Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taking a Look at Tiger and the Great 8

Over the past several months, while All-Pro Imagery sat dormant, waiting for me to update, provide an opinion, make an argument or whine about something, a ton has gone on in the sports world. With our new business, API Sports Management& Marketing, starting to grow and events and clients mounting on an almost daily basis, I was always too busy, too tired – or too busy AND too tired – to write. But, thanks to a writer friend of mine, I’ve learned that I need to write to be happy.

Writing is therapeutic for me and something that I’ve been trained to do, so it comes easily and naturally. It’s how I express myself best, which is both a blessing and a curse – ask anyone who has received one of my long emails. So, as I get busier and life becomes even more stressful, I’m going to do my best to keep writing. I think it will have a calming and uplifting effect. Please check back often as I hope to blog multiple times per week. If I don’t, remind me that I need to!

Now, with all that has gone on recently, I’d like to say this about that:

Tiger Woods
Sports fans and sports reporters need to wake up. Tiger is not in the minority when it comes to pro athletes and entertainers. He fits right in. And to be honest, I ‘m not sure he’s in the minority among the American public. Maybe, but I don’t think any of us are perfect enough to continually judge others for their mistakes. And if he is in the overall minority, it sure ain’t the minority by much.

When the reports of Tiger’s accident first surfaced, the tweets and blogs hummed across cyberspace accusing him of being drunk. It was at that point that I tweeted for people not to judge until the facts were released. My point, and I would like to see a show of hands: How many of us have never had a few drinks and gotten behind the wheel? How many of us know people who have had a few drinks and gotten behind the wheel? So, why is it okay to throw those accusations around about ANYBODY? Oh, because he’s a role model to millions (or more)? Aren’t you and I a role model for the children and loved ones in our lives? We’re all human – yes, including those who report the news. As a journalism graduate and former reporter and writer I’ve seen that side of life first-hand, too.

The days of finding that one superstar athlete who is the “perfect human being” are long gone. I have news for you, with the possible exception of Tim Tebow, none of them are. And I’m sure Tebow isn’t either. Ask his mom, dad, girlfriend or coach. That’s what makes us all unique and makes life interesting. We aren’t robots programmed to do the “right” thing all the time.

Collegiate and professional athletes have an amazing talent that thrills and disappoints, exhilarates and frustrates. They are entertainers of the highest level. That’s God’s gift to us and His gift to them. That’s why they are and should be appreciated. Yes, our kids look up to them, but our kids also look up to singers, movie stars and other celebrities. How’s that going for them from the role model perspective? They also look up to mom and dad, who – at least in my world and from my personal experiences and observations – screw up regularly.

The difference is that when most of us screw up, we owe an explanation to a small group of people. For some reason athletes of Tiger’s magnitude owe an explanation to millions – or, in his case – even billions. And damn it, if he doesn’t give us that explanation while standing on his front porch within hours of the incident, he’s hiding something and is a bad person.

Tiger’s “transgressions” have no bearing on my life whatsoever. His decisions and actions have only been felt by his family. I am no better, nor am I any worse off for what has transpired in his world during the past week. He lives in a gated community for a reason. He has done more than enough explaining. Now he has to face his toughest audience of all – the ones he loves. That should be enough.

And, as far as his foundation and his work with kids, this will all turn into a valuable story and lesson that he can pass along to young people everywhere – once he’s gotten his personal and family life in order. And that doesn’t have to happen in a few short hours – or even in a few days or weeks – in front of television cameras and microphones.

I don’t know Tiger Woods personally, but from what I’ve seen and heard while pursuing my line of work, he seems like a pretty good guy. I prefer to judge the entire body of work, not the latest submission. In my personal experiences since starting API two years ago, I have heard about how some people have put me down and said things about me that were simply not true. It happened last summer, and it’s happened again recently. But probably the most valuable PR/business lesson that I learned from working nearly 10 years with Cal Ripken, Jr., was this: Always try to do the right thing and take the high road.

I know, it sounds like a trite oversimplification, but if you are transparent in your dealings with other people, do what you do to the best of the ability and trust in your experience and expertise, what others say or think shouldn’t matter. The defensive person most times is the guilty person. If you are above board and do your best, your reputation will precede you and others will trip at some point and expose themselves. I have to thank my partner for also beating that philosophy into my head on a daily basis.

