Those Darn Yankees

March 13, 2008

900910_baseball_glove.jpgIs it just me or do the Yankees seem to be addicted to media attention? Having comedian Billy Crystal sign a 1-day contract and bat lead-off is the newest ploy for the Yankees to garner positive public relations. Crystal recently turned 60 and so this is seen as a birthday gift of sorts, but in my opinion, this is another example of rich organizations pandering to their famous fans. If the Yankees truly wanted to make an old-man’s dream come true, then they would have had a lifelong Yankee fan, who wasn’t famous, sign a 1-day contract. I don’t think that this was a sweet gesture at all. In fact, I am turned off with the idea that a rich comedian gets to “finally” live out his dream of playing for the Yankees. It just seems to be another woe-is-me story about a famous actor who still thinks he deserves these special experiences. I find it hard to by sympathetic with a man who hasn’t had a true acting role since 2002. If Joe Schmoe in Brooklyn didn’t work for six years, then he would be living in a cardboard box. Not batting leadoff for the New York Yankees in spring training.I will give Crystal credit, he had a decent at-bat, but I truly believe that there are Yankee fans that deserved his experience more.  

918310_basketball_hoop.jpgIt is finally the month of March and that can mean only one thing: March Madness. Some people, including myself, cannot wait until the 65 teams playing in the tournament are selected. This is not only an exciting time for basketball fans but it is also an exciting time to see just how successfully the NCAA markets basketball and publicizes this event.

         The reason for the successful publicity is due to the popularity of filling out tournament brackets. The NCAA has efficiently utilized social media, like Facebook, to increase participation during the tournament. Filling out brackets has never been easier thanks to Facebook. It allows people to compete in brackets with their friends, while also competing with people from around the world. The NCAA has recognized how much fun it is for fans of college basketball to compete with one another and has found the best way for people to test their basketball knowledge against people from around the country.

         So, I invite you to join me in filling out a bracket on Facebook and we will see who wins during this great time of year. 

The End of a Legacy

March 5, 2008

543676_wisconsin_packer_fan.jpgI feel like I would not be doing my duty as a sports fan, and amateur blogger, if I did not write about Brett Favre and his retirement. As a public relations blogger, I cannot help but think that Favre could have handled this whole situation better. I think that announcing his retirement vicariously through sports reporters was not a good way to announce his exit from football. The best way that Favre could have handled this would have been by holding a press conference and publicly announcing his retirement. Sports fans want to know his reasons for retiring and the best place to receive such information is from Favre himself.

         There have also been rumors that Favre could play from another team sometime in the future. This would be a huge detriment to his public image. Favre is seen as the “Golden Boy” of professional football and if he played for another team then he would alienate his fan-base. Favre will always be known as a Green Bay Packer and if he plays for any other team then fans will never forgive him for saying that he was “mentally spent”, yet decided to play later.

         As a sports fan, I must say that I will sorely miss Brett Favre’s passion and excitement for the game. 

953311_basket_game.jpgI have been really trying to get into sports blogs and one of the best ones that I have found has been from NBA star Gilbert Arenas. His blogs usually consist of a couple thousand words and they are really insightful into what it is like to be an NBA player. His posts are entertaining and informative.

 

This is one of the few examples of social media that is used by one of the major professional sports. There are sportswriters who use them but rarely do athletes “pen” their own blogs. I was never such a big fan of Gilbert Arenas, and I’m still not, but I think the fact that he wants fans to understand the life that he leads is really cool. If other sports took a cue from the NBA they would find one of their most passionate ambassadors and have them write a blog for their fans. Social media is a great way to interact with these athletes that seem untouchable.

 

For being a good role model to other leagues, I say “Kudos, Mr. Arenas.” 

Another Steroids Problem

February 27, 2008

359417_anadolu_rangers.jpgSo, today I am going to be writing about steroids again. However, this time I am not going to be talking about steroids in baseball, but rather steroids in football. While baseball has been getting all the attention from the media about players allegedly taking steroids, football players continually get caught taking steroids and it is no big deal. Chuck Klosterman of ESPN the Magazine wrote an article last year about why we look away from football players that use steroids. He says that as long as the public only knows the half-truth about steroids, then we will continue to ignore the problem.

 

Football players are stronger, faster and bigger than ever before. Now, I agree that there have probably been improvements in workout equipment and techniques since the 1970’s or 1980’s, but I refuse to believe that there has been as astronomical a leap as evident in pro football today. Klosterman points out that linebacker Shawne Merriman is as big as the best defensive tackle in history, Anthony Munoz, and as fast as the best wide receiver in history, Jerry Rice. In my mind, there is only one possible explanation for this physical achievement: steroids.

 

While all of this attention is being given to baseball, I do not understand how the NFL is getting off so lightly. One explanation is that the NFL has a steroid drug testing policy in place. This is good PR in this era of steroids because it makes it seem as if the NFL is being proactive. However, having a system is not the same as having an effective system. If this testing policy is found to be futile then the NFL will be facing a huge PR problem. The reason is that this system has been in place for 10 years and if it is a bad system then the NFL might as well have been doing nothing at all. This could lead to an image problem for the National Football League that completely overshadows the problems that Major League Baseball is having. 

