Enlightened Conflict


April 17th, 2015

clumsy embarrass

“Are you referring to the fact that you can’t walk across a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over?”

Stephenie Meyer






This morning I cruised thru the sports news to see my undergraduate alma mater, USC, had just won the conference women’s tennis championship beating the ever hated UCLA <fight on!>.



And they broke the trophy.





oops trophy




They dropped the trophy … and it shattered.



This made me think about all those wacky trophy ceremonies at the end of the championship games & events where they ask someone to pick up some huge incredibly unwieldy trophy and why they are not dropped more often.






It happens.



In fact … it reminded me of my “Oops. Clumsy me. Uh oh. That was a $50 million stumble. Do I tell mom?” post: http://brucemctague.com/oops-clumsy-me-uh-oh-that-was-a-50-million-stumble-do-i-tell-mom



And while the USC women’s tennis team is kind of funny … this one is hilarious.



In soccer … Real Madrid won the Spanish Cup but the celebrations went awry when Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy <oops part 1> from the roof of an open topped bus … and then the bus frickin’ ran it over <oops part 2>.



Bus running over trophy:





This one may be even better.



While on a recruiting trip at University of Florida the recruit knocked Florida’s 2006 national championship crystal football from its pedestal.





By the way … the recruit did not go to Florida.
By the way … the Waterford Crystal trophy is worth something like $30,000.



And in 2012 Alabama’s crystal national title trophy was shattered … oops … when the father of an Alabama player accidentally knocked the trophy over when he stumbled on a rug that was under the trophy display.



<oops … bring out the broom and dust pan>



I love this shit.


I wish it would happen more often.



I am sure trophies & awards are of value in some way but in general they seem inordinately exorbitant and useless.


clumsy trip

All I know is that after watching the Stays in Las Vegas commercial maybe it does have some use:

Las Vegas:


college athlete to professional something else

April 6th, 2015

odds never n our favor

“How passionately they explain the numbers and how much they emphasize the deck is stacked against athletes varies between institutions.

It is a message that a lot of coaches don’t want to send.

And it’s a message, frankly, that a lot of athletes don’t want to hear at this stage in their lives.”


Mark Nagel



Lloyd Christmas: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me … ending up together?

Mary Swanson: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…

Lloyd Christmas: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary.

The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?

Mary Swanson: Not good.

Lloyd Christmas: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?

Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.


Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance … YEAH!


Dumb and Dumber


athletes -collage








Let me be clear in using a dumb & dumber quote I am not going to be suggesting college athletes are dumb. If anything I believe people would be surprised at how worldly and smart and hard working 99% of college athletes are.





With the NCAA men’s basketball finals tonight I wanted to take a moment and talk about the link, or the lack thereof, between playing collge sports and playing professionally.



I thought of this when during one of the semi final games I was asked how many players move on to the NBA. I guessed maybe 5%.



I was wrong.


Just using Division 1 it is 1.2%


There are 347 Division I college basketball teams. Each team offers 13 scholarships.


That’s about 4,511 Division I college basketball players this year.




In addition.



265 teams in Division II, 325 teams in Division III and 259 teams in NAIA.


That’s about another 11,000 players,
Using Division 1 alone … only 1.2% of college basketball players will be drafted by a National Basketball Association team.


Less will end up actually playing.






This means less than ½ of 1% of total college basketball players will play in the NBA.







“Professional” doesn’t have to mean the NBA because there are a lot of other options around the world, especially in Europe, Israel, Turkey, etc.


And, to be clear, there are not a lot of Division III student-athletes who think, or know, they are going to play in the NBA. Overseas professional leagues are pretty numerous <even if they don’t pay as well as the NBA> and the idea of spending at least a year playing in and getting to see another part of the world while getting paid is pretty attractive … especially to students focus more on their studies than many Division I athletes – especially those who want to play in the NBA.


athlete 98All the caveats aside … this means 98+% of college athletes never play professionally.



And while we watched Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Michigan State all play an incredibly high level of basketball … 98% of them will not play professionally.






That was a semi stunning thing to write.


You watch Kentucky and Duke and think High School All Americans and it will be a given they play professionally.


Yikes. Not so much.






