Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guest Post from Steve Seiferheld of Turnkey Sports and Entertainment

Steve Seiferheld is the Senior Vice President of Consumer Research at Turnkey Sports & Entertainment where he oversees all members of the consumer research team. He received his BA in Statistics from Rutgers University, his MS in Statistics from Cornell University, and has since gained more than 12 years in experience doing market research through entertainment, professional sports, pharmaceuticals, and much more. 


I’d like to tell you a story about Tina’s Lemonade Stand.  Tina launched her lemonade stand business in Haddonfield, NJ on Grove Street.  Business picked up quickly; sales weren’t bad.  Tina believed in the power of sales data and hence tracked her customers and how much lemonade they purchased.  Tina knew that her average customer bought two (2) glasses of lemonade per month.

Tina’s best customer was a gentleman named Bob.  Bob loved Tina’s lemonade, so much so that he bought 80 glasses per month!  Some on the way to work, some after a long bike ride – never a bad time for a glass of Tina’s lemonade.  Bob alone represented 35% of Tina’s lemonade revenue.

One day, Tina went shopping to Shop-Rite instead of Wegman’s and found a new brand of lemonade that would reduce her costs by 10%.  Naturally intrigued by the opportunity to reduce cost, Tina stocked up on the cheaper lemonade.  The next day, Bob came by to purchase a glass.  He took a sip, and thought “ewww, what happened to the lemonade?”  He politely smiled at Tina, took his glass of lemonade with him, and never stopped at Tina’s stand again.

Sure, Tina saved 10% on cost-of-goods.  But there went 35% of revenue out the door.  And why did this happen?  Because Tina failed to take into account the opinion and preference of her best customer.  Tina did eventually switch back to the old lemonade, but it was too late.  Bob’s new love was a Starbucks Grande Latte.

Sports teams could benefit from understanding this story.  What Bob was to Tina, season-ticket holders are to properties.  And what happens when sports properties don’t listen to their best customers?  Their best customers leave.  And especially for teams that have empty seats already, the loss of a season-ticket holder presents challenges.  The NBA season has 41 regular-season home games.  Lose one season-ticket holder, and now you need 41 new single-game buyers to replace that one body.  Sure seems easier to make one sale than 41.

It has become extremely easy to obtain feedback from all customer types, especially season-ticket holders or the like.  In fact, avid fans want to provide feedback!  Survey response rates for avid fans far outweigh less-engaged fans.  Just a smattering of research methodologies in use today:

- Online surveying of fans/ticket holders contained in the team’s database
- Onsite research of game attendees
- Social media data capture
- Fan panels

There obviously exists no obligation on the part of teams to ask fans for insight before making decisions.  We would certainly not recommend seeking feedback related to on-field personnel matters.  But as many businesses inside and outside of sports now realize, listening to the voice of the customer results in stronger loyalty and profits. 

P.S. – Tina eventually had to shutter her lemonade stand and found work as a food server at the Drexel dining hall.  She’s saving her money to eventually start a new market research consultancy.

Young Man Game

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is a 20 year old kid from Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil and is his country's number one hope to win the next FIFA World Cup at home. This young boy carries the weight of over 190 million people on his shoulder but does not seem to mind it. The young super star was described by Pelé (the greatest football player of all time) as a "technical marvel, a wizard with magical feet." The talent is definitely there no doubt about that, but is he headed in the right direction off the field, financially?

Neymar is reportedly making $18 million per year, and is by far the most well paid athlete in all of Brazil. He has already closed endorsement deals with 10 companies that are local and international (Red Bull, Panasonic, Lupo, Claro, Heliar, Tennys Pé, Guaraná Antartica, Santander Bank, Unilever, Volkswagen) and has a private deal signed with Nike until 2022. Neymar's earnings off the field are estimated at around $12 million. Neymar Jr's dad, Neymar Senior is the main person in charge of his son's career and earnings, and has recently acquired help from Santos FC, which is the team that the young Neymar plays for. Santos had to create a separate department that only takes care of Neymar's image, and they appointed a marketing specialist as the head of the newly created department. Also, former world football star Ronaldo's sports marketing firm 9ine is helping out with managing the young Neymar's career and image.

However in two years approximately, Neymar reportedly bought a $750,000 triplex and a $2 million mansion in a gated condominium, both located in the city of Santos; a $150,000 flat in the city of São Paulo, and a Porsche Panamera Turbo which costed around $550,000. Also, Neymar is the father of young Davi Lucca and he gave the 18-year-old mother of his son a penthouse that is worth $1 million in the city of Santos plus $15,000 per month in child support. The icing on the cake of the young star's spending frenzy was his purchase of an Italian yacht, for which he paid $8 million without the roughly estimated $120,000 he will have to pay for maintenance per year.

Neymar has reportedly stated that his dad is in charge of his expenses and that he is only allowed to buy something after his dad has approved it. An interesting story, that can be used as evidence for Neymar's claim, was when in the final match of the "Junior World Cup 2011" Neymar scored two goals in his team's win against Uruguay 6-0. After scoring the fifth goal of the match and his second, he celebrated by running around the field making the motion of steering a car's wheel with his hands. At the time television analysts and sports commentators thought it was because the tournament's top goal scorer (Neymar with 9) was awarded a car from the tournament's main sponsor. However, he later revealed it was because his dad made a list of achievements for him and the final one was to score two goals in the world cup final, so he could get a new car (a Porsche Panamera Turbo).

