Archive for the ‘ NFL ’ Category

What the F?

So this past weekend I was immersed in pure euphoria otherwise known as the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles… perhaps the only combo better in my book than vanilla milkshakes and sex.  And don’t you know, they both completely sh*t the bed Sunday night.  Now let’s give the Phightin’ Phils a break; the night prior they clinched a playoff berth (first of any MLB team) and rightfully celebrated by chugging goblets of Veuve Clicquot.  And for our beloved Iggles, well, they gave it the ole’ college try vs. a predicted Super Bowl contending Atlanta Falcons but our favorite reclamation project – and key to our season – Michael Vick went down to injury late in the 2nd half where had he stayed upright, the ‘Birds would have certainly beaten the Pigeons.

But the rest of the trip is what has me up typing with one eye on the Rachel Zoe Project.  That would be, in order, the ride back from Philly to DC, my 8 year old’s little League baseball game, and then my TV viewing for the evening.  Interestingly enough this concept started a full week prior watching Monday Night Football.  Now I have a general disdain for NFL commentators as the number of ‘goods’ max out at two:  Al “Do you believe in miracles” Michaels and Troy “is that you LaVar Arrington hiding under my bed” Aikman.  The rest of the bunch are toss-ups between the voice-over guy for the old Monster Truck rallies and Michael Buffer.  But one of the 3 Stooges from the MNF booth, Philly’s own Ron Jaworski, had a minor slip of the tongue.  It’s so damn funny that I can only implore you to view/listen; I’ll wait…

Funny as sh*t, right??? I really can’t stand Jaws; as much of a homer Philly fan that I am, I’m sure you think I would/should love him, but no.  I didn’t even like him when he led the Birds to their first super bowl appearance in 1980 (disclaimer: I turn 40 in about a month.  It’s widely believed that prepubescent boys begin their life of sports fandom – and by extension, a constant barrage of beer ads, truck commercials and cut-aways featuring practically naked cheerleaders… and we like Halloween parties in our middle-age featuring the same elements, why??? – around 8 or 9 years old…  the ’80 Super Bowl hit when I was 9… I was hooked on the Birds!  But bearded wonder Jaws was NOT for me… he looked like a dope.  And then I heard him speak and his ‘dopiness’ was cemented.  One of my favorite phrases is ‘tis better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.’…  Apropos for Jaws.   And it’s not what he says but rather the over-inflection of his voice pattern that’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.  But my position was/is “give the guy a break.”  We’re talking cable TV (ESPN) after 10PM people… if we can’t say sh*t there, where can we???  And the fact that the poor guy had to castigate himself and actually apologize during the broadcast was flat embarrassing (but also very funny!).   Didn’t we learn during that whole wardrobe malfunction thing a few Super Bowls ago that the NFL needs some sort of delay on their broadcasts?

But here’s the rub… one week later during my post Philly sports malaise day, I went the OTHER way with this profanity opinion!  Now I played a collegiate sport and know full well the locker room mentality to the point where the F word is merely an adjective in my daily lexicon (“can you believe that f’ing client still hasn’t paid?”  “Honey, throw a chicken pot pie in the f’ing microwave?”  “Our f’ing neighbor is banging on our door again because we’re too loud?  What the f?!”).

So I’m listening to 2 hours of the Howard Stern show (huge fan… don’t judge me) on my drive back to DC and, not having had much chance to listen since his shift to satellite radio about a decade ago, I was pretty amused by the casual dropping of our favorite 4 letter words.  But I have to tell you, it was EXTREMELY conversational and literally a non-factor in terms of frequency but in terms of effect, A+.  My next profane-laced experience (now that I’m somewhat super-sensitive thanks to Jaws) was my 8 year-old’s little league game!  No, none of the kids were dropping f-bombs, but merely EVERY parent conversation (whispered of course) WAS!  Then, the Coup d’Etat … the Charlie Sheen f’ing roast!  This was extremely funny… but forced if you know what I mean.  While Howard’s use of profanity was pretty casual, this profanity mixed with an occasional respite of the King’s English was, how shall I say, too f’ing much?  I’m no prude, but it made me think…

Every company wants to be ‘edgy’ and ‘push the envelope’ these days when it comes to strategy and stockholder meetings but what do they actually do??? The same old safe creative used for the last 20 years.  Not that this is always a bad thing… if you’re Allstate, the last thing you need is a Snooki driving around Italy touting the responsiveness of her agent.  Or if you’re Charles Schwab utilizing a scene from “Wall Street” touting “greed is good”.  But let’s take a lesson from DirecTV:  Disclaimer, I’m a customer – and they are NOT a client – and I generally hate the choke hold they have on me due to my addiction to the NFL (i.e. the ONLY reason I use their service).  But those Deion Sanders spots are priceless.  And how about the balls they have to brazenly announce the “free NFL ticket”???  It took me all of 2.2 seconds to call and discover that it’s for new customers only and complain why a customer of 10+ years has to pay $350… when I learned that my call was 95% of their total.  But it didn’t matter… I threatened to cancel but never did.  That’s some balls.  Juxtapose to Netflix who thought they had a stranglehold on their customers and forced them to choose between streaming  movies OR DVD delivery and subsequently saw a 30% drop in stock price.  That was foolish.  There are a plethora of other options for movies… namely HBO and their answer to ‘movies on demand’, HBO-GO.