So, I’m just not ready to say that Tiger is a bad person. He’s a human being, like the rest of us, who made a mistake. I’m sure it’s not his first, and it won’t be his last. What thrills me is that he is one of the greatest professional athletes of all-time, who just happens to be in his prime as I am sprinting past mine. And I still have a lot of years left to enjoy his magic on the golf course.

Alex Ovechkin
Okay, so I grew up in the D.C. area and have been a Capitals fan since Day 1. I’m stating that bias up front.

But, as someone who also has played and coached hockey since I was five years old, I want to state this fact, which I don’t even consider open for argument: If you had to choose one player in the world to start a professional hockey franchise with, it would be Ovechkin. I say that with all due respect to Crosby, Malkin, Chara, Tavares and the rest. There is no one who plays with the combination of speed, skill, desire and physicality that he brings to the ice. In fact, he may stand alone in NHL annals when it comes to possessing that complete package (That is open for debate!).

In recent days Ovechkin has alternately been painted by many fans and media personnel as a bad guy, a dirty player, reckless and/or careless. I’m going to fall back on the Tiger argument here: Do you know any 24-year-olds who are a bit reckless and careless? Who think that maybe they are invincible? Who drive their cars too fast or don’t wear their seat belts or have a few too many beers before driving? How did you behave at age 24? How do you behave now?

I have the good fortune of seeing Ovechkin on an almost daily basis and observing how hard he practices, how he is appreciated by his teammates, how much he cares about being the best, how he gives his best effort every single night, how excited he gets when other players score and how much he hates to lose. I also get the insider’s point of view at times since one of my former bosses, a former intern of mine and a friend whose son I coach in baseball and hockey all work for the Caps.

While I know that many of you in Philly, Pittsburgh, New York, Buffalo and now Carolina won’t agree with me, Ovechkin is not a dirty player and he’s certainly not a bad guy. He happens to play the game at a speed that, to be frank, is not normal by even NHL standards. He’s all-out, all the time, and at 225-plus lbs., when you are moving that fast, your ability to stop or turn on a dime and to swerve at the last second to avoid a potentially damaging hit is extremely difficult.

All year long we’ve heard about how Tom Brady is being over-protected and receiving the royal treatment. Football fans have openly wondered how a large, athletic person moving at full speed and ready to engage another player can stop his momentum on the spot and not follow through on a hit. Ovechkin, while not 250 or 350 lbs., is still quite a load. And he’s on skates. On top of that – and I’m just guessing here – I think he’s moving a little faster than Albert Haynesworth. Does anyone really think that Ovechkin would want to subject his knee to the type of impact and trauma it was exposed to in his most recent hit on Carolina’s Tim Gleason? C’mon man!

And for those who are claiming that this is his third incident since last season’s playoffs, let’s be real. I happen to be a Sergei Gonchar fan from his days with the Caps, but he has been known to run from contact and turn the puck over when pressured. Penguins fans should remember first-hand how he gave their team the puck and a playoff series win against Washington with an overtime turnover years ago. Gonchar caused that injury by trying to basically run and hide from Ovechkin, who apparently tortured him in Russia during the lockout year. Similarly, Gleason saw the freight train coming and made a quick, athletic move at the last second. Don’t get me wrong, I would have done the same (not as athletically, of course), so it’s not Gleason’s fault. But I’m just not convinced that Ovechkin, at that moment, could have done much to avoid the contact.

Don’t get me wrong, the officials had no choice but to penalize Ovechkin, and by rule, the league really had no choice but to suspend him. I’m not debating that, but he’s simply not a dirty player. He doesn’t use his stick to restrain people or carve guys up. He doesn’t fight. He’s never jumped a defenseless, unsuspecting opponent or sucker-punched a player engaged with another opponent like Sydney Crosby has. And I definitely don’t consider Crosby a dirty player.

Hockey is a contact sport. Fans and sports reporters everywhere complain on a regular basis about professional athletes. They get paid too much and don’t care. They don’t work hard every night. They don’t talk to the media. They have no personality. They don’t promote the game. They don’t love to play.

Wake up everyone. We have a guy who does all of that on a daily basis. Ovechkin gives 100 percent all the time, loves to play, celebrates for his teammates as much or more than for himself, wants to win badly, strives to the be best in the game, pokes fun at himself in commercials and in the media and promotes the sport.

