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Pop Culture: Donald Glover (“Childish Gambino”) Has Been Far From Childish About Taking Over The Hip Hop Game

Donald Glover aka “Childish Gambino”

Tuesday evening, June 26, 2012, was the first night in which New York City was granted a reprieve from a four-day heat wave that had crushed the eastern seaboard.  I jumped on the F Train after work in business attire with one thing in mind: get to Prospect Park, Brooklyn as soon as possible to snag a good spot for the hottest concert of the summer.  Unlike any other concert I’ve been to, I was totally overdressed in a suit (primarily as a result of my lack of preparation), but the funny thing is that I knew I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb amongst the crowd.  I was off to see 28-year-old, preppy actor and comedian, hipster, Atlanta native, and now hip hop superstar Childish Gambino, a name Donald Glover adopted from a Wu-Tang Clan online name generator.

The doors opened at 6 pm, I arrived around 7:15 pm to meet up with a law school buddy, and I immediately felt at home and welcome.  Surrounding me were guys and gals in ripped up jean shorts and wife beaters; business casual attire; preppy polo shirts, jeans and driving loafers; and oversized white tees, baggy jeans and Air Jordans.  The age demographic ranged from early teens to late thirties.  Moreover, I’m quite sure the audience consisted of every race, religion and socio-economic class.  By around 7:45 pm, two great opening acts—Danny Brown and SchoolboyQ—reverberated the evening air.  I grabbed a frosty beer, loosened up the dress shirt, caught up with a couple of old friends who I randomly bumped into, and prepared myself for the best act I’ve seen on stage since The Roots/Outkast concert in Los Angeles back in the early 2000’s in college.

Around 8 pm, the crowd immediately converged towards the stage as the choir intro to “Outside”—the first song on Glover’s most recent album CAMP—began to blare through the amphitheatre speakers.  Childish entered from stage left, pierced a thick cloud of blue smoke, and completely KILLLED the stage until 10:30 pm, at which point he was forced to call it a night due to neighborhood noise ordinances.  He and his live band followed “Outside” with popular hits “Fire Fly” and “Bonfire”.  At this point, the audience assumed Glover would perform all of his songs from the album CAMP in their normal order.  Indeed, CAMP recently sat at the #11 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and the #2 spot on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts.  Then, he surprised us with some of his early underground hits such as “Hero”, “Freaks and Geeks”, “Lights Turned On” and “My Shine” from his July 2010 album Culdesac and March 2011 untitled EP.  The audience, apparently consisting of individuals who had been fans of Childish since the release of his first album Sick Boi in 2008, went absolutely nuts.  Of course, Glover didn’t exit the stage before performing his 2011 remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.  Indeed, during this song, all of Brooklyn attempted to touch the sky.

Overall, actor and comedian Donald Glover—aka Hip Hop star Childish Gamibino—is an extremely talented individual.  We knew this fact!  However, I realized on the evening of Tuesday, June 26th that he is taking over the Hip Hop game.  He has singlehandedly branded himself in a strategic manner, compelling one of the most diverse demographics of all time to adore and crave his music and energetic stage presence.  Hip Hop enthusiasts could attempt to compare him to the extremely talented Mos Def or an artist such as Lupe Fiasco, but he has transcended Hip Hop and captured the Millennial Generation like no other artist I can recall.  The New Yorker Magazine expounds, “with a vocal attack reminiscent of Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, Glover delivers rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness one-liners, along with in-depth and intelligent assessments of the recording industry, fame, and fortune.” But don’t take my or any other source’s word for it.  Snag his recently released July 4, 2012 album ROYALTY and/or catch him during his upcoming “CAMP” Tour that will grace the stages of 20 cities (thus far) across the globe.

“CAMP” Tour Dates:

June 25—Central Park Summerstage—New York, New York

June 26—Prospect Park Bandshell—Brooklyn, New York

July 1—Couleur Café Festival—Brussels, Belgium

July 3—Melkweg—Amsterdam, Netherlands

July 4—Xoyo—London, England

July 6—Wireless Festival in Hyde Park—London, England

July 7—T In The Park—Balado, Scotland

July 25—Beaumont Club—Kansas City, Missouri

July 27—Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre—Charlotte, North Carolina

July 28—The Orange Peel—Asheville, North Carolina

July 29—The National—Richmond, Virginia

July 31—Echo Beach—Toronto, Ontario

Aug. 1—Metropolis—Montreal, Quebec

Aug. 3—The Fillmore—Detroit, Michigan

Aug. 4—The Vic—Chicago, Illinois

Aug. 5—Lollapalooza—Chicago, Illinois

Aug. 10—Hollywood Palladium—Los Angeles, California

Aug. 17—The Academy—Dublin, Ireland

Aug. 18—V Festival—Chelmsford, England

Aug. 19—V Festival—Stafford, England

Aug. 20—King Tut’s—Glasgow, Scotland

Aug. 25—Rock En Seine—Paris, France

Oct. 14—Austin City Limits—Austin, Texas

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Fansagainstviolence.org enlightens us regarding new California Legislation

Thanks to our friends at FAV (www.fansagainstviolence.org), we received an update today concerning the proposed California legislation “Improving Personal Safety at Stadiums Act.”  The organization notes that “[i]t is FAV’s mission to encourage fan safety at professional sporting events through education, discussion and partnerships with like-minded organizations. We believe that attending sporting events is an act of fellowship and community between fans, and that each person who attends a professional sporting event should feel safe and be protected by the hosting facility and franchise.”  Kathy Samoun, a devoted Oakland Raiders fan, founded the organization and authored today’s enlightening article.  Among other things, she explained that the California Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media unanimously adopted the legislation today following several critical amendments to the proposed bill.  Certainly, this new California legislation could be the catalyst to compel other states to create necessary change.  Please click on the link above to enjoy Kathy’s article and further support a great organization!

