Aug 19

Baseball’s Whitey Bulger

I don’t think Alex Rodriguez should be allowed to play another game of professional baseball.

It’s one thing to cheat by taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then deny it for years. It’s quite another to pull a Whitey Bulger and ‘rat’ out fellow players, including a Yankees teammate.

A-Rod’s contemptible behavior does far more than further erode his already horrible image and reputation.  It smears that of the Yankees franchise itself. And, that’s what confuses me most about this dark chapter in baseball history.

The average sports organization takes great pains to distance itself from law-breaking players (witness The New England Patriots complete erasure of any sign that accused murderer, Aaron Hernandez, ever played for the team. The purge was positively Stalinesque in nature!).

And yet, here’s A-Rod, guilty as sin, contesting baseball’s suspension AND implicating his own pin-striped teammate, still batting clean-up for the Bronx Bombers? Shame on you, Yankee organization.  Shame on you.

Rogue players, entertainers, politicians and business executives need to go when they, themselves, become the story.

971384_602455496452940_1772305071_nTo wit:

– Charlie Sheen’s: ‘Winning’!”

– BP’s Andrew Heyward’s: ‘You know, I have a life, too,’

– New York’s sad sack mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner’s: ‘There may have been three more women. I can’t recall.’

Some exit stage left. Some don’t. Others are forced off the stage.

A-Rod and the Yankees have done neither.

Instead, they’ve sent a very clear message: they intend to win this year’s American League Eastern Division title, regardless of the long-term damage done to the team’s image, reputation and relationship with the fan base.

And, that’s just wrong.

History is replete with examples of short-term short cuts that went horribly wrong:

– The use of brittle O-Rings that fractured in cold weather and doomed the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

– Opting for cheaper rivets to hold together the iron plates of an unsinkable ship christened the R.M.S. Titanic.

– Allowing a rat named Bulger to continue killing Mafiosa kingpins and innocent bystanders alike as long as he continued providing information to the FBI.

The image and reputation of baseball’s most storied franchise is at a critical juncture: it’s two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The bases are loaded and the Yankees are trailing by a run.

Who will they send to the plate? I, for one, would rather see Casey strike out than the Roided Rat hit a walk-off, game-winning home run.

Aug 24

The Browning Nagle of American Presidents

Bush-obamaI was recently musing about the seriously flawed presidency of Barack Obama. 

I remember voting for him with a vengeance after suffering through eight years of his predecessor's utter disregard for constitutional rights and common sense. But, since then, like many others who formed Obama's base, I've grown frustrated by his Kerry-like flip-flopping. 

Also being something of a sports junkie, I began thinking of athletes from football, baseball and yes, even golf (which is a game and not a sport, BTW) whose careers paralleled The One's. But, I didn't stop there. I also thought of jocks whose accomplishments (or, lack thereof) reminded me of Obama's predecessors: W and Slick Willy.

See what you think:

– Obama is the Browning Nagle of American presidents. For those of you who don't recall Nagel, the Jets drafted him from the University of Louisville and immediately anointed him as the 'the next Joe Namath'. Gifted with a canon for a throwing arm but hampered by a brick for a brain, Nagel quickly flamed out after a season or two, and was never heard from again.

In thinking about the past three years, I believe Obama's made nearly as many ‘on-field’ mistakes as Nagel. He's clearly a gifted intellectual, but lacks the spine to make the tough decisions needed of a leader in times of crisis. In my opinion, he'll have to stage a serious fourth quarter rally to win re-election and not end up like Nagel: a forgotten wanna-be.

– W is the Herb Score of American presidents. For those of you who don't recall Score, he entered Major League baseball with a 100 mph fastball and pinpoint control (insert Score's bio). He was literally unstoppable until struck by a line drive that knocked him unconscious and out of baseball for the rest of the season. When he returned, Score was never the same and disappeared from America's pastime within a few years.

Like Score, W enjoyed one of the great rookie seasons in recent memory and was positively Lincolnesque in his immediate post 9/11 statements. But, like Score's line drive to head, something unhinged W's thinking and he set upon an unprecedented course of rack and ruin (i.e. Missing the opportunity to nab bin Laden in the first few months after the Twin Towers attack, using a total lie to justify invading Iraq (WMDs), totally ignoring New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina and, of course, de-regulating Wall Street and setting the stage for the 2008 crash that reverberates to this day). In fact, it's not a stretch to say that no single American president has done more to damage America's international image and reputation than W.

– Bill Clinton is the Tiger Woods of presidents. Since you all know Tiger, I won't recount his off-the-course hijinks. Nor will I call attention to Clinton's infamous “I did not have sex with that woman” statement. Clinton will be remembered as a gifted politician who accomplished tremendous things but whose image is permanently tarnished. The same holds true for Woods. He was a great golfer who allowed his personal putter to ruin his legacy.

