so amazed by the graphics. At this point in my life though, I did not have any videogame experience beyond the Sega. Ever since, Madden has been pumping out the game after game that allow children to play just like I did. However, the future of Madden, while it seems to intend to remain in the console market, will be branching out soon. In multiple articles released today, Peter Moore, the president of the EA sports, has said that a version of Madden will be released on everyone's favorite social networking site, Facebook! While I could not locate many details as to how the game would play, I'm wondering if it will be along the lines of Farmville. Farmville is incredibly popular in that it allows people the ability to benefit through the increased participation of friends. In order to do well, it is definitely helpful to have many friends beside you. I wonder if maybe Madden will adapt a similar mode. The more friends you have, the more talent you will be able to add to your team. I definitely do not anticipate Madden being a live play football game simply because that would be an incredible load to put on an Internet connection. Therefore, it might be more along the lines of NFL Head Coach where the user chooses the players and the plays but does not actually execute them. Also, it is possible that this game will be nothing like the rest of the franchise. Because it is on a different platform, it does not necessarily need to live up to the high performance expectation that people have come to expect from the best-selling videogame franchise. Simply using Madden on the name of this application will cause amazing traffic and usage because of the brand recognition. Brands can sell better than the product can often times.

Will I be playing Madden if it ever debuts on Facebook? Without playing it, I cannot say whether or not I will become a loyal follower. I have played Facebook games and enjoyed many of them, so I will give Madden a try as long as it is free. I would also really appreciate it if the game would be competitive even if the user does not feel like buying points through PayPal. I just want to play a fun little game; I don't want to become enthralled with a game that will lead me to drain my savings as I have seen World of Warcraft and other MMO's do to many others.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leaving the Door Open

I have heard of people criticizing last night's Super Bowl advertisement featuring David Letterman and Jay Leno simply because they are each promoting their competition. However, I am more confused by the fact that the NFL Network will begin to broadcast a game of the week from Arena Football One according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. It seems like the NFL will be promoting their competition on their own network. Did anyone else watch the ESPN documentary "Who Killed the USFL?" In this TV special, the fact is emphasized that many key players, including turned MMA fighter Herschel Walker who was also the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner, were abandoning the NFL for the new upstart. The USFL did this without the support of the NFL; I wonder if this could happen again. Granted, arena football is an entirely different breed of football, but I wonder why the NFL would promote competition. Arena Football One will only become a legitimate threat if they can find money to back them up. The only way the USFL competed with the NFL was because moguls like Donald Trump were able to come in and lure players away from the NFL. I would assume that this television exposure will help this league gather the sponsors it will desperately need. Also, playing in the spring just as the USFL did will give Arena Football One the opportunity to appeal to diehard football fans who need something to occupy their time between the Super Bowl and the preseason. Again, there is no way that Arena Football One will be able to compete with the NFL at any time soon; however, what I am saying is that if this new league can use ingenious marketing paired with innovative on the field action that will hopefully accompany a very fast-paced and exciting game might have the potential to eventually be appealing to NCAA athletes if they can gather enough money. Of course, there is the potential for this to turn into another XFL that was hyped as a more violent football game but turned out to be unsuccessful. Only time will tell if I am an amazing visionary or just a dreamer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Obvious Post

Well another Super Bowl has come and gone. Congratulations New Orleans on a great 31 to 17 victory! However, the Saints needed more than just skill to best Indianapolis; they needed guts. I will admit that the onside kick that started the second half was not even on my radar. That was the first time there was a successful onside kick before the fourth quarter in Super Bowl history! I doubt I was the only one who was surprised by this unorthodox move; in fact, I know this because many Colts were already dropping back to cover the kick return. I guess that in a game like the Super Bowl where any play might define the game the great teams make plays happen instead of reacting to what already has happened. Can you imagine the second-guessing if that play had failed? The only man who would have been more hated than Sean Payton would have been in New Orleans would be Steve Bartman in Chicago. However, as Aristotle astutely pointed out, "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." Hey, if madness is what it takes to win the Super Bowl, I don't think anybody in New Orleans will be complaining.

Another comment on a different aspect of the Super Bowl would be my feeling that halftime show performers should not be receiving Social Security checks. I am not age discriminating here; on the contrary, it is hard to see bands who were great in their day be so reduced in vocal quality. Tonight, they did not sound like the band who sang "Pinball Wizard" on my favorite playlist of downloaded music. I know people get old and voices change; however, I wish we could remember The Who as the band they were.