Where the Regulation of Violence in Sports Will Inevitably Extend: The Stands & Outside the Stadium/Arena

The University of Kentucky fans "celebrate" the Wildcats' Final Four win over Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

The professional and college sports industries have without question reached milestones with respect to revenue generation over the past decade.  Both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association experienced pre-season lockouts and subsequent consuming negotiation sessions with their respective players’ unions concerning profit sharing.  In 2010, the NCAA signed a monumental $10.8 billion contract with CBS Corporation and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting for the media rights to its beloved Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament, known by most as March Madness.

It goes without saying that fans are the impetus behind such revenue growth.  Whether a country and its citizens are facing a recession—even bankruptcy—or marvelous economic times, avid followers and fans of professional and college sports teams will pay hard-earned money for the pleasure drawn from watching talented athletes perform for up to three hours on the field, court or ice.  Fans will do so by attending such events, watching them at bars/restaurants, or through the purchase of oversized, flat-screen televisions for home.  David Levy, the President of Turner Sports, acknowledged in signing the March Madness media contract with the NCAA that “the tournament’s popularity and success [had outgrown] the ability for one network to provide all the coverage fans are looking for.”  Similarly, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus recognized, “the opportunity for viewers to watch whatever game they want to on up to four different networks has to result in more eyeballs, more gross rating points and more exposure for the tournament, thereby creating much more value for the advertisers.”

I think it’s awesome that fans of professional and college sports teams continue to use this source of entertainment as an escape from the struggles facing the lives of individuals on a daily basis in many countries around the globe, including financial turmoil, disease, death and general unhappiness.  However, over the same decade that the sports industry has experienced rapid revenue growth and increased popularity, the fan experience at and following sporting events has become more violent, tragic and unpleasant.  A problem clearly exists that neither the professional leagues, the NCAA Directors nor the athletes have sufficiently addressed, or are even equipped to address.

Indeed, the European professional soccer leagues have essentially condoned fan violence since their creation.  The Philadelphia Eagles’ late Veterans Stadium maintained holding cells to accommodate unruly fans.  These facts represent proof that the sports industry has accepted violence as part of the overall fan experience for quite some time.  For instance, in 2004, Lakers forward Ron Artest—or as legal documents now refer to him, Metta World Peace—climbed into the stands as an Indiana Pacer at The Palace of Auburn hills to exchange punches with a few rambunctious fans. In 2010, I attended a New York Jets game in New York as an Atlanta Falcons fan and was threatened by four Jets fans following the Falcons’ last minute defeat of the Jets.  Fortunately, violence never ensued, though not as a result of action taken by stadium security.  In 2011, a San Francisco Giants fan experienced the wrath of Dodger Stadium when several Dodger fans beat him almost to the point of death.  And just a few weeks ago, University of Kentucky basketball fans nearly burned down and destroyed Lexington, KY, following the Wildcats’ Final Four win over state rival Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

However, what has either been condoned or overlooked by these leagues and the NCAA will inevitably draw a divide between fans, compelling those who are visiting the home stadium or establishment (e.g., sports bar) of an opposing team to discontinue their participation.  This decreased fan participation and interest will inevitably compel revenue to decline for the professional sports leagues, the NCAA, media outlets and corporate partners and sponsors.  Should violence and unpleasant behavior by fans persist at or following sporting events, how could it not have a domino impact on the sports industry?

So, where should we as fans and professionals in the industry place blame and seek assistance in preventing this evolving problem?  First and foremost, responsibility should be placed on the individuals who are involved in such inappropriate behavior.  Fans have progressively turned their allegiance to sports teams into something personal.  However, sustaining a loss through a favorite team is not analogous to losing a love one.  Fans must realize that their personal lives will continue unscathed, so long as they categorize sporting events as entertainment and nothing more.  This point allows me to transition to my second and final position.  The professional sports leagues, the NCAA, the athletes, the media outlets and the corporate partners and sponsors must take on the responsibility of reminding fans of this fact.  Indeed, most professional sporting venues stop serving alcohol at a certain point during team play.  College venues refuse to serve alcohol altogether.  Great, by taking alcohol out of the picture, these entities and individuals have indirectly implied to the fans that they should behave responsibly.  However, I’m asking—maybe even pleading to—these same entities and individuals to make a direct and blatant statement to the fans: “Stop the violence and inappropriate behavior!”  The NFL has already done so much to prevent violence on the field in an effort to protect its brand and revenue stream.  Take the next step and prevent it from occurring in the stands and outside the stadium.

Hey guys, it’s your money, not mine, that’s being placed on the line.

Fixing the Bowl System

As I sit here in the midst of yet another over-hyped, under delivering college bowl season, I’d like to focus on a postseason issue that often takes a backseat to the “playoff vs BCS” debate – how do we make the entire college bowl system more enjoyable?

Not to sound like an old fuddy duddy – but when I was growing up, the college bowl system was a glorious week and a half of football that culminated with what used to be the best day of the year, New Year’s Day.  Of course, that was back when it was permissible to play more than one bowl game at a time, and different networks even competed for the rights.  There were also built in rivalries that made the games exciting, the games were based on when fans could travel instead of when it was good for television ratings, and most importantly, you played for a final ranking or pride – which meant that games outside national championship game actually mattered.

Now, the bowl system is a mess.  Nobody really cares about any games outside of the BCS Title Game and going to a bowl game is no longer a special occurence, since 50% of all teams in college football are “rewarded” with a bowl game.   So how do we fix it?  Here are a few suggestions.