To the greatest football nation in the world Neymar is standing as their number one hope for glory at home in 2014. Brazil is going through a renovation with their national football team, and Neymar is the face of this transition. Fans are seeing a lot less of Ronaldinho and Kaka wearing the mystical canary kit, and a lot more of Neymar and Thiago Silva. Some people are angry at Neymar, arguing that such a young kid with such huge responsibilities should be more focused on football and less focused on off field luxuries, and that might be true, but he has never stopped producing and has won many titles with his team Santos. Recently Neymar was a part of the silver medal winning squad in London, which was a failure in the eyes of most Brazilians who were set on winning gold.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Show Me the Money

This past Friday, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers put together an improbable trade that will surely alter the immediate future of both franchises. With Boston sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles, the Red Sox have eliminated about $250 million in salary through 2018 (the year Gonzalez and Crawford’s contract expire). In exchange, the Red Sox received struggling first baseman James Loney and 4 prospects with varying degrees of major league experience. The most promising among them is 23 year old pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, who has shown top of the rotation potential in limited appearances for the Dodgers. Loney should also shore up first base for the Red Sox until they figure out what they want to do in the long term. Although getting a ton of money off the salary cap was Boston’s primary motivation, this group of players should help the Red Sox out in the seasons to come.

The motivation for the Dodgers to complete is a little less obvious. Los Angeles clearly isn’t afraid to spend money; this trade coming after new owners bought the team for over $2 billion in May. Gonzalez is the prize, but the Dodgers had to take a lot of seemingly dead salary back in order to get him. Beckett has had a very bad season, and Crawford enormous salary isn’t going to be paid out for another five years. Both players certainly have potential for greatness, but are highly overpaid at the moment. If money really is no object, the Dodgers did a fantastic job in improving their chances to compete immediately. The team is currently fighting the Giants for the NL West division crown, and these new players should help them win this year and in the next few seasons, assuming the health and improvement of Beckett and Crawford.

It’s clear this was a bold move for both teams, but the true winner and loser won’t be determined for at least a few more years. The Dodgers could be saddled with heavy and useless contracts, or could be talented long term contenders in the National League. The Red Sox may use their new cap space to make good free agent moves, or they could be bad for few more seasons and struggle to lure big name talent. One thing is certain, however: this trade will be remembered by both teams as a time when they each took audacious steps in a new direction.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Closer: The Olympics and the PGA Championships

The Olympic Games happen every two years. More specifically, the Summer Olympic Games, often the more viewed and popular of the Olympic cycle, happen every four years. This international spectacle captivates the world, but it also indulges the mind of the sport viewer 24 hours a day for over two weeks. This overwhelming amount of sport coverage does not only tire the mind of viewers, it also causes them to be reluctant to watch long-term coverage of sporting events such as the PGA Championships, whose final round often airs during the Olympics.
The 2012 PGA Championships final round had the second lowest rating in the past three decades of 3.4 and was the second least viewed final round in recent memory with 4.884 million viewers. The lowest rated you ask? The 2008 PGA Championships of course! The least viewed PGA Championships final round? You got it, 2008. The 2008 PGA Championship final round was rated just 2.8 and had on 4.020 million viewers. What does the 2012 and the 2008 PGA Championships have in common? They were aired opposite the Summer Olympic Games.
retrieved from, originally posted in Sport Business Daily

The above graph shows the ratings of the PGA Championships final rounds since 1982. Excluding the 2000 final round, which did not air during the Olympics and was Tiger Woods' second straight PGA Championship victory and fourth in a row, there is a clear pattern of declines in Summer Olympic years: 1996, 2004, 2008, and now 2012.

So the question is, would moving the 2016, 2020, and every four years following PGA Championships to earlier in the season make sense for the Professional Golfers' Association of America? If the Championships moved to mid-June or mid-July, it could avoid such events as the Olympic Games from dampening the viewership of the PGA Championships. Golf is a sport that is growing internationally, but has taking a large step back in the United States. By moving one of the largest tournaments of the year to a different weekend the focus on professional golf in the United States could be heightened and there would be no need to worry about such a loss in ratings and viewers for the tournament that carries its creator's namesake.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Personal vs. Professional Athletes

When a professional athlete is drafted, signed, or picked up by a team or organization they are immediately slapped in the face with the realization that they are not just a college kid hiding behind their university’s compliance department, or a high school prodigy who can “do no wrong” anymore. You are now being dissected under a microscope, as the press wait for your one wrong move that gives them a story and puts a stamp on your career forever.

In a recent survey the NBA administered to their rookie players at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot last week, they asked numerous questions to gauge the opinions of their newest brethren.  One of those being “What will be the biggest adjustment to the NBA?” and apart from the obvious answers “better competition” and “length of season”, nearly 10% said “lifestyle” would be one of the more difficult aspects to deal with.

For the upcoming season, the average first-year, first-round draft pick contract will be about $1.6 million. Ranging from about $900K to $4.2 million, it will be more money than most of these guys have ever seen before. As they say, “mo money, mo problems”, the life of an NBA player is quite extravagant and puts most in very difficult situations.

The issue for pro athletes these days is nothing you do will go unnoticed, and it will shape how fans see you for the rest of your career. If you get caught up in bad situations; possess fire arms, cheat on your spouse, use illegal drugs, get in fights, drive drunk, commit assault, or simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; someone will see it. The most unfortunate part of this problem is that many common folk commit the same acts and make the same mistakes, but because of whom you are and what you do it’s not the same outcome. An accountant can cheat on his wife and still be a great accountant, get promotions, earn a raise, and be a great face for the organization. However, an athlete will always have that title as a “cheater” as if it’s stamped on their forehead.