He drove a Zamboni down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and cruised D.C. on a Segway with several teammates for the love of God. Maybe he’s a 24-year-old who thinks he’s invincible. If that’s his greatest flaw, then perhaps we are all guilty – or have been – at some level. No matter how you slice it, his style of play and personality are good for the game and good for professional sports. We need more Alex Ovechkins, not fewer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

McNabb Must Produce Now for His Own Good

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing
Brett Favre wanted to play and forced Green Bay's hand. The time had come. When everything went down between Favre and the Packers it wasn't clear as to whether either side really handled the situation correctly, but the end result suited everyone.

Favre got his wish. He's playing and has resurrected the Jets. Aaron Rodgers, while not yet Brett Favre, clearly was ready to play at the NFL level. The best part of the outcome was that everything played out prior to the season, giving both players the opportunity to have successful years.

Two weeks ago when Donovan McNabb made his oft-replayed annual foot-in-the-mouth comment -- this time a befuddling admission that he didn't know NFL games could end in a tie -- I had a feeling in my gut that he just wanted out of Philadelphia. I mean we all know that McNabb is good for at least one head-shaker of a comment every season. But the man who was booed simply for being a No. 1 draft pick, after so many years in the City of Brotherly Hate, had to know that his comment was going to raise the ire of Philadelphia's fantatical following.

More glaring, however, was that the admission just didn't add up. McNabb openly questioned what would happen in the playoffs if a game ended in a tie just a few short years after his team faced an opponent who had won a playoff game the previous week in double OT. I'm just guessing that at some point McNabb watched that game -- either as it unfolded or in the film room during his weekly preparation. Elite athletes have unbelievable memories when it comes to their sport; they just don't forget details like that.

It is my opinion that McNabb actually is smarter than he is made out to be -- that he simply had enough and was throwing in the towel on the season and his career in Philadelphia. He knew how the fans would react and that his teammates most likely were tired of his act. Famours for placing the blame on others to begin with, McNabb had his finger on the pulse of the locker room and knew that he had lost all control of the team. If he played his cards right after those comments it would take one more subpar outing before he would be benched. It would be easier to watch from the sidelines than get booed the rest of the season, and his body could rest up for a potentially huge free-agent contract in Chicago, Detroit or Minnesota next season.

To go out on the field and play when it had become clear that his teammates no longer wanted to go to war for him and knowing that the support of the fans had been waning for weeks could be career suicide -- especially with that big potential free agent deal looming. That's right, one unbelievable comment and one more lousy performance -- against a top-rated defense away from the hostile home crowd -- and the rest of the season could be observed from the safety of the sidelines. Actually, it took only one half of a game for the load to be lifted from McNabb's shoulders. Or did it?

Many people have debated whether Andy Reid handled McNabb's benching the right way -- whether he treated the man who had enabled him to become the league's longest-tenured coach and to enjoy more success at the Eagles' helm than any other Philly coach in history properly. I would argue that McNabb had let his coach, the man who has stood behind him despite injuries, a consistent decline in play and yearly distractions, down in a big way. Reid's decision was a human reaction by someone who felt betrayed. He had been let down by someone who he had gone to bat for time and again, and he reacted as any of us might. How can you blame him?

After the game a stoic McNabb told the media that he didn't know if he would start the next game. There was no emotion one way or the other. No anger. No disgust. No sign of hurt. Of course he says that he wants to be the starter and that he deserves to be the starter -- at least publicly. But does he really mean it? He certainly doesn't act like someone who wants to play. Coaches always say that they want a player to react with anger and emotion when they are benched. If they don't respond that way, chances are that the fire inside that is necessary to be successful has been extinguished.

After the unceremonious benching in Baltimore, McNabb had to think that he was going to get his wish and watch the rest of the season while holding a clipboard safely on the sidelines. Well, Reid has called his bluff by announcing that McNabb will indeed start this week. Perhaps this is a challenge to McNabb to see if he really does want to play. Certainly if he comes out and is terrible again and shows little emotion on or off the field, there will be little doubt that he has given up on the season and his time in Philly. Maybe Reid is thinking that if McNabb truly is looking for a way out of town next year that he will have to come out and attempt to lead the team the best way he knows how. After all, if he doesn't, won't his market value take a hit, and isn't that quite possibly what motivates him at this point?