1. Condense the Bowl Season

I know that the popular argument is to just restrict the number of  bowl games.  But given how much money is at stake for the bowl committee, the host city, and the conferences playing in them, that’s just not going to happen.  Maybe there will be some natural contraction of bowls that don’t make money, but we’re not going back to an 18 bowl system like we had in 1991.  Instead, let’s shorten the bowl season.  Right now, the bowl season basically starts 2 weeks after the regular season final games have been played and extends until a week after New Year’s.  That’s almost 3 1/2 weeks of bowl season.  That’s too long for any fan to pay attention.  The minor bowls are barely a blip on anyone’s radar as it is, playing them on December 19th means even less people are watching. The same goes for any bowl game after New Year’s Day – unless its the BCS Title game, nobody cares, or has time to watch. The bowl season should start on December 23rd and other than the BCS Title Game go until January 2nd.  Sure it’s a short span of time to cram in a bunch of games, but college football fans are notorious for spending hours in front of the TV watching, why wouldn’t they do that for bowl games too?

2. Create Continuity in the System

One of the reasons nobody pays attention to the bowls any more is because the names keep changing.  Or more accurately, the sponsors keep changing.  If you want to sponsor a bowl, make a 5 year commitment.  That way I won’t be confused when the Big Ten plays in the Dallas Football Classic Bowl in one year and then the TicketCity Bowl next year.  Name changes are inevitable, but let’s at least try and create some long term brand value.  Along those same lines, let’s keep conferences tied to the same games for extended periods of time – and do our best to keep those tie-ins alive every year.  That used to be the norm, but it seems like every year there is a fill-in for a BCS game, or a new conference tie in for the Gator Bowl.  If you want to build excitement for bowls, you have to create year to year rivalries that allow teams and conferences to build up animosity.  The Big Ten and SEC have some of that with their tie-ins for the Capitol One Bowl, Outback Bowl and Gator Bowl, but there needs to be more of this.  Fans should know that just like the Rose Bowl is the Big Ten vs the Pac 12, the Holiday Bowl is the Big 12 vs. the Pac 12 and the Cotton Bowl is the Big 12 vs the SEC.  These rivalries used to be played up, now they are just an afterthought.

3. Flashback to New Year’s Day 1991 Part 1

In 1991 there were 18 bowl games – 8 of which were played on New Year’s Day.  That meant for college football fanatics like myself, you could kickoff your day with the Hall of Fame Bowl 11 AM, and have back to back games going until 11 PM at night, when the Orange and Sugar Bowls were ending.  12 hours of football, 8 great matchups, and plenty of channel flipping.  It made for an incredible day, with multiple television setups and competing games adding to the fun.  On New Year’s Day 2010, of the 34(!) bowls, a whopping 5 were played on New Year’s Day.  Last year, the addition of another bowl game gave us 6 bowl matchups on New Year’s Day, a step in the right direction in terms of quantity, but not quality.  Several of the bowls were sub-par matchups that included a 7-5 Michigan vs 8-4 Mississippi State and a 7-5 Northwestern vs a 7-5 Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl.   Compare that to 1991, where the only games slotted on New Year’s Day were marquee matchups. New Year’s Day should be reserved for the best games between the best teams.  If your bowl puts the #6 Big Ten Team vs. the #7 SEC team, please enjoy December 30th.

4. Flashback to New Year’s Day 1991 Part II

The other reason the bowls were more fun to watch in 1991 is that not only were the marquee games reserved for January 1, but they were actually played on January 1!  Ever since ESPN has taken over the bowl system (33 of 35 bowls will be broadcast by ESPN this year), they’ve taken all of the competition out of things by spreading out the games over several days.  Instead of a 4 PM kickoff on New Year’s Day of both the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, followed immediately by the Sugar and Orange Bowls, each game has its own timeslot.   Each of the 4 marquee bowls is the only bowl being played at that time.  While that’s great for attracting more viewers, it also means that if the game isn’t that competitive, I’m switching to something totally different.  The NHL has wisely seized upon this with the NHL Winter Classic – now fans have an option if the Rose Bowl is a blowout. Part of the fun of New Year’s Day is that it was like the Super Bowl of college football – an all day party of games that kept you watching even if you didn’t have a dog in the fight.   The 1991 Sugar Bowl matchup between Tennessee and Virginia probably wasn’t must-see TV for me, but since it was on New Year’s Day, I tuned in.   I happen to be a Michigan fan, so I’ll absolutely tune in for the Sugar Bowl on January 3rd this year, but the Orange Bowl battle between Clemson and West Virginia will probably only garner as much interest from me as your standard Saturday night ESPN SEC game.  I may watch, but I’m not planning my night around it.  And I think most fans feel the same way.  Instead of spreading the bowls out, why not build excitement for the one day of the year where everybody can watch?  You may lose some “viewers” due to channel flipping, but you won’t lose excitement or interest over the bowl games.  Plus, now that we live in a Twitter world, if something exciting is happening in your game, fans will know to tune in.

5. Flashback to 1991 Part III

One of the original reasons behind the entire bowl system was to create tourism for certain places around holiday time.  Fans could pick their Christmas and New Year’s destinations based on where their favorite team was playing, and in most cases, enjoy a vacation somewhere warm like California or Florida – a great perk for the northern schools.  Unfortunately, with the modification of the bowl schedule has scrapped all of that for many fans.  With 5 bowl games being played on January 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th, you have several games that are very difficult for fans to travel to because of work/school scheduling.  Parents just can’t pull their kids out of school these days just because the college team is playing on the Wednesday after New Year’s.  Likewise, most people don’t have that flexibility of work to miss an extra couple of days to start the New Year.  And the same goes for six games played before December 24th – nobody can travel the week before Christmas or after New Year’s because they have other responsibilities. Yet bowl officials and schools can’t understand why they have trouble selling out their allotment of tickets.  The solution is simple – get back to the basics.  Plan your bowls around when it is convenient for fans to travel and make the experience user friendly.  I guarantee the host cities would benefit from more fans who stick around for a longer period of time, instead of those who fly in the day before (or morning of the game) and fly out the next day.  Let the game be a holiday destination, like it was meant to be.

