Sporting life

Football: Great Game. Bad Karma.

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Society, Sporting life | Tags: , , , , , |

English: New England Patriots linebacker Junio...

English: New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau during a game against the Oakland Raiders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a heck of a way to start the new year off if you’re a sports fan in America.

Football is for the foolhardy.

That’s the message – how else can you read it? – from the findings on Junior Seau’s death.

You can argue that football has always been a sport that requires a certain amount of foolhardiness from its participants.

You can argue that, but you won’t get far now that it’s clear that it’s the sheer everyday violence of the sport that does in people like Mr. Seau – and many others, Jim McMahon apparently among them as well.

It’s hard to imagine football being played any other way than it is now.

Maybe there’s a way out.

What Price Success?

It’s a great game, fun to play at any level – and great to watch.

The gladiators who perform on Sundays are extremely well paid. But money can’t buy your way back from brain injury.

Years ago, punch drunk fighters were a staple of the American scene. Read Nelson Algren’s stories about life in the mean Chicago streets to see what happened to those guys. Grim.\

Auto Racing Lost Too Many Too.

Car racing had to change after so many drivers got killed. Today, it’s rare to see a driver even get seriously hurt, much less destroyed in a NASCAR or Indy Car race.

As a kid, I idolized the guys who put their lives on the starting line – guys like Fireball Roberts, Mark Donohue, Jim Clark — all killed in action.

You grow up, you realize that those guys died while on the job. They weren’t fighting for the flag. Just working. You and me, we wouldn’t go to work if it meant we faced a really good chance of getting killed – or brain injured. Not if we had other choices. That’s kind of what it’s come down to for the football world. Other sports as well of course — hockey and soccer, to name a couple.

Auto racing had to change, especially in the wake of the death of its big star, Dale Earnhardt, in 2001 at Daytona. Football will just have to change some more, and what that future game will look like is anybody’s guess.

It’s not a PR problem for football. It’s a structural problem. How do you make the game safer, and still keep the excitement? Do we really care? I think so. I think the specter of men like Junior Seau casts a dark, permanent shadow over the game.

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Any Luck? November Fishing In Minneapolis.

Posted on November 27, 2012. Filed under: Sporting life, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , |

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fishing on a cloudy, cold day in Minneapolis.

Fishing on Lake Calhoun, late fall

Thanksgiving Day in Minneapolis started off nice and balmy. But the break in the weather didn’t last. By mid-afternoon, the wind had kicked into a blustery gear and the temperature was falling fast. Still, two guys stuck it out on their fishing boat in Lake Calhoun. Were they having any luck? Hard to tell from this picture. One thing for sure, there was no competition from other fishermen.

Snow started falling not long afterwards. By then, I was at my parents’ house in the distant suburbs, settling in for the Thanksgiving feast. The snow fell harder as the day wore on into the evening. When I went out to my car, along about 10 p.m., it was coated with ice and snow. Out came the ice scraper. Driving was not bad, however. Very little actual snow accumulation.

On the way home, I thought about those two guys out pressing their luck for a last-minute fishing excursion on Calhoun. I thought about fishing in late November in Minnesota. I thought about all the fish not yet caught. I thought it was probably a fine idea, to go fishing one last time for the season on Thanksgiving Day 2012 on a city lake in Minneapolis.

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At The End Of The Day, We Move Forward No More Forever

Posted on September 20, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Ramblings, Sporting life, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout.

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just two words of wisdom for today: Talk Normal*

Case in point:

“What I really want, at the end of the day, is to make sure we do the right thing for Clayton moving forward. I know we’ll do the right thing for him, so that’s not really a concern.” – Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers manager, speaking about injured pitcher Clayton Kershaw. (Quote from Sept. 18, 2012 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sports, page C4)

Rewrite (just for our purposes):

“What I really want — and what this organization wants — is what’s best for Clayton.”

Editorial notes:

“Moving forward” – a transition phrase, perhaps once notable for being novel, it now sounds as empty of meaning as “awesome.” Delete with extreme prejudice. (See also: “going forward,” its equally obnoxious sibling.)

“At the end of the day” – what’s with this end of the day stuff? Do the cows come in at the end of the day? Of course they do. Was Rome built in a day? Of course not. Can we not get through one day without hearing someone, somewhere, in a position of somber authority, speaking of their earnest ambition to conclude something of a serious nature by the end of the bloody f’ing day???

