Category Archives: Sports

For the Love of the Game

I’ve played softball since age six and have parents who played. Playing under the lights is in my blood. Point proven last night when my co-ed team beat the third ranked team in a come from behind win, advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The energy and excitement was electrifying as we headed into extra innings, a feeling like no other that any athletic could relate to.

a league of their ownI’ve felt this feeling before, earlier this year when I was coaching little league. Thirteen wide-eyed eight and nine year old boys, wanting to play for the love of the game. They accomplished so much in such a short period of time; a coach couldn’t have been prouder!

Whether it be with my little leaguers or my adult teammates, the game (like most sports) has taught me lessons that are important to remember in the most important game: life.

1) Try it out: My boys on the little league team were willing to give most positions a shot. The smallest kid on the team pitching? Sure why not! They weren’t afraid of failure and just wanted to try something new. With no risk comes no reward. Those little boys were a perfect example of that.

2) Perseverance: The pitcher on our co-ed team wasn’t get the calls on certain pitches yesterday. It’s super frustrating but he didn’t let it get him down. He managed to come back better each inning, ultimately winning the game. If he stopped fighting, who knows what the outcome would have been. You always have to push through no matter how many people try and stop you.sandlot

3) Energy is contagious: I’ve watched this happen with both teams. Someone makes an outstanding play or strikes out the best player. Everyone gets hyped up and energized. It’s a feeling of invincibility, like you’re on top of the world. That feeling spreads through the dugout like wildfire. When you stay positive, it spreads to the people around you, making for a more happy environment.

I will forever love the game, baseball or softball and know the life lessons its taught me are invaluable. The quotes featured are from my two favorite baseball movies: The Sandlot and A League of Their Own.

Have sports or other activities impacted your life positively? Share with me!

College Sports in the Hot Seat

RUIf you’ve turned on the news or scrolled through your Twitter feed within the last week, you’ve heard about the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball coach who was fired because of his behavior during a video-taped practice. Coach Mike Rice was released from his duties as head basketball coach on April 3rd after being caught using abrasive language and physically abusing his players. Since then, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was also released from Rutgers. It has been said that Pernetti knew of Rice’s inappropriate behavior.

Also making the headlines this week was the Auburn University football program, who committed several NCAA recruiting violations, paid their players and had players’ grades changed. A full report was completed by reporter Selena Roberts who detailed all of the infractions on her website.

It seems a day doesn’t pass where some college isn’t in the hot seat for a sports scandal. You can’t forget the fake girlfriend mess of Manti Te’o from Notre Dame or the booster club nightmare at the University of Miami. Of course, the most infamous of them all was the Penn State child abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. The real question is why so many college sports scandals?

The possible answers are endless. People are more connected to the media. Athletes are treated more elite and therefore feel entitled and untouchable. Competition among teams has increased and translates into real dollars for both the players and the university. None of these are acceptable answers for the behavior we’ve seen from college athletes and administrators just within the last year.

Since it seems almost inevitable that some issue will arise within a college’s athletic program, everyonesocial media world involved has to be prepared for the worst. I am certainly no expert, but after watching these tragedies unfold, here are my tips for preparing for a college sports crisis:

1. Be Proactive: Communicate with your athletes the social media policies that are in place for your team and for the university. Don’t have a social media policy? I suggest you create one for your team because most of them are active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Even show them examples of what is appropriate versus what is not.

2. Discuss Hypotheticals: Take ten minutes of a team meeting each month to talk about the ‘what if’ situations that could happen to these athletes. Use case studies that have actually occurred. Make team members respond and evaluate what they say. This way, if a scandal does occur, the athletes will have a better idea of what to say and how to react.

3. Raise the Bar: While student athletes are an important part of a university, they are still students and human beings. Don’t make exceptions or excuses for them just because they need to play. It sets a bad example and makes the athletes think they can do what they want. By setting a higher standard for student athletes, they can become role models for the university.

Most schools have a crisis communication plan but coaches should talk to their teams about these issues as they happen in real-time. It might prevent further problems in the future. Why do you think there are so many scandals within college sports? Do you agree with my pieces of advice? Please share your thoughts.