6. Traditional Bowl Matchups

I know I started this post saying that I wasn’t interested in addressing the BCS/Playoff argument.  I lied. Sort of.  I’m not going to advocate for a playoff system to choose a champion, or even a +1 BCS scenario.  Instead, let’s take a step backward, and revert back to the way we used to choose a National Champion – with voting.  In truth, its not that different than what we have now.  The BCS just gives a game between #1 and #2 that is decided by the voters, and it guarantees that teams that don’t finish the regular season #1 or #2 have no shot at the title.  Therefore, we’re told that the only bowl game that matters is the BCS Title Game.  That’s unfair to the other bowls, and is frankly, shortsighted.

Let’s say that we reverted to the modified old bowl tie-ins, with the SEC Champ  in the Sugar Bowl, the ACC and Big East Champs in the Orange Bowl, the Big 12 Champ in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Big 10 and Pac 12 Champs in the Rose Bowl.  Both the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls would have an at-large selection too.  The major conferences in the major bowls, with no BCS BS to decide who gets to play where.  The 2011 version would look something like this (notice its not that different).

Rose Bowl – #8 Wisconsin vs. #5 Oregon

Orange Bowl – #15 Clemson vs #22 West Virginia

Fiesta Bowl – #3 Oklahoma State vs at-large

Sugar Bowl – #1 LSU vs at-large

The at-larges would clearly be #4 Stanford and #2 Alabama – so you might get the same matchups in the Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs LSU) and the Fiesta Bowl (Stanford vs Oklahoma State) anyways.  Or, you could end up with LSU playing Stanford and Oklahoma State vs Alabama.  In either instance, if LSU wins, they are the clear #1 team and would win the National Championship.  But let’s say we take Scenario B and LSU loses to Stanford and Oklahoma State trounces Alabama.  Suddenly Oklahoma State has a strong claim to the title and we’ve made the Fiesta Bowl a lot more compelling.

Sure, the Orange Bowl is still a mediocre matchup, but the other offshoot of this is that since we’re not so focused on just #1 vs. #2, the Rose Bowl regains some of its luster.  And in years where there are unbeatens or one loss teams from more than 2 conferences, every major bowl game might be a showcase for a team trying to lay its claim to the national championship.  And without so much focus on #1 vs. #2, teams will again take pride in trying to finish as a high as they can.  As it stands now, there’s no difference between finishing #3 or #14 in the minds of most fans/teams.  That didn’t used to be the case.

The trade off is that we won’t guarantee that #1 will play #2, but its not like the BCS is the perfect system it supposedly is.  I’d be happy with scrapping the BCS if it meant that the other bowls actually mattered again.  Wouldn’t it be great to spend New Year’s Day monitoring all of the major bowls and wondering whose style points would sway the voters?

I’m not naive enough to think that all of this, or frankly any of this, will happen.  But there was a time when college bowl games were exciting, and in some cases were must see TV.  There was a time when bowl games were profitable and teams played in full stadiums with thousands of fans making the trip to see the game.  And there was a time where I could spend my New Year’s Day with 3 TV’s lined up next to each other, enjoying 8 or 9 games from 11 AM to 11 PM.   I’ll still enjoy the 6 games I get to watch today, but I’ll be disappointed knowing how great this day used to be and with a few tweaks, still could be.

Thanksgiving

As I woke up this morning and scheduled my Thanksgiving day, which included determining whether to eat breakfast or maintain an empty stomach for dinner, whether I, at age 30, could muster up enough confidence to ask my mother if I could eat dinner while watching football, and whether I could feasibly touch base with all of my friends and family on this holiday, it hit me!  In the illustrious words of John F. Kennedy, on Thanksgiving, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Now, as I sit before my Parents’ “only in America must I purchase this size” television and watch the first of three NFL games scheduled for today, I observe individuals who truly live by their words on this Thanksgiving day.  First and foremost, I see American soldiers stationed at army bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and a number of other regions who are football fans and watching the same game as me.  The NFL has provided a live broadcast of these troops rooting for their respective teams to display its and America’s appreciation for these soldiers and their role in risking their lives while keeping our country safe.  While these soldiers put on a happy face via the FOX broadcast, you can’t help but realize that they must maintain at all times in the back of their minds the thought that potential violence is just around the corner, or maybe even just over their shoulder.  They are all stationed in violent war zones, yet they live by their promise to this country on Thanksgiving day to protect us so that we can–among other things–enjoy our family and friends, stuff our faces, and overindulge in football, carbohydrates, and discounts on items at stores around the country.

Secondly, I observe well-paid individuals strap on pads and a helmet and spend either their Thanksgiving afternoon or evening entertaining America…and even other parts of the world.  Though these football players on average make more money annually than 99.99999% of Americans, they step onto football fields within stadiums and domes around this country and work on Thanksgiving day.  They work hard.  They are passionate about what they do.  As a direct result, football entertains Americans and, in certain instances, permits these individuals to either forget about the fact that they got laid off, lost a family member or friend, or learned that they are ill.  Football is a blessing for many on Thanksgiving day, even for our soldiers.  As a direct result, NFL players live by their promise to the League and, to a certain extent, this country on Thanksgiving day to entertain us Americans and provide us a sense of joy for at least one day out of the year.

Accordingly, thank you to our soldiers and others who work so hard on Thanksgiving day to permit Americans to be so thankful for everything and everyone around them.

Monday Musings

After taking a long hiatus, I’m trying something new this week with some Monday Musings on some hot topics in sports and entertainment.  Today we’ve got scandal, celebrity, and a little athlete career management.