No Offense Intended, Don

Sorry, Don Mattingly. I don’t mean to pick on you. I know you mean well. It’s just that, to see two such mindlessly over-used clichéd phrases in the same sentence, for God’s sake, it defies comprehension. It drew my attention, and I took a grammatical hack at it — somewhat like you used to have your fun battering a lazy down-the-middle fastball back in the day.

Editor’s note:

“Back in the day” – yadda, yadda, yadda, sounds like an early Jersey Boy phrase that went viral via some TV cop show outa New York and now passes for virile man-talk. Backinnaday ya know. Pack it in, back-in-the-day sayers. It’s lost most of the street smart cred that it had back in whatever day it slunk out of.

So, at the end of the day here, let’s quit embracing cliché-talk in our speech, okay?

Editor’s note:

“Embracing” — a psycho-babble-ish distortion of a perfectly good word — to embrace, to clasp in the arms. Now used with great unrestraint to show affinity, as in “she embraces the culture,” or “the author embraces the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the forgotten and the immoderate.” If those are the author’s people, so be it. Actually, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that a writer of the depths, such as a Dostoyevsky, actually does emotionally embrace the lives of some such as the Russian dispossessed, as he did with great feeling and insight. Not to banish non-physical/romantic references of embracing from the vocabulary, then, but to urge more judicious use of the word at minimum. (Note: no mention of being more judicious going forward!) Gandhi may well have embraced all of humanity. Most people have a hard enough time embracing close family members, much less the multitudinous masses. (No embracing on the job. That goes without saying.)

Well, then. That puts a period to the cliché problem for now.

* A nod to Tim Phillips, author of Talk Normal, Stop The Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle, published in 2011 by Kogan Page Limited, an excellent book in which the author argues that people are more effective when they just talk like normal people do.

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Social Networking The Mississippi River Way

Posted on July 19, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Small Business in Minnesota, Sporting life, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , |

Patrick Boulay, publisher of the New Business Minnesota monthly magazine, poses in front of a company promotional banner at a recent meet-up honoring heroes of the business start-up community in Minnesota.

Patrick Boulay, founder and publisher of New Business Minnesota magazine.

Not even Mark Twain would find much to complain about vis-à-vis the notoriously inhospitable Siberian climate of the Twin Cities this summer. In fact, incurable river romantic that he was, Twain would likely have cozied up to the bar at the Pool & Yacht Club in Lilydale on the Mississippi — as I did the other night. Twain might then cast a gaze filled with fond admiration at the rolling waters of nearby Old Man River — as did I — and then, just before tossing back his double shot of Scotch whiskey, raise a glass to the inventor of air conditioning.

Because it was blazing hot late into the afternoon of Tuesday, July 17. The type of heat that drives away all thoughts of January wind chills — and causes one to marvel at people’s ability to assume the trappings of civilization — in this case, the choice to don a sport coat and serious leather dress shoes — before sallying forth into the inferno.

A Little Well-Deserved Startup Love

But no matter. For this was the New Business Minnesota meet-up, a chance for startup owners to “Network with Leading Business Professionals You Should Know,” held at the Pool & Yacht Club that very same day. Five to seven p.m., the invitation read, and at 5:30 or so there I was, primped and pumped for a brief interlude of business networking with these friends of Patrick Boulay.

A good turnout it was too — some 40 to 50 friendly faces, by my casual count, milling about with purposeful abandon in the spacious setting of a river-facing meeting room. Mr. Boulay arranged this meet-up to share the wealth of social networking capital he derives as publisher of the New Business Minnesota journal. It is, as he notes, a guide to getting going on running a new entrepreneurial enterprise in Minnesota, chock-full of useful information for the newbie biz wiz. He distributes 8,000 copies per monthly run, getting it into the hands of owners of startups who crave information tailored to their particular situations.

A Battler For Startups

A true champion of the startup class, Boulay notes in his Publisher’s column this month — titled “Startup Odds Are Pretty Good” — that the one-year success rate for startup businesses is 85%. Even five years on, after all the proverbial, epic struggles that entrepreneurial companies must endure, 50% of all startups are still in business. That is pretty good — and a good testament to the viability of all us small business operators as value-creators. (And don’t call us “small time operators” either. Small in scale we may be, but most of us in the small biz world think big. We have to – there’s no corporate cushion to fall back on, so we need to be ahead of the game at every step. Of course, we use what we know to help make our products and services more appealing and competitive, and if that ends up helping corporate customers and clients, so much the better. It’s not an either/or world, recent commentary by John H. Bunzel —Small Business Is Getting A Tad Too Much Love — in the Minneapolis StarTribune notwithstanding.)