I am sorry to admit that I totally missed the Tim Tebow commercial. I'm sure you all know how it is when you are scurrying around to gather your full plate of the Super Bowl buffet before too much of the game is finished. While I was completing this ritual, I saw the end of the commercial but could not hear it over the general clamor in our house. However, it seemed too simple. I feel like such a big deal was made over this ad that was undeserved. I decided I needed to log online to review the commercial and see if it was as "un-American" as it was deemed before. No way! Watch the video here! With all the media hype that has been generated, I almost expected to see essentially a protest video. However, all Mrs. Tebow said was, "I call him my miracle baby. He almost didn't make it into this world." If so many people would not have made such a big deal over this advertisement, many people could have thought that Tim simply was a sickly baby who almost didn't survive. While it could be implied from the commercial that an abortion was suggested, there are other possibilities that could have occurred. All in all though, I am glad that Tim stood up for what he believed in regardless of the opinions of others.

It was a good Super Bowl even though my team didn't win. Maybe I need to have a religious experience with Sister Jean Kenny of the St. Francis Borgia Parish. She is 18-7 in choosing the Super Bowl over the last 25 years and has been dubbed the "Super Bowl Sister." As I continue my streak of picking the wrong team to win the Super Bowl to three years now, maybe it is time for a long-distance phone call...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What Does It Take to Become Your Best?

Nothing irritates me more than people who use their circumstances as a simple excuse for not becoming all that they can become. Nobody can accuse Kevin Laue of this. Laue is a 6 foot 10 "senior" at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia who has overcome more adversity than most other players would. Kevin has been without his left forearm since birth yet decided that he would still become a basketball player. Who would have thought that he would excel in a sport where from an early age youngsters are encouraged to dribble with both hands and are almost required to be proficient with both hands by the time they make high school varsity? How did he do this you might ask? Very simply, Kevin is extraordinarily athletic, had adopted his playing style to emphasize his talent, and has an amazing work ethic. I will admit that I was surprised when I turned on the TV and saw Kevin's recruitment, but I began wondering why I should have been surprised. He has the natural gift of height which often makes recruiters come calling. He is extraordinarily athletic as I mentioned before and is definitely not a center who will be limited to the post. Also, becoming an NCAA Division I caliber athlete requires an amazing work ethic. There are approximately 300 Division I colleges that each have somewhere between 10 and 15 players. To be ranked among the top approximately 4500 basketball playing students in America is difficult enough, and there are plenty of obstacles that can stand between a player and that goal. Many people would feel that losing one forearm would be reason enough to give up on basketball and pursue something else. However, Kevin followed his passion to rise to his place as one of the better basketball players in America right now. I would imagine that he ran into some naysayers along the way who told him that basketball would not be in his future simply because there had never been a college player with only one arm. Apparently, Kevin worried less about whether or not he was following someone else's trail; he created his own. Watch this YouTube interview with Kevin, and you will find that adversity only becomes a problem if you allow it to become one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

It was a good year for sports movies as The Blind Side and Invictus being nominated for many Oscars. According to a blog post I read by Len Berman, only three sports movies have ever won the Best Picture. For any of you who were wondering, these movies were Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and Million Dollar Baby. However, I decided to dedicate this post to some of my favorite sports movies. So...
• First and foremost, Remember the Titans is at the top of my list and should be on the top of everybody else's. While this movie primarily focuses on a newly integrated football team, football is less important than the seemingly inevitable racial conflicts that were unfortunately all too common in that era. Also, when a white coach was replaced by a black coach in the South at this time, the results almost destroyed a team that would go on to become one of the best in the nation. In my opinion, this seamless weaving of athletics and culture makes Remember the Titans the best sports movie if not my favorite movie.
• Another movie that could be seen as more than sports movie is Miracle. As anybody who was alive at the time understood, the 1980 Winter Olympics meant more than who walked home with the more valuable medal. At the height of the Cold War, America and the Soviet Union met in the men's hockey semi finals in a game that has been considered one of the greatest in Olympic history. Again, this movie could be just about hockey, and it would be a great story. However, by intertwining historical events with one of the most famous hockey games of all time is a recipe for a great movie.
• This is not one movie because in order to give this trilogy due credit, The Mighty Ducks must be viewed as a series. Any of the individual movies are great, but the development that becomes evident through watching all three movies makes the characters personalities become much more multifaceted. For example, the character of Charlie Conway in Mighty Ducks one appears to be nothing more than a young kid who is very dependent on his coach. In Mighty Ducks two, Charlie develops into the type of leader who is willing to sacrifice his own fame for the betterment of the team. Finally, in the third installment, despite the adversity that Charlie faces, he rises above these confrontations to become the hero we knew he could become. This and many other reasons are why The Mighty Ducks trilogy ranks among my favorite sports movies.