Penn State, JoePa, Sandusky and Scandal

The biggest scandal of the weekend may be the biggest sports scandal and/or coverup we’ve seen in decades.  On Saturday, former Penn State Defensive Coordinator and longtime assistant to legendary Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno, Gerry Sandusky was arrested on over 40 charges including many involving sex crimes against children.  The charges stem from a 15 year period from 1994 to 2009.  It’s important to note that Sandusky was a member of the Penn State staff until 1999 when he surprisingly resigned.  While all of the charges are heinous, the most shocking story may come from a 2002 incident when then graduate assistant and current Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary observed Sandusky engaging in a sex act with a young boy (approximately 10-12 years old) in the Penn State lockerroom/showers.  McQueary, after consulting with his father, went to Coach Paterno the next day and told him he saw something, but according to Paterno and the Penn State administration, what McQueary told them wasn’t nearly as explicit as what McQueary later told the Grand Jury.  Paterno then told his Athletic Director Tim Curley who in turn shared the conversation with his boss and Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz.

And then…..nothing happened.  For 9 years, nobody came forward, nobody said a thing, nobody further investigated.  Both Schultz and Curley have been charged with perjury based on their testimony during the Grand Jury hearings.  And on Sunday night, Curley took a leave of absence and Schultz resigned.  But what about living legend Joe Paterno?

His son Scott, a former lawyer himself, claims that JoePa had no obligation to do anything but report what he had heard to Tim Curley because by 2002 Sandusky was no longer a member of Paterno’s staff.

“Unfortunately,” Scott Paterno said, “once that happened, there was really nothing more Joe felt he could do because he did not witness the event. You can’t call the police and say, ‘Somebody tells me they saw somebody else do something.’ That’s hearsay. Police don’t take reports in that manner. Frankly, from the way he understood the process, he passed the information on to the appropriate university official and they said they were taking care of it. That’s really all he could do.”

Scott is right that the testimony of Paterno would have been hearsay in a court of law, but as far as a police investigation goes, I’m sure they would have listened if Coach Paterno had picked up the phone.  What the police can investigate has nothing to do with what is admissible in a court room.  Forgetting the legality of it all, the bigger issue here is a lack of a moral compass by anyone.  If McQueary didn’t properly articulate what he saw, he should be ashamed of himself.  If he did, and Joe Paterno and his superiors didn’t aggressively pursue an investigation, they should be ashamed of themselves.  And even if he didn’t articulate it, but merely mentioned that he saw inappropriate behavior between Sandusky and a young boy in the Penn State locker room that should have triggered an outpouring of concern for the victim and contempt for Sandusky.   Yet nobody in State College felt compelled to pursue this.  Not McQueary, not Schultz, not Curley, and perhaps worst of all, not Paterno.  Perhaps he was protecting a friend, perhaps he was in denial about what he heard, but his actions were inexcusable.  And to now try to hide behind a legal curtain that doesn’t exist is shameful.

Joe Paterno spent over 60 years in college football, developing leaders and molding boys into men.  Yet his coverup and/or willful ignorance of this tragic scandal will not only end his football career, it will permanently tarnish his legacy.

Switching gears completely to last week’s news of Kim Kardashian’s filing divorce papers against hubby of 72 days Kris Humphries….

Here’s what I don’t understand – Kim Kardashian has made millions of dollars off of carefully protecting and shaping her brand.  Ever since the Kim’s sextape dropped and she became everyone’s favorite “celebrity”, she, with an assist from mother Kris, has done a better job than perhaps anyone in the world of managing her brand.  So how could she have so badly miscalculated the public’s response to her divorce just 3 weeks after her “fairytale” wedding aired on E! network?  There are a handful of rules you can never break in the court of public opinion, and rule #1 is never lie, or look as though you’ve deceived your fans.  Yet this “wedding”, that earned Kim an estimated $17.9 million dollars, did exactly that.  The hurried nuptials in time for the final season of her show, the immediate move to New York to film the next season with Kris, and the over the top media circus all reek of attention seeking.  And to make matters worse, Kim’s public statement did nothing to quell the rumors of a staged wedding when she refused to even acknowledge why people might think that would be the case.  Her love for Kris may have been genuine, but her defensiveness about the nuptials suggested otherwise.

Instead of telling the world that they were crazy to think she would marry for money or media attention, she should have been honest and open.   She could have acknowledged that perhaps she and Kris rushed into things, and that they realized they wanted different things.  She could have made mention that everyone makes poor judgment calls, and this was just one of those instances.  It may not have helped the diehard haters who had made up their mind, but for those fans (consumers) who still wanted to like Kim, it would have made her seem like a real person who is fallible, and not a media seeker who is beyond reproach.

Now we hear Kim went to Minnesota to talk to Kris and try to salvage things.  It sounds to me like just another way to get the cover of US Weekly again.  At some point Kim is just going to have to be honest with herself, and the world, about what’s really important to her.  Love, or fame.  Right now every action seems to indicate the latter, but if she gets too callous with the American public’s trust, she’ll end up with neither.

Finally, today marks’ the 20th Anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he is HIV positive.  While many today will comment about the great work Magic has done for AIDS research and awareness, or how far we’ve come in 20 years in our understanding, my take is a little different.

As an 11 year old in East Lansing, Michigan in 1991, the news about Magic was not just a global story, it was a local one.  Magic had attended Lansing Everett High School, not far from where I grew up and had attended Michigan State University in East Lansing.  As such, as a young kid, I had multiple opportunities to see Magic Johnson in person at basketball camps, MSU games, and local events.  And while he was always the star of the Lakers, he was also the local hero.   Even as an 11 year old, I immediately understood what the news about Magic meant for him.