Mixed Martial Arts PR

February 20, 2008

385141_muai_thai_fighting_1.jpgI have recently become extremely fascinated with the world of mixed martial arts or MMA. I think that this sport is so interesting because it is a blend of so many different fighting styles. This is also why it is so popular in my opinion. Today’s world is all about multi-function gizmos and shows and MMA is exactly that. When you watch a MMA fight you are watching a unique spectacle each time. Boxing seems to always be the same fight but MMA has so many fighters with so many styles that it is rare to see the same fight twice.

 

Even though this has become one of the most popular sports I still see a glaring PR problem: Even though there are so many safety precautions, what happens if someone dies in the ring? Submission holds are one of the most dangerous moves executed. They are designed to put pressure on a part of the body until the victim gives up. These moves generally involve pressure on arms, legs and the neck. Death is not something that is seen in many sports and the possibility of seeing death in a ring is a risk that MMA leagues have to deal with. This has to keep the PR people of these leagues up at night. Injuries are a common occurrence in sports but death during a sporting event is not. MMA is extremely popular but will that popularity continue if an athlete dies during a fight? Or will it spell the end of these fighting leagues? 

897876_reporter.jpgThe NFL Combine has become one of the most anticipated days in football. This is one last chance for college football players to show their skills before the NFL Draft. The athletes go through drills that test their sprinting capabilities, strength and other position-specific skills. My question is whether these athletes should be forced to test their publicity acuity? Following the travesty of Michael Vick, should these athletes be tested on how they maintain their public image? I believe that organizations need to be wary of character flaws in these athletes. If an athlete has a history of breaking the law or causing trouble then they should be tested on how to deal with controversy and how to prevent it. These athletes are also tested on their basic knowledge using the Wonderlic Test. Sometimes these athletes score so low that they get singled out in the media. This is an excellent opportunity to test out some PR skills with the media. 

The Steroids Circus Goes on.

February 13, 2008

818505_intramuscular_injection_2.jpgThe Roger Clemens saga continues to taint the pitcher’s legacy. Roger Clemens used to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and now he has to sit in front of a congressional hearing and defend his entire career after being accused of using steroids. Following the February 13, 2008 hearing, Clemens looked like he lied to federal investigators about his use of human growth hormone and steroids.

 

Clemens has had a long career and was effective last season as well but I believe that these steroid allegations have made it impossible for him to play baseball again. There is no reason for any team to risk the negative PR for a now mediocre pitcher. He is very similar to Barry Bonds in this way. Clemens and Bonds seem to be so closely linked to steroids that it has become unlikely that they will ever play again.

 

Baseball organizations do not like this type of bad publicity. The best thing for a team that has a player accused of steroid use on its roster is to cut the player and distance themselves from the named player at all costs. The San Francisco Giants face a dilemma because Barry Bonds has been the face of their franchise for years and now he is the face of steroid users in baseball. As an organization, do the Giants continue to revere Bonds or do they try to distance themselves from him? I think the only thing to do is distance the organization from him. Even though loyalty to players is a priority to some big-league teams, a baseball franchise is still a business. Just as Jayson Blair was forced to resign from the New York Times after making up stories, the Giants should reduce the prevalence of Bonds’ career with the team. I know this sounds harsh but they don’t want to be known as the organization that condones cheating, does it?

What’s a name worth?

February 13, 2008

925086_arena_stadium_amsterdam.jpgAs baseball season approaches, I am reminded of how silly some of the names are for baseball stadiums. The first one that comes to mind was the field that the Houston Astros play Enron Field. This relates to public relations by that these companies pay millions of dollars to put their names on the ballpark. My question is does this look badly upon the company if the team that plays in the park cheats or has troublesome players? I believe that it does because the name of these companies is so prevalent that it can be what people think of when the team does poorly. I also think that it is a two-way street. If a company, like Enron, is found to have illegal business practices then it looks poorly on the team that paid them to put their name on a stadium.

 

Association with poorly run franchises reflects poorly on the decision-making skills of business leaders. I think that the amount of exposure that these companies receive from putting a name on a stadium does not justify the possible negative PR that can be received. It seems that negative publicity is so easy to come by that it is a wonder that anybody opens up new ventures. 

768176_disgusted.jpg

February 6, 2008, is National Signing Day in college football. It is a day when thousands of high school recruits sign their letters of intent to play college football. It is supposed to be a happy day for players and their parents. For signing a letter of intent usually comes with a scholarship worth up to $100,000. However, for Kevin Hart, the 6th was a horrible day.

            After committing to play for the California Bears over the Oregon Ducks, Kevin Hart was told that neither school had ever heard of him. Men, posing as recruiters, had duped Hart. The story first broke in the Washington Post here. This is truly one of the most despicable stories that I have ever heard.

            In my opinion, this is one story that neither university wants to be associated with and should take the proper steps to distance themselves from it or try to remedy it. I believe that one of the universities should offer Hart a chance to make the team or offer him a partial scholarship. Each school also needs to address this through a press release or other medium. They must declare just how truly cruel this is. 

(UPDATE: February 7, 2008) According to the Washington Post , Kevin Hart has admitted that he lied about the whole situation. He never got duped by a middle man. All the kid wanted to do was play Division-I football and made this whole story up to get some attention. I recant my demand made earlier about the necessity of Cal and Oregon responding to this crisis as soon as possible and offering him some type of scholarship. The universities handled themselves well and got to the bottom of the issue before making any judgement. This was a good public relations move because it kept them from creating a crisis for themselves. 

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