These are just a few of my favorite sports movies. As long as sports remain such a large part in American society, I hope that we will continue to see a flood of more great sports movies for years to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Every year for quite a few years I have taped the NBA All-Star weekend. It all began when I was younger and the games were on after my bedtime. The obvious highlight of the weekend was the famous slam dunk contest. Who doesn't love to watch some of the most athletic people in the world show off in front of thousands of screaming fans? Although in my opinion the dunks have become less original in the past few years, I have enjoyed the antics of Dwight Howard turning into Superman and Nate Robinson coming out in a fluorescent green "Kryptonite" uniform bent on bringing down the Man of Steel. Some of my favorite contest moments were during the 2002 All-Star weekend when the contest took on the feel of Wheel of Fortune. In the second round, each player would spin the giant wheel and whatever category they landed on would determine what dunk they would need to replicate from the archives. I remember watching these athletes trying to replicate what became an image of the greatness of Michael Jordan: the dunk from the free throw line. Even though this dunk was performed when a Julius Erving dunk was spun, somehow in my mind this dunk will always be associated with Michael himself. Maybe this is because I am the product of my generation that grew up when every basketball player wanted to "Be like Mike." I do not mean to diminish the accomplishments of Dr. J; it is just that a player who has achieved worldwide fame will dominate the attention of his era. Who hasn't seen the image of Michael Jordan, tongue fully protruded, soaring towards the rim with seemingly super hero ability? This image and this athlete have come to define slam dunking greatness. Michael is not nicknamed His Airness for nothing. What the dunk contest needs to revitalize itself is simply get the stars to enter. In 1985, 1987, and 1988, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins squared off in what have become some of the most famous contests in history. Not only were these two the best dunkers in the NBA; they were two of the league's brightest stars. Come on Lebron! You have been saying that you will compete in the dunk contest and bailed. Until superstars get back into the mix, the epic contests will be lost to future generations.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If It Ain't Broke...

I realize that business owners want to make a profit; being a business major, I understand this. Without profit, the business is bound to run into a tough situation. However, when the motivation for profit interferes with the overall integrity and tradition of the business, there is an issue. According to my business textbook, this commitment to the betterment of the community as a whole is often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. However, though I am typically a fan of NCAA basketball, I wish that they would ignore the profit motivation that seems to be pervading their judgment recently and focus on their CSR which is to provide the best basketball experience for their fans.

Looking at the column that was written earlier today on NBC Los Angeles, I was absolutely shocked to find out that the NCAA tournament is very close to expanding the tournament field to 96 teams as opposed to the traditional 65. 31 more teams will be dancing in March if this deal goes down as several sources are predicting it will. What's wrong with this you might ask? First of all, the NCAA tournament is supposed to be a matchup of the best of the best. Granted, there are always teams on the proverbial bubble who should be in but aren't. However, do any of these themes on the bubble have the potential to seriously contend for the national championship? As much as I love a good Cinderella story, realistically, the lowest seed ever to win a national championship was a number eight seed, which was Villanova in 1985 according to the always reliable Wikipedia. This means that a team in the bottom half of a regional bracket has never won or even made the national championship. Odds are, many of these 31 new entrants would be of a similar caliber and probably have no chance of making a serious run at the national championship. Therefore, what difference would these teams make? I'll tell you what difference it would make; it would make a lot more money for the NCAA. The amazing number of viewers who watch these games would only be multiplied by the fact that there would be more games to watch. According to the article I saw on NBC, the first round of the tournament will consist of seeds 9 to 24 competing for the right to play the one through eight seeds. This would create many more games; as opposed to the 64 games there are currently including the play in game, there would now be 95 games as the new round of "play in" winners would then meet up with the top eight teams from each bracket which would be reminiscent of the 64 team field we have right now. Typically, I say that more basketball is a great thing, and it is. However, what significance will the season have if approximately one third of all teams get in? All a team in a highly competitive conference would need to do is go .500 to all but guarantee a spot in the field. However, I think we will still have many of the same problems of the underrepresentation of mid-major teams. Many teams will still get in based on reputation; the Selection Committee is just as biased as many of us fans.

