Monday, May 31, 2004

The What? Park/Arena/Stadium

I wrote a little about this issue a few weeks ago when the "New Comiskey Park" was renamed U.S. Cellular Field, a.k.a "The Cell".

The issue is about the naming rights and sponsorships at athletic facilities. It popped up in my mind after the UNC-Chapel Hill athletics board recommended that sponsorhip in major campus venues be pushed forward in to the presentation process for final approval by the Board of Trustees at UNC Chapel Hill.

Since UNC Chapel Hill was one of the last elite-level D-1 NCAA schools to passively prohibit advertising in it's venues, it will be a different spectator experience at cozy Kenan Stadium and the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. And yes, the advertising dollars will pick up a lot of the expenses that are no longer able to be supported by restrained athletic budgets. However, my questions are steered toward advertisers.

When analyzing your return on event and facility sponsorship, do you really get a adequate return on your marketing dollars with advertising in public arenas? If the product is not specifically targeted toward the fan base watching the event, is it really worth your shareholders' advertising dollars?

To answer these questions, I turned to a great article in Sunday's New York Times by Richard Sandomir, which addressed the issue of stadium sponsorhip.

The article presented several bizarre cases of stadium sponsorship, and I was bewildered by the following marketing dollar amounts paid by companies. Minute Maid, which replaced Enron's sponsorship of the Houston Astros' field, paid over $170 Million. American Airlines paid not only $195 Million for the Dallas Mavericks new arena, but AA also paid for sponsoring the Miami Heat's new arena. FedEx paid $205 Million for the naming rights for the Washington Redskins new field, which will be called FedEX Field, and an even more amazing sum of $300 Million was paid by Reliant Energy for the stadium naming rights of the Houston Texans.

The bottom line question should be what are these corporations really getting from these naming rights? Also, isn't it even more embarassing for a company like SBC Communications that has to rename their naming property, like the case of Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, after a merger, after a takeover, or after a dismal season by the sponsored team?

I thought this was a good quote in the article from Neil Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, an independent research firm that specializes in corporate governance.

"Are they about pride?...Ego?...Are they about schmoozing or returning value to shareholders? I'm not sure that brand recognition, unassociated with the product or service you sell is valuable. If Nike wanted to do it, I could see it, but why a bank would do it is beyond me."

I thought about that quote when I heard Ernie Johnson on NBA Halftime on TNT pronounce the start of the "Gatorade TNT Halftime Show" tonight. Only one word for "Gatorade" for their halftime show...I hope that was a throw-in when they negotiated the package with DDB in Chicago...Because the one word mention of Gatorade in the opening sentence cdidn't create indellible impression about the Gatorade brand in my mind....Not at all...

So, when Wachovia Bank sponsors halftime events at UNC Chapel Hill this fall, I wonder how many new bank accounts will be opened by fresh minded and naive college students. A few of them will open one up, but is it worth the thousands of dollars spent on capturing those minds? I really wonder....

Petco Park...Brutal,

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Breaks of the Game...

Looking for things to do on an off-day in the NYC is not a very difficult task, but I do have to admit that it was for me on Wednesday..I'm not used to Wednesdays as an off-day, so I turned to TimeOut NY to see what's up...

Eerily, I opened the mag right up to the 'Around Town' Section where I found a clip that advertised a public reading by David Halberstam of his new book "The Teammates" at Borders Bookstore at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

So, I jumped on the two wheels, and I broke up a sweat pedaling up 8th Ave. to 59th St. Halberstam opened up the session with information on the research and the interviews that he completed for the book. The audience contained about fifteen people, which made it a very intimate setting for a reading.

Halbersatam's 'The Teammates' is about growth that occured in the relationships between Boston Red Sox teammates Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio from the late forties until the present time. The story foretells the lives of the the four as they lean on each other in the final stages of life, and how they developed as individuals within their relationships with one another after their playing careers.

