Category: Dailies

Is Brian Wilson the Next Peyton Manning?

Many have discussed the marketability of
Peyton Manning. BusinessWeek’s Joel Stonington describes power in sport as “the
combination of athletic achievement plus the ability to connect with an
audience on a deeper, more personal level that separates mere jocks from the
stars” (Stonington, Power 100 2011). In addition to being an elite level
quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, a perennial record setter, and a
SuperBowl winner he is also ranked number one on BusinessWeek’s 2011 Power 100
in large part because of his ability to market himself, as well as many other
businesses. As most any sports fan (and even many non-sports fans) can tell
you, Peyton Manning is in the business of appealing to fans both on an off the
field as he has starred in commercials ranging from Sprint to Mastercard to
Reebok. But, there seems to be another face, or beard, on the sports marketing
horizon- Brian Wilson. 

Could Peyton’s stance as America’s
Sweetheart, and the most powerful man in sport (at the very least the most
likeable), be in jeopardy to a closer from the Bay Area? Possibly.

Labor negotiations in the NFL have left
fans frazzled, and if there is one thing the owners and players seem to have
missed in their sports history lessons, it is that fans are not quick to forget
labor disputes. Baseball players, for example, have gone on strike a total of
eight times. World War II couldn’t
stop the game because of Roosevelt’s Green Light Letter, encouraging
commissioner Kenesaw Landis to
keep the game going, but greed certainly could. The most egregious of the
strikes came at the end of the 1994 season – the only year in Major League
Baseball history where no World Series was played. 

In 1993, the year before the strike,
Major League Baseball set an attendance record of 70,257,938 fans, with an
average of 30,984 fans per game (http://bss.sfsu.edu/tygiel/hist490/mlbattendance.htm).
In the strike shortened 1994 season only 50,010,016 total fans attended games,
with 31,256 fans per game. With more fans attending games in 1994 the league
stood to break the previous year’s record. A shortened season in 1995 yielded
more fans than the previous year, but lower per game attendance (50,469,236
total fans, 25,022 fans per game). The 1996 and 1997 seasons showed
improvements of about 1,500 fans per game per year (26,510/27,877 respectively), but
neither was on par with the pre-strike rates.

It was not until the Home Run race of
1998 that fan attendance reached (and slightly exceeded) the pre-strike totals
(even then attendance per game was down). The data indicates that it took three seasons for fans to come back to
Major League Baseball – in other words, for baseball to recover from the
strike. Admittedly, there are likely other factors for fan’s demotivation to
attend baseball events, but the strike
is the most obvious correlation.

Three years, and a home run
record-setting season is a lot to ask for the public to fall back in love
with its national pastime. While
fans were not attending baseball games, they were spending their discretionary
income elsewhere – meaning there was an opening for other sports to gain
prominence while baseball was not viewed as favorably.

With the impending football lockout, and
NFL attendance dropping for the third straight year in 2010 (to its lowest
level since 1998, the year baseball saw its upswing), it seems just the time
for baseball to take advantage of what was once rightfully theirs – America’s
adoration. Despite football fans
disinclination for attending live events in recent years, ESPN noted that
17,007,172 total fans attended in 2010. According to USA Today the average
ticket cost at an NFL game is $75.00 per seat, totaling over 1.2 billion
dollars in discretionary fan income in ticket sales alone.

With that much discretionary income, and
a history of fan dissatisfaction after a strike season, baseball was ready to make its move- insert
Brian Wilson.

Manning is the poster child for on and
off-field performance, as discussed above, but he is also lead plaintiff in a
lawsuit that embodies the greed of the lockout. As much as Manning has enamored
fans in the past, many are wondering why he and the rest of the league can’t
come to terms with the owners when they are making so much money every year
(Manning’s 2010 income was estimated by BusinessWeek at 30 million dollars).
The majority of Americans cannot fathom making 30 million dollars in their
lifetime, let alone in one year. Manning’s on the field prowess and off the
field humor cannot mask his- and the rest of the league’s- perceived greed.

Brian Wilson made his debut in 2006 with
the Giants and has been with the club for his entire career- much like Manning
has been with the Colts. He is a two-time All Star selection (2008 & 2010)
and led the league in saves last
season with 48 while pitching in 70 games. In addition to having impressive
individual statistics with a career 290 strike outs and 139 career saves (as of
April 24, 2011), he helped the Giants win their first World Series since 1954
by allowing no earned runs in 11.2 postseason innings.