So maybe the elite of the elite may send 2 … maybe 3 at best to be drafted … in one given year … and then maybe half of those are actually NBA worthy. But this is the best of the best and over a 5 year span the % drops significantly.



Playing professionally, in any sport not just basketball, is … well … a pretty long shot.
In January a guy named Jake New tackled this topic.



College athletes vastly overestimate their chances of playing professional sports.

The problem is so pervasive that Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, devoted significant space to the issue during his most recent state of the association address, saying that “athletes often have incredibly unrealistic perceptions of their professional prospects.”

According to NCAA surveys, more than 60% of Division I college men’s ice hockey players think it’s likely they’ll play professionally, but less than 1 percent ever go on to the National Hockey League.

About 45% of Division I women’s basketball players think they have a chance to play professional basketball, but only 0.9% of players are drafted by a Women’s National Basketball Association team.

<The NCAA said that it is currently procuring data on a player’s chances of joining other professional leagues, such as those in Europe, but the information is not yet available>

Men’s hoops players are the most unrealistic. More than three-quarters of men’s basketball players in Division I say they believe it is at least “somewhat likely” they will play professionally. More than half of Division II players say the same, as do 21 percent of Division III players. Only 1.2 percent of college basketball players will be drafted by an National Basketball Association team.





We <colleges and adult influencers in general> don’t help.



While the NCAA actually does a pretty good job marketing the fact that athletes should have realistic expectations and that ‘the majority of college athletes go on to do something better’ <note: I do like their message and the campaign>.



Colleges kind of derail the message by promoting their successes <by the way … not in percentages but rather by individuals>.



For example … some colleges list the individuals who have attended the university and gone on to fame and professional playing <not noting that these are actually exceptions and not the rule>.



For example … on its recruiting website, UCLA is described as “#1 in Olympic Gold Medals from 1984 to 2008″ and “#1 in professional athletes.” And UCLA is very open in saying that for athletes who do dream of going professional the information can be helpful when choosing a program <note … I used UCLA but I could have used any big time college sports program and maybe not used #1 but some marketing of program success as an example>.




In addition … parents and adults and gobs of books promote “if you work hard enough you can attain it” or even “believing you can do it is the path to actually doing it.”



This means that colleges simply feed into what has already been planted in an athlete’s head. Some guy named Gershon Tenenbaum, a sports psychology professor at Florida State University, calls it the “self-bias phenomenon.”



And adults clearly exacerbate the situation with some relatively absurd levels of adulation with successful athletes.



things to know

I actually believe most young athletes are aware the %’s associated with professional sports is very low <even though they may not be aware of the NCAA research or specific numbers> but young people are hard to convince … not only do they want to be seen as some statistic but we actually encourage them to be the exception.




Personally I know I have a love/hate relationship with regard to how my own parents managed my love of sports and whatever ability I may have had.


They constantly stressed the low likelihood of being good enough to play professionally and were relentless with regard to me not ‘wasting my time’ on sports and focusing on other things therefore I always had a pretty good perspective on my abilities and ‘chances’ … all the while I had coaches tugging at me to play and practice and ‘maximize’ the ability I did have.



I am not sure it was the tug-of-war was the best thing for my esteem but it certainly gave me a realistic point of view when the time came to hang up my cleats & glove.



But it is not easy.


By the time you reach college level of sports you know you are ‘good’ … and have attained at least a higher level on the athletic pyramid. For years an athlete moves on to higher and higher levels of competition and by getting to a college level an athlete actually gets to a level that is maybe 95%+ higher level than your peers.



In basketball … a little over 3% of high school men’s and women’s basketball players make it to the college level. mature 69 percent


In football … maybe 6% of high school football players make it to the college level.



Success breeds some confidence … but the research also suggests it also breeds some delusional thinking with regard to what is possible.



What the hell.


You made it this far … why not all the way?



And in today’s world <which is NOTHING like when I grew up> we have elevated youth sports to such a level we almost create a celebrity status to not only successful teams <which inflates the egos of the individuals even if they are not stars> as well as the actual stars themselves.



We, adults, do this because we tend to believe confidence can elevate talent … or that a higher level of confidence can help overcome any real odds of ‘yikes, we should lose this one.’