Most importantly, Halberstam said that he wanted to tell the story about how players deal with the passage from a national icon to their dealings with the invulnerabilites that come with age. He went over each character and their times with the Red Sox...In particluar, I did not know that Ted Williams leaned upon Johnny Pesky an incredible amount in his last days...

One of the conversations that Halberstam brought up between Williams and Pesky displays to the reader that heroes suffer from the same frailities of life that everyone else shares and will share later in life. At the time Williams was having a very difficult time after one of his several strokes, and he asked Pesky "Why?...Why do we have to go through all this pain at the end of our lives?...This should never be happening to us."

Pesky replied. "Ted, we've had a very good run. There's not a lot of people that have lived like we have. Right now, we're like anyone else in life. These cards that we have now are what's been dealt with us...Just the same way those cards we're dealt to us when we were younger...We have had a pretty special life."

Halberstam made a telling point to a fan, who asked whether or not Halberstam pulled from his experiences from VietNam to tell the story of teammates in battle, and whether or not we will see teammates again. Halberstam said he did pull some things together to analyze the way people lean on each other in battle, and he also answered the question of whether or not teammates will ever be that close again with a "No".

His belief is that before free agency in all sports was available to players, each team member had to rely on the other for support. Not only had most of the players had come up through the same farm systems and stayed with the same team for throughout their playing careers, but they also were playing for very small wages that made them more dependent upon each other and the community.

Personally, I thought that was a great point....

Even though I hate the Red Sox, and even though I've read a ton about the "Splendid Splinter" over the last year, I picked up a copy. I had Halberstam sign it for me. The guy's work is incredible, and I told him tha "Breaks of the Game" and "Playing for Keeps" are in my top 5 basketball bookds of all time.

When I told him that I went to Carolina, he said that "you have a great guy as the head coach. He ( UNC Coach Roy Williams) is an incredible guy." He also said that Carolina was going to have a terrible time beating Duke because of the "significant problems that Carolina had in the past."

(I almost said that's why he's an expert on the past because a guy on the 'street' would know that Carolina is inching past Duke in the recruiting level. Carolina passed Duke on the "street" in recruiting last year. The ripple effect usually takes two years to show...Believe me...I would like to see what he has to say by the end of this summer.)

However, I am in perspective. For me to say something to a guy who wrote probably the best piece of sportswriting ever with "The Breaks of the Game" and who won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of thirty, would be like Charlie Criss "bogarting" Bill Russell. So, I'm just happy that I could watch how he carries himself, which is very professional.

His advice was very simple...."Keep working hard"...So, I'm going to keep it going, and I'll let you know what I think of "The Teammates" in the future. He did state that he may be working on a book about the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Colts and Giants, but he wasn't sure how much interest there would be behind it.

I have a big day on the floor tomorrow...Oh yeah, I'm working on the floor at the new Ralph Lauren store in the West Village. If you're in the NYC, stop on by and we'll talk hoops and life. I'll have more on the Halberstam encounter in an upcoming article at I think you'll enjoy the piece...

"Playing for Keeps",

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


A lot of people are going to jump on Rasheed's bandwagon now....It's funny what happens when you win.

Many people will assume that it's because of a new changed attitude and Larry Brown, but I thought Chris Broussard's article in Sunday's New York Times really pulled out some great information.

Since his days at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia, Rasheed has always been part of a system. He's best when he is the second or even more so the third option in an offense...Kind of like Method Man's role in the Wu-Tang Clan...He shines when his time comes to step up in the rotation. He's not the whole show...

Although Coach Smith was able to handle him well at Carolina, the reason why Rasheed was able to excel there is because of the team concept. Jerry Stackhouse was the main option, and he had Jeff McInnis to run the show with Dante Calabria hitting the open 3 on kickouts. All Rasheed had to do was play his part in the middle.

