So Long JoePa

Posted: November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

The majority of my posts have attempted to offer a humorous, laidback approach to professional sports.  I guess you could say I’m not exactly a serious person, unless I’m defending my home town Blazers or challenging anyone who disagrees with the FACT that LeBron James is the BEST player in the NBA.  Unfortunately, there are times as a journalist when writing about the news can be depressing and downright painful.  This is one of those times.

Joe Paterno is, or was considered to be one of the most successful and celebrated college football coaches of all time.  Paterno has a long list of achievements including the record for the most victories by an FBS football coach with 409.  His tenure as head coach at Penn State has lasted 62 seasons, dating back to 1950 when he first joined the coaching staff as an assistant. Check out his Wikipedia page to get an idea of how long this dude has been around. Joe Paterno

If there was ever a coach that deserved your respect and gratitude it was Joe Paterno, or JoePa as Lions fans might say.  It’s hard to imagine that such an honorable career could be tarnished in a matter of days.  Relax people; I’m not saying his legacy is ruined just yet.  However, as this story unravels it’s hard to imagine that Paterno can defend his innocence in such a horrific scandal.  I’d rather not discuss the details of the tragic events involving the Penn State coaching staff because it makes me sick to my stomach.

In short, the claim being made is that children were sexually abused by a former Penn State coach, who at the time was under direct supervision of JoePa.  Although Paterno was not directly involved in the abuse, sources say he was confronted about the issue and was aware of what had taken place.  So why blame Paterno?  Oh, there are plenty of reasons.

This statue of Joe Paterno stands outside the football stadium at Penn State University. After tarnishing his legacy and being fired as head coach, will the statue remain? Photo credit to Audrey Smith.

Apparently Paterno reported the information to university officials and moved on with his job like nothing had ever happened.  He NEVER called the police, NEVER filed a complaint, and NEVER even approached the accused coach about what he heard.  In other words, he covered his ass and let someone else deal with it.  If you can’t tell, I’m pissed off.  It’s people like Paterno that I have no respect for and I never will.  I can’t comprehend how someone can ignore such serious claims, especially when they involve sexual abuse of a child.

Due to the fact that Joe Paterno is one of the most significant figures in college sports today, the Penn State scandal has been in the national spotlight since the story broke, less than a week ago.   University officials have been scrambling around trying to determine how to handle this situation, but the damage has been done.  Lives have been changed forever, most significantly the victims who were abused.  Penn State University must accept responsibility for the actions of its employees and the typical PR approach may not be the solution.  Hell, there is no solution for what took place.

My education in the School of Journalism at the University of Oregon has provided me with resources that explain how to use PR when dealing with controversy.  In all of the books that I have read, exams taken, and papers that I have written; was I ever presented with a problem as serious as the events that took place at Penn State University?   My guess is that whoever is in charge of PR at Penn State won’t be getting much sleep anytime soon.  My prayers are with the victims.

Cupid Transformed

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Let’s not pretend we didn’t see this coming; the future of online dating has arrived!  I’m not making fun of the idea, (ok … maybe a little) but the reality is that online dating is more common than we think.  Personally, the idea of meeting my significant other through a website is depressing.  Hell, who am I to judge?  I’m just skeptical of finding true love through a match making website.  Envision the awkward conservation with your family when they ask how the two of you met.  My parents are part of a different generation and the concept of online dating would baffle them.

eHarmony is one of the popular internet dating websites connecting people all across the world. Photo credit to Beth Granter.

However, are social media websites like Twitter and Facebook much different?  Some people consider the amount of followers or friends they have a direct correlation to their social status.  Ask yourself, what is the difference between a friend on Facebook and a friend in real life?  “I only accept people I know,” is a typical response that I have a hard time believing.  Most people would feel uncomfortable offering personal information to a stranger, yet for whatever reason Facebook is the exception.

“CrushBlvd” is a new website that resembles a combination of Facebook and Match.com.  Here’s the official statement from the website explaining the concept:  “CrushBlvd uses a Crush score, which combines a Klout score and social networking features into a unique measuring tool, to determine members’ level of influence according to their looks and their ability to engage others. The higher the score represents the higher the popularity and attractiveness of the member.” (CrushBlvd)

I wasn’t a fan of online dating in the first place and after reading the introduction to CrushBlvd I was tempted to delete my entire social media existence.  To suggest that a website has the ability to determine an individual’s popularity and attractiveness based on a “unique measuring tool” is bizarre.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who received significantly low scores and how they were affected by it.  I’ve never had a problem with online dating websites until now and if social media continues to encourage the idea of sites like CrushBlvd I might have to find a new hobby.