Breeding confidence in a young person is a delicate balance and we adults are anything but delicate with regard to the young & sports.



This actually creates the “athlete student” problem <note: I did not say student athlete>.



We have created a breed of young athlete that considers academics beneath them because they are “going to play professional sports.”



Yes. This is a delusion for most.


But those who could actually judge talent the best, coaches, have no incentive to create a work ethic in academics <or social skills, emotional maturity and improving their reading, writing, and analytical skills beyond elementary school in order to “win” at something bigger> unless it is associated with ‘eligibility.’





We can find some coach exceptions.



But then there are we adults … who fuck everything up.



The head of the NCAA has clearly stated … “explaining to athletes that their passion — and years of hard work — is not likely to lead to a career is an uncomfortable but necessary conversation to have.”

listen hand


“How can we help them understand the realities of what that looks like?

What can we change to give them a more realistic sense of it? How do we get a handle on that?

How can we provide them with a greater sense of the realities and what that looks like?”




The NCAA clearly advertises: “there are 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.”
Young athletes don’t always absorb the message.


But that is mostly because we adults haven’t learned the delicate balance of managing reality, dreams and confidence.
Reality is tough.

Reality is often captured in some harsh truth.



I could simply suggest that later tonight one team will go home as a loser.


It would be harsher to suggest that of the 26 young men who walk onto the court most likely 90% of them, the elite players on the elite teams, will leave the court and do something other than play professionally.



Has anybody told them that?


athlete dream reality

Would they play the game a little bit harder or with a little more passion or a little more ‘this is it’?





I don’t know.



What I do know is that I will watch the game and be amazed by the talent and skill and sheer joy of the game … and know that most of them will have to figure out a way of making a living doing something other than playing basketball.

the fine line in making a difference

April 2nd, 2015


society blame responsibility

“It’s easy to make a buck.

It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”


Tom Brokaw


“If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval.”


Hillary Clinton










This is about Starbucks and “Race together” <“stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America”> and businesses making a difference.





hero family of the


In general … brands & companies tend to be rewarded when they align themselves with a cause. Cynically speaking … this is so because people are pleased to have the opportunity to feel self-righteous simply by buying something for themselves.







If when a business does something ‘responsible’ or something directed toward a specific cause or taking some action with an eye toward some issue and it is a true extension of the corporate culture, i.e., authentic, it is powerful. Uhm. But this teeters on a very very fine line … thinner than thin.







It is a cynical cynical world out there these days.




That said.




Let me take a minute to discuss the ‘race together’ Starbucks initiative and how the general population has responded <and of course my opinion>.





Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, thinks the gourmet coffee chain has a responsibility to address America’s vexed race relations.

After a series of internal meetings at the company, he decided to launch “Race Together”, a co-venture with USA Today, a newspaper, to “stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.”

“Race is an unorthodox and even uncomfortable topic for an annual meeting,”

society fix please

“Where others see costs, risks, excuses and hopelessness, we see and create pathways of opportunity — that is the role and responsibility of a for-profit, public company.”


Suffice it to say the the initiative has created a shitstorm … okay … a fairly significant backlash.

Even by employees.



– Starbucks baristas, who were invited to write “#Racetogether” on coffee cups, responded with derisive tweets: “Being a barista is hard enough. Having to talk #RaceTogether with a woman in Lululemon pants while pouring pumpkin spice is just cruel,” tweeted Ijeoma Oluo.

– Corey duBrowa, a senior vice president of global communications at Starbucks, received such a deluge of angry messages that he temporarily deleted his twitter account.






Beyond the fact I think I would have a couple of choice words for my employees <like … shouldn’t those be exactly the type of people we should be starting the conversation with ? … and … gosh … i know your job is tough but sometimes companies are bigger than the shit we do every day ..> I would be scratching my head a little over the angry response from the genera population.


<and having met Howard I imagine behind closed doors he tore his hair out>



Just guessing here.
I imagine that the general backlash is grounded in some cynical viewpoint feeling that Starbucks was piggybacking on a serious social issue for its own economic gain.


Maybe people perceived that a Starbuck’s interest in racial issues kind of felt like some marketing ploy.



society sheep pigs capitalismAnd then a shitload of people <pontificating marketing & branding experts … kind of like me but smarter> started bringing up practical flaws — how are people supposed to talk about race in a 30-second interaction with a stranger while picking up coffee to go?