I like this comment from Broussard's article. "That comes from the system I grew up in when I was in high school and playing rec league ball...We were always loaded, so it was never no big thing to score 4 points or 6 points. We were always loaded, so we could spread the ball out...I only played the first and third quarters in high school. So early on, I bought into the team concep because you can do more. You can do more with five than with one. That's my opinion. That's the way I was brought up."

Yes,..."The Oregonian" and people are surprised. Rasheed was a wacko. However, when you manage Rasheed, you have to remember. He needs to be surrounded by a team that has serious intentions. He's a piece not the whole. He has respect for the "Whole".

True Carolina Philosophy,

Monday, May 24, 2004

A Chance Encounter with a Hero...

I've always kept a statement in my mind from Eddie Vedder. He was explaining to 'Rolling Stone' about how fearful he was when he met one of his idols, Pete Townsend, at a chance encounter when Pearl Jam was rising through the ranks in the early nineties. Now I'm paraphrasing here, but Vedder said that he didn't want to meet his "true idols" because of the fear that if they were asses to him, it would destroy the image that he had of them...I've always kept that in mind.

With a few of those incidents in my past that have tarnished the mental trophies that I keep in my mind of their greatness in mind, I do have a short mental list of people that if I were ever to encounter them, I would definitely walk the other way quickly.

Well last night, I had one of those moments last night with former NBA legend, Bernard King...And after thinking about it today, I'm glad that I didn't walk away because I took away a lot from the bump-in.

Sports Illustrated Poster Photo

'Nard became my man after I watched him run the court at West 4th in 'Fast Break' with Gabe Kaplan in 1978. When I was a kid I tried running with my chest out and on the balls of my feet so I could run like 'Nard...It didn't work too well neither with my speed, my lateral movement, nor hops, but least it's gave me a fairly good running form.

Whether hearing about the legendary "The Ernie and Bernie Show" at Tennessee, or watching 'Nard drop 50 in a half on a quiet Christmas night against the Nets, he always played the game with that sprinter off the blocks type explosiveness on the wing...He played strong with a bad-ass look as he moved around the court like a super-pogo. The man's first step was mesmerizing, and I think that's why I loved his style of play.

So, after a night of long conversation with some very nice neighborhood girls at 5 9th St. restaurant, my cousin and I hit up Joe's Pizza in the West Village. While waiting in a line with about ten people deep, who busts into the shop into the front of the line yelling out "I'm Bernard King...I'm Bernard King..." None other than #30 himself.

I always thought he was smoother than that. A definite shift in mood switched on at the the counter in the place, which had it's fair share of people that were not happy and had absolutely no idea who the hell Bernard was. So, I couldn't resist it, and I yelled out to him "Hey do you that in Atlanta too?!" (Bernard supposedly lives in Atlanta right now)

He pretended not to notice. However, when he shot me a stare, I responded back with a smile and yelled to him that the "Hustler is in the front of the line, you got to let him through."

He eyed me down, and then bursted out laughing and presented me with a dap and a hug. In my mind, I didn't know how to really react..Honestly, the moment could have gone in a number of directions, but it did turn into one of the more odd 2 minute conversations that I've had in a while.

We talked a bit about 'Fast Break', what was going on in '78, and what he's doing in Atlanta, which was very cool...His build has expanded a lot and the suit that he had on definitely has seen it's day. However, what did hit me is that he tried to boost two pizzas to go from the guy at the counter becuase he was Bernard King. The poor guys at the counter probably thought he was Leon Spinks.

Overall, I can say that the moment of meeting "The King of Brooklyn" was a medium one. Strange...yes, but it didn't end up with me getting thrown through the window either by my boyhood hero. As we watched him head down Carmine St. while avoiding the one-way traffic, we couldn't help but chuckle...

Everyone knows that Bernard has had some troubles in his past, and let's just leave it at that...He dapped me up, and hey what can you say...'Nard prancing down Carmine St. with two pizzas in hand...Remember, when you meet your heroes, you need to prepare yourself to see some things that may make you cringe a bit...I'm definitely cool with that, and let's hope that you get my drift on that one.