It seems like all of this would be easier if people just treated each other with respect and confronted issues in person. Unfortunately, we live in a technology-driven world in which it is easier to throw a tantrum via an email, write a nasty blog or send a sarcastic text than to walk into someone's office and have a man-to-man conversation.

In Favre's case, that situation almost got ugly for both sides as the Packers put an unbelievable amount of pressure on their young quarterback and Favre ran the risk of ruining his reputation in Green Bay, looking like a manipulator and playing out his career for a bad team. In the end everything worked out for both sides, and Favre now looks like a genius.

The Eagles are in an unusual sitation as their star quarterback and the most successful coach in team history seem to be playing mind games with one another. It seems as though Reid's latest maneuver puts McNabb in a Catch-22. On the other hand, by not having confronted his situation head-on, McNabb finds himself in a position where he must produce -- not only for his team's future, but for his own as well.

Another lackluster performance followed by an emotionless press conference is going to make people around the league wonder if he has lost some of his skill and his will to play the game. That is not good for business -- on or off the field.

Reid, on the other hand, has nothing to lose. If McNabb plays great and the team wins, he handled the situation perfectly. If McNabb continues his lackluster play, no one can say that the coach didn't give the superstar who had produced so much for him a fair shake.

The sad thing is that by the time everyone is done playing mind games a season might be lost. This situation easily could have been solved weeks ago with a simple face-to-face conversation -- a great lesson from which all of us can learn.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stop Playing Not to Lose

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

Virtually every coach I ever played for as a kid talked about playing to win instead of "playing not to lose." College and professional coaches give it lip service every day. So why, why, why do so few college and professional coaches actually practice what they preach?

Maybe it's the money involved and maybe it's the pressure. Or maybe the money and pressure are so intertwined as to be perceived as one in the same. Whater the reason, more games are lost playing "not to lose" than are lost by "playing to win," and many times the coaching staff is the culprit.

The main offenders seem to be college and professional football coaches - apparently the inventers of the universally maligned (at least among football fans) prevent defense that so many have said actually prevents winning. The latest glaring example occurred yesterday in Texas Tech's thrilling, collosal upset of top-ranked Texas, which fell after finally pulling in front by one with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. At that point Texas Tech had blown a 16-point third-quarter lead by sitting back and trying not to surrender the big play.

A logical person might think that Texas would have learned from its opponent's mistake, but upon further review, you couldn't expect a coach to learn something that hundreds of other college and pro coaches have failed to discover through the years. Instead, the Longhorns tried to avoid giving up the big play as well, allowing the Red Raiders to advance all the way to the end zone for the victory in just six plays and 1:38.

Prior to that fateful drive, Texas had held Texas Tech to just three points during the game's previous 20 minutes as opposed to the 29 the Longhors surrendered in the game's opening 37 minutes. Then, all of the sudden, the Red Raiders caught lightning in a bottle and sprinted all the way down the field field for the winning score? No. Apparently Texas Tech played "not to lose" for 20 minutes and found themselves down by a point with 1:39 left. Then Texas decided to play "not to lose" and found itself on the short end of an upset.

This is not an isolated situation. Every week in the NFL there are four or five games in which a team's defense is dominant for three quarters and then the coaches decide to call off the dogs with a 10-point or two-touchdown lead in the final stanza. They are trying to avoid giving up the big play, instead content to allow huge chunks of yards over the middle of the field and lightning-quick 80-yard scoring drives. Inevitably these teams end up losing or watching anxiously as their opponents line up for a potential game-tying field goal or drive deep into the red zone.

Wouldn't it be better to maintain your aggressive game plan and give up an 80-yard bomb that leaves enough time on the clock for you to cruise down the field against your opponent's prevent defense than to die a slower, excruciating death as the other team marches down the field to victory?

If I'm coaching a team that has been dominant for three quarters of a game and I continue with that plan and somehow get beaten in the end, I can stand and face the music knowing that I gave my team the best chance to win - that I didn't hand my opponent the opportunity to steal an undeserved victory. If the team beats me outright, the victory is earned, but if my counterparts come back because I left the door open and gave them hope, to me that's harder to justify.