And then there are jerks like me who come out of the woodwork making snide remarks about how this is ‘bad for the brand’ poking at all the reasons from a marketing, PR or branding perspective the campaign was flawed or misconceived.




Aw geez … will everyone just shut the fuck up.




Just stop the talking & bitching.



Think bigger picture, people, … bigger picture.



The last thing someone should say., or CAN say, is that this was a stupid business decision.



It was a bold, risky business decision.


One fraught with business peril but with massive moral upside.



Do I think it was a good business idea? I doubt it.


Would I have had the kahones to do it? I doubt it.



What do I like about it?





Someone has to go first.


Or maybe.



You can make a bad business decision for the right reasons.


choices morally right

Right reasons?



Should a business be sticking their nose into social culture issues and shouldn’t they be sticking to making revenue and paying their employees fair wages?






If businesses are not permitted, or don’t even try, to play a role in the development of society issues, values and driving positive cultural dialogue <notice they didn’t offer a solution … simply desired to facilitate the dialogue & discussion> … well … then who will?



Please notice I don’t call this discussion ‘social responsibility’ which I tend to believe has become one of those trite business bullshit phrases of which is being abused and mangled by consultants and business leaders and gobs of useless books.



Far too often the discussion of the role of business in society manages to digress to simple business ‘criteria’ like corporate reputation, innovation, competitiveness and growth.



What bullshit.


If I decide to do something right it is because I want to do the right thing. I want to set aside ‘business criteria’ of reputation, innovation or revenue growth.



And the only growth I am talking about is moral growth. Integrity growth.






I know that this means I am standing up against Milton Friedman and disagreeing vehemently with his point of view as stated in 1970:



The discussions of the “social responsibilities of business” are notable for their analytical looseness and lack of rigor. What does it mean to say that “business” has responsibilities?

Only people can have responsibilities.

A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but “business” as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense.

… and have said that in such a society, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”







I respectfully reject this thought Mr. Friedman.



I reject it with integrity and a belief that someone should stand up and speak when it is right to do so.



I reject t because … well … someone needs to stand up because if no one does nothing changes.






It is possible what Friedman said was true in 1970 but I doubt it. But suffice it to say that in 2015 businesses are in the social crapper <or on the bottom of the moral barrel> and therefore should be the ones to step up.



If not them, then who?



Peter Drucker clearly articulated salvation by society and how business plays a role in the ‘salvation.’ He also clearly outlined the dangerous shifts occurring back in 1990 or so when businesses started focusing more solely on bottom line measurement.






We spend more time working than we do with our families.


We spend more time interacting with businesses in totality than we interact with anyone or anything else.



Why shouldn’t they play a role?


And why should they be chastised for doing so?



In the good ole days barbershops and post offices or corner bars were where dialogue & discussion took pace.


These days?


The coffee shop?





I’m generalizing but you get the point.





small big matters tweak

I am not a huge Hilary fan but she is right … if you believe you can make a difference and actually do something with that objective in mind … you shouldn’t expect 100% approval. You just gotta take the step and start going. It doesn’t have to be a big step like what Starbucks attempted but take the step.



In addition.



“If you’re going to say what you want to say, you’re going to hear what you don’t want to hear.”

Roberto Bolaño


Stepping up ain’t always popular.


And stepping up means that you are at the front of the pack where it is a shitload easier to hear all the crap you don’t really want to hear.


And stepping up means you are gonna teeter on that fine line of making a difference in an authentic meaningful way..




In the end.


I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested they WANTED a role in the discussion.



I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested that something may be more important than sales <because if anyone believes this was a marketing gimmick guaranteed to generate sales they have been smoking far too much pot for their own good>.



I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested that part of their brand ‘value’ wasn’t how much people valued them but rather how much people society live work complexrespected them … or how much self-character they placed on their own value.




A zillion experts will tell you all the reasons they shouldn’t have done it.



This one non expert stands and applauds and says ‘I am pleased you did it.’




Would I have had the balls to do what Starbucks did?


I don’t think so.


But, damn, I wish I did.

Enlightened Conflict