Start Spreading the News, It’s Super Bowl Week

courtesy USA Today

courtesy USA Today

It’s Super Bowl week and the Big Apple is preparing for the Big Game. The debate about a cold weather Super Bowl has been discussed at length this week and depending on your views of the game, you may be in favor of the freezing temps since football is played in all conditions. On the contrary, the Super Bowl should be played in a controlled or at minimum, mild climate to heighten the level of play while eliminating inclement variables. Regardless of where you stand, the game is going to be played and a lot will be learned which may help make the case for future Super Bowl locations.

At the end of the day, there are 30 other teams this year and a bunch of retired players who never got the chance to play in a Super Bowl that would love to be playing this Sunday and they do not care how warm or cold the forecast is. What matters to them is getting that ring and accomplishing the ultimate NFL goal. The harder something is to attain and the more uncomfortable you are during the journey, typically the better the feeling and more rewarding the prize.

I’ve been fortunate to experience four Super Bowls during my time with the National Dairy Council and through our NFL program, Fuel Up to Play 60. This week will be my fifth. Although this year is a bit different than years past and I do not plan to attend the Game on Sunday, the experience and energy surrounding the Super Bowl is exhilarating and truly exciting. The NFL does a tremendous job of marketing the league, players, partners and sponsors this week. A walk around Times Square will surely widen your eyes and the parties and events associated with the Super Bowl will earn that Frank Sinatra coined phrase, the city that doesn’t sleep. New York is a great sports city and a marketing mecca. All the stars and fans will be out celebrating the culmination of a terrific NFL season this week and rightfully so. The NFL continues to get it right as the world will see the number one offense face the number one defense this Sunday during Super Bowl XLVIII.

So who is going to win?

As the old saying goes, “Defense Wins Championships.” If that were true, Seattle would have a slight advantage this week. But rules of the game are evolving and it’s becoming harder and harder to play defense in this league. In today’s game the offense, especially the quarterback position seems to have an advantage when all things are otherwise considered equal. Because the NFL wants to see scoring and points on the scoreboard, the rules have catered to a higher scoring game. I think that projects a slight advantage for Peyton Manning and the Broncos and believe Denver will win 27-23.

Why Are We Still Talking about Richard Sherman?

richard-sherman-michael-crabtree-seattle-seahawks
Have we discussed Richard Sherman’s rant to the point of nausea yet? No? Well let’s continue the conversation then. After having slept on this topic two consecutive nights (without losing sleep) I’m convinced there’s a perfectly good reason I did not lose sleep over Richard Sherman’s interview or the way he carried himself. Nor do I find fascinating his Communications degree from Stanford the week before Super Bowl XLVIII. I’m neither interested nor disinterested in his apology, his arrogance, or his Compton roots. I would have preferred some actual insight to the play he made during Erin Andrew’s interview, but it doesn’t bother me that he took the route he did. I’m actually not surprised by his remarks. In fact, Richard Sherman gave football fans exactly what we wanted. Good football.

I was a bit surprised by the social backlash toward Sherman because I didn’t realize America’s expectations of him were so high. He’s been a loud talking attention seeker his whole career which seemed to be exemplified this season due to the team’s success. He has never shied away from a camera, a debate or an opportunity to say what was on his mind. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s part of being in the NFL spotlight.

So why are we still talking about this rant?

A long time ago a mentor taught me the fundamentals of conversation, as well as what motivates people to talk. There are several factors of course that drive people to talk about a brand, product or service. If we consider what made the entire country talk about Richard Sherman, it could potentially be reduced to his relevance and his authenticity.

First, Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks just won the NFC Championship Game and a trip to the Super Bowl. And everyone in America was watching! I would say that game and the play he made were very relevant to NFL fans everywhere; especially in populous cities like New York, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. Millions of people were emotionally invested in the outcome of that game, and apparently, no one more emotionally charged than Sherman himself. Now consider what we know about brands, services, products and people. If the topic is relevant, people (fans) will talk. And if influential people (fans) are talking, the word is spreading. Then trending. Then viral.