It was funny to watch "Hustler" do his thing...I'm glad that as I'm rising in years I can now distinguish what it really means when you say "You can take "The King" out of Brooklyn, but you can't take the Brooklyn out of "The King".

When are they going to retire Bernard King's Number at the Garden?


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Saturday Tastes

Went to the 'Taste of Tribeca' today....Great festival. The development corporations that have revitalized the area with rennovated lofts, hip restaurants, and sleek boutiques did an incredible job with the area. One thing that I was impressed with is that the area has been revitalized without major corporate help as far as major retail chains are concerned.

The area is not bombarded by Eckerds, Krogers, and Starbucks, which is very hard in terms of developing a solid tax-base for the area. I have to hand it to the area for growing with a plan. The developments in the neighborhood are good excuses for me to hang out in the area...I love it...

I ran into a very cool spot with my cousin this afternoon on Hudson St....

Check out 'Rival' for your sneaker and underground clothing wear. The place is a very smooth spot with aged-wooden shelves and floors and with exposed metal ceiling pipes. I have to and it to the spot because they have slide up doors that expose the store to the street. It's pretty cool to see the owner Vinny spinning records in front of pedestrian and cars passing by in the street.

Last night, there was a opening with members of Nike Skateboarding in attendance. Since the store carries decks and snowboards, Nike has selected them as a skateboarding vendor, which is a huge advantage if you're an urban culture retailer.

'Rival' is carrying some incredible decks, and it's also carrying some very cool retro Nike shoe models. The '95 Nike Air Max is there along with the '93 Nike Air Flights, which many people would remember as Scottie Pippen's '93 All-Star Game shoe.

Funny, that All-Star game was actually on ESPN Classic a few months ago...You may remember it as the "Magic" game, which Magic Johnson was selected as an honorary member after his first retirement to prevent exposure to the HIV virus...Remember the one on one match-up with Mike....I may have to drop an article for that shoe to "Sneaker Freaker."

Speakding of 'Classic' memories...Some good ones were brought up today by Tim Kurkjian in his article "The Crazy and The Wacky" . I haven't really thought about some of the characters in baseball over the last twenty-five years. Great tidbits on Mitch "The Wild Thing" Williams, Earl Weaver, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, and Andy Van Slyke.

However, one guy that may be on the edge of the last twenty-five years has to be Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky. How can you not rank him as one of the wackiest players in the last twenty-five years. His act of rubbing the ball, blowing out deep blasts of air, and throwing the ball into his glove between pitches to amp himself up was classic. Most importantly, he was a very good closer for the '78 and '79 Kansas City Royals.

So, here's to the "Mad Hungarian"...Psyche UP!

I'll be checking back later this weekend. Maybe I'll hit it up after the Floyd Mayweather fight on HBO tonight...I still have to see how bad RJ looked in the re-run...

P.S. I'm not into sweating commercials. Especially ones that turn classic tunes into corporate anthems, but that "Summer Breeze" GAP commercial is dope...

"I pitch like my hair is on fire..." - Mitch Williams,

Friday, May 21, 2004

Waffles and Fafalafels

Went to Bobbito's "Waffles and Fafalafels" night at APT on the edge of the West Village the other night....Very smooth.

Any DJ, who is able to mix Stevie Wonder in with old-school pre-84 hip-hop tracks is A-OK in my book. However, with Bobbito a.k.a DJ Cucumber Slice, he's more than A-OK. The way the dude plays the game of life is "butter smooth", and you better believe it, and not just because he interrupts his sets to wish Stevie "Happy Birthday". Bobbito put out a great book this past December called "Where'd you Get Those?" It's a coffee table style book about sneaker culture in New York City. It really is incredible, and I'll put up a review on it in the site...Be on the lookout for it...Ex-Riverside Hawk, Bronx native, and Carolina "basketball grasshopper", Brian Reese, gives it a thumbs-up....After checking it out, B-Reese went to tell Phil Ford that he "saw a picture of him getting a J busted in his face by Butch Lee."...The picture is quite ill....