That said, let’s not forget that key to every entrepreneur’s success is his/her ability to make professional contacts. Mr. Boulay’s meeting was an excellent venue for doing so — this is social networking at its best, e.g. in person, face-to-face, one tiny swap of business cards at a time. I would encourage other small business people to engage with Patrick’s organization at

An Urban River Haven

One last word on the setting: a revelation to me to discover for the first time the discreet charms of the Pool & Yacht Club. Scenically situated in — Lilydale, where else? — just across the 35E bridge from St. Paul, it’s a terrific spot from which to watch the river flow — or chill down during those Siberian-style Januaries that descend upon the Twin Cities. Boaters can pull into the docks and ramble on up to the clubhouse for food and refreshments too. Such river hospitality is all too limited in the Twin Cities, so take advantage. (I’ll just add the Pool & Yacht Club info, Pool & Yacht Club, to be sociable.)

You never know. The ghost of Mark Twain might wander on by while you’re gazing fondly at the rolling waters of the mighty Mississippi.

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If Only The Dead Knew Facebook

Posted on May 24, 2012. Filed under: Digital Dalliances, Public Relations, Ramblings, Social Media, Society, Sporting life | Tags: , |

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I come from a long line of dead people,” novelist Lawrence Block observed via one of his tough-guy detective characters.

No truer words were ever spoken. So far as we know, no person to date has ever lived forever. Candidates are out there – baseball slugger Ted Williams was famously put on cryogenic ice post-mortem, with the hope that science could someday get Teddy Ballgame back into the game of life. And why not. Teddy enjoyed life, loved fishing and if anything can make a person want to live forever, it’s fishing. Better than sex, or at least longer-lasting, plus it’s legal to practice in public.

Forgotten Even By Their Kinfolks

Now I don’t know how all those dead people throughout history, so many of them unsung and totally unknown today — even by their living kin — felt about living lives of ultimate obscurity. Quite possibly, most of them never gave it much thought. For all the Julius Caesars, Cleopatras and Charlemagnes of history, there were millions – nay, billions – more who never achieved much more recognition than an ant.

Would that have changed if Facebook had been around in ancient Roman times? What would those Facebook pages have been like – would the people, the men and women in the Roman street, have been so diligent in posting the daily details of their private lives into the public databanks of Facebook I? One can only speculate. And if so, what would they have said?

Heard On The Ancient Roman Street

“Giancarlo is off fighting the Goths on the northern front today. Lions mauled the Christians today in the Colosseum. What a spectacular finish by Mario in the featured chariot race last night. Luigi’s is having a special on clams today. Ran into Ovid on the Appian Way this morning, he was out for his usual morning jog…we chatted about the weather – too hot! — and the inflation rate — too high! My tooth aches this morning. Anybody know any good dentists in south Rome? Saw Brutus at Alfonso’s Sporting Goods store this afternoon – he was checking out knives. Here’s a picture of me and my family at our barbecue last weekend, it was finger-lickin’ good. I hear there’s an orgy tonight at the Campesino Club, who else is planning to attend? How about them Lions? I like Rafael’s House of Furniture. We’re taking our vacation on the Riviera this year, we leave next week. Am I the only one who wishes that Cicero would shut his mouth? Anybody know any good restaurants in Naples? I’ve got to go there for business next week. Avoid walking near the Tiber downtown – it really stinks this time of year.”

And so forth.

That Was Then, This Is The Now Of Facebook

Fast forward 2,000 years, to a time and place – well, any place since we live in such a globally connected world today — and the citizenry, well, the citizenry is chitter-chattering away all over the Internet. Facebook. Twitter. Tumbl’r. Pinterest. WordPress. YouTube. It’s a communicative cornucopia, a frenzy of engagement of epic proportions. Digital dynasties emerge overnight – Pinterest, for God’s sake? Where was Pinterest five years ago? Big Data is on the rise. (Lesser data, such as newspapers, are crumbling into oblivion however.) Lady Gaga is more famous than Cleopatra, Walter Winchell has been replaced by TMZ and hardly anyone reads Ovid anymore.

But the people of the Facebook street, a billion or so strong, they are making up for humanity’s time lost in historical obscurity. Just think, 2,000 years from now, assuming the robot class hasn’t assumed dominance over the clamoring masses, people of that time will likely be plumbing the digital archives of the early years of the Third Millennium for clues into what life was like for the 21st century ancients. What a wealth of data they will have to draw upon, assuming they’re interested. Who knows? By then, history might really have ended for all time, replaced by what we know not – since we who live today belong to a specific historical period. Perhaps Teddy Ballgame will re-emerge from the cryogenic crypt to instruct the 41st century masses in the fine art of whacking a baseball.