Should a professional athlete’s actions off the court, field, track, ice, road, etc. have an impact on their success, or perceived success, on it? Why do owners and GM’s take personal issues into consideration when they prove to you in games that they are great athletes? And how much success must you attain before your past is forgotten? (Example: If Tiger wins a few more majors, will people start to jump back on the bandwagon?)


Under Further Review: Saying Thank You

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s critically acclaimed book Outliers, then you know that personal success is not nearly as closely tied to the individual as we all perceive it to be.  Think about it.  Nobody really does much completely alone when you boil it down to the bare bones.  Success comes from the times you live in, the events going on in the world, the people around you.  It is impossible to control the first two, but you can control the people around you.

The world, especially the United States, is incredibly inefficient in identifying talent.  By giving everybody a choice in what they can do for a living, many end up falling through the cracks and going unnoticed.  By choosing what you want to do, you are putting yourself at the mercy of the whole personal success statement.  To be successful, you need to get noticed.  Getting noticed comes from the times you live in, the events going on in the world, and the people around you.  Do you understand my point?

The people around you, or the people in your network, are incredibly valuable.  This is why networking is a career element that is pushed so hard, especially at Drexel.  I’m not going to tell you not to burn bridges; I believe that would be assumed.  I’m not even going to tell you that you have to like everyone you meet; that’s downright unrealistic.  What I am going to tell you is to be grateful for the people around you when moving up the proverbial ladder. 

We could all sit here all day long and talk about networking tips and tricks that our teachers fed us in class.  I really don’t want to have to go over all of them again.  Whether we put them into practice or not is entirely up to the individual.  I’ll admit I’m far from perfect on that front. 

What I want you all to do is be grateful.  Do not simply be thankful; go out of your way to thank the people that have helped you along the way.  I know it sounds corny but it not only helps your relations with that person but it makes it less awkward to ask that person for a future favor.  Thank your parents or guardians for putting you in a position to go to college get an education and gain opportunities.  Thank the person that turned you toward the career path you are currently on.  Thank teachers, mentors, anybody along the way that has helped you turn a weakness into a strength.  Thank everybody that has made any sort of impact on the number of opportunities in your life.

For some reason, people always find this awkward.  I think people feel awkward because they underestimate the impact that they make on the people helping them.  In reality, these people that impact us not only remember us, they are proud and keeping an eye out for our names to pop up.  Many times people think that there is no way a teacher would remember them.  Oh but they do.

I recently reached out to a former English teacher of mine that I had in the fall and spring terms of my freshman year.  I didn’t speak too much in his class, but I turned in quality work and communicated well with him over email while I was in his class.  However, I credit him for making me enjoy writing after hating it in high school.  Given my recent positions as a writer, I felt it was necessary to thank him for what he has done.  He could not have been happier!  We swapped a few emails and shared stories from the class.  Not only did I make his day, I now have reopened the lines of communication and would have no problem going to him with a question or a favor.

Saying thank you has so many benefits.  You can make somebody’s day.  You can reopen communication with a long lost contact.  Whether you take advantage of the newfound communication is entirely up to you, but it’s there if you need it.  You just reopened a chance for opportunities and opportunities can help lead you to success. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Leaving Your Mark: "References available upon request"

I must admit that when I see “References available upon request” on someone’s resume, I cringe.  Of course they are available upon request.  What kind of job seeker/applicant will not supply references when asked to do so by a potential employer?  The answer is one that doesn’t want a job.  It is assumed and expected so let’s get this out of the way right now- take “References available upon request” off of your resume.  And don’t ever put it back on there.

But the notion of references in general is an important one.  I’ve claimed and will continue to claim that nearly all of the jobs that I have had in my life, including my current one, were obtained because of the references that were provided on my behalf.  My resume is fairly strong and my interviewing skills are slightly above average but ultimately what others had to say about me pushed my candidacy for jobs over the top.  As a Senior Recruiter at Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, we placed a great deal of emphasis on references, both those supplied by the candidate and those not supplied by the candidate.  If it was neck and neck race on all other factors, we went with the candidate who had stronger references.  Anyone can have a perfect resume and nail an interview, but references are a complicated, yet very critical factor.

I mentioned above that at Turnkey we contacted references that were “available upon request” from the candidate and those that we knew through our own personal and professional connections.  Let’s start with the former.  Your reference list should include a mix of bosses, co-workers, staff that you manage, and clients or customers.  You want to provide a potential employer with people who have interacted with you on different levels and might be aware of unique skills that you bring to the table.  Oftentimes, people only supply co-workers and to me, that is a yellow or red flag.  Additionally, the details that you should include are the person’s name, title, phone number, email, physical address, and their relationship to you. 

As for the latter…references not supplied by the candidate, this is a little bit more tricky.  However, the rule of thumb is this- keep in mind that in your professional life, anyone you interact with could be a reference for you…and you don’t even know about it.  With the job market the way it is and has been for the last few years, there are more candidates than ever for any one opening.  Recruiters and HR/Talent Acquisition people have to discern between the top candidates and the best evaluators will go beyond the references you supplied.  The rationale being that the people you provided will give rave reviews 9 times out of 10.  I’m not insinuating that you have to be on your “A game” all day every day; I’m simply recommending that you not burn any bridges, you maintain healthy relationships, and you leave a good impression whenever possible.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Billion Dollar Giant

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has agreed to a five year broadcasting agreement with Nine and Fox Sports in a deal worth more than $1 billion, which makes it the largest agreement in Rugby League history. It might not even end there, since the agreement allows Nine and Fox to show all the games in Australia, leaving the ARLC open to pursuing further broadcasting revenues in New Zealand. The agreement with Nine and Fox also includes a cash component of $925 million, $90 million of which will have to be paid before the start of the first season. Advertising packages of up to $100 million are also included in the same agreement. The Australian Rugby League Commission chair, John Grant said "This whole package is simply a fantastic result for Rugby League. The cash that comes from the agreement, used wisely, will provide the funding base for sustainably growing our game from the grassroots to the elite levels."