Touchdowns & Fumbles of Superbowl 47

I guess I’m going for a sports theme this week! I am an avid football fan and look forward to the Superbowl every year. While my New York Giants were not in attendance, I still tuned in for the game. This year, I really watched the game through a public relations lens, meaning I thought about the positive and negative PR aspects of the entire event. I actually kept a list of touchdowns (pros) and fumbles (cons) from a PR professional’s perspective during the game. Here’s are my thoughts:

Touchdowns

  • The Entertainment: I understand the Superbowl should be about football but by having megastars Alicia Keys and Beyonce perform, you are appealing to a larger audience. You know certain people just tuned in to see these divas perform, thus increasing ratings. Additionally, having children from Netwown, Connecticut sing was the perfect way to honor the memory of all those who lost their lives earlier in the year. A lot of NFL players were in touch with families who lost loved ones so it was an appropriate connection.
  • The Game: Well, obviously the game should be the main focus but sometimes it isn’t. This year, the game proved to be highly entertaining and a nail biter towards the end. Hopefully, the competitive showing by both teams helped the NFL recover from its big blunder of the night.
  • Oreo: Whoever created the advertisement that went viral during the blackout should be promoted immediately! In response to the blackout during the game, Oreo send out an ad over Twitter and Facebook that captured the essence of the brand. The ad was fantastic, but it was even better that Oreo had a social media plan in place for such an event.

 oreoWSJ

Fumbles

  • The Blackout: Of course, this was the biggest problem of the night. I understand things happen that are out of our control. However, you are the NFL and this is your most important event of the year. From the lack of information to the ridiculously long delay, it was clear to see that the NFL did not have a blackout as part of their crisis communication plan. Bet they learned their lesson.
  • The Commercials: Except for all of two commercials, companies did not hit creative gold this year. Most commercials were confusing or utterly disturbing (see GoDaddy). You pay all this money for prime advertising space just to say we’re all farmers or to broadcast old people making out. Customers deserve more.
  • The Players: I feel like this year more than ever, the players in the Superbowl made some silly comments. First example: Joe Flacco using the word retarded to describe playing at MetLife Stadium before the game. Then he dropped an F-bomb after winning while his mic was still on. Ray Lewis as a preacher might offend some people. My advice: hire a publicist to write statements for you. You have the money to do it.

I enjoyed watching the Superbowl this year. It felt good to take everything I’ve learned in school and apply it to a real-life event. I have noticed more and more that I view situations and events through my PR lens. Can’t lie, I love it! Goes to show that I chose the right career!

What were your favorite parts of the Superbowl? Share your thoughts with me!

superbowl47

Motivation Mondays: On The Power Play

Hockey is a way of life in my house. My dad has coached hockey for pretty much my entire life. My 8 year-old brother was born with a stick in his hands and now plays. We’ve been going to New York Ranger games for as long as I could remember. So I’ve come to know the game pretty well throughout the last 22 years of my life.

When I was job searching, my friend and mentor Jason Mollica described my situation as being on a power play. For those who don’t know, a power play is a hockey term that means one team has more players on the ice then the other. This is usually because the shorthanded team has a player in the penalty box. The bottom line is one team has the advantage over the other. When Jason used this metaphor to explain my predicament at the time, I wasn’t sure I understood. However, his words have stuck with me during the last few months.

When I was job searching, I was networking with industry professionals, researching jobs and giving my resume to anyone with a reputable job and a pulse. I worked hard to make myself stand out from the millions of other recent college graduates looking for a job. I gave myself the advantage; I was on the power play.

Now that I have a job, I haven’t been as aggressive in terms of networking and talking to professionals. As I sat at the Rangers game a couple of weekends ago, I thought about how I used to be on the power play. Why did that advantage have to go away just because I found a job? In that moment, I decided to be on the power play again; to distinguish myself as an enthusiastic young professional always looking for new ways to grow personally and professionally. To start the process again, I am finding more ways to network and want to start reading more. Baby steps, right?

Hockey teams use power plays to capitalize or in hockey terms, score a goal. All of us, especially young professionals just starting out, should be on the power play. We need to make ourselves stand out and give ourselves the advantage. Share your ideas for how we can do this!

The Seriousness of Suicide

Javon Belcher

Javon Belcher

On Saturday morning, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself at Arrowhead Stadium after killing his girlfriend. The 25 year-old professional football player hadn’t missed a start with the Chiefs since he began there in 2009. Belcher and his girlfriend leave behind a 3-month old baby girl. Both the Chiefs’ head coach and general manager witnessed the suicide early Saturday morning.

All of the Kansas City Chiefs players commented that Belcher was a great teammate and someone who worked hard on and off the field. Everyone around him didn’t see any warning signs and can’t grasp why Belcher would end his life. A professional athlete whose dream came true with supportive teammates and a baby daughter; what could have been so bad that he chose to take such drastic measures?

While the actions of Jovan Belcher were tragic, one positive lesson that comes from this situation is the attention it draws to mental illness. Clearly, Belcher was not in his right state of mind when he went trigger happy on Saturday morning. Mental illness does not discriminate or come with a warning. All different types of people suffer from depression, rage, anxiety and various other problems that put them into a dark place. Sometimes there are warning signs, but usually there aren’t. The only real way to help those suffering from mental illness is to remove the stigma from such diseases. People should not be afraid to talk about what they are feeling, regardless of how extreme.