Coaches are always going to address the media as a computer technician might talk to you or me about a technological malfunction that we have no hope of understanding. They'll discuss playing the percentages and the fact that the other team is a group of professionals that doesn't quit and that none of the reporters ever played the game at that level. Of course, there's no way that these non-athletes would understand.

Having never played or coached the game, I don't pretend to have any concept of the planning and scheming that goes into creating a pro or college football team's game plan. But I have been around sports long enough as an athlete, coach and member of college and professional organizations to understand the human element that is involved.

If my coach develops an attacking, aggressive game plan and we are dominant for three quarters of the game before suddenly shifting our philosophy 180 degrees, two things are going to happen to me as a player. First, I'm going to analyze the conservative nature of the coach's decsion and be so afraid to make a costly mistake that my ability to play with anywhere near the level of tenacity and aggression necessary to make even the most basic of plays will be diminished substantially. And second, if the other team does make the game close, it's going to be very hard for me to return to the same level - emotionally and physically - at which I played before the coach backed off.

Coaches often refer to teams or players who don't have that "killer instinct" to jump on opponents when they are down and squash their hopes of even making the game close. In fact, personnel decisions often are made with character traits such as those in mind. It seems to me, however, that these coaches might want to look in the mirror and analyze the message they send on a weekly basis before judging their players in that manner.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't Do It, Bud!

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

Newsflash ... April and October baseball has been played in terrible weather for years. That is not news to anybody, and while I can't speak from experience I'm just guessing that it wasn't any better back in the days that there were no domes or teams in Florida, Arizona or California.

That begs the following question: Why does Major League Baseball always deflect the issues instad of adressing them?

The unsual 2008 World Series brought a couple major issues to light and gave us yet another glimpse at an issue that MLB always seems to struggle with - how to handle difficult situations without putting its proverbial foot in its mouth.

The first issue that came to light that cannot be fixed is that the major league schedule is just too long. Cutting even eight games off the schedule would increase the chances that the postseason could be completed under at least reasonable weather conditions substantially. However, if you do simple math and consider that one team losing 25,000 fans per game at an average of $20 a ticket (don't we wish!) over an eight-game span would equate to about $4 million per team. Of course, not every team would lose eight dates, but the point is made. Yet, on the other hand, don't forget that the average ticket costs more than $20 and that most teams average more than 25,000 a night. So, with escalating salaries and debt to service from billion-dollar stadium deals, cutting the length of the season is not a viable option.

The bigger issue that surfaced as a result of the first suspended game in World Series history was that in more than 100 years MLB had never thought about the possibility that a postseason game could be impacted by weather after it had become official. Again, horrible weather in October is not a new phenomenon - global warming aside. I spent two miserable nights in 1979 sitting in rain, snow and sleet as the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to play Game 1 of that year's Series. The first night it was 40 degrees with rain and sleet, and we waited for several hours before the game was postoned. The following morning we woke up to a dusting of snow and spent nearly four hours that night sitting in conditions as frigid as any January football game I've ever attended.

With that in mind, how is it possible that in more than a century no one had ever considered that a World Series might end because of Mother Nature? That just defies logic. At the end of the day, Bud Selig and MLB did the right thing. No postseason game should ever end with fewer than nine innings having been played, and I'm sure that such a rule already has been created to take effect in 2009. The issue, as usual, was that apparently either Selig made this decision in advance without informing any of the participants or media covering the World Series or lied and made a decision as it became obvious that Game 5 was going to be cut short, choosing to tell the world that he and team officials had agreed to that stipulation during an earlier contest.

No matter, the decision was the right one; it just would have been a shame for one of the managers to change his strategy without knowing the potential impact of such a move. What if Charlie Manuel had brought in closer Brad Lidge during the top of the sixth as the inevitable postponement became imminent? Upon final analysis, Wednesday's "mini-game" was as exciting as anything the sport has seen in recent memory, so everything turned out for the best.

That leads us to the larger issue, which has presented itself in the days following the Game 5 debacle: In response to the PR nightmare that has unfolded, will MLB make yet another ill-advised, knee-jerk, short-sighted decision because its lack planning and organizational skills almost led to an incredibly embarrassing situation?