However, on the field reliability is not the only thing that what wins over American sports fans. Wilson is
incredible in his ability to make
fans laugh through his commercials, which include video games (MLB 2k11), SportsCenter
(again like Manning), and ESPN Opening Day. Moreover, there doesn’t appear to
be an end in sight, eliciting spoof websites such as the sportspickle.com to
write an article entitled “Brian Wilson’s Beard Apparently MLB’s Entire 2011
Marketing Campaign”.  In addition
to commercial’s Wilson is incredibly personable, intelligent, and eloquent in
his interviews on film and in text. And the man has a heart of gold as evidenced
by a YouTube clip of Wilson and fellow teammate Cody Ross, staring internet
sensation Keenan Cahill, all lip syncing to Taio Cruz’ popular “Dynamite” to
raise money for charity.

If Wilson’s ability to market himself, or
have someone else extremely intelligent do it for him, hasn’t been evident to
this point, just look at his beard. The 2010 “fear the beard” campaign was
wildly successful, as Wilson’s beard “Weez” took center stage during the
playoffs. The beard has inspired clever sayings, cakes, fan beards, and a wide
array of t-shirts from online retailers and Nike.

Fans are so awe struck by Wilson (and
Weez’) presence they have started an online campaign for Wilson to host
Saturday Night Live. As of April 20, 2011 the page has 45,882 likes. Similarly,
Manning hosted Saturday Night Live on his 31st birthday just after his SuperBowl win in 2007.

While Wilson is not as clean cut as
Manning (in addition to The Beard there are also tattoos) that doesn’t seem
particularly relevant to fans. The American public has shown that Brian Wilson
can be their new hero, and the NFL lockout seems to be affording him the
perfect opportunity to embrace that role. It is likely that a man entirely left
off BusinessWeek’s 2011 Power Rankings could top the 2012 edition.

 

Fear the Beard, Peyton.   

 

 

Spring Training- A Baseball Heaven

There are some things you promise yourself you will do before you die- some of them might be simple, some of them might be daring, and some of them might change your life. 

This weekend I took a daunting check off on my bucket list as I finally made my way out to Arizona for Spring Training. I had always wanted to go out for the spring, but inevitably there was a reason not to- school, work, conflicting schedules. 2011 was different, this year I was going. 
Often times when you look forward to an event like I was looking forward to spring training you are let down. People tell you how fantastic it is to get player access, and watch minor leaguers compete, and you might think to yourself, “can it really be this great?”. The answer is yes. 
The pundits on ESPN, your friends, the cashier at the grocery store- they are not lying when they say that spring training is a baseball heaven, and after this weekend I thoroughly believe that anyone who considers themselves a true fan of the game should make the pilgrimage out. 
Watching any MLB game is fun, but there is something about the spring atmosphere that is different. Yes, guys are competing for roster sports. Yes, it is the first taste of baseball anyone has had since October. But in all honesty, it seems that the real difference is the caliber of fans that can be found at the ballparks. Instead of people interested in being seen at the game, or getting something to eat, these fans are interested in watching and talking about baseball and baseball history (I told you this was heaven). These fans know their statistics, they know their players not only by the number on their jersey, but by their batting stance. These are real fans who want to talk baseball for the entirety of their stay. And that is what they do. 
I had the privilege of visiting four ballparks in three days (Camelback, Maryvale, Diablo, and Scotsdale). I saw three baseball games and one round of B.P. in three days. And I talked about more baseball history in three days than I ever have before. I was surrounded by Dodgers fans, Giants fans, Angels fans, Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, Brewers fans, A’s fans, and just baseball fans in general who wanted to rehash their favorite memories while creating new ones. 
Leaving Spring Training was saddening, and the only thing that has a smile on my face right now is knowing that the next trip is only 350 days away. 

ALL ABOARD FOR PHOENIX

While I promised to start blogging about being a Sports Management student (and I have every intention of doing so) I couldn’t help but use this entry to discuss my imminent trip to Spring Training. 

Every year I tell myself, this is the year, I am going to Spring Training, but inevitably people’s schedules fill up, school gets hectic, and the trip gets lost in the shuffle- but not this year. My Sports Management program is full time and meets between one and three nights a week. How is this a full time program you might ask? Because we are required to do 200 hours worth of internships a semester, this coupled with working a regular job and doing homework seems like a daunting task, and it is- if you are planning a trip. 
Lucky for me, the Angelswin.com Spring Fanfest falls at the end of college basketball season, which means that I can sneak away for the weekend and not really neglect my duties as the social media intern. 
The plan is to hop in the car early Friday morning and drive to Arizona (seems obvious enough). Once we arrive we are going to the Giants vs. Dodgers game on Friday, the Angels vs. Brewers game on Saturday, the Angelswin.com shindig Saturday night, and on Sunday we will see where the baseball gods take us. 
In addition to watching all the baseball that I could possibly hope for (ok this isn’t true, I would love to go to multiple games every day), I’ve also picked up some fantasy baseball reading to get ready for this years draft. Instead of playing with my heart (which I do for every fantasy sport, every year) I have dedicated this season, in honor of my Sports Management degree, to doing the most logical, rational draft I can. The fact that I have a co-managing a team this year will help ensure that happens (I hope). 
I suppose the moral of the story is, when you are a graduate student, studying something you are passionate about, even your vacations turn into school related trips. 

