Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saving Major League Baseball

The question of whether Barry Bonds did steroids did steroids has long since left the park, so to speak. Major League Baseball's greatest homerun hitter will no doubt be linked with steroids along with other prolific baseball players of the era. Not only is Bonds' baseball reputation suffered a black eye, but his legal reputation is now stained with a guilty conviction of obstruction of justice. But Bond's story is just a small part of the larger picture that is the steroids era of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Tarnished eras of Major League Baseball, and all major sports for that matter, are nothing new. Between the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 and Pete Rose's banishment from the game for his role in bets made on a game he coached, America's love of the game is almost as cyclical as the economy. After the Black Sox Scandal, which involved betting, baseball ushered in it's long “Golden Era”. The time between 1920s a nd 1960s saw the likes of Babe Ruth, Ted Willaims, and Willie Mays make America fall in love with the boys of summer. Between the increasing popularity of both basketball and football, the MLB's marketshare of the professional sports world decreased. When fans saw the greatest hitter in baseball history, Pete Rose, thrown out of baseball for life, baseball suffered further loss of its image as America's pasttime. The image improved when power sluggers entered the game in 90s. In 1998, Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa had the greatest home run race in history, as Mcgwire would eventually win, hitting 70. (Bonds would end up breaking that record with 73.) And Mcqwire would eventually admit to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. So the media fire storm that erupted from the Mitchell report, which listed every player that tested positive for steroids, in 2007.

Four years later, the scrutiny surrounding baseball as somewhat resided, as commissioner Bud Selig and the MLB have taken leaps and bounds to ensure every team tests their players for steroids. In the midst of an ongoing NFL lockout, and an NBA lockout possible after this summer, baseball could be the only sport played in August and September this year. Major league baseball is in the best possible position itself as the fun sport everyone loved growing. What's one step that would make it more popular? Make it more fan friendly. For anyone ever hoping to look for a highlight real of Ian Kinsler on Youtube or a video montage of Pudge Rodriguez's cannon arm, it's near impossible. The MLB has such a strict hold over all visual material and past game's that fans can't have fun with it. One of my attractions to football is that if a player has enough material to make a highlight film, I can find the video somewhere. If I want to watch Adrian Peterson run all over the Chicago Bears, I can. Another way to increase fans is bring down the price of accessing that media. A MLB app for the iPhone can run as much as $15 while a similar app for the NHL is absolutely free. Which do you think encourages fans more? MLB has a prime opportunity to make its stand in the professional sports world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kobe's Reform

Kobe Bryant is without doubt the NBA's most dynamic player. Bryant has won five NBA championships is a 13 time NBA All-Star, and is hoping to add his sixth championship this post season. There is no doubt that Bryant has the credentials to go down in as one of the greatest athletes of all time. The NBA great might also have a spot among the most polarizing players of all time. You love him if you are a Lakers fan, and hate him otherwise. It doesn't help that Bryant has had several brushes with controversy throughout his storied career. In the summer of 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault in Eagle, Colorado by a 19-year-old hotel employee, Katelyn Faber. The charges were ultimately dropped, and a civil lawsuit was filed by Faber and settled out of court. Although Bryant avoided trouble with the law, he lost numerous sponsorships and his public perception plummeted. However, as it is true in most cases, if you win, America will forgive and love you.
Bryant then again ran into some minor controversy when Bryant starred in an ad for Activision's “Black Ops” when the game debuted this past November. And let's not forget the Kobe-Shaq feud after the two led the Lakers to a three-peat. The feud ultimately landed Shaq in Miami and Bryant happy again.
Lately, controversy has found Bryant again, who is known for his strong personality and competitive nature. Bryant was fined $100,000 by David Stern and the NBA for a gay slur used aimed at a referee during a game. Angry after receiving a technical, Bryant can be seen on the bench saying the word “faggot.” (A quick note: how dumb to you have to be to keep a camera on Bryant after receiving a tehcnical when there is a long storied history of out burst by him. Part of the responsibility lies with TNT.) GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) was quickly up in arms, and praised the fine that was handed down by the league. Bryant should be praised from a public relations standpoint for his timely response to his fine, and a phone call he made to the president of GLAAD that included an apology. Whether he was sincere or not (and I doubt his use of the word was actually homophobic), Bryant did the right thing to appease GLAAD. This is a significant departure from his public relations before, which was typically remain quiet, then win a championship to erase his transgressions from the mind of the public This time, he is well in front of the curve.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stars on the brink