So the lesson here, before you show a set of f’ing b*alls, better make sure your f’ing product/service can’t be replaced!

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Never Forget… and do the DAMN RIGHT THING!

So week one of the new NFL season is in the books and what have we learned?  Well, the lockout hasn’t seemed to diminish offensive production that many had predicted (Brady threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs… I guess those of you who I suggested to draft him #1 in your fantasy leagues can now elicit a cohesive… ‘you told me so!’).  Tony Romo is still a choke artist, the NFC East (which is all anyone should care about) is going to be a battle between our beloved Iggles and – gasp – the Redskins????  And, perhaps most importantly, the NFL remains the best run marketing organization – on the planet!

Why you ask?  Well it’s not due to promoting ‘team’ over the individual (how’s the latter working for you, NBA???  Wait, that’s right, you aren’t going to matter for quite a long time…), nor having a game that translates perfectly for TV (sorry NHL, love you, but I’m in the minority), nor the brute force collisions that make us cringe but force us back time and time again (NOT going to rip MLB – Phillies btw just suffered their 50th loss… most teams hit 50 losses around June 15th!).  No, they are so successful because they DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN IT MATTERS MOST!

For any who missed the opening kick-off festivities from last weekend’s action, each stadium paid tribute to the 9-11 heroes and victims by unfurling gigantic American flags accompanied by moments of silence and stirring renditions of our national anthem.  The flags were supported not by the players (though they joined in later) but by the families who lost so much on that fateful day 10 years ago and the first responder heroes who risk their lives everyday to keep us from harm’s way.  This was all extremely appropriate, heartfelt, and honorable… but pales by comparison to what followed later that evening.

Major League Baseball had their chance to also set aside 1 day (out of 162 regular season games + playoffs + world series) to allow for a tribute by its players to honor both the 9-11 heroes and their loved ones whose scars are re-opened with every new terror attack/alert/warning – any place on the globe. The NY Mets – who I routinely lambaste when given the chance – desired to wear hats in their nationally televised game bearing the logos of the NYPD and FDNY, to honor the fallen who so bravely entered the World Trade Center infernos as well as those who continue to do so today.  MLB’s answer: “Get ready for hefty fines“.

The NFL is often dubbed the ‘No Fun League‘ as they routinely slap players with uniform violations for mis-matched socks and the like; have legislated (some) show-boating out of the game; issue unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for excessive celebrations and for taking off helmets in a ‘look at me’ show of exuberance; for preventing players from Tweeting too close to kick-off (forget about during the games!); etc., etc., etc.  But you know what they DIDN’T do during the games on 9/11????  That’s right… they DIDN’T fine the players for paying tribute via their uniforms to the heroes and victims of 9/11. Meanwhile, the erstwhile commissioner of MLB baseball, Bud Selig, threatened heavy fines to the Mets if they went with the NYPD/FDNY hats over special hats that MLB had prepared for all of the teams to wear… which was a nice gesture for sure, but also one with a profit motive attached as replicas of said hats are now offered for sale… a portion of which is going to 9/11 charities, but a lot of which is profit for MLB.

It’s no surprise that the NFL has taken over as ‘Americas Game’:  From ignoring the health needs of ex-players, to being late to the game in seriously studying/treating the impact of concussions, to a protracted work stoppage this past off-season that could have eroded fan loyalty, to continual scandals of rising stars dating back to their college careers, to vastly overpaid divas acting as, well, divas, the ‘teflon’ league steams along unscathed.  Why? Because they keep the customer #1.  That’s it.  Well, they also have great product but so do most of their competitors.  They routinely keep fans top of mind throughout the gameday experience at the stadium or on the couch… and a little thing known as fantasy football that allows all of us to become coaches and general managers.  Why do I mention fantasy football?  Because the league wisely hasn’t banned its own players from actually playing along with all of us… how’s that for marketing?

Bottom line is that if you want your customers coming back for more, do right by them all the time.  This demands adjusting rigid decisions in the face changing environments. The fact that Major League Baseball prevented one of its two teams most geographically impacted by the 9-11 tragedy from honoring the fallen and those close to them in a manner best determined by the team is simply further tragedy.  But also serves as a lesson that there are better business considerations beyond boardroom decisions; most importantly, doing the damn right thing even if it flies in the face of short-term profits!