Thankfully, we were all wrong, and Magic still continues to live a vibrant and healthy life as a businessman, entrepreneur, educator, broadcaster, and philanthropist.

And what occurred to me is that while Michael Jordan is the global icon for basketball, Magic Johnson should be the global icon for all aspiring athletes.  Sure, Magic made some awful mistakes in his youth and wasn’t a perfect human being.  And it probably took the HIV wakeup call to help him become the man he is today.  But Magic is exactly what every star athlete should aspire to be in the post playing career afterlife.  Magic wasn’t prepared for retirement when it hit him, but he adapted when he did.  He became an ambassador for a cause, he became a businessman who made hundreds of millions of dollars, he failed as a talk-show host but eventually succeeded as a broadcaster, and he is still involved in the sport he loves, basketball.

Now not every athlete will have the same kind of success that Magic has had off the court.  But if you’re an athlete who aspires to do greater things, Magic is the type of guy you’d want to emulate.  He’s taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him, and found a way to benefit the people he grew up with by involving his hometown in those business interests.  He’s a global ambassador for HIV, yet still does charity work in Lansing.  And most importantly, he’s found a way to stay relevant.  Many athletes are happy to just walk off of the court into a private life – and if that’s your preference, god bless.  But if you’re interested in still finding ways to still be in the spotlight and use your celebrity as a philanthropist, businessman, or even for fun, Magic has provided the blueprint.

Friday Morning Workout

A-Rod under investigation by MLB for allegedly participating in high stakes, illegal poker games with Hollywood’s elite.

NFL players officially ratify a new ten-year CBA on Thursday.  Under the agreement, Goodell retains exclusive authority to discipline players under the personal conduct policy, and the NFL becomes the first league to implement HGH testing.

Kansas City Chiefs TE Leonard “Champ” Pope attributes the lockout to him saving a child’s life.

Why on earth do so many athletes want to become musicians?  An answer may not exist to this question.  However, Here’s ESPN’s list of musicians who would make it’s starting five.

Roethlisberger’s civil sexual assault case still on in Reno.

NFL’s most flamboyant personalities.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is betting on a cancelled 2011-12 season, while encouraging his players to work elsewhere.

Rather than waiting for the players to decertify and sue, as the NFLPA did this year, the NBA owners took their own legal initiative.

Track NBA players who intend to play or are considering playing overseas.

The Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings is spending his NBA lockout interning at Under Armour

NASCAR Drivers are using Social Media to promote themselves and their sponsors

Comcast is suing DirecTV over ‘Deceptive’ Claims of Free Televised Games

Former Gridiron Great and Movie “Star” Bubba Smith passed away this week.  Here’s a nice tribute to him from Michael Weinreb

The Harvard Business Review outlines Six Steps to Successful Sponsorships

This guy has over 2,000 pairs of Nike shoes.  And he shows you all of them in just 11 minutes. He also built a museum for them.

Want to be a Sports Agent in California? Make sure you’re in accordance with this new law.

Braylon Edwards has a big week!  First, authorities implicate him in a bar fight in Michigan.  Then he signs a 1-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Former NBA player Darius Miles attempts to sneak a concealed gun through airport security.

Mark Cuban provides his guide to getting rich.

Duke basketball contacts the NCAA for rule interpretation.

A new venture by Brand Affinity Technologies called Fantapper could revolutionize professional athletes’ media presence.

California district judge upholds a class action suit against EA Sports, which alleges EA unlawfully used college athletes’ likenesses without their consent.  Should the athletes prevail, EA could owe plaintiffs up to 25 percent of its annual revenue.

Common Themes of the Best Athlete Endorsed Brand Campaigns

Celebrity and athlete endorsements are without question some of the most useful marketing tools that a brand can use.  The way fans idolize their favorite athletes allows brands to capture those positive feelings by using those athletes to endorse their products.  With many products that use athlete endorsers, the suggestion that the average person can jump higher or run faster by using a particular product makes the endorsement all the more powerful.

While there are literally hundreds if not thousands of brands that have partnered with athletes over the years, there are several products and campaigns that have stuck with us through the years.  These particular brands managed to use their athlete endorsers to not only help sell products at that moment in time, but to
also create a lasting image that garnered positive feelings for that brand long after that commercial or campaign had been shelved.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a handful of those campaigns, and what common themes they utilized to make their ad campaigns iconic, much like their spokesmen.

MEAN JOE GREEN DRINKS COKE

This commercial debuted during the 1980 Super Bowl, and ever since then, it has ended up near the top of every list of the best Super Bowl commercials ever.  Besides using an iconic pitchman like Mean Joe Green, the real key here is the juxtaposition of the tough football player and the young generous boy.  The message here is pretty strong – the implication is that drinking a Coke can improve anyone’s mood – as Mean Joe becomes a nice guy after drinking the Coke.  While the jingle itself isn’t that catchy, the end catchphrase of “Have a Coke and a Smile” works because it’s easy to remember, and fits into everyday conversations.  But what really sells this commercial is the young boy’s reaction when Mean Joe goes from hard-ass football player to a giving soul.  His face lights up, and we get the secondary catchphrase, “Thanks Mean Joe!”  That’s the lasting image from this commercial – and over 30 years later it still gets replayed every February when everyone is talking about Super Bowl commercials.  For that, this campaign ranks among the best ever.


TIGER WOODS GOLF – NIKE

At the end of the millennium, no question existed as to who was the best golfer in the world–Tiger Woods. He was in the process of obliterating the course record at the Masters and was already anointed as the one who would pass Jack Nicklaus, even though he had only won a few majors at that point.  Nike had launched its entire golf product line by partnering with Woods, and instantly gained credibility in the market. And while that probably would have happened regardless of their ad campaign, one commercial served as the catalyst for Nike Golf, and Tiger Woods.

