Category Archives: Sports

Random Sports and Leadership Musings

I continue to ponder the Denver sports scene these days.  My thoughts waffle between frustration and depression most times with the occasional burst of enthusiasm sprinkled in (e.g. Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote returning to the Avs during a two day stretch late last month.) 

I published a while back about my strong desire to see Mike Shanahan depart the Broncos and my feelings have only increased since that time.  Ian Gold and Javon Walker, two very strong contributors to the team over the past couple years, were recently cut, Jim Bates resigned meaning yet another defensive coordinator will be in place next year (has anyone in the organization noticed the importance of continuity to success?) and today their seemingly figurehead GM of 16 years, Ted Sundquist was fired.   Ummm, did anyone in the organization remember that the NFL draft is just a few weeks away?  I really have no idea what kind of love affair Coach Shanahan and Owner Pat Bowlen are indulging in these days but I’m baffled how the axe keeps falling everywhere but on Shanny’s head. 

At the same time, a friend of mine has developed quite a buzz around his new blog, firegeorgekarl.com.  As the blog author knows, I fully disagree with the general premise of the blog but I’m impressed by the caliber of his research, musings, postings and general perseverance on the subject.  He’s picked up some buzz throughout the Denver sports community for his strong opinions on the subject of George Karl and your 2007-2008 Denver Thuggits.  Unlike my opinion of Mike Shanahan, I personally disagree with the notion that any majority part of the Nuggets struggles this year should fall largely on the shoulders of Coach Karl.  Despite its position right in the thick of the bottom of the playoff race, the Nuggets have one of their best records ever at this point in a season and have clearly demonstrated they are a team that can compete with anyone in the league on a given night.  Unfortunately, they also can play terrible ball on a given night.  Karl can’t be held completely accountable for that erratic play and its probably both wrong and lazy to point the finger too strongly in his direction.  I, personally, like this Nuggets team a lot and, if they do inch in to the playoffs or bow out early, sincerely hope nothing dramatic happens with either Karl or the roster itself. 

Lastly, I’m curious if anyone else is as amazed by the new Nike commercial as I am.  My only frustration with it was that the Nike site didn’t provide any embed link for me to post the commercial more effectively on my blog.  I haven’t been this pumped up by a commercial in quite a while and give Nike props, yet again, for its marketing creativity and brilliance time and time again over the past twenty plus years.  I only wish they focused on making footwear products as good as their commercials are these days.     

1 Comment

Filed under Cool Links & Stuff, Sports

SI Swimming Online

 SI Swimsuit Edition

I finally got an opportunity a few days ago to peruse the new Sports Illustrated 2008 Swimsuit edition.  Around the same time last week, I found myself reading this perplexed blog article on Digital Media Wire regarding the increasing online popularity of this SI hallmark. 

To Heather Hopkins or anyone else out there confounded by the online success of the Swimsuit edition, I encourage you to stop racking your brains.  This isn’t any kind of rubix cube.  First, I doubt there is any particular logic to the prominence of one search term (“sports illustrated swimsuit”) over another (“SI Swimsuit issue.”)  If anyone feels differently about this, or there is some particularly marketing ploy at the heart of this, I’d love to stand corrected.

To the larger issue, though, of the online success of the Swimsuit edition, there is clear and logical explanation behind that.  First and foremost, the product itself remains unmatched.  We’re talking about really beautiful women and its less about the bathing suits this year than ever.  The SI Swimsuit edition appears to have gotten somewhat racier over the years and I’ve personally deduced a lot of that has to do with awareness over their principal competition now: online adult content.   At the same time, it’s increasingly integrated with pop culture and other popular content tie-ins: Will Ferrell and his new movie, Semi- Pro, Danica Patrick, athlete’s wives and more.  I’m sure the studio behind Semi-Pro paid a pretty penny for its sponsorship integration which makes that tie-in all the more compelling for the magazine.   

Furthermore, the Swimsuit edition is heavily marketed and have fairly massive distribution.  Unlike regular, weekly editions of SI, the Swimsuit version can be found on the shelves of just about any drugstore, grocery store, hair salon or tienda of almost any other kind throughout the US (and possibly beyond I assume.)  I’m curious how and why they’ve secured distribution that goes so much wider for this edition than their others but I’m assuming they have a much heavier cost structure to maintain on this episode.   