Sports Management- A Graduate Degree?

At this time last year I started to
feel a bit overwhelmed. I realized I was graduating from the place I had called
“home” for the past four years (however much I may have loved or
hated it at the time), and that I would soon be pushed out of the bubble that
UCSD had created for me (and my fellow classmates) and forced into the
“real” world if I didn’t find a degree to pursue. Knowing that it was
unlikely I could find a job in this economic climate (even with two degrees
from a research one university) was frightening, but the realization that it
would be nearly impossible to get a job in the field I am truly passionate
about was heartbreaking.

 

And so I embarked on a research
mission (if there is one thing I learned at UCSD, it is how to research) to
find a graduate program that would help me grow as a professional, become
better prepared for a “real” job, and embrace my love for learning
through academic discussion. I researched programs in Russian and Soviet
Studies and Law, and finally I stumbled upon a field no one had mentioned to me
before- Sports Management. 

 

How was this possible? A graduate
degree existed in the field I wanted to study, and no one had thought to bring
it up to me. No counselor, no academic advisor, no friend, no one. But, finally
there was hope, a way to learn about sport in the classroom, in a program that
could help prepare me for a job in the industry, it seemed too good to be
true. 

 

It was, and is, true. And in some ways it continues to be
too good to be true, in part because there is little information out there
about this relatively new field of study. While there are numerous programs at
the undergrad and graduate (both Masters and Ph. D programs exist) there isn’t
much to help potential students differentiate between them. Yes, access to
course listings are available, and a list of every program is available, but
those don’t provide students with the answers to the questions that need to be
asked: what am I going to learn? What type of learning environment will I be
in? What should I really glean from these classes? And the question on
everyone’s mind- will this really help me get a job in the sports industry?
Even if answers to these questions are provided, this is usually done by the
schools- making it difficult to get an objective opinion.

 

As someone who is six months through an eighteen-month
program I feel that I might best be able to provide a look in the life of a
sports management graduate student. A look at what we do on a weekly basis. And
perhaps, more importantly, provide some insight to the answers of the
aforementioned questions. At the end of the day, if I can help one potential
student decide this is, or isn’t, the field of study they want to pursue (even
if they simply stumble across this blog and the field comes into their radar)
it will be a success, because I know I (as well as my fellow classmates) would
have loved to know what we were getting ourselves into before we embarked on
this eighteen-month journey.

 

Look for regular updates regarding the life of a sports
management student. 

So Far… So Bad…

It probably seems obvious, but I doubt many Halos fans are too happy about the 2-5 start the team has had. And why should they be? 

The Angels, perhaps more accurately Mike Scoscia, have proven that they can do A LOT with very little in seasons past. However, they have never been asked to do so much, with so little. 
This isn’t to say that the Angels don’t have talent, because they undoubtedly do, but rather that the talent is, perhaps, in the wrong places. Moreover, the talent is unfinished, unpolished, talent that doesn’t seem to work as cohesively as it could. 
Players like Aybar, Kendrick, Wood, Mathis, and Morales are the future of the club, future of the league, but that future is yet to be realized. Without enough time at the Major League level they cannot be asked to carry the club for the entirety of the season, and these first 7 games have made that clear. 
While the competition between players like Mathis and Napoli makes the game intriguing, and is certainly a talking point, the fact is that neither stands out as the must have guy at the catching position. While Napoli offers the advantage of a power bat, something the Angels need and have needed for seasons, Mathis is clearly the more agile of the two behind the plate, and has the ability to hit for doubles- a necessary skill for players on a small ball team. 
More importantly, however, as the Angels have cleaned house over the past few seasons there are few “fan favorites” left to make the, so far, dismal season any better. Shields remains the only player from the 2002 World Series Championship team. While it was inevitable that the players from that season would leave, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept for many fans- especially when favorites are replaced by former Yankee enemies in guys like Matsui. 
The season is still young, and there is still Spring optimism, so here is to hoping that the Angels can turn things around!