The Nine Network will broadcast three weekly matches, three Thursday evening matches during the year, 4 special events throughout the season, and 2 hours of Rugby League content every evening. Meanwhile, Fox will be showing five matches a week, starting on Saturday and ending on Mondays. Also, both channels will be providing coverage of The Four Nations tournament, one of the most prestigious international rugby competition in the world.

National Rugby League (NRL) clubs are expected to receive an immediate $500,000 payment, and a salary cap of up to $6 million will be talked about next Monday at the inaugural meeting of the ARLC Council. This deal is a huge win for players, clubs and hopefully the development of the sport. The deal is showing a significant increase from the current deal that expires at the end of this season, of $500 million over a span of six years.

The NRL is well regarded as the top league of professional rugby league football clubs in Oceania. The current version of the league had its first season in 1998, and it is comprisef of 16 teams total, 15 in Australia and 1 in New Zealand. The most succesful team in the NRL is the South Sydney Rabbitohs with 20 titles in total (the last championship came in 1971). The NRL is also regarded as the top Rugby League championship in the world and is the single most viewed and attended rugby competition in the world per season. The season always culminates in the NRL Grand Final, one of Australia's most popular sporting events and also one of the world's largest attender club championship events.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Young Man’s Game

Quite frankly, the NFL preseason can be dull at times. Starters only play one to two quarters (if any), while rookies and journeymen get the bulk of the remaining snaps. Preseason games are entertaining, however, in that they give inexperienced players the chance to shine and earn playing time during regular season. This time is especially important for young quarterbacks. Many of them have never started a game or had any significant playing time, so preseason games can drastically improve their development.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend this year that may have not been so prevalent in years past. It seems that teams are now less hesitant to name rookies or second year quarterbacks starters for the beginning of the regular season. Just today, rookie Ryan Tannehill and second year QB Jake Locker beat out more experienced veterans (Matt Moore and Matt Hasselbeck) and secured the starting jobs on the Dolphins and Titans, respectively. These cases are unlike situations on other teams with young starting quarterbacks because of the veterans already in place. Teams like Jacksonville and Carolina also have less experienced QB’s as starters, but there isn’t really any other competition for those spots. Teams are now excepting the risk of inexperienced/unproven quarterbacks, where coaches were more likely to stick with solid veterans in past seasons.

Tannehill is an especially unique case. Fellow QB Matt Moore led the Dolphins to a respectable finish last season as was assumed by many to take the reins this year until Tannehill proved himself. It appears head coach Joe Philbin has had less and less confidence in Moore after signing recently-injured David Garrard and now picking a rookie ahead of him. It will be interesting to see how Tannehill performs in the remainder of the preseason and beginning of the regular season, especially after so many scouts and draft experts pegged him as a multi-year developmental project at quarterback. 

With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III also getting starting jobs this season, the crop of young quarterbacks in the NFL is stronger than even. Keep an eye on all of them as the season progresses. As history has shown, many will succeed, but even more will likely fail.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Man Advantage: "The Song Remains the Same" for NHL

When the NHL lost the entire 2004-05 season due to CBA negotiations and the resulting lockout, fans prayed the NHL Players Association and franchise owners would have learned their lesson. No one expected another lockout seeming likely a month before the 2012-13 season is set to begin. Lo and behold, here we are eight years later with the same sense of impending doom looming over the NHL as we did the last time the NHLPA and Board of Governors sat down to discuss collective bargaining. 

As I said four months ago, the NHL cannot afford another lockout. As reported by BleacherReport, it took the NHL six years to see its ratings recover from the previous lockout—another lockout would be disastrous. Many big name players (such as Joe Thornton and Rick Nash) are already rumored to have offers on the table from European teams for this next season.

Last week, Chris Botta of SportsBusiness Journal reported that “NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman received almost $8 million in salary and benefits during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011”, more than double what he made before the 2004-05 lockout. Making this worse, the league reported a loss of $14.7 million for this past fiscal year. The league is "losing money," but the commissioner (as well as several other top league officials) all saw significant increases to their salary.

Add in the looming labor strike (and a NBC Sports contract that still leaves much to be desired) and it’s a situation that seems daunting, at the very least. For the last few months, the league has done nothing to reassure fans of a peaceful resolution to this dispute—the league cancelled its annual season opening games in Europe, and Detroit recently cancelled the 15th annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament because of the labor uncertainty. The preseason is likely next, and a prolonged dispute might also cancel the All Star Game, if not the entire season.

If the NHL wants to regain its position as one of the “Big Four” North American sports, they have to come to a solution quickly. Donald Fehr and the Player’s Association remain optimistic, but, with less than a month from the September 15th deadline, there has been no progress in negotiations. There is still a wide gap between the owners and the NHLPA’s demands. Any work stoppage would be disastrous for the league. The NFL and NBA have had years of good favor with fans and the media to lean upon with their potential work stoppages--the NHL doesn't have that same luxury. 

The writing’s on the wall, and fans, it doesn’t look good.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Full Court Press: Four Long Years

As we look back on the 16 glorious days of the 2012 London Olympic Games, it’s hard not to wonder what the future holds for Rio 2016. The U.S reclaimed their control over the total and gold medal counts, after a brief hiatus in Beijing. Here’s to hoping we can repeat that in Rio with the influx of promising young athletes in this country.