The NBA Soap Opera

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Students at the University of Oregon know how depressing winter time in Eugene is.  For sports fans the NBA season makes the consistent downpour and couch riding somewhat enjoyable.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the exciting college basketball season, which at times offers more drama than an episode of Jersey Shore.  The difference is that the NBA consists of guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, players who offer entertainment you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

The NBA lockout might be irrelevant to California residents, who can indulge in the beautiful beaches and constant sunshine.  Unfortunately, my fellow classmates and I are forced to hibernate during the winter and having a reliable source of entertainment is vital to our ability to learn.  Am I exaggerating? Duh.  Either way, it’s important to take a break from school work and NBA games offer sports fans a method of relaxation.

David Stern admitted the owners and the players have a long way to go to reach an agreement. Photo credit to Eric Richardson.

Sports journalist, Russell Scibetti wrote an article about how NBA teams are communicating with their fans during the lockout, stating that the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the few teams doing so.  (NBA Lockout)  The NBA is a business and team owners must act in the best interest of the franchise by providing their fans with frequent updates regarding the status of the upcoming season.  The owners need to realize that NBA fans are one of a kind and a portion of them determine who to cheer for depending on what team their favorite player is on.  Clearly this isn’t true for all fans as some have been loyal to a specific team since childhood, and others have an obligation to support their home town team.

The point is that the lockout has demonstrated that nothing is promised in the NBA and the same applies to franchises.  Team owners need to make it a priority to communicate with fans in order to maintain a long-term relationship for the future.  As an Oregonian and devoted Portland Trailblazers fan I expect some kind of statement from the team, preparing me for what to expect.  At this point I haven’t heard anything, though I don’t know where I’d look and I shouldn’t have to.  If the Blazers had released a statement evidently it wasn’t accessible enough to reach social media outlets, given that I do follow the Blazers official twitter account.

At this point it’s hard to predict the future of the NBA, but what I do know is that team owners need to spend more time covering the PR aspect of their organization.  In a league consisting of 30 teams there’s no guarantee a fan will remain loyal during this time of chaos.  Why should a fan support an organization that shows a lack of appreciation to their fan base?  In other words they encourage you to purchase tickets and team memorabilia, but expect your loyalty to the organization free of cost.  The relationship between fans and organizations is a two way street and a team’s commitment to PR ensures the relationship is a healthy one.  If the NBA lockout stands, fans will continue to express frustration and the last thing the NBA needs is a decrease in their loyal followers.  Sounds like the owners need a good dose of PR.

 

Excuse me for my consistent reference to the past, but I feel an obligation to address specific situations which has left us all asking “why?”  Can you remember where you were the day the infamous hoop star announced on national television that he was “taking his talents to South Beach?” On July 8th, 2010 sports fans around the world (myself included) gathered around the television anticipating the future of King James himself.  “The Decision” aired live on ESPN as a 60 minute special, revealing the team LeBron James would join for the upcoming NBA season.  In case you’re wondering who the hell LeBron James is, let’s just say he’s the greatest talent the NBA has ever seen.

James, a Cleveland native, spent his first seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers until the star became a free agent in 2010.  James was the most sought out free agent in NBA history and whichever team was fortunate enough to acquire the hoop star would see an instant gain in revenue.  Finally, in the last segment of the 60 minute special, King James stated, “I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”  Little did LeBron know those exact words would ignite a frenzy of controversy which would never be forgotten.

When LeBron James was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers he was loved by many and hated by few.  However, after LeBron James announced his future on “The Decision,” he was forced to take on his new role as a villain.  James was criticized for betraying the Cavaliers organization and for quitting on his home town.  Not only were Cavs fans upset with LeBron’s choice to leave the organization, they were offended with how he went about doing so.

"The Big Three" are the most talked about trio in the NBA. Photo credit to Xynn Tii Imagery.

“The Decision” changed the public’s perception of James labeling him as self-centered and egotistical, traits an athlete never wants to be associated with.  Despite the tremendous amount of criticism, some say that James is a public relations genius. (“The Decision” Aftermath)  Nearly 10 million viewers tuned into the King James national broadcast, which donated all advertising revenue to the Boys and Girls Club of America.  Okay, so maybe his heart was in the right place?  Let’s not go that far.

LeBron instigated a marketing dynasty by creating a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the Miami Heat and his future teammates.  Is it possible that James was advised by his management team to consider an organization in a city that presented the best opportunity for him to market his brand?  Oh, it’s more than likely.