Lastly, this year more than year’s past, the supporting online website for the SI Swimsuit edition is great.  The UI is clean and there are some clever applications including a video mash-up feature that could keep a teenage boy engaged on the website for hours.   This year, much of the magazine’s content is online for free and its principally monetized through advertising.  But, the ads are relatively non-intrusive and the whole user experience online is well thought through.   

It’s not a stretch to call the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a hallmark of winter and, even more broadly, of American society for the last 40+ years.  As a product, it continues to evolve with the times and, so, it’s not in the least bit surprising to me that,  in 2008,  it’s such a popular destination online.

2 Comments

Filed under Cool Links & Stuff, Photos, Sports

ESPN360 Goes to College

 ESPN

The digital media news headlines these days are smothered with stories about Yahoo.  It’s hard to find any articles of interest that don’t pertain to their sale of their premium music service to Rhapsody, purchase of a small Israeli music company, purchase of Maven Networks, sizeable lay-offs and more.  Oh yeah, and Microsoft wants to buy them for a few billion dollars or so. 

But, amidst all Jerry Yang’s activities, one piece of unrelated news caught my eye today pertaining to another large media company: Disney and its ESPN property.  According to Digital Media Wire today, ESPN360 has taken the bold step of announcing a strategy that gives away its 360 online broadband property to all .edu and .mil email addresses.  In other words, 16 million plus college aged students and a lot of loyal military types with ample free time and nice broadband connectivity. 

The New York Times first noted this news today.  Having worked with ESPN for several years earlier this decade, I’m not at all surprised by their interest in pursuing these two markets aggressively.  They have always wanted to make in-roads here, especially among colleges, where they see college aged students sans TVs as a ripe audience for their broadband video product.  And, given that, according to the NY Times story, their usage figures for ESPN360 have been paltry with just over 500k viewing hours in the past six months, it’s not surprising they are taking a more aggressive stance towards entering the market. 

I’m not at all confounded by the potential reality that ESPN360 hasn’t gained much traction yet.  While its mosaic style player, courtesy in part of its relationship with Move Networks, is catchy and effective, its content library is still limited and its user experience is fully tied to ISP distribution rights.  In other words, their historical audience could never have been larger than the 20M some odd users on available ISPs like AT&T and Charter and its likely to assume their regular audience wasn’t more than 1-5% of that total figure.   

It will be interesting to see whether this move is a small, nonchalant “experiment” of sorts in order to grab more eyeballs, ad dollar potential and brand loyalty among essential user bases.  On the other hand, I won’t be surprised if this is part of a “last battle” effort to see if something can be made of this ESPN property.   

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports, Tech, Video

When Successful Leaders Run Their Course

Mike Shanahan

As big of a Denver Broncos fan as I am, I’ve previously opted not to use my blog publisher as a means for expressing sentiments on the topic.  Sports opens up a whole, new subject of conversation I’m choosing not to use my blog forum for at this time.  However, I feel compelled at this point to articulate some feelings I have about the Broncos that spill over beyond sports to the subject I do write about, on occasion, of leadership and management.

When the Broncos won back to back Super Bowls before John Elway’s retirement in 1999, I articulated loudly that I was at peace with whatever happened to the Broncos from that point forward.  To my surprise though, and to my dismay, I have watched in agony a Broncos team that has been mired in mediocrity for the past nine years.  In fairness, the ’99 team was riddled with injuries (including a career-threatening one to Terrell Davis) and a post-Elway hangover that didn’t really count.  On the other hand, this year’s pathetic squad has also endured its share of injuries but has no good excuse for its generally poor play.  Except for one main one.  And, oddly enough, one that’s not being talked about hardly at all–not on the Denver radio stations, in the Denver newspapers or really even on the popular football blogs including Pro Football Talk.   

I’m referring to an increasing need for Mike Shanahan to leave his post as the head coach of the Broncos.  This notion is generally startling when I mention it to folks around Denver but I don’t understand why: the Bronx have won one playoff game since Elway retired, all facets of their game this year (O, D, Special Teams) were ranked towards the bottom of the league, their defensive and offensive lines are in virtual shambles, expensive pick-ups including Travis Henry didn’t pay dividends at all this year, etc etc. 