There will be a few major changes to the schedule come 2016, as Rugby Sevens and Golf have been added to the list of competitions, which brings the total to 28 different sports and 42 medal events. A few other sports were in contention, but eventually lost through presentations and a voting majority (baseball, softball, squash, karate, wake boarding, roller sports). 

What to look forward to - the beautiful venues and attractions of Rio de Janeiro:

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, home to the rowing and canoeing competitions of the Olympic Games

A bird's eye view of the main Olympic Village and downtown area.

The Olympic Village beach and volleyball courts.

Copacabana Beach, which will host marathon swimming, triathlon events, and beach volleyball.

It's hard not to get excited for the the first South American country to host the Summer Olympic Games, and these next four years can't possibly move any slower. I'm hoping I can make the journey down to Brazil and enjoy the experience in person. Either way, it's sure to be an opportunity for more life-changing accomplishments, world record shattering performances, and inspiring displays of athleticism for athletes around the world. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Next Felix?

The Seattle Mariners, major league baseball team located in Seattle, WA, have just signed the #7 international prospect of the summer signing period (although many scouts rated him as the best pitcher internationally this summer). Luiz Henrique Pego Gohara is a 16-year-old left-handed pitcher from the city of Bastos in Brazil. The teenager was registered as the third best pitcher, and second best left hander on the list, behind only Jose Mujica and Jose Castillo who have both signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Luiz Gohara who just turned 16 years old on July 31 is listed at 6 foot 3, 220 pounds. Gohara stood out to the Mariners' scouts because of his 94 mph fastball along with a quality slider. The scouts from Seattle have been following the youngster's career since he was 14 years old and finally made the decision to sign him to a U$ 880,000 dollars and 6 years deal, with significant bonuses throughout the years.

Emilio Carrasquel, the Venezuelan scout for the Mariners, did not have an easy time signing Luiz Gohara. According to sources in the Brazilian Baseball Confederation there were over 12 teams in Major League Baseball in the mix to sign the Brazilian hurler. Carrasquel was one of the scouts in charge of bringing Felix Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners, and both stories are very similar.

Hernandez was discovered by a Mariners scout when he was 14 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Carrasquel and two other Mariners scouts were impressed with the youngster Hernandez's fastball, that was already touching 92 mph. As soon as Felix Hernandez turned 16, and in accordance to MLB rules was eligible to sign a contract, the Mariners offered him a deal and Hernandez accepted it. Coincidences? Maybe...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Give Me A Job: NFL Edition

A lot was lost during the NFL lockout in the summer of 2011, namely weeks of training camp and free agency, fan support for players and owners, and even a deferred release of the new Madden video game. But perhaps the most grueling loss was the brief cancellation of the television show Hard Knocks. The HBO series chronicles the 4-5 weeks of training camp for one NFL team before the upcoming season begins. Although I don’t watch much reality television, I've very much enjoyed the series about the behind-the-scenes workings of NFL training camp. Because last season’s training camp was so rushed, the executives in charge of the show felt they should take a year off and start anew in 2012. Thankfully, the show is back this season with the Miami Dolphins as the centerpiece team.

A key facet of the show is the process by which players are cut/released. Each week, coaches cut several signed/un-signed players, and whoever is left at the end of the preseason makes the team (or at least the practice squad).  Hard Knocks highlighted that reality very quickly this season in the first episode, showing guard Derek Dennis being cut before he even got to put his pads on. The producers do a very good job at profiling as many of these players as possible so viewers can get attached to their motivations and backstories. However, they don’t exclusively emphasize rookies and players hoping to make the team. A few highlights of the first episode include the quarterback battle between Matt Moore, David Garrard, and Ryan Tannehill, the coaching style of first-time head coach Joe Philbin, and the struggles of high school basketball player turned tight end Les Brown.

But probably the most intriguing and entertaining character of the first episode was oft-quoted NFL pariah Chad “don’t call me Ochocinco anymore” Johnson. In the span of one episode, Johnson cursed out the media at a press conference, played FIFA with Reggie Bush, barged in on a coaches-only meeting, and explained how he met his wife on Twitter. Unfortunately for us, Chad was cut by the Dolphins yesterday after being arrested for alleged domestic violence against his wife, Evelyn Lozada. Stay tuned to see how Hard Knocks documents his release in upcoming episodes.

Like the popular documentary series 30 for 30, Hard Knocks does a fantastic job of dramatizing the true stories in sports. I highly recommend this show to any sports fan, regardless if the NFL is your favorite sport. Luckily for us, with four weeks still to go, the show has only just begun.

A Recap of the Games of the XXX Olympiad: London 2012 in Review

Following the $44 billion spectacle of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the 2012 Games in London, England had a lot to live up to. From an Opening Ceremony that captivated the world, to a host nation entering the spotlight as the newest world super power, maybe the most powerful of them all, the Beijing Olympic Games showed one end of the Olympic spectrum, the entertainment side. The sport was there, but what the world will remember from those Games is the circus that was Beijing. Following the closure of the 2012 Games on Sunday evening, it is now time for the world to decide what will define the latest Summer Olympics.

It is safe to say that London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, or LOCOG as they are now more casually known, did not supply human pyramids and super-sized drum lines, but what they did provide was an Olympic Games that brought the sport back into focus and a very solid overall experience for the fan, both at home and at Olympic venues, and all of the athletes. Although the first few days had a few small setbacks, including drivers for VIPs not knowing where things in London were, buses hitting cyclists, and the online ticket retailer being a total let down, the London Olympics have been called the "best Games of our generation".