So, there you have it. Do you agree with my comparisons? If not, to whom would you liken Obama, W and Slick Willy? I'd like to hear your thoughts. (Note: I'd suggest a follow-up blog offering jock analogies for H.W., Reagan and Carter but, alas, I fear my Millennial audience won't know who those presidents were.)"

Feb 23

Wretched excess

I sometimes shake my head in wonder at how utterly detached from everyday reality our role Article-0-0D4F3118000005DC-11_634x381 models have become.

Take the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter. Please. I think the Yankees would like another team to take the aging superstar off their hands. In addition to his eroding, on-the-field skill set, Jeter just brought himself and the Yankees some very unnecessary publicity with the construction of a 30,875-ft palatial estate in Tampa which neighbors are calling “St. Jetersburg”. Yankees fans may be struggling to make ends meet, but their captain has built himself a Vatican City-sized enclave that serves to only further illustrate the increasing gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ in the America of 2011.

At the same time, at least one Major League Baseball general manager is finally stepping up to the plate and drawing a line in the sand (infield dirt?). Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox described talk of $30 million-a-year ballplayers as “asinine” and said he'd support a work stoppage to bring fiscal sanity back to baseball. Good. Someone has to stop the ever-escalating madness. Compensation for major league sports stars is way out of line, especially in the midst of a continued weak economy and nine percent unemployment.

Then again, why should Derek Jeter care what the great, unwashed masses think? And why should St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols think twice about demanding the equivalent of the gross national product of a small Caribbean nation when negotiating his next contract?

I once worked for a semi-delusional CEO who kept predicting a secular crisis between the haves and have nots. I don't think we'll be seeing an Egyptian or Libyan-type insurrection anytime soon in America. But, I do think what we're seeing in Wisconsin and other states is an indirect backlash at the wretched excess of detached, uncaring and pampered superstars like Derek Jeter who think they deserve to live in mansions that would make King Louis XIV of France green with envy.

Where will it all end?

Jun 16

Read the non-verbals

It doesn’t take a behavioral psychologist to read the negative non-verbals of beleaguered Mets Manager7jz0fkb3
Willie Randolph.

Each post-game press conference is more painful to watch than its predecessor. Willie shuffles up to the podium, swigs some water, sits down, folds his hands and says, “Well, guys, that was a tough one to lose.”

A funereal air permeates the proceedings as Willie then tries to explain exactly why his team blew another, late-inning lead:

“Joe had good stuff in the bullpen. He just threw one bad pitch,” or “That’s why we pay Billy the big bucks. He’s going to succeed in those situations 99 times out of a hundred,” or, my personal favorite, “I saw some positives tonight, despite what the score might indicate.”

Willie will then shake his head, rub his eyes, emit a long-exasperated sigh and keep his arms folded. Rather than pump his fist, raise his voice and exhort reporters, fans and players alike to believe in the team, Willie simply retreats further into himself. Talk about a shell of a man. Phew.

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Mar 28

“I’m a Loser” would be more appropriate

The New York Mets, the love of my life, just held singing auditions in Manhattan. Their goal: to select a few,Picture2
talented individual fans to sing the national anthem at select 2008 games. It’s a great concept and a smart way to connect with a diverse fan base. But, the Mets picked the wrong audition song from an image and reputation standpoint. As my partner, Ed, would say, “It doesn’t ring true.”

Sure, the Mets are synonymous with baseball, apple pie and the Star-Spangled Banner. But, they’re even more synonymous with losing. And, Mets fans died a thousand deaths last September as the team blew a seemingly insurmountable lead over the hapless Phillies and collapsed. True to form, the same franchise that holds the major league record for most losses in a season (120 in 1962) set an all-time major league record for the worst collapse in baseball history.

So, rather than prompting Sinatra wannabes to warble the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner, the Mets event might have been far more credible if fans had been encouraged to belt out such tunes as:

– “Free Falling” by Tom Petty
– “I’m a Loser” by The Beatles
– “The End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M.

Or, Mets fans could have been encouraged to dedicate songs to individual underachievers on the dysfunctional ’07 squad. How about:

– “Fool on the Hill” by The Beatles (and dedicated to Tom Glavine for his first inning meltdown against the Marlins in the final game of the season.)
– “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon (and dedicated to Paul Lo Duca, who was thrown out of a key game the Metropolitans ended up losing because his replacement committed a critical error. That loss began the September slide to oblivion.)
–  “Nowhere man” again, by The Beatles (and dedicated to a totally out of touch, deer-in-the-headlights Willie Randolph, who kept telling reporters the champagne toasts would be that much sweeter after he and his Mets pulled out of their temporary swoon.)

Hope springs eternal. And, like other long-suffering Mets fans, I’m hoping this will be our year. That said, I won’t be surprised to see Mets fans lining up next March for another audition. Let’s hope next year’s tune isn’t “Same Old Story, Same Old Song and Dance” by Aerosmith.

Oct 08

Win at any cost is a losing management style

George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, told Manager Joe Torre yesterday to ‘findSteinbrenner
a way to win the Cleveland series or find a new job.’ Nice.