As the Dallas Stars are currently fighting for their playoff lives against the Minnesota Wild, they are fighting another battle back in DFW. The team that has the last major sports championship for the Dallas area in 1999, the team is now playing second and third fiddle to America's Team, the Cowboys, the perennially good Mavericks, and the upstart Rangers. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Stars consistently drew sell out crowds game after game with big NHL stars such as Brett Hull, Mike Modano, and Ed Belfour. For a good five-year period, the Stars gave Dallas winning hockey that spurred the boom in North Texas Hockey starting in the early 2000s. The Stars had everything going for them. Between winning, and a hockey-crazed fan base, the Stars were set to be the in the position the Red Wings occupy now. Then came the end. In the 2001 post season, the Stars, who had gone to at least the Western Conference in every year since 1998, were swept by the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs. I watched as an 11-year-old fan Stars choke and lose the series to a Blues squad that was little more than average.
In the offseason the Stars chose to not resign Brett Hull, who took his patented slap shot to Detroit to win the Stanley Cup the next year. Since 2001, the Stars have suffered early playoff exits and missing the playoffs despite having talented teams. Aside from a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2008, the Stars have had relatively little playoff success compared to their first eight years in Dallas. The team now has missed the playoffs two straight seasons and on top of it, Tom Hicks, who also owned the Rangers before he sold them last summer, is looking for a new owner. The Stars are in a financially compromising position. The Stars are not in the financial position to be able to advertise, so what are their options? Public relations push.
Besides the cost of labor, PR is relatively free. And the Stars could use it. It is safe to say that most North Texans don't even realize the Stars are playing for a playoff spot right now. The team needs a big push in order to get the fans in seats. The last game I attended, I was shocked at how empty the American Airlines Center was. In fact, I was able to move from seats at the top all the way down to seats that were easily $150 each. It makes me wonder what exactly the PR people are doing for Stars. They need to make a communications plan and get fans at the game. Of course they might have adjust depending on how the team is playing, but some would be much better than the attempt I am seeing right now. The Stars are one of my favorite sports teams, ever since I was young, and I would give anything to see them win again. Maybe I'm the guy for the job.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Save the Devil

When people think of the Tasmanian Devil, they usually think of the Looney Toons character that spins around and slobbers. But when Tasmanian Devil is mentioned, public relations need to be mentioned along with Australian inhabitants because they are in dire need of it. In one of the more odd stories out there, the Devils have disease decimating their population. Scientist have been tracking the disease for the last 15 years. It produces boils on there face and tongue, which sadly continues to grow until the animal can no longer eat or drink. Originally it was thought that the disease was viral and was passed along when the Devils fought eat other or mates with their teeth. However, scientist recently discovered that the disease actually could be genetic. Prior to the emergence of the disease, the Devils were already in decline due to growing human population and environmental problems.
Another problem for the Tasmanian Devil is the lack of popularity when compared to other Australian wildlife, such as the Kangaroo or Koala. This is why the Devils are in desperate need of good public relations. And as of late, they have started to gain so public recognition as “the Aussie fighter”. So how would one in the World Wildlife Federation or other wildlife preservation groups save the Tasmanian Devil? Well first it would require a communications plan. You want to get Australians involved and it wouldn't be hard to tap into their national pride to do that. Australians, I would assume, would be more than willing to get involved in an attempt to save the animal that has been part of their national identity. The goal of the plan would be, in a nut shell, to save the Tasmanian Devil , so an objective would be to slow their population decline by 10% or raise awareness of their disease by 25%, for example. The public perception of the Devil as the “rat of Australia” needs to be addressed as well to combat negative publicity. A repositioning of the Devil in the minds of Australians would be the easiest way to change this thought. Either way, they need more help now than ever. What worries scientist the most, though, is the fact that the disease might translate to another host that is perfect for it, most disturbingly humans.