Secondly, Richard Sherman is authentic. His style, his story, his mouth, his education, his hair, his ability to lockdown wide receivers and even his post-game interviews. That is pure Richard Sherman. His own personal brand if you will. He can say what he wants about those actions not accurately depicting who he really is off the field, and that may be true and fine. If you watched his interview though, you saw raw emotion. Spit flying, shit talking, testosterone raging, Compton roots, I’m going to the Super Bowl after just making the play of the game!

Sherman showed authenticity, his true colors in that particular moment. He has a side to him that no one else on either team could have showed; because they are naturally and definitely nurtured differently, than Richard Sherman. That was an authentic persona of playing defensive back in the NFL.

At the end of the day Richard Sherman may in fact be a good guy. But will NFL fans ever really care what kind of guy he is?

It’s in Indy

Ollie and Rudy are probably bellied up at a local saloon talking about Notre Dame Football and the Milan High Indians tonight. Rudy can remember sports before all this twittering and tweeters. And Ollie shot a basketball underhand in a varsity high school basketball game so his opinion isn’t highly valued from an athlete’s perspective; however he’s part of the conversation because he made the shot. Ollie’s equally important, if not more important to the conversation though because he’s, to use Dave Kerpen‘s motto, Likeable.

One Hundred Fifty million people in 232 different countries will tune-in to watch Super Bowl XLVI on television. More people than ever before will also be tweeting, posting and sharing their Super Digital Experience simultaneously during this Sunday’s game. The world-famous Super Bowl commercials will air and ten days later no one will be talking about them. But this year more so than ever, digital integration during the Super-expensive commercials will transpire. Ad agencies probably realized after millions of wasted dollars spent on commercials, that people are not buying their products because of commercials on television. Consumers buy for various reasons, but it’s rare that we would buy a thing because we saw it on television. It’s much more likely that we participate in a conversation with people similar to us, be moved to action by someone we trust and purchase a product or service that came recommended. So instead of pushing mediocre ad campaigns at consumers, ad agencies will serve as connectors and amplifiers of their intended audiences this year more than ever before.

The energy surrounding the game will become a constant build of marketing buzz as the top of the Indianapolis skyline becomes visible from Southbound I-65. A groundswell of chatter and excitement will build as fans purchase, participate and talk about it at every opportunity. I included. – The party last night, the hotel room, the players to watch, what she’s wearing, who is going to be there, what club is open late, where to eat… All captured by that simple yet most important character of the week. The hashtag (#).

The hash tag has changed the game of football as much as any rule change since they started wearing plastic helmets in 1939. Every player has the opportunity and responsibility if he chooses to accept it, to broadcast himself and promote his brand to his fans. Likewise, fans have a platform to say whatever they please for the entire world to see by simply placing a targeted hash tag before their comment. Brands, services, celebrities and basically everyone who’s in Indianapolis will be influenced in some way by the hash tag (#) this week. The Super Bowl Committee has even constructed a social media control center to serve as traffic directors for the most talked about player this week in Indy… the hash tag. #invizible_ink #NFL #superbowl #Indy

Super Moments


It was January 1988 the first time the game made me emotional… It was 17 days into the new year, I was 10 years old and my fandom for the Cleveland Browns culminated at the moment Earnest Byner (# 44) took a handoff from Bernie Kosar. I was with uber sureness the Browns were going to score the game-tying touchdown in the AFC Championship Game, but to my dismay, followed by a 10 year old tear falling at disbelief; The Fumble.

Football has made me emotional numerous times for many different and unrelated reasons but most recently in Dallas at Super Bowl XLV. The National Anthem to be exact. I heard Christina messed up the lyrics but I was in my own world reminising the first time I heard the rendition wearing a New York Football Giants uniform and didn’t even notice she messed it up.

My most gratifying memory of playing football came the first time I suited up in an NFL uniform. The game was televised on ESPN and as the National Anthem played, I realized I made a life-long dream come true. It was a personal and special accomplishment, and to this day, when I hear the National Anthem I go back to that moment in New England and get goosebumps… No matter if it’s at a high school basketball game or the Super Bowl, it’s that particular sound of the game that takes me back.