Before signing with the Heat, it was speculated that LeBron would only consider the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat because the two were in cities that presented the highest market value.  Sure, it would have been great for his image and PR had LeBron James stayed in his hometown, but clearly James had something different in mind.  “The Decision” may have had good intentions, but instead was one of the biggest PR mistakes in the history of professional sports.  Now, LeBron James must either acknowledge his role as the new villain of the NBA, or hire a new management team to clean up the mess he got himself into.  Either way, we’re all anticipating his next big decision.

The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tiger Woods started as a prodigy, continued on to be a legend and now is nothing but a media inferno.  Woods is the highest paid athlete in the world and his achievements rank him as one of the most successful golfers of all time.  Before the infamous scandal, Woods was considered the world’s most marketable athlete signing endorsement deals with Nike, General Motors, Gatorade and the list goes on.  Tiger was the golden child not only for golf, but for professional sports as a whole.

In the world of public relations something can go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds.  Tiger Woods for example, saw his career flash before his eyes.  The golfer was involved in the most covered and speculated scandal in the history of sports and his image would forever pay the price.  In November, 2009 a tornado of rumors broke out revealing a side of Woods the world had never seen.  In summary, a number of sources were exposing Tiger’s marriage claiming the golfer had numerous affairs with different women.  The story resulted in an instant media outburst, creating a tremendous amount of speculation and controversy.

Tiger Woods has lost millions of dollars due to the mistakes he commited in his personal life. Photo Credit to Keith Allison.

At first, it seemed Woods was dealing with the issue internally by declining to comment or address the matter publicly.  Initially, Tiger was advised to lay low until the story blew over.  However; it never would.  After over a dozen women confirmed having sexual encounters with the golfer he was forced to confront his mistakes.  Three months later on February 19th, 2010 Woods held a press conference admitting to infidelity and apologizing for his actions.  Now more than ever, Tiger turned to his management team pleading for guidance.

Luckily for Tiger, the highest paid athlete in the world has access to a highly reputable management team who is paid to handle situations like this one.  Woods’ publicist helped him construct his speech before his live press conference, which the entire world would see.  His lawyer defended his rights by preventing media outlets to publish explicit photos of Woods and threatened to bring a lawsuit to anyone who was making false claims.  Damage control was in full effect, but it was too little too late.

The day after his historic press conference Woods felt the aftermath of his actions after several sponsorships either suspended or terminated business with the former number one golfer in the world.  Shortly after, Tiger was strongly advised by his management team to step away from golf in order to focus on rebuilding his image.  At an attempt to restore his reputation, Woods received therapy and enrolled in a sex addiction program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which many speculated was nothing more than a PR stunt.  In addition, Woods stated he planned to re- embrace his faith in Buddhism, a belief he had cherished since childhood.

Tiger Woods was the first athlete who faced serious consequences in a revolutionized media society.  Woods ignited a flurry of new studies that evaluated the circumstances of new media and analyzed the losses in revenue due to the outcome of his mistakes.  The estimated shareholder loss caused by Woods extramarital affairs was said to be between 5 billion and 12 billion dollars.

If Tiger Woods had made the same mistakes 20 years ago chances are we would have never heard about it.  Unfortunately for Tiger, his legacy has been tarnished and although people should remember him for his remarkable abilities as a golfer, most will remember his unforgettable scandal that has changed his life forever.  Aside from losing millions of dollars, Woods now faces the challenge of rebuilding his image, which at one point was flawless.  Tiger Woods’ management team has a difficult task in front of them and the world is waiting for his recovery.  Here’s an article published when the rumors first started regarding Woods’ infidelity.  Tiger Woods Scandal

The Coach Behind The Scenes

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

This last Tuesday ESPN aired a documentary from their feature “30 for 30” series, which consists of memorable moments in the history of sports.  The most recent documentary released Tuesday titled “The Dotted Line”, follows prospective professional athletes as they negotiate the terms of their future contracts.  However, it wasn’t the athletes doing the negotiating.  Ladies and gentleman it is my pleasure to introduce; sports agents.

The role of a sports agent has dramatically changed in the last ten years, due to the high demand of top tier athletes and a willingness to pay for such.  Contract negotiations used to be a simplistic process, which outlined general terms of a contract and provided a yearly salary wage.  In the past, athletes would hire an agent to represent them and to handle business related material, in order to divide the business aspect from the athlete’s role as a teammate. These days they’re one in the same.  Due to the birth of social media and consistent growth in popularity, professional sports were revolutionized as were the athletes and agents who represent them.  Let’s move forward to the present.

With the amount of scrutiny athletes are under professional representation is mandatory.  The job of an agent requires a tremendous amount of dedication in providing clients with numerous resources, all of which are aimed at establishing a profitable and successful career.  Endorsement deals, speech training, charity events, public appearances, performance training, etc.  You get the point.