Unlike the other campaigns on this list, there was no catchy jingle, no catchphrase, nor any additional celebrities.  Instead, it consisted of Tiger Woods bouncing a ball on his golf club without it hitting the ground, using the club to toss the ball into the air, and then taking a half golf swing and crushing the ball into the distance.  The message was what we already knew; that there were things Tiger Woods could do on a golf course that nobody else was capable of.  The key was that you had to see it to believe it, so people made a point to see it.

The other advantage this campaign had over others was that it happened in the internet era.  While YouTube wasn’t in place, this ad and campaign still spread like wildfire.  And it’s still a popular view today, with almost 1.8 million hits on YouTube.  It’s so popular that the bloopers from that commercial shoot have over 1.1 million views.  It’s easily the most popular golf ad ever and certainly ranks in the Top 5 of most powerful sports endorsement campaigns ever too.

ITS GOTTA BE THE SHOES – NIKE AIR JORDAN

While some of the other campaigns Michael Jordan has been involved with may have been more memorable, he’s still best known as the original, and really the only, spokesman for Nike’s Air Jordan Brand.  Starting in the mid-80’s, Jordan was synonymous with basketball, dunking, and Nike. While there were many great commercials involving Jordan, the signature campaign included Jordan and a loud, scrawny character named Mars Blackmon, played by rising director and actor Spike Lee.

While Jordan dribbled, shot and dunked, Mars asked Jordan what made him the best basketball player in the world.  Jordan never gave a definitive answer, while Mars continually asked what became a rhetorical non-question: “It’s gotta be the shoes?!” And even if nobody really believed that Nike’s shoes made Jordan as good as he was, kids playing basketball across America eagerly pointed to their shoes after a made shot or dunk and repeated the phrase.

In the end, the name Mars Blackmon may have been more popular than the phrase itself, as the new Nike ads with Spike became highly anticipated events themselves.   But the combination of Jordan, the phrase and Mars Blackmon is something that every male teen and pre-teen of that era remembers.


BE LIKE MIKE – GATORADE

By 1992, there was no bigger star in sports than Michael Jordan.  He was far and away the best player in all of basketball.  He had already won his 1st NBA Championship, was well on his way to his 2nd and he was about to lead the Dream Team to a Gold Medal in the 1992 Olympics.  Anything he endorsed on or off the basketball court was going to turn to gold too.  But Gatorade managed to take the icon to another level with its Be Like Mike ad campaign.  The visuals of the commercial itself aren’t anything spectacular – just Jordan doing what Jordan does.  But the message couldn’t have been any clearer – if you drink Gatorade, you will BE LIKE MIKE.

The catchphrase itself was enough to create a national word of mouth campaign, but what made this campaign one of the best ever was the jingle written by Bernie Pitzel and composed by Ira Antelis and Steve Shafer.  As a 13 year old, I memorized the lyrics, which I still know today. I even bought a CD with the song on it. If iTunes had been around back then, it easily would have moved a million units.  The jingle was that popular then, and for those individuals who came of age in the early 90’s, it’s still synonymous with Gatorade.

Sometimes I dream

That he is me

You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be

I dream I move, I dream I groove

Like Mike

If I could Be Like Mike

Again I try

Just need to fly

For just one day if I could

Be that way

I dream I move

I dream I groove

Like Mike

If I could Be Like Mike

*For the full story on how the Be Like Mike campaign came into existence, check out Darren Rovell’s First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon.

BO KNOWS – NIKE

Much like the Be Like Mike campaign, Nike’s Bo Knows campaign originated in the early 90’s. It centered around the greatest athlete of his time, Bo Jackson – the superhuman running back and baseball player for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Royals.  While there were several different commercials associated with the Bo Knows campaign, the most memorable one was probably the Bo Diddley version, which in fact featured Blues legend Bo Diddley.

The concept was creative yet relatively simple – Bo Jackson is a great football player and baseball player, but what else does he “know”? Utilizing athletes and legends from every other major sport, including the likes of Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe, Nike used celebrities and the catchphrase “Bo Knows” to create a memorable ad campaign.  Certainly the presence of other athletes gave
the campaign credibility, but the often repeated phrase of “Bo Knows” is what
sets this ad apart.  The icing on the cake was Bo Diddley telling Bo Jackson, “Bo, you don’t know Diddley!”—a phrase that made its way into the American lexicon for several years.  It even served as the title of Bo’s autobiography
“Bo Knows Bo”.

Subsequent versions of this campaign featured a similar theme of Bo Jackson, the super athlete, competing in every sport, and even a cameo from Sonny Bono poking fun at the Bo Knows campaign.

In the end, Bo’s injuries and shortened career took him out of the spotlight sooner than expected. But if you mention his name to anyone of the age range 25-40, they will ineveitably make some mention of Bo Knows.

So as a brand looks to partner with an athlete for a national campaign, what kind of lessons can they learn from the Cokes, Gatorades and Nikes of the world?

The first lesson is to secure A+ talent.  With the possible exception of Mean Joe Green, the other athletes used were the absolute best at what they did at the time.  If you’re trying to convince people to use your product, you have to be able to convince them that the best athletes in the world use your products.  And if you have the budget to bring in other celebs or athletes, do it.  They don’t have to be the principal endorser, but they’ll help provide that extra oomph.

The second lesson is to find a catchphrase that resonates outside of the commercial.  Be Like Mike and Bo Knows caught on not because of the 30 second spot, but because of the two and three word phrases that kids and adults repeated over and over again.  Use the athlete’s name, keep it short, and make it repeatable.

The third lesson is to think bigger than the 30 second spot.  3 of the 5 campaigns on this list weren’t one-off advertisements, but rather a series of ads based around the same theme.  Mars Blackmon was a running theme for Nike Air that spanned several years.  Bo Knows included several ads that all focused on the Bo Knows themes, but were different variations in their own right. Be Like Mike not only served as a jingle for the Gatorade commercial, but it became its own revenue stream when the company began selling the single.