The Kansas City Chiefs released a statement Saturday saying how great a loss it was and sent prayers to his family. More importantly, the Chiefs did not become involved in any of the speculated drama between Belcher and his girlfriend. They focused their message on the loss of their teammate. The most poignant statement was the Chiefs continuing to play their game on Sunday to honor their fallen teammate and his love for the game.

In response to the Jevon Belcher suicide, the NFL launched a suicide help line for current and former NFL players. All phone calls will be kept confidential and the service will be ran independently from the NFL. On their website, there are a series of videos featuring NFL players including Brett Favre telling players that it is okay to ask for help. This is an important step for the NFL to take in order to support all its players. It is also a smart, conscious response to a crisis that shines a positive light on a negative situation.

The Kansas City Chiefs at Sunday's game

The Kansas City Chiefs at Sunday’s game

I am beyond happy to see the NFL aid its players in the real struggle they are facing today. By bringing the issue of suicide to the forefront, hopefully other players and people will be able to get help. Suicide is not something to joke about and must be taken seriously. If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, remember there are people out there to help you.

Skating For Sandy

On Saturday night, I traveled to Atlantic City with my family to watch Operation Hat Trick, a charity hockey game created in order to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Hockey all-stars Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers and Brad Richards from the New York Rangers teamed up with Caesar’s Atlantic City to sponsor the event held at the Boardwalk Convention Center. The proceeds raised from the event were donated to the Empire State Relief Fund, the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund and the American Red Cross.

Hartnell and Richards were the captains of each team that featured players from the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche among many others. The sellout crowd of over 10,000 watched goalies Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist battle for the first time all hockey season. Lundqvist had 57 saves with his team winning 10 to 6. The event showcased several talented NHL players who put their rivalries aside to raise money for an important cause.

While the main and most important goal of the event was to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims, Operation Hat Trick generated conversation about the NHL. Currently, the NHL is in a lockout because players and owners cannot reach an agreement over salaries. On Saturday night, there were hundreds of tweets about the charity game. Teams tweeted live updates about their players and game attendees sent pictures and videos to Twitter. Fans generated positive dialogues about the event that hopefully captured the attention of players and NHL officials. There was even a “We Want Hockey” chant started throughout the arena during the game.

Operation Hat Trick had both positive and negative public relations implications. On one hand, the event showed how the game of hockey can be used to raise money for a good cause. It gave hockey superstars an opportunity to give back while playing a sport they love. On the other hand, holding such an event reminded hockey fans everywhere of what they are missing. The game could be seen as a catalyst that sparked angry fans to voice their opinions and possibly boycott the sport if and when it does return. There is a rumor circulating saying that the NHL told NBC not to broadcast the game. We will see if that holds true.

It was both amazing and inspiring to see the NHL players put aside their differences and play for a good cause. If players could put aside such rivalries, I wonder why they can reach a mutual agreement in order to have a NHL season. Based off of the tweets from this weekend, hockey fans are dying for their sport to come back. Hopefully, they can settle this dispute soon so we can have somewhat of a hockey season.

The Fate of Lance Armstrong

Last week, I wrote a post about the Lance Armstrong scandal and how the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life. Within the last week, things have gone from bad to considerably worse for Armstrong.

The International Cycling Union has ruled in favor of the USADA’s findings, officially stripping Armstrong of his titles and banning him from the sport for life. In addition to Nike, both Anheuser Busch and RadioShack have dropped their sponsorship to Armstrong. The athlete changed his Twitter biography, removing information about winning his Tour de France titles. His Livestrong charity is still doing remarkably well, though the website still contains information about Armstrong winning the titles. Donations to the Livestrong Foundation have increased in recent weeks despite Armstrong’s personal struggles. However, this could be due to the organization celebrating its 15th anniversary. There are some who want their donations back, saying Armstrong scammed the organization and is a disgrace.

Without cycling and Livestrong, what is left for Lance Armstrong? His personal brand was built around his career as an exceptional athlete, cancer survivor and philanthropist. His cycling career is now forever tarnished and he no longer runs his charity. Of course, he still beat cancer and can focus on aspects of his personal life, like raising his children. But in terms of his professional career, it seems like Armstrong caused irreversible damage to his brand.

One other big question remains: Will Armstrong ever admit to doping? As of right now, Armstrong strongly denies using any illegal substances. While some Armstrong supporters will always stand by him, the general public cannot refute 1,000 pages of evidence. If Armstrong admits to the findings and apologizes, will his brand recover? An apology would be a great start but Armstrong must rebuild the trust he once had with his fans, other athletes and supporters of his charity.

What do you think about Armstrong’s personal brand? Can he recover? Share your thoughts with me!

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