This past Sunday I had the priviledge of attending SB XLV with a profound and distinguished group of people who crossed a variety of walks of life, but came together as football fans. I truly enjoyed every conversation I was a part of leading up to the game, and I had the opportunity to make new friends with some very cool people; but when the National Anthem played and the jets flew over the stadium; It was time for reading linebackers, picking up blitzes, and recognizing cover 2 defenses. After years of football film watching, it’s just how I watch a game. Everyone around me was excited, cheering, and anticipating the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV while I was imagining running down the field on the kickoff team, cognizant of staying in the correct pursuit lane, and wrecklessly looking to make the first tackle of Super Bowl XLV.

There are often indescribable experiences and personal moments that make a game memorable, a career definable, and a moment… a moment. These sports moments are experienced uniquely by an individual and often times, never spoke of; rather kept in a memory bank and recalled when a new experience triggers the sounds, sights and smells of a particular moment. The game is a ame of inches they say, but to me it’s a game of moments. A few special moments that made a career meaningful, and memorable.

4 tips to Listening in the Huddle


Twenty-One! Twenty-one!! Ok here we go: Explode to I-Buster right, lucy trade, 161 Y-shallow cross half back Ralfie, check, I-buster right, middle 27 bob-scissors on two…

Imagine you are in the huddle, it’s 3rd and goal with four seconds left to go in a tied playoff game and your team is down five points… Do you know what to do if the defense lines up in cover 1 but rolls to a cover 2 zone? What if they stay in Man? What if the Mike Linebacker blitzes? What if the strong safety blitzes? Do either of these plays have a built in “hot” route? – As you approach the line of scrimage and get into your stance you hear the quarterback make an “Omaha” call, what do you do now? – If you were an NFL tight-end, you would be required to process all of the previous information in less than six seconds. As an added variable, your team is the visitor and the home crowd is making so much noise you can actually feel the vibrations ringing in your helmet from the crowd.

– Plays called by NFL quarterbacks can be up to twenty words long. So as you might guess, it’s important to listen in the huddle. In business, like football, listening is a skill that requires some cognizant adherence in order to be great. We sometimes forget to listen or do a poor job of listening and the resulting outcome is undesirable. In comparison, if we would have done an exceptional job of listening, not only would our outcome have been favorable, but our ability to lead would be exemplified by creating an opportunity to help others understand. When you are in a huddle with time running off the game-clock you don’t have the luxury of asking questions or requesting the quarterback to recap what he just said; you do however, have to be prepared number one, and number two, you have to listen and have total concentration and focus in this situation.

Listening is a skill that separates many of us, and ultimately makes a leader special. As a manager, there are few actions you can demonstrate to your employees that will impact them personally more than being proactive in helping them accomplish their personal goals. Not only will your emplyees be impressed that you are willing to help them, but recalling the conversation in which you discussed goals with an employee will also show them you care. And if you show your employees that you care about them… Assuming you hired morally sound people, you can expect them to give you the same level of respect and do the extra little things it takes to be great. — At the end of the day, listening is about caring. If you care about people, you will listen to them and value what they have to say.

However, if you have a hard time paying attention and have a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder like I do, a few tips I picked up along the way that might help you out include:

1) Make Eye Contact-
Looking at the person talking while simultaneously reading their lips will help you retain information. Using your sense of sight and hearing together will also help improve information retention. (especially if you are playing on the road)

2) Recap confusing or uncertain lessons-
Restating what someone tells you allows you to process the information, restate the information in your own words, and open the dialogue back up in case you missed an element of what you were told. Also, hearing the information a second or third time will help you recall the information when you need it.

3) Ask Questions-
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please. First of all, there are very few places in business for shyness. Be accountable and ask questions in regard to information you are unclear about. It’s your responsibility to know what you need to know. It’s much more embarrassing to be the person on film running the wrong route or the person who brought the wrong presentation to the meeting.

4) Knock the chip off your shoulder-
Listening is about caring. Value the people around you and seek to learn from them at all cost. If you walk through your day believing you are too busy to talk to your employees then you are missing out on an invaluable education and almost guaranteeing that later when you are actually paying attention to a conversation, a previous topic will come up and you will be the one left in the dark. All because you didn’t think it important enough the first time… It’s hard to redeem yourself after this happens – It’s far better as well as utilitarian to simply care about your people and listen to what they have to say.