Steinbrenner is such an ass.

I know, I know. His teams win for him. And, he expects the team with the highest payroll in baseball to bring home a World Series trophy year-in and year-out. And, yes, I know that Yankees fans respect Big George because he does demand winning at all cost. But, I just couldn’t imagine working in that culture. The money, the fame and the Yankees ‘tradition’ wouldn’t be enough to lure me into that dysfunctional organization. Not no how. Not no way.

Imagine working for a Steinbrenner in Corporate America? They used to be legion (think Chainsaw Al Dunlap). But, as political correctness has reared its ugly head and workplace culture has been linked to everything from productivity to employee retention, the Steinbrenner-style manager has slowly disappeared (or, more likely, submerged).

That’s not to say management by fear is dead. Far from it. One of our client organizations, for example, recently underwent a merger and the key operatives were absolutely paralyzed by fear. Sudden ‘redundancies’ had put their jobs at risk. Despite having done admirable work up until that time, our clients’ firm was the lesser of two equals in this so-called merger of equals. And, so they were shown the door, virtually overnight.

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Sep 28

Woeful Willie’s wobbling wards

Everytime my wife sees Mets Manager Willie Randolph’s sorrowful countenance on TV she asks, ‘Why isRandolph
that guy always so bummed out?’

You’d be bummed, I tell her, if you were managing what will most likely be the worst collapse in major league baseball history. Randolph’s reeling regulars have seen the bottom fall out of their once-promising season. And, today, they find themselves in a tie for first place with the gritty Phillies, and only three games left in the season.

The verbal and non-verbal behavior of these mediocre Mets tells the tale. Shoulders are slumped, heads are hung, eyes diverted. You can almost sense the Mets players want to be done with this nightmare and back home in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or wherever else most call home.

I’ve worked at several organizations that found themselves in similar, if somewhat slower, declines. The Mets’ collective behavior reminds me of those days where it was cover your ass, point the finger and hope that some miracle will occur to turn things around.

Alas, miracles only occur when the leadership is strong, visionary and inspiring. What my former agencies needed then and what the Mets need now is what England had in those dark days of September 1940: Winston Churchill.

Sadly, though, Willie’s no Winston. And these Mets are done. Paraphrasing the great Churchill’s most inspiring line: ‘Never have so many owed so little to so few.’ Mets fans and players alike deserve a manager who can inspire and stand strong in the darkest hours. What we have, instead, is a guy who has already mentally packed up his tent and gone home.

Aug 07

Contrarian points of view can be cool. Except when they’re wrong

I received an unsolicited e-mail the other day from TSE Sports and Entertainment proclaiming that not807_image_3
only will animosity towards Barry Bonds dissipate over time but, get this, he will actually
be ‘celebrated’ by future marketers.

The TSE folks who ‘….work to lock (yes, lock) athlete and celebrity talent for endorsement and appearances,’ must be injecting and applying some banned substances themselves if they actually believe Bonds’ image can be resuscitated.

TSE President Robert Tuchman predicts: ‘As we move further away from his playing career and the issues at hand he (Bonds) will find himself with a wealth of opportunities to change his image.’ Yeah, right.

There is no way any sane marketer would touch ‘Barroid’ now or in the future. The guy is pure poison and has become the poster child for everything that’s gone wrong in professional sports: drug use, selfish play and boorish behavior, to name just a few.

Bonds is a bad man. Why would any future marketer want his or her brand associated with such a destructive personality?

If Tuchman believes that time heals all wounds and American consumers will one day want to purchase an item because Barry Bonds is shilling for the manufacturer, he’s borderline delusional.

Nor does he know his sports marketing history. Before he proclaims Barroid’s future marketability, Mr. Tuchman might want to check with Pete Rose and OJ Simpson. Unless I’ve missed something, quite a few years have passed since their transgressions and both remain totally untouchable from a marketing standpoint.

Jun 26

Mets season a good barometer for managing life and business

The month of June has been a difficult one indeed for fans of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York. A once insurmountable lead shrunk daily as the team found new and increasingly depressing ways in which to lose. At one point, they’d lost 13 of 16 games, and saw their lead cut to one-and-a-half Mets_3 games.

But, led by their unflappable and implacable manager, Willie Randolph, the Mets have bounced back and won four straight games, several in dramatic fashion.

Randolph and the Mets are great examples of how best to manage image and reputation during down times. Like baseball, life and business are full of ups and downs. Viewing each as a marathon and not a sprint is the best way to manage success and failure.

So, when our firm lost one-third of its business during the dotcom crash, we tried not to get too far down. And, now, as we grow at annual rates of 25 percent plus, we try not to get too cocky.

Yankees and Phils fans, who were crowing a few weeks back, now find themselves eating crow as their teams stumble.

Steady as she goes’ is probably the best phrase I’ve heard for managing the highs and lows of life and business. And, how cool is it that Willie Randolph and my Mets are setting the example for all of us?