I hope that others who make a living in baseball or covering baseball and who have a much broader audience than I will take a stand here and speak to the absurdity to the notion of moving the Fall Classic to a neutral, warm-weather or domed site.

Sure, in the first year or two or three the host cities are going to go all out to ensure that the event is sold out and lives up to the standards that have been set by events such as the Super Bowl and BCS Championship Game. And as long as teams with rabid fanbases such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or even the Mets are involved in the Series, it is certain to bring with it an influx of out-of-towners. However, realistically, what happens if we get an Astros-White Sox Fall Classic? Or another Rays-Phllies showdown?

Will seven games sell out under those circumstances? Maybe in the first couple of years, but how about five years down the road? Is someone who lives 3,000 miles away going to pay an outrageous amount of money for a ticket and go through the hassle of booking a flight, a hotel room and a rental car for a Game 7 that might not even happen? Will the average fan even consider spending the money it would cost to travel to such an event? Will ANYONE be willing to take a full week off of work to attend the entire series? I'd have to think that the answer to these scenarios, for the most part, is a resounding, "NO!"

So, by moving the World Series to a neutral site, no only would MLB be taking a team's one shining moment away from the loyal fans who have made the sport a financial success for so many years, but also it would be running the risk of a potentially horrific PR situation in which the sport's ultimate showdown might be played in front of a half-full, no I'd prefer to say half-empty, stadium.

Could you imagine if the Cubs finally came through and won their first title in more than 100 years and there were only a few thousand diehards there to witness it in person? That alone should be enough to convince Mr. Selig to end this debate quickly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Go With Garza!

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

Usually I blog about sports PR, marketing, image-building or other similar topics here, but I can't pass up an opportunity to blog about baseball under these unusual circumstances. I did write a book about the aport, afterall, so I should be allowed to write about it here every now and then - especially during the World Series. So, here goes...

Tonight's game between the Rays and Phillies is a three-inning game. Make no mistake. This is not a game entering the bottom of the sixth; it might as well be a 0-0 tie - 3-1/2 innings to see whether the Phillies can win their city's first professional sports title in 25 years or the Rays extend their fairytale season.

With that said, there is no way in the world that either team should begin the game with a reliever on the mound. Well, I'll take that back. The Phillies might want to consider it since they have a two-game edge and really can have all of their guns loaded for games six and seven if they save their starters tonight. And if the relievers come through, they'll really have their guns loaded going into spring training as the champions of the world.

Tampa, on the other hand, has got to approach this as a must-win mini-game. There's no other way to view it. Professional athletes, especially baseball players, are creatures of habit. Over the marathon 162-game schedule they become extremely comfortable in their roles - especially the pitchers - and learn exactly what they need to do to prepare themselves to handle their role effectively.

Relief pitchers sit and wait their turn all game and then are on call from the fifth inning on, ready to jump up and get themselves warm in a matter of minutes so that they can go put out a fire. They don't know for sure until the game unfolds whether they will be used. But, based on the ebb and flow of a given contest, depending on their assigned role, most of them can figure out by the fourth or fifth inning if they will be called into action at some point. From that moment on they begin their mental preparation, followed by the physical act of getting their arms and their bodies ready to peform - maybe for only one pitch or maybe for as long as two or three innings.

For relief pitchers a routine is established to which the mind and body become accustomed. It's when managers remove these players from their comfort zones and place them into unfamiliar circumstances that they tend to fail. If you don't believe me, check and see how many of Mariano Rivera's career blown saves have come when he has been asked to record four or more outs instead of the usual three.

Starters, on the other hand, are used to waiting around all day, studying the opposing lineup, long-tossing and running in the afternoon and then going through a 25-minute routine before the opening pitch. Although tonight's game is only going to last three or 3-1/2 innings, the pregame routine is more in line with what is normal for a starting pitcher. A starter would take the mound fully prepared and mentally focused, while a reliever might be just enough out of sorts to have trouble finding the strike zone and ultimately give away the game.

My choice would be Matt Garza, the MVP of the ALCS. Garza has been filthy throughout the postseason and has not pitched since Saturday. A couple of innings tonight would be like a side session for him. He'd throw that in the bullpen, anyway. I don't think there are many guys who'd be jumping to the front of the line to hit off of his 95 mph fastball and wicked slider tonight in frigid, wet and windy conditions.