Imagine a college athlete who is deemed the hottest prospect in the nation. Everything that athlete says or does will affect their stock at the professional level. Wait, what does the stock market have to do with professional sports? The two are quite different, yet very similar.  An athlete’s stock is more or less their potential worth to an organization at the professional level.  Athletes who possess abilities that have greater demand typically present a higher level of stock, which in turn provides the athlete with a larger salary. It’s the agents job to ensure their client has the highest level of stock, by preparing an athlete to meet specific criteria. Ten years ago an athlete met the criteria by winning on the field.  Today, the criteria is much more complex and demands that athletes act as role models on and off the field.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Journalists are paid to ask questions that put athletes in vulnerable positions and depending on how an athlete responds can seriously affect their public image.  How the public perceives you is all that matters and in order to ensure athletes are prepared for difficult questions, they must receive training that offers a specific strategy to giving a politically correct response. Sports agents are responsible for the reputation of their client and the fact is some athletes have received very little education or come from areas that exposed them to a violent lifestyle at a young age.

Along with his success in the NFL, Chad Ochocinco developed a smart phone application, appeared in a number of TV shows and has multiple endorsement deals. Photo provided by Clay Seal.

Chad Ochocinco is a receiver for the New England Patriots who has taken advantage of the opportunity to brand and market himself.  He didn’t accumulate nearly 4 Million twitter followers by himself, but with the help of his agent Drew Rosenhaus, who has the most clients in the NFL at 170.  Rosenhaus attracts players like Chad Ochocinco through his strategic approach to media relations in professional sports. Rosenhaus is on call 24 hours a day and is accessible to his clients at all times; he has to be.  (Drew Rosenhaus)  Could it be possible that Rosenhaus has had so much success due to his stronghold over mainstream media?  Sure looks like it.  Just as a PR firm is to a major corporation, Drew Rosenhaus and other sports agents are to athletes.  In the words of Rosenhaus: “It’s a kill or be killed business.”

Profit Over Product

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

If you follow the NFL (it’s okay if you don’t) chances are you have a general idea of who Tim Tebow is.  For those who don’t know the former Florida Gators quarterback, let’s just say he’s the ideal candidate for any ad team looking to find a face for their brand.  Tim Tebow has been the most speculated player in NFL history ever since he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010.

The debate surrounding Tebow is whether or not he is capable of having success as a quarterback in the NFL.  Seeing that Tebow is a national icon, media outlets have been buzzing about the controversy surrounding the former Gators quarterback.  Social media outlets such as Twitter have been taken over by Tebow nation and the quarterback has been trending all over the internet with no sign of slowing down.

This past weekend the controversy thickened when Tebow replaced Broncos starting quarterback Kyle Orton, nearly leading his team to a 4th quarter comeback.  Despite losing the game, the Broncos announced Tuesday that Tebow would be the starter from here on out.  The controversy finally reached a verdict, one that Tebow nation had been anticipating since the day he turned pro.

So why does all this matter?   The fact is the NFL is a business and players who had success at the college level now enter a scenario that demands immediate productivity.  At the professional level there’s no such thing as offering favors or providing special treatment.  The NFL is a “what can you do for me right now” type of league.  That is unless you’re Tim Tebow.

Confused? You’re not the only one.  Let me explain.  Have you ever heard the saying “money makes the world go around?”  Professional sports live and die by this saying.  In 2010 the NFL generated $9 billion in revenue, which gives you an idea of the amount of pressure players and coaches are under to win games.  However, Tim Tebow provides a different approach.  When Tebow was first drafted many sports analysts speculated that the Broncos would use Tebow as a PR stunt in order to increase jersey sales, game attendance and overall to generate more revenue for their organization.  This tactic seems to have been affective; just ask Denver fans.

Prior to Tebow, the Broncos were one of the worst organizations in the NFL and the only time you heard about the team was if a player made the news for reasons off the field.  Tim Tebow placed the Broncos organization on his back and now his number 15 jersey can be seen anywhere you look.  Can you guess who had the top selling NFL jersey in 2010? Correct  … Tim Tebow! Top 25 NFL Jersey Sales

With the addition of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos have seen increased fan support and significant media coverage. Photo provided by Jeffrey Beall

The point at hand is that marketing and public relations play a larger role in professional sports than ever before.  A guy like Tim Tebow with so much profitability has a lot more to offer than just his ability on the field.  The Denver Broncos have used Tim Tebow as a prime example of how to market a brand around a specific player.  Would Tebow have been offered the starting quarterback role without his significance amongst the media as a national role model?  I’ll leave that question for the ESPN analysts to debate.  Hell, what do I know?  I’m just a sports junkie with an opinion.