Finally, be original.  For instance, (i) the reason the Be Like Mike ad succeeded was because nobody saw it coming from Gatorade; (ii) an acclaimed director/actor playing a central role in a basketball shoe commercial had never been done before Nike did it; (iii) Tiger Woods bouncing a golf ball on his golf club was an unconventional way to show his skill; (iv) Mean Joe Green was one of the first athletes used in a Super Bowl commercial like that; and (v) Bo Knows was one of the first commercials to use several other athletes and celebrities to sell a product primarily marketed by another athlete.

Friday Morning Workout

The legendary Larry Bird illustrates the gamesmanship behind professional basketball.

The NFLPA executive board and the player representatives for each of the 32 teams voted unanimously on Monday to approve the proposed CBA and end the 4½-month lockout.

Click here to get a breakdown of the final agreement in laymen terms.

In the fight between the league/owners and the NFLPA, which resulted in a new CBA, who are the winners and losers?

Should the NCAA present a case to the NFL that Terrelle Pryor could have been eligible for any portion of the upcoming 2011 college football season, The NFL likely will deny Pryor’s application to participate in the 2011 supplemental draft.  According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, “[the supplemental NFL draft is for players whose circumstances have changed in an unforeseen way after the regular (college) draft. It is not a mechanism for simply bypassing the regular (draft).”  Though the NFL has yet to consider Pryor’s eligibility to participate in the supplemental draft, on Tuesday, OSU’s athletic director issued a letter declaring Pryor ineligible for the entirety of the 2011 college football season.

After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge in NY last Friday, Jets’ star WR Braylon Edwards could face jail time if a Cleveland judge determines that the plea violates his probation related to an October 2009 incident of disorderly conduct.

Cooperstown honors new Hall of Fame inductees.

The NBA’s 2010-11 season audit reveals that basketball-related income and player compensation increased by close to 5%, a sizable jump in comparison to the last two seasons.

The NBA players who intend to jump ship for Europe next season could learn a lot from the American-born, European veteran/legend Marcus Brown.

Taking advantage of his time off during the lockout while demonstrating the importance of education, Cavaliers’ guard Baron Davis returns to the UCLA campus 12 years after he left.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as an ESPN guess writer, attributes the loss of revenue by small-market NBA teams to the slow development (or total lack thereof) of players who enter the league too early with enormous contracts.

An NCAA special panel proposes to broaden the definition of “agent” to include “people marketing athletes to colleges, not just professional teams, for profit.”  This would include family members, such as Cam Newton’s father Cecil, who marketed Cam to Mississippi State for money prior to Cam’s enrollment with Auburn.

Following the NFL lockout, is it possible for fantasy football to recover as a moneymaking industry this year?

This summer has seen business as usual for NFL ad sales.

Michael Rosenberg of SI gives his take on why elite student-athletes should be paid.

NBA star Kevin Love gives Pro Beach Volleyball a go.

Peter King of SI reports HBO has cancelled its 2011 season of Hard Knocks.

 

Friday Morning Workout

Former UGA football coach Jim Donnan accused of making millions via a Ponzi scheme.

Mendenhall Sues Champion based on his terminated endorsement deal.

15 Popular Athletes who squandered their millions—many of whom you’d never guess.

Odds are good that Clemens will face another trial despite his argument regarding double jeopardy.

USC’s Kiffin suspends senior starting running back Marc Tyler for making inappropriate comments to TMZ.

Lance Armstrong fights back against prosecuting attorneys, claiming they leaked inappropriate grand jury investigation information to the media.

Laker’s Odom was a passenger in a vehicle that struck and seriously injured a motorcyclist and killed a young pedestrian in New York.

Bengals’ Cedric Benson jailed on assault for the second consecutive off-season.

Deron William and Zaza Pachulia officially sign contracts to play in Turkey contingent upon the NBA work stoppage continuing through the start of the season.

LA Lakers longtime trainer Gary Vitti recounts the days leading up to and after Magic’s announcement to the world that he had contracted HIV.

Once the NFL season commences, replay officials will automatically review every scoring play during NFL games, likely lengthening games considerably.

Insurance costs could hinder NBA player participation in the London 2012 Olympic games.  Stern and FIBA are scheduled to meet this coming Tuesday to discuss.

The Women’s World Cup final set the record for tweets per second.

Tiger Woods abruptly fires caddie Steve Williams after a 12-year relationship in which Tiger won 72 times and 13 major tournaments.

Rick Reilly’s suggestions to Tiger concerning how he can revamp his image and his game.

SEC Commissioner Slive opened the Southeastern Conference media day on Wednesday by pushing the NCAA to make extreme changes, including toughening academic requirements for student-athletes and broadening recruitment rules.  Interestingly, Slive chose to push for these changes in a year when more than one of his schools faces sanctions or an investigation by the NCAA.

Continuing to ride the comeback wave, Vick snags additional endorsement deals.

75 Ex-players sue the NFL and Helmet maker Riddell, claiming defendants intentionally withheld from players their knowledge about the long-term, adverse impact of multiple concussions on the brain.

Former NFL GM Vinny Cerrato offers five rules that the 32 NFL teams should follow when tackling this year’s abnormally short free agency period.  Can these teams feasibly sign hundreds of players in a number of days?

Ivy League football decreases full contact practices from five to two a week to limit the risk of concussions.

The NCAA strikes again, sanctioning the LSU football team after an assistant coach improperly provided a JUCO player transportation and housing.

A generation with a strong sense of self-entitlement is rewarded for pouting.

Chad Ocho Cinco, allergic to the sun?!?