Even if Garza throws one inning and gives way to a reliever, at least all parties are going to be placed in situations that they are used to, which in my mind gives them a better chance to succeed. Heck, Garza could throw two easy innings and still pitch either Game 6 or Game 7 for the Rays.

Joe Maddon is a smart guy. I'm sure he has a feel for what his players can and cannot handle. He says he's going with Balfour, so I'll just assume that he knows something I don't. I just go back to the 1986 World Series when John McNamara left some bullets in the Red Sox gun, hoping his team would get to a Game 7. Right now, if there's no Game 7, there's no shot at a world champioship for the Rays. That's why they should approach the next two-plus games as if they are Game 7s and let the chips fall where they may if they do indeed get that far.

If I'm managing - and ther are 5,000 reasons why I'm not - Matt Garza, who already won a Game 7 this year, is on the hill. In my mind that would give me the best opportunity to force a couple more "Game 7s" and give Garza more than one opportunity to impact the remainder of the series.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One More Thing on the Cowboys and I'm Done (PROMISE!)

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

Ok. I have to be more creative. I just realized that my last three blogs directly related to the Cowboys - although one of them was a positive endorsement of Troy Aikman's commentating abilities.

Just a couple more thoughts first, however, as Adam "Pacman" Jones goes off to start alcohol rehab today. I sincerely hope that he and others who suffer from similar problems can find the strength and support to overcome their afflictions and become productive members of society. Not just productive athletes, but productive citizens. And I hope that some of these guys start to realize in a hurry how fortunate they are to be where they are earning millions or at a minimum hundreds of thousands of dollars to play a game. And I hope that they realize it can end in a fraction of a second and that they need to surround themselves with the right people who can help them prepare for when that end comes - whether it's in five minutes or in five years.

That's why we started API Management & Marketing ( to provide the brand and image management services these athletes need to be able to capitalize on what they have now and live comfortably as contributing members of society when their careers are finished. We are not sports agents, but we do fill in the gaps for what the agents can't provide and supplement what they do. Our services actually make the agent's job easier. Think about it: if the athlete has a stellar image, performs well on the field, understands PR, gives back to the community and is generally a good person, don't you think he or she is more attractive to corporations looking for people to pitch their goods and services? Absolutely.

So, in the wake of all this, Jerry Jones goes out and signs Roy Williams, a talented player who hasn't accomplished anywhere near what he was expected to accomplish - and a player who has had some issues of his own in Detroit - to a $20 million dollar contract. Jones' statement: "Terrell (Owens) was ecstatic about the signing." Now Jones is making business decisions based on what is going to make a mercurial, unreliable, tempramental superstar happy?

Not a formula for success. It may appease the fans for now, but is just going to make them angrier when the ultimate failure occurs in January.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jerry's Kids

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Why doesn't Jerry Jones get it?

Two years ago T.O. ripped apart the Dallas Cowboys with his selfishness, mood swings, public outbursts and ultimately his overdose on "vitamins." So the following year what does Sir Jerry do but visit Chico's Bail Bonds and rescue troublemaker Tank Johnson from himself. Disliked everywhere but Dallas, Jones was a hero in Chicago for removing yet another threat to the local community there. The end result: another early playoff exit, a teary-eyed T.O. defending his Q.B. and more questions about the team's character.

The Cowboys had character issues? No way. Who knew? Once known as America's team, the Cowboys became South America's team in the wake of several drug-related incidents during the 90s. These days they are just plain unsavory.

If all that turmoil weren't enough, Jones studied the police blotter this past off-season and decided to take yet another chance on a guy who didn't deserve another second (or tenth) chance. Adam "Pacman" Jones, who had become commissioner Roger Goodell's poster child for the NFL's new more stringent disciplinary policies and who seemingly had not gone a week without showing up in a police report, was welcomed by Jerry Jones to Dallas with open arms and and open checkbook.

Jerry Jones' secondary had been heavily criticized for several years, so this move made all the sense in the world. A superb athlete with no understanding of what it takes to be a productive citizen in one of the most lenient societies in the world would be a perfect fit playing for Jones' dysfunctional family. I guess Jerry Jones figured that if nothing else "Pacman" had to be in shape. After all, he'd been running from the law non-stop for about three years.