Bobbito, who believe me is the Renaissance man for the new century, dedicates a night once every few months to Stevie Wonder with DJ Spinna at a different club around the city...It's bangin! Master-Blaster style. For me, it's like I'm spending a night on Sesame Street...All night Stevie and songs composed by Stevie. Perfect idea for a show at WXYC....Stevie Wonder Night at WXYC...Ahhh Siiittt!!!

Cool sight - Dapped up Questlove of the Roots...very cool dude.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

End of the Reign

Unfortunately, with the Kings' loss tonight, we may be seeing the end of one of the last great passing teams of the past decade.

What a shame because this really was one of the best teams since the reign of MJ finished up in '99. True fans know that the Kings should have won their ring in 2002 when the Kings beat the Lakers 5-2 ;)...Last year, their chances were crushed when Chris Webber went down with a season ending knee injury the playoffs...That same injury left them without Webber's top-shelf playing capabilities throughout the playoffs this year. The result is two conference semi-final losses and Western Conference championship loss. Tragic...because this team deserved better.

What will result from the end of their rise over the past five years? Who knows? The lack of team play has dwindled in the NBA, and the Kings ran an old-school philosophy that we may never see again with the rise of bad one on one play, bad jump shooting, and a lack of offensive movement.

However, the core of the team will stay intact for the Kings. Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Brad Miller, Chris Webber, and Bobby Jackson should all be back...Yes, we have probably seen the end of Vlade Divac, which is a shame because he has been a tremendous offensive threat throughout his career. His combination of great skills around the center position that consists of a soft shooting touch, veteran play...even though they call it flopping and fouling...and beautiful passing is a dying breed of play in the NBA. Perhaps, they'll find a role for Divac to play as a bench-player, but this may be it for him...All I know is that I would sign him in a second as a veteran bench player...How about the Sonics?...

Hopefully, this won't be the end of the road for Chris Webber. He's a better player than people think, and it may be impossible to remember him as any thing but missed potential. However, I don't think he's going to go down softly. He'll have all summer and early fall to rest his knee, and he is 'only' in his early thirties. For some reason, I think he's going to get redemption for all of the incidents that have happened in his career. I just hope that we haven't seen the last of his great times or the last of the great scoring offenses.

Cut and Move,

Monday, May 17, 2004

"Unceasing Change turns the Wheel of Life"

I thought Chris Broussard's article in yesterday's New York Times, "Jackson Is Smiling Through the Tumult", was an excellent one.

Jackson's critics have maintained that he wins only because he has the superstars to win championships. However, they're missing the boat with regards to how Jackson has been able to adapt to a new environment, changing player attitudes, the constant moodiness emanating from his players, and the off-the-court drama like Kobe Bryant's court case.

The statement that intrigued me the most about Jackson's ability to adapt to change was his explanation of the statement that is tacked on his bulletin board in his office. As he explains to Broussard, "There's a Buddhist statement that I have up on my bulletin board at home and it says, 'Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so realtiy is shown in all it's many forms,'"..."The basic emphasis is that unceasing change is always going to happen. We as human beings want control. We want to control our environment, our situation, and dealing with change becomes the most difficult thing in our lives. And it's that way in basketball."

"In having this great change, that statement is something I've been able to hold onto. So I'm making an effort to go with it rather than to rail against it."

This is why I believe that Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in sports history. He not only has won championships, but he has adapted to change. Instead of whining and pining for the days of old where individuals cared more about the team's objectives, Jackson has adapted to the players' wills and stayed focused on driving the team toward their goal, which is to win a NBA Championship.

