Businesses that make an impact is the theme. I’ll be sharing accounts of my journey from pro athlete to non-profit professional at the University of Notre Dame Net Impact Symposium, this Friday 2/14/2014.
Here’s to the honest mechanics out there. So often we hear the horror stories of taking the Chevy in for an oil change and bringing it home with new tires, air filter, wiper blades, radiator hose and spark plug wires. That didn’t happen to me today.
I picked up a nail in my tire the last time I drove my car not realizing it and when I went to leave for work the other morning, found my front tire was completely flat and sitting on its rim. It’s actually what every Chicagoan hopes for at 6:30 in the morning in negative temperatures.
So as I venture out to tackle the joyous occasion of changing my tire and bringing it in to be fixed, the garage door to the auto body shop that my building shares an alley with opens and a man walks over and asks if I need a hand. “I would love some help, man. Thank you!” He takes a look and walks back into the body shop without saying anything and returns with an air hose hooked to an air compressor. At this point I am doing imaginary fist pumps and realize I am going to get my morning back.
Because there is a nail hole in my tire, it doesn’t hold much air, but enough to get it over to the shop where the guy has all the tools to do a proper repair and check the air of the other three tires, bringing those to factory recommended levels as well.
I tried to give the guy some cash for his help and he refused to take it. I tried again, and he refused again. While I couldn’t give him any cash this morning I brought a twelve pack of cold beer over to the fellas who work there. Where I come from, that’s how we say thank you. Your money is no good in Glandorf, when it comes to helping your neighbors. A twelve pack of beer and a genuine “thank you” goes a long way. Sometimes paying a good deed forward and being a decent human being is all it takes to put life in perspective.
For example, I was leaving the gas station the other day and was stopped by a family frantically trying to get money for gas. The dad and his daughter approach me with a story of how he was in the hospital and they were trying to get back to Springfield. The daughter, around 10 years old, was crying and pouring it on. (I’m a sucker for kids) I should have known better but I gave them $20 and my business card and wished them good luck. They tore off in their Jeep without stopping at the pump… I got hoodwinked and probably deserved it – but today – it came back around.
Citius, Altius, Fortius. The Olympic motto which means “Faster, Higher, Stronger”
This year however, the Olympic motto may best be remembered as “Akrivos,” which means, “expensive.” There’s been an estimated $50B spent in preparation for these games which is unprecedented. It doesn’t take a MIT grad to understand the astronomical amount of money that has been pumped into these games. To put it in perspective, the $50B investment is $35B more than the next highest spender, which was Athens in 2004.
It’s been well documented that in 2004, Athens hosted the Games and blundered in a big way. Many economists believe the miscalculations associated with hosting the Games in ’04 were a major contributor to the demise of the Greek Government that fell upon them in 2008. The committee under budgeted severely (nearly $11B) and the unfortunate timing led to a downtrodden post-Olympic era. According to a CNBC report, of the 22 new structures built for the 2004 Athens Games, 21 of them are unoccupied. While researching the economic impact of the Olympics, it’s astonishing to read about all the cities that have hosted Olympic Games and mismanaged the economics of them. What should be an opportunistic point in a country’s history, often times leads to turmoil and economic hardship. Taxes are increased, infrastructure fails, tourism plummets, environmental and sustainability measures are ignored… and the list could go on. I’m sure President Putin knows far more than I about his country, but it begs the question; what will become of Sochi after The Games? Will the $50B Olympic investment serve the people of Russia, or is this an ostentatious display of authority to prove to the world that Russia is powerful and rich and capable of hosting an Olympics unlike any Olympiad ever before?
The Olympics are about the colors, the athletes and the people. In two years when the next Olympiad takes place, no one will talk about Sochi; it will be old news, except to the people of Russia. They are the people who feel $50B spent to appease personal intentions. The rest of us will be watching Rio. It doesn’t take $50B to host The Games; the Olympics began with rocks and dirt. The spirit of the Olympics is about bringing people together to celebrate sport – not a single country, and certainly not a single man.
I’ve become quite interested in this story from a societal and economical perspective, but mostly I’m looking forward to watching the athletes as they stand on the podium, draped in home colors, watching their flag rise while the national anthem echoes through stadium speakers. They worked their entire lives for that moment and I guarantee they do not care how Akrivos the stadium is or how well paved the roads are… because all Olympian’s roads are paved the same. Ups and downs, injuries and set-backs, sacrifices and tears, doubts and fatigue. The Olympian cares not about the money because very few of them have any. They care about the medal, their country and their team.
Thursday marks the beginning of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and without a doubt; I will be one of 3 billion sports fans around the world tuning in to see the spectacle.
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.
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?
I’m not sure if anyone in their right mind would choose Findlay, Ohio as a vacation destination this time of year; or any time of year for that matter. But here I am. Day two of six in Findlay enjoying my time on my Alma Matter campus speaking to college students, coaches, staff and administrators about their futures, career paths, the future of the University’s sports programs, the benefit of internships, sports marketing and management, offensive and defensive line play, digital marketing and communications, NFL scouts, new buildings and sports facilities, campus writing publications and of course, the weather.
It’s been almost twelve years since I graduated from the University of Findlay and I’m still proud of the fact that I graduated from here. When I was an eighteen year old kid I didn’t know what I didn’t know; and at 34, I still don’t. But I do know there are certain events in one’s life that whether one realizes it or not at the time, happen for a reason. I think coming to the University of Findlay after high school while at the time, I wasn’t sure was right for me, turned out to be a great decision. I’m still great friends with my teammates from the days of the collegiate gridiron. It was here and with them that I learned to be perseverant and to work my ass off for the greater good. That greater good was Findlay Football and a better opportunity and life than otherwise would have been possible for a kid from Glandorf, Ohio. While it all started as a kid in back yard football games and with my coaches from the Ottawa-Glandorf communities, Findlay was the next step.
It was here that I met and quickly loved a football coach that knew how to motivate and inspire in a way that words cannot give justice. Coach Dick Strahm is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met and possibly to ever walk the Earth. If you haven’t had the chance to play for Coach or know his story, it may be hard to believe that the greatest of the great resides in Findlay, Ohio, but that is the case. He leads by example and has taught so many of us over the years how to do the same. The tradition he began and instilled in me, is much in part why I am on campus this week sharing what I am able to share. Whether it be my time, my experiences or my humble expertise in areas of my profession, I am here to continue an Oiler tradition that many before me have been passionate about and contributed to.