The quirkiness and simplicity of the Opening Ceremonies were a perfect representation of all that the host nation Great Britain had to offer, concluding with a performance by the great Sir Paul McCartney. These past 16 days offered incredible stories of athletes from countries all around the world, most notably Michael Phelps winning his 22nd and final Olympic medal in the pool to become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all-time at the ripe age of 28. The US Women's Gymnastics team captured the world with their humbleness and incredible background, led by Gabby Douglas who added the individual all-around gold to her team gold medal from earlier in the Games. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time in their nation's history. Jessica Ennis, the face of the London 2012 Olympic Games in her home nation of Great Britain, brought home the Gold for her country in the heptathlon. Double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa became the first Para-Olympian to compete at the Olympic Games in the 400 meter and the 4x400 meter relay. Seventeen year old Missy Franklin lived up to the international hype by bringing home five medals, four gold and one bronze. The United States Women's National Soccer team won gold over Japan in the highly anticipated World Cup rematch in front of the largest amount of viewers ever on NBC Sports Network, for any event, male or female. Usain Bolt became the first sprinter to win the gold medal in both the 100m and 200m dash at back to back Olympics Games. The Games were capped by a Closing Ceremony that brought viewers through the history of the host country including and remembering some of the world's greatest musicians, Queen, John Lennon, The Spice Girls, and certainly The Beatles.

LOCOG managed to successfully plan and run an incredible Olympic Games with no major security hiccups, or any major incidents at all. As a true sports fan, I am so happy that the sport was the primary focus of these Olympic Games, and the "show" did not steal the spotlight. After Beijing, many experts said that there was no way any Olympics could ever  hold a games as successful, but in my opinion, any future host nation will be hard-pressed to run an Olympics as smoothly as the Summer Olympic Games of 2012 in London, England.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Job search: avoid extremes!

As if you didn’t know this already, the sports industry is a unique one…as are our degrees, whether they be in Sport Management or Sports Marketing (or some variation of that).  This is especially true as it relates to one’s career in sports.  With a Sport Management/Marketing degree, you could, in theory, do marketing, sales, operations, HR, and service, among many other possible disciplines.  You could do these things at any level whether it be at a college, minor league team, professional organization, agency, or anywhere in between.  However, as a job seeker, the question you should consider is: do I cast a wide net and be open to any and all opportunities?  Or should I have a very specific and targeted job search?  These are two VERY different things.
If you decide that you want to cast a wide net and consider almost any job that comes your way in sports, there are some positives and negatives to be associated with this.  On the positive end, you are being flexible and are not being narrow-minded.  On the negative side, you may come across as not being focused or not being especially strong in one particular area.  Think “jack of all trades, master of none”.  In the end, more opportunities will be available to you with this mindset.  Just be careful in answering the (interview) question of what do you want to do after you graduate/where do you see yourself in five years by saying “I’ll do anything”. 
If you decide to be more specific and targeted in your job search, likewise, there are some plusses and minuses.  On the plus side, you know what you want to do.  You carved out your niche and claim to be an expert or at least have some skills and interest in a particular area.  Your job search is going to be very narrow but could be effective especially when it comes to networking.  On the negative side, you are limiting your opportunities.  If you only want to work in the NFL doing marketing, you must prepare yourself mentally that there are only 32 opportunities.  This isn’t even taking into account location…which brings us to our next point.
One final thing to keep in mind is that location also plays a role in this conversation.  Being open to relocating anywhere in the world or being tied to a 10 mile radius from your home also concern me as a career counselor and would concern most HR people and recruiters.  Being open to anywhere and everywhere could bring into question your stability while being hunkered down at your home base makes people believe you are sheltered and not willing to take risks.
The moral of this whole story is to avoid extremes.  As a job seeker, avoid extremes on both ends and consider more of a middle ground.  It is ok to want to and have a preference to work in a certain sector of the sports industry (pro, college, etc.) doing specific tasks (marketing, sales, etc.) but it would behoove you to be open to exploring opportunities in similar or closely-related fields.  It is also ok to say that you prefer to work in the Northeast part of the country but that you are open to the East Coast and would explore opportunities elsewhere if they were the right fit and if the timing was right.
Have your job search preferences and best-case scenarios front of mind but be flexible enough to consider alternatives or back-up plans.  Otherwise, the search could take more patience than you have to offer…

London Olympic Parodies

The London Olympics have offered us some of the most thrilling sports moments of the year.  The stories, the moments, the athletes we will never forget.  But there is one other thing that we won't forget... the parodies!  Here are a few of my favorites.

Here is a personal favorite of mine.  It's at Tumblr called McKayla Is Not Impressed. Example:

And some videos...
Call Me Lochte

What Makes You Beautiful

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Welcome Back (Fantasy) Football!!

With the NFL preseason beginning this week, football fans can rejoice as one of America’s most popular spectator sports begins anew. But are the games what fans are really most excited about?

Fantasy football seems to be an unstoppable and ever-growing aspect of NFL fandom. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, an estimated 35 million people played fantasy sports in North America last year, with a large majority of that participation likely from fantasy football. That participation will only increase this season, with more and more fans being introduced to the game every year. Even before the preseason began, popular websites that host fantasy sports like and opened up their fantasy functionality, giving fans weeks to draft and prepare for the upcoming season. ESPN even devoted the entire August issue of their magazine to the subject. Even I can admit to getting too carried away with the phenomenon. I’ve already joined/re-joined 4 leagues, many of which have already conducted drafts.

I’m really curious to see how fantasy sports, fantasy football in particular, advance in popularity over the next few years. With the modern advancements in technology and the introduction of younger fans to the game, I wouldn’t be surprised if participation increase exponentially in the years to come.