Does Sport Breed Entrepreneurs?


The game of football has taught me to be a leader, a teammate, a critical thinker, a problem solver and most of all to be accountable for my actions. It has also given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I played the game of football competitively for sixteen years (Starting at age nine and retiring from the NFL at age 24). In all those years of playing this game, I have adopted a few themes as part of my life’s DNA which I believe define me as a man as well as an entrepreneur and member of society. Characteristics such as integrity, character, commitment, work ethic, leadership, and being a community ambassador have become the essence of what the game of football has taught me to replicate as I create my legacy.

I learned a long time ago, on a football field, that your team was the most important ingredient in the formula for success. Without others, one’s individual success is impossible; and so people should be every organization’s number one resource. On the football field, it’s imperative to have a talented quarterback, because that is generally the most important position on every team. However, without the entire team working for the same goal and respecting the quarterback, the likelihood of failure is high. The same holds true in business. Constructing a solid team is vital to an organization’s success. It’s essential to find a solid leader, someone the rest of the team will respect and follow to that end. The supporting team may be a variety of personalities and plethora of different skills and individual characteristics, but ultimately, a team needs a captain to lead that team to success.

Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” When building a business, it’s foolish to think one can do it alone. Employing the right people is essential to your team’s success. Also, the reward is much greater when a goal is accomplished as a group rather than alone. Having someone beside you to celebrate with is certainly more enjoyable than solitude. Togetherness is crucial when accomplishing, as well as celebrating. A football team requires eleven players on every play to be together to have success. If one player does not do their job, the play usually fails. Too many failures ultimately equal defeat. It’s really that simple at the end of the fourth quarter. A coach can evaluate a game by simply pointing out the times a team did not work together as one unit and find reason for a loss. The same holds true for success. A coach can evaluate a team’s win by pointing out the consistency of togetherness and number of times a team carried out what they had planned to do throughout its preparation period. Business is much like winning a football game. You prepare for a test by doing research, scouting the competition, preparing a strategy, implementing that strategy and measuring your success so that you can replicate it and understand through statistics where your team is inefficient, and where to focus your strengths and resources to capitalize on future opportunities.

It’s in this preparation time that I believe the sport of football teaches and prepares those that play the sport to be leaders and future successful entrepreneurs. The first reason is due to the amount of time required to be successful. Work ethic is of optimal necessity for an athlete wishing to play in the NFL. The competition is ruthless and the process to make a NFL team is at times, dare I say barbaric. The process is so incredibly demanding that many fail due to the lack of mental toughness. This defining element however, prepares players for future success by engraining a sense of work ethic that is incomparable to most industries. Training camp in the NFL is six weeks of fifteen-hour-days; and completion of that is just to earn consideration for a final position with their organization. Making it to the end of camp doesn’t mean you made the team, it means you made it through another round of interviews.

The executive staff and coaches will make the final decision for your future employment with their organization. Often times your salary requirements will not be in line with what the organization is proposing, or your experience may not be exactly what they are looking for. It may have absolutely nothing to do with your ability or potential; the timing may just not be right.

Football has prepared me for life in business though a multitude of successes as well as defeats. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to risk failure to attain your dreams and accomplish your goals. That’s what makes the reward so great!
I was told countless times upon college graduation I was wasting my time working out and preparing to play another football game. – And, after signing a contract but being cut before even having the opportunity to go to training camp my first year in the NFL, I thought maybe they were right… For about day.

I flew back to my hometown, woke up the next morning, and went to my high school practice field and ran gassers and sprints until all my frustrations of being fired were expelled… and that day I started to prepare for my next opportunity.

The game of football teaches resiliency and fortitude in a way no other sport can teach. The game of football takes so incredibly much physical strength and ability, but it also takes a unique mental composition to be the best of the best. Due to some very special people and an internal desire to succeed, I was more than ready for my next NFL opportunity, which came six months later in the form of a workout with the New York Giants… And later in the form of standing on the 50 yard line in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the National Anthem played over the loud speakers. A nationally televised game on ESPN and F-16 fighter jets buzzed the stadium as goose bumps and a tear formed on my skin; I overcame the odds of playing professional football and proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.