So the next time you go to tell your Facebook followers what’s on your mind, just remember: you’re teeing it up for history. You just might want to keep that 41st century savant in mind.

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An HTML Line Not To Be Crossed

Posted on March 1, 2012. Filed under: Digital Dalliances, Public Relations, Sporting life | Tags: , , , |

Manhole Cover Brick Sidewalk Lines Geometry

Working with website coding this morning. It’s a difficult process, one in which I’m self-taught.

Today, I’m struggling with how to put in a new horizontal line on my pages. I want to standardize one across all pages, so I’m working with CSS. You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult. A solitary line, extending across the page — I wanted this one to be inserted just below the box that contains my site navigation links — seems simple.

I started with my home page — the one that goes by the name of “index.htm”.

A Line Too Far

But no, when I opened the new page, I lost the horizontal formatting on my navigation section. The links now lined up in vertical list fashion. Terrible. Not what I wanted at all. So I looked at the CSS page to see if I’d done something wrong. Couldn’t find any errors there. Looked at the code behind the page itself, and it seemed fine. But no go.

Need A Virtual Pencil

By this time I’d saved the page, so all the changes were set in stone. Whatever had happened was beyond my immediate ken. So I took a look at another page, unsullied by my recent changes. And there it was. A piece of critical code was missing from my home page. Washed away somehow by that simple act of adding a horizontal line.

Twenty minutes of head-scratching, and now I was back to Square One.

Oh, well.

Some fast web research revealed that there is really nothing simple about coding a horizontal line for a website. One site of particular merit was that of Chris Hope and his Electric Toolbox. It’s near unbelievable that creating a line could be this daunting — it’s just a line, for God’s sake. A pencil and a ruler is all you need to draw a line on a sheet of paper. Lines have been around since at least the time of Aristotle. Nothing new about the line. And yet, this particularly line danced havoc with my website.

Now I think I’ll run down to the local coffee-house and get in line for a steaming hot cup of java.

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Loppet or Leave it

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Public Relations, Sporting life, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , , |

Minneapolis Loppet street banner

Minneapolis Loppet - a celebration of winter's wonders

What’s in a name? A plethora of wobble-legged snow cruisers, in the case of the world-famous City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis. When a California friend asked me what a loppet was, I was forced to admit I didn’t know. This in spite of living and working in Minneapolis all these years, with some ongoing exposure to the cultural life of the city. In my ignorance, I suggested to my SoCal friend that a “loppet” might indeed be some kind of a rabbit – a notion derived via a mental association of the word with the lop-eared rabbit of lore.

Visions of rabbit-stormed streets dashed

But I was wrong. It turned out there were no armies of ski-borne rabbits slipping noiselessly through the streets of Minneapolis during the recent loppet weekend (Minneapolis Star Tribune loppet recap).

No these were just ordinary two-legged cross-country skiers of the human kind, now assembled en masse in one spot for a weekend of slippery snow-sliding fun and friendly, democratic competition.

Nordic roots

As I discovered in doing due loppet diligence on-line:

“The word ‘loppet’ has its origins in Scandinavian culture and commonly refers to a mass participation cross-country ski event which includes longer, marathon length distances and both recreational and competitive elements. Some definitions refer to a loppet as a ‘citizen’s race,’” according to Sleeping Giant Loppet – a site promoting the March 5, 2011 loppet to be held in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

So it was that, once again, the value of a name was driven home to me.

Selling loppets to Californians

Loppet is assuredly a curious name for an event held in the United States – and on the same weekend as the superlatively named Super Bowl, of all things – and one that commands attention if only by begging for further explanation.

If a Californian has to ask, “what’s a loppet?” then there’s obviously a case to be made for a more forceful public relations effort in behalf of the world-famous Minneapolis Loppet. Something for Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak – the chief proponent of the Minneapolis Loppet – to consider as he basks in the afterglow of this past weekend’s very successful event. And one in which the Mayor himself was very much involved, as denoted from his breathless Sunday afternoon Tweets charting his own progress over the snow-covered course.

If the loppet of Minneapolis is indeed a cross-country ski celebration, as it most certainly is, it perhaps should have a mascot – and a lop-eared Finnish rabbit from Lapland would be a good one, in my humble opinion.

Randomly Noted:

Cost to make a child’s wish come true: “about $6,000,” according to Tom McKinney, executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota. (See “Clawback Incorporated” in Twin Cities Business Monthly for details.)

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