It’s also interesting to see how large fantasy-hosting companies have noticed the games’ popularity and have catered to its users. ESPN and Yahoo have mobile apps that users can integrate onto their smartphones and keep track of their teams while they’re watching the actual games. By investing this heavily in fantasy football, it’s easy to get distracted while watching, and may even cause conflicts between NFL fandom and fantasy participation.

The following excerpt is from a research paper I wrote last year about this very subject:

“There are times that I might care about fantasy football more than actually watching the games. For example, I own Ben Roethlisberger on one of my fantasy teams. Roethlisberger’s team, the Pittsburg Steelers, was playing my favorite team, the New England Patriots, a few weekends ago. This situation presented a huge conflict of interest. I wanted Big Ben to play well because it would greatly help my fantasy team, but I also wanted the Patriots to win because they’re my favorite real life team. So whenever Roethlisberger would complete a big pass play or a touchdown, I’d be both happy and angry. In the end, I’ll always side with my fandom of the Patriots, but it’s definably scary to see how fantasy has drastically altered the way that I watch football.”

What do you think? Will fantasy sports eventually disconnect fans with actual gameplay? Will fantasy sports ever mean more than or usurp the popularity/fandom of the games themselves? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The best of the 2012 Olympics.. so far

Day 14 (men and women's soccer unofficially opened the games on July 25) of the 2012 London Olympics is officially over, and what an amazing two weeks it has been! A lot has happened since England became the center of attention throughout the world, but some events stood out more than others:

200 Meter Butterfly Finals
Definitely one of the top events in the 2012 Olympics. The American swimmer Michael Phelps has been dominating this event for the past 10 years now, so evidently he was the favorite to win it all. Also, Phelps was trying to become the first athlete to win gold in the same event for three Olympic Games in a row. However, the South African Chad Le Clos, in one of the greatest come backs of swimming history, snagged the gold medal off of Phelps' neck. Le Clos made a late charge and won by five hundredths of a second, stunning the world. Chad Le Clos is 22 years old and is participating in his first Olympic Games ever.
1. Chad Le Clos (South Africa) - 1 minute 52.96 seconds
2. Michael Phelps (USA) - 1 minute 53.01 seconds
3. Takeshi Matsuda (Japan) - 1 minute 53.21 seconds

Brazil v Russia Women's Volleyball Quarterfinals
An incredible volleyball game, with two of the world's superpowers going toe to toe to stay alive in the competition. The 2008 gold medalists Brazil seemed as if they were going to succumb to the Russian giants after they lost the third set, but they came back in an amazing fashion. Brazil was having a hard time stopping the Russian giant Yekaterina Gamova (6 ft 8) and lost the first and third sets (24/26 and 19/25). However, after a huge win in the fourth set (25/22) and having won the second set (25/22) the Brazilian ladies took the game into the tie-breaking set. After an atrocious mistake made by the linesman in the tiebreaking set (a spike by a Brazilian player was clearly in but was called out), Brazil began to lose its momentum and compusre. Russia had six match points straight and they were all counter attacked by Sheila 6 straight times and then with two magical serves by Fernanda Garay, Brazil closed the game (21/19) and continued its run for second consecutive Olympic gold.

USA v Canada Women's Soccer Semifinals
Team USA and Canada provided to all in attendance at Old Trafford (The Theatre of Dreams) an amazing match. Canada's star Christine Sinclair scored three goals during the match, while Megan Rapinoe with 2, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan scored for the United States. The match went on to halftime with a 1-0 score for Canada, and the second half had a total of 5 goals all together. Every time the US would tie it up, Sinclair would score another goal to take the lead. However, after the 120th minute had gone by, Alex Morgan managed to score an incredible header and win the game for the United States 4-3.

The three events above are my top 3 in terms of entertainment and emotion. How about you? Was there a specific event in the Olympics that you felt should have made this cut? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Cost to Air the Rings: Olympic Television Broadcast Rights

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is taking a new approach to selling the broadcast rights to the Olympic Games. Previously, the IOC sold the television rights on a continental or regional basis, mainly, but the committee has begun taking a new route by selling rights on a country-by-country basis. Within the United States, airing the Olympic Games is the best thing that a network can do to increase their viewership (and has been for years), but with many countries around the world just catching up in technological advances, the IOC has seen an opportunity to gain revenue. The US rights have always accounted for more than 51% of the total broadcasting revenues for the IOC globally, but with this new sales method, the IOC anticipates that for the 2014 and 2016 games, the amount paid by the US broadcasting partner, NBC, will be less than half of the total worldwide.

National Broadcasting Company, more commonly known as NBC, is the official broadcasters of the 2012 London Olympic Games. This television giant first aired the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. Since their premiere, they have been the main US broadcaster of 12 Olympic Games, including every Summer and Winter Games since 2000 in Sydney, and every Summer Games since 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. These rights contracts are sold in groups of two, including one Winter Olympics and one Summer Olympics. The $2 billion spent by NBC for the rights to air the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the current 2012 Summer games in London accounted for more than 51% of the total IOC TV revenues. With the release of the cost of the rights to 2018 and 2020, it was announced that the price NBC has increased its bid by 50% since the 2002-2004 quad of years. This table shows the price paid by NBC for the rights to the last three sets, including the current games, and the next two, according to The Associated Press:

2002 and 2004
Salt Lake City, USA and Athens, Greece
$1.338 billion
2006 and 2008
Turin, Italy and Beijing, China
$1.507 billion
2010 and 2012
Vancouver, Canada and London, England
$2 billion
2014 and 2016
Sochi, Russia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
$2.001 billion
2018 and 2020
Pyeongchang, South Korea and TBD
$2.381 billion

The amount of money spent by NBC has increased by over $1 billion in just 16 years. Although more people do have access to cable and network television since the 2002 Olympic Games, the main reason for this increase and the desire to be the sole broadcaster of the Olympic Games is to have the rights to stream events on the web, whether they are live or replay. Due to high pressure across the USA to have all events available live, NBC set up a new website where they stream all Olympic events live. Powered by partner YouTube, and requiring an account with any cable provider within the US, any viewer can watch any event during the Olympic Games live from London. The ability to air every event, receive money from YouTube for their rights within NBC's contract, and sell advertisement space on this website. Today, it was reported by YAHOO! news, that NBC's Olympic website surpassed 1 billion views since the beginning of the games.