Even though he has removed breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation sessions because of the "divisiveness" in the locker room that is supposedly caused by Kobe Bryant's energy, he has focused his energies upon game tape reviews and X's and O's with his legendary coaching staff of Jim Cleamons, Tex Winter, and Frank Hamblen. As a result, he adapted to the group's wants and needs instead of forcing them to adapt to proven practices that they didn't want.

Although the groundswell of rumors is starting to emanate from the media that Jackson is headed to New York after this season or after a year-long break. I'm not buying it. Despite his love for New York and his former Knick team, I can't see him working for ego-maniac GM, Isiah Thomas. Especially with the past wars that are between the two over the past decade.

My bet is that he chooses when to step down as a coach. He becomes a corporate speaker, who tours the country extolling the benefits of practicing spirtuality in the workplace.

"The Great Bird Spreads His Wings Again",

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Worth the $50...

I should have done it....I should have dropped the fifty bucks to see the Roy Jones Jr./Antonio Tarver fight tonight.

Everyone was saying it was going to be a tough fight for Jones, who is arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, if not the greatest since Sugar Ray Robinson. Check out EastsideBoxing's preview. Insiders said that Tarver's style along with Jones's drop in weight would combine for a problematic fight for Jones, but this is Roy Jones...right...Just wait to see the replay on HBO next week.

Well, I blew it...With the stunning, amazing, and bewildering knockout of Roy Jones Jr. tonight, I have to say that I cheated myself by not ordering this fight on HBO PPV. Although I didn't watch the fight, Tarver's upset has to be rated along with Tyson v. Douglass and Ali v. Spinks I as one of the top three greatest upsets of all-time.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

You have to Be Kidding ME!!

Sebastian Telfair goes PRO....You have to be kidding me.....Well, Good luck, and have fun in....Stockholm in 2007, where he'll be the best point guard in the Swedish league.

The Sebsastian Telfair case is a laugher. People are really bewildered that this kid left the chance to go to Louisville and chose to go pro. However, people don't realize that this "lamb" probably had to go pro due to "the wolves" that have hung around him over the past few months.....Isn't it strange when someone who presents the argument of economic hardship drives around Brooklyn in an Escalade.....It's also hilarious that he's been working out in Greece with his cousin, former Providence player, Jameel Thomas. This guy was planning on going to Louisville? C'mon he barely would have graduated from Lincoln High.

Michael Wilbon from the Washington Post and ESPN's PTI made a great statement that it's tragic for the African-American community that "not hundreds...but thousands of kids think they can throw away education for the chance to make it to a league where few slots are available, and they look at this is a way out." I'm in total agreement. With Telfair going to Greece, believe me, many kids are going to be pulling out of their senior year....very similar to college football, where players have been leaving school to prepare for their college career. However, those players are enrolled in college. Players like Telfair are playing video games before and after their workouts.......What a travesty this is for urban youth...

What's even more hilarious is that Telfair hit only for a combined two buckets in the Vaccaro Original Roudball Classic, the McDonald's All-American game, and the Nike Hoop Summit, which showcased the best high school seniors in the U.S. v. the best high school players in the rest of the world....Combined with 18 Assists in three games....Yeech.....

I'm sorry that I'm against the hype of SLAM magazine, Chris Ballard's article in SI, and Dime Magazine, but this guy is not even close to the first round. To double my shock is the 1-2 Million dollar Adidas contract that he landed. Telfair is not even projected to go in the first round....There has to be several contingencies on that contract.

Here's six point guards that would egg-beat him right now....Dee Brown, Raymond Felton, Andrew Lavender, Chris Thomas, Jameer Nelson, and Nate Robinson. Tops....He's the #7 guard that will be available to NBA teams over the next two years. Ridiculous, especially when he has his build.

Well, good luck Bassy... I'll think you'll make a uni look good....too bad it'll be Omar Cook's old Fayetteville jersey from the NBDL.

Age Limit NOW....Protect the NBA product,