"Pacman" Jones said all the right things. He wanted a fresh start and was grateful for the opportunity. He wouldn't mess up again. He'd learned to appreciate what he had been given and was going to make the most of this second (tenth?) opportunity. Out with "Pacman" and in with Adam Jones. A new beginning was all he wanted.

And he got it, along with a pardon from Goodell, who no doubt was convinced to "do the right thing" when Deion Sanders, football's Jesse Jackson, showed up at Cowboys training camp to mentor the new and improved Adam Jones. Neion Deion proclaimed Adam a "good kid" and a "changed man." He figured that out during just one afternoon fishing with him. Who needs $200 an hour shrinks? Clearly that was all Goodell needed to finalize his decision.

So, fast forward to Week 6 of the NFL season. After a 3-0 start and a procolmation from the media that they were the team to beat in the NFC, the Cowboys had dropped two of their last three games and seemed to be on the verge of imploding. T.O. pouted publicly and questioned the play calling and his quarterback's decision-making after a loss to the Redskins. This past Sunday, after a ridiculous loss to the same Cardinal team that allowed Brett Favre to throw six touchdown pasess, Owens flat-out refused to talk to the media and then decided to insult a reporter after being questioned.

That came on the heels of a return appearance by "Pacman," who reportedly slugged it out in a hotel bathroom with a body guard who had been hired as part a security team that was assembled strictly to keep Jones from getting into altercations with others. Tank Johnson was interviewed and gave a ringing endorsement of his teammate by saying that the incident didn't involve the team and didn't impact the team or the league. So, in the World According to Tank, Jones should be allowed to continue playing. Those comments were made in the middle of the week. you think that the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the incident might have played at least a tiny part in your team's loss on Sunday? Well, I guess both Deion and Tank, two fellas with impeccable reputations, can't both be wrong about "Pacman," er, Adam.

Those who have played for the Cowboys during the Jerry Jones regime speak fondly of the man. Michael Irvin, another credible source, credits Jones for his turnaround. Troy Aikman says that Jerry Jones was a father figure to him. Other former players frequent the teams practice facilities and offices, because Jerry Jones encourages them to come back and treats them like kings when they do.

Could it be that Jerry Jones is just too nice of a guy to turn his back on these guys? That he just wants to help these young men get their lives on track? That his pursuit of these "rebels" has nothing to do with winning football games? Or is he so obsessed with winning that he just doesn't care what type of person takes the field representing his organization?

The problem is that championship teams traditionally are filled with people of character who possess the work ethic, commitment to team values and respect for their livelihood that is necessary to stay in peak mental and physical condition and help them overcome the obstacles and setbacks that are part of every season. Talent alone rarely wins championships, but talented players who have little regard for anyone but themselves can cause an implosion.

Dallas, we have a problem - again. The Cowboys will implode in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ... or has it already happened? There is some poetic justice here. However you slice him or whatever you want to call him - whether it's "Pacman" or "Adam" - the younger Jones can't cover an NFL receiver consistently right now. So, this may turn out to be a test of whether the elder Jones really is a nice guy who wants to help these troubled young men succeed or if it really is all about the almighty "W."

The disturbing part of all this is that next year the Cowboys will move into a billion-dollar stadium that certainly will celebrate what the franchise has accomplished under Jerry Jones. That move will be accompanied by celebrations of the franchise and the success it has enjoyed with Jerry Jones at the helm. And while fans may be disgusted by the current state of affairs in Dallas and while this year's edition of America's team is fast becoming a public relations disaster, all of those "diehard" Cowboys fans scattered around the country who have never set foot in Dallas will gladly forgive and forget if the Lombardi Trophy is returned to the "Big D" - even if they'll never actually get there to see it.

The rest of the American public and the corporate community won't forget, however, and the possibility that these players will become accepted and productive members of the community after their playing days are done is remote, to say the last. Jerry Jones might think he's doing these guys a favor, but in reality he's nothing more than an enabler who may in fact be crippling them for life.

It's no wonder so many retired NFL players are broke within five years of playing their last game. They spend most of their adult lives in a fantasy world in which no one is held accountable and their quality of life is determined by how well they play a game. It's so important for these players to surround themselves with quality people who will give them sound personal, business and financial advice. Unfortunately, many of them don't realize that until it's too late.