With the incredible increase in online viewers across the US, a macro cosmic relationship may be drawn for future Olympics worldwide. The idea to sell broadcast rights on a country-by-country basis will continue to grow the revenues for the IOC, making the Olympics just one more victim of the economic invasion of the sports world.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is There a Connection Between Sports and the Illuminati?

Before reading, please note: much of this article is pure speculation. Please take it for what it is and make your own judgments.

Many conspiracy theorists allege that a group our society's most powerful and influential individuals have and continue to conspire to control global affairs. They call this group of people the Illuminati. However, due to their secrecy, very little is known about this organization. Whether or not it still exists could even be debated.

Many of the world's elite have been connected to the Illuminati in one conspiracy or another- Presidents, CEOs, bankers, scientists, artists, musicians...the list goes on. As such, is it so farfetched to presume that Illuminati connections could also be influencing the world of sport as we know it?

Let's look at a couple of organizations for examples. We'll start with the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell is the son of the late U.S. Senator Charles E. Goodell. Charles Goodell was appointed to Congress to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Daniel Reed. He was then specially appointed by Nelson Rockefeller, whose family has been linked with the Illuminati on numerous occasions, to fill a vacancy after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

All of this proves exactly nothing. But please bear with me.

Roger Goodell is married to former Fox News anchor Jane Skinner. Of course, as a major media outlet, Fox News has been linked to the Illuminati on numerous occasions, each of which has been purely speculatory.

Now, for the kicker. The outcome of the last Redskins home game before the Presidential election has predicted 18 of the last 19 elections. If the Redskins won the game, the incumbent party won the election, and vice versa. This trend held true for the first 17 election years of the existence of the Redskins franchise until it was broken in 2004. It got back on track in 2008. The Redskins play the Green Bay Packers at home on October 31, 2012.

Are 17 straight election years a coincidence? That, of course, is for you to decide.

Now let's move on to our second case study: the Olympics. Again, purely circumstantial evidence here so make of it what you will. 

Here we have the light fixtures that surround Wembley stadium in London, the home of the 2012 Olympics. Look familiar? They are eerily similar to perhaps the most famous Illuminati symbol of all: "the all-seeing eye", as seen on the United States dollar bill. 

Of course, there is much further speculation surrounding the Olympics, the 2012 Olympic logo (thought to spell out the word "Zion"), and the connections between the Illuminati and the founders of the modern Olympics. The deeper you look, the more connections there are. 

What do you think? Are the Illuminati using sports to control our minds and actions? Is it a bunch of baloney made up by Dan Brown to sell books? 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Timeless Twitter

A five-hour time difference (to the East Coast) from the excitement in London has caused much discomfort for anxious Olympic fans who want to be a part of the action as it’s happening, not on a time delay by NBC. For those who are too impatient to wait until primetime, Twitter has come to the rescue. Athletes, media personnel, other fans watching live, sponsors, and broadcasting partners alike are “tweeting” before, during, and after every event. You may not have live access to some of the biggest events, but it’s impossible to miss out on the breaking news if you follow any major Olympic organizations (@USOlympic, @London2012, @NBCOlympics, @IOCmedia, @Olympics, etc, etc, etc).

As Twitter continues to play a major role in the spread of information, a few tweeters have made noteworthy contributions to the twitter-sphere throughout these first six days of Olympic action. Kevin Love, the big man off-the-bench and “designated photographer” for Team USA Men’s Basketball has humorously brought us along for the journey of his Olympic experience.

Hope Solo, the well-known (and outspoken) goalie for the US Women’s Soccer Team made some controversial comments regarding commentator, and former teammate, Brandi Chastain after their second win last weekend. Apparently Chastain had made some accusatory comments on air regarding the defense of the United States, and Hope Solo took particular offense. She began attacking Chastain via Twitter with the following message:

"Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics.Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender! I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is fantastic.@brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport"

The US Olympic Team members are not the only athletes active on Twitter from London, as many others are turning to the social media outlet to reach their friends and family at home. Similar to professional and collegiate teams, PR departments are encouraged to educate their athletes on how to properly use social media tools. Some athletes have disregarded this information and come off more strongly than Hope Solo; strongly enough to be dismissed from their teams for the remainder of the Games.

Michel Morganella, a Swiss Men’s Soccer player was kicked off the Olympic Team for inappropriate comments towards South Korea after a tough match with them on Sunday. His comments alluded to causing physical harm upon the South Korean team. Another dismissal cause Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou’s Olympic dreams to come to an end after she posted a racist tweet; With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!”

So there you have it. With its growth in usefulness and entertainment, Twitter can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If it breaks your heart to see the spoilers before watching events “live” on NBC in primetime, then refrain from Twitter for the next 10 days. Otherwise, enjoy the luxury of feeling as if you’re sitting in the stands watching your favorite athletes win Gold, from thousands of miles away.

Follow me on Twitter! @hzedeck