I, honestly, felt like Shanahan should have been gone earlier this decade but was willing to be patient especially after the ’06 team (which also didn’t make the playoffs after an embarrasing home loss in week 17 to the Niners) showed signs of great, youthful potential with the likes of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Mike Bell (poor Mike Bell–where have you gone in just one year’s time?)  Now, however, after this pathetic season–what excuse can be used for Shanahan now?  He is the longest tenured coach in the league and deserved some significant time to rebuild and grow a new foundation for the team after Elway’s departure.  But, nine years?  In the business world, I can say with a high degree of certainty that a business CEO would never get nine years of patience from a Board of Directors if the company underperformed for such a period of time.  No matter how successful they had been in the distant past.

I do understand that owner Pat Bowlen won’t be willing to fire Shanahan and I fully comprehend that notion.  But, I believe that it’s time for Shanahan to acknowledge that his leadership has run its course, as does happen in the world of sports and business alike, and recognize that new blood at the top is exactly what this rebuilding organization requires.  He would depart now, disappointed I’m sure, but respected and able to obtain future employment with almost any other organization in the league if he was interested in the future.  However, another season in ’08 like this one in ’07 will cause collateral damage that may leave Shanahan, among others, unable to even faintly recall those great years of the late 1990s and his accomplishments a a leader of the organization at that time.

6 Comments

Filed under Management, Sports

Best College Football Play Ever?

http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=foxsports&vid=b102d7ff-beab-4b37-964d-f90ceb1e487c 

I recently saw this college football play, featuring DIII Trinity University in Texas, and was blown away.  It has to be included in the elite category of best college football plays ever–maybe in all of sports history.  There are 14 some-odd laterals in this play and it took over 2 minutes to unfold.

Separately, I’m continually surprised by the “proprietary,” non-viral nature of Microsoft’s Internet tools in this capacity.  It was difficult to load this video from MSN on to my blog and I wasn’t able to post it to my Facebook profile–MSN pushes users to their comedic website “Spaces” for such activities instead.  Apple typically gets criticized for their proprietary nature but it’s MSFT, in this case, failing to let loose the reins.

2 Comments

Filed under Sports, Video

Succisa Virescit (cont.)

duke lax 

I’ve been grapling the past couple days with how to make sense of the Hollywood script that didn’t come together Monday.  There is no Hollywood film to be written, as I see it, for a team losing in the waning moments of a game to Johns Hopkins (for it’s record 9th national title) on a innocuous turnover with three minuts plus left to play.   These players deserve a round of applause for their perseverance but it’s not a story that will likely make its way to the silver screen. 

Then came this news today…very surprising coming from the NCAA and news that perhaps allows this story to play itself out for a while longer:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=2887146

While it’s not totally logical for the NCAA to be granting this year’s seniors, juniors and sophomores one more year of eligibility, I’m both excited about it and welcome it both for personal reasons as well as what it means for lacrosse in general.  If players like Matt Danowski make a return visit for a post-grad senior season next year, this team is a viable national championship contender again in 2008.  Perhaps at that point, the Hollywood script can reach its preferred conclusion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Duke, Sports

Succisa Virescit (cont.)

Duke lax team

I’ve been watching or playing lacrosse for over 20 years.  Today’s national semifinal game between Duke and Cornell was as good as any game I’ve ever seen. 

Lacrosse is a game of momentum but this game took Mo to another level.  Tied at 3 after one quarter, Duke scored the next seven goals to take a 10-3 lead mid way through the third quarter.   Cornell, who hadn’t scored in nearly 30 minutes, then tallied eight of the next nine goals to stunningly tie the game at 11 with 17 seconds remaining.  In what surely felt like a game headed to OT, the character of this Duke lax team once again prevailed.  Junior Zack Greer caught a pass outside the crease with three seconds left and dumped it past the Cornell goalie to win the game.  Succisa Virescit continued. 

The national championship game is on Monday and it feels almost necessarily, from a Hollywood script stand-point, for Duke to win its first national championship in lacrosse on that day.  This team of warriors will need everything it takes to beat Johns Hopkins for a second time this year.  But, in what would be another form of poetic justice, victory would come against the team Duke narrowly lost to a couple years ago right before all hell broke lose.  Here’s hoping for a great ending to one heck of a script.   

Leave a comment

Filed under Duke, Sports