The added revenue for the NCAA seems to be a good enough reason for the NCAA to expand the field. However, they need to remember that their first responsibility is to provide the best experience for their fans. Why mess with the system? It already draws millions of viewers every year and has become one of the most popular sporting events of the year. After all, how many events do you know that have the power to alter national activity for a whole month?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Super Bowl Mania

While it always amazes me what control popular culture holds over many Americans, I am even more amazed by the fact that the Super Bowl so many viewings. I realize how popular football is in America, but it is crazy how many people watch the Super Bowl who have no clue about football. What makes this game so popular amongst people who care less about football the other 364 or 365 days of the year? I believe that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the fact that the Super Bowl has become more than a football game; it has become a national institution. Some schools in Indiana have even considered canceling classes the day after the Super Bowl because the Colts are in it. You do not need to know much about football to appreciate the spectacle that has been built around the game. Some people even watch simply to see the sometimes innovative, sometimes controversial, but always entertaining commercials. Some people might watch just to see the half-time show (although given the past few half-time shows, I was less than impressed). Some people watch just so they won't be totally ignorant around the watercooler or office photocopier. There is nothing worse than being the only person in the office who has no idea that the Steelers beat the Cardinals last year. Also, the Super Bowl means camaraderie; how many other times throughout the year do you get to have all your friends over, eat the amazing food, and all share a single focus for about three hours. What has this single football game able to rise above the traditional boundaries of its market and appeal to a vast majority of people? I do not really know how to answer this; I would say, however, that the Super Bowl is a beautiful example of viral marketing. You need to know about the game, or you will be the only one or at least one of the few. Granted, the Super Bowl does spend a lot of money on direct advertising, but this feeling of necessity to watch the game seems to show similar trends with viral marketing strategies. If a buzz can be created surrounding an event so that everyone needs to know about it, the event will be successful. The Super Bowl is extraordinarily successful; they have discovered how to get all of society talking. I know I'll be watching the Super Bowl, and I hope that the rest of the country will catch the great feeling surrounding this game of all games.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Should It Be In You?

As I was sitting at a girls' basketball game between Spaulding High School and Rice Memorial High School on a cold night in Barre, I noticed that there were two titans competing. While the teams were great, I noticed what was that the end of the benches. I'm not referring to assistant coaches, statisticians, managers, or any of the players who happen to be avoiding the coach; this battle was between Powerade on the Crimson Tide bench and Gatorade on the Green Knights bench. Gatorade is obviously the household name as it has been immortalized through many "Gatorade moments" such as the tradition of dumping that signature orange cylinder of odd colored liquid over the victorious coach's head. However, Powerade has come into the market as a larger force in recent years because of a more modern image headlines by a new version of Gatorade's classic spokesman, Lebron James who has been compared to His Airness many times. Realistic videos of Lebron doing the impossible such as nailing full-court shot after full-court shot have given Powerade an image. As opposed to just being a lesser substitute, Powerade has arrived as a legitimate competitor even though Gatorade still holds a vast margin on the overall market. Why has Gatorade remained so dominant? After all, according to research done, Gatorade and Powerade are not significantly different in formula. The first reason is, as I mentioned before, the tradition. For so long Gatorade has been directly related to winning as a celebratory gesture. Therefore, any new entrant into the market will not have any possible way to compete with this history simply because they don't have it. You can't create history. Another reason Gatorade will remain dominant is because they already are dominant despite the fact that they charge more for teams to use their product. Upon viewing both companies' online stores, for the same amount of money, which would be one of Powerade's large kits and two of Gatorade's, I discovered that:
• Gatorade would give you a larger cooler (60 quarts versus 40 quarts)
• They would both provide two 10 quart coolers
• Powerade would give 14 more towels
• Powerade would give 26 more clutch bottles
• They would both provide four bottle carriers
• Gatorade would give 500 more disposable cups
• Gatorade would give 12 more gallons of beverage made with powder

In looking at these, it appears that Powerade would give the consumer more for their money with a product that is seemingly of equal quality. Why then would people not use Powerade? Through ingenious marketing, Gatorade has been able to differentiate themselves from the market in a way that most companies only dream of being able to do.