Welcome to Sports Biz Advisor

Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m a lifelong New England Patriots fan, whose youth was filled with Pats ineptitude. More losses than wins usually had my dad pounding the arms of his uneasy chair. When I was a kid, they were known as the Boston Patriots, playing their games at venerable Fenway Park. As a sports journalist, one of my first jobs included covering the Pats in the Steve Grogan/Tony Eason era – an equally inept time. Eason never met a slide to avoid a hit he didn’t like, but I digress.

I covered training camps at Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island, along with the sale of the Pats to Victor Kiam, the Remington Products CEO whose famous catchphrase, “I liked the (electric) shaver so much, I bought the company”, made him a household name.

Yes, I’ve been through it all with New England’s NFL franchise, which is why the events of the past four months are somewhat disturbing.

First, let me be clear. Name me one professional sports franchise that has not looked for ways to “skirt” the rules in order to gain even the slightest of advantages, and I’ve got stock in the next wave of 8-track tapes to sell you.

So, what’s MY opinion of what’s happening at 1 Patriot Place in Foxborough, MA?

*Disclaimer – The views, opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by Mark Edwards do not represent the opinions or policies of U/S Sports Advisors, the organization, office staff, management, sponsors, or clients…even interns.

I believe that Tom Brady prefers the footballs to be a certain way, and when the balls were handed over to Jim McNally by the officials prior to the AFC Championship game, McNally hightailed it into the bathroom and took air out of most of the balls. Seeing he was only in there 90 seconds, he realistically only had time to remove a little air from 11 of the 12 footballs. In the following news conferences by Brady, I believe he was trying to cover for McNally and fellow attendant John Jastremski, hoping to keep them out of harms way. Noble, yes. Smart, not so much.

The subsequent $1 million dollar fine, loss of a 1st and 4th round draft pick and four-game suspension of Brady (which I believe soon after this posting will be reduced or dismissed) is a rather steep penalty for something that, as proven by the second-half dismantling of the Colts, really had no bearing on the outcome of the game.

Team owner Robert Kraft’s five-minute presser accepting the Pats’ penalties, in my opinion, supports the Pats’ guilt. Initially, they all did their best to try and deflect this with everything short of gremlins disguised as Rex Ryan sneaking into the ball bag with a needle.

Tom, you were wrong. Bill and Bob, stick to coaching and ownership.

Now, go and do what everyone in “Patriots Nation” is hoping. March all the way to Super Bowl 50, and with all the proper pounds per square inch you’ve got, win a fifth title and shut everyone the heck up!

bolgheader_Branding

Ted Wells’ DeflateGate investigation report released on Wednesday stated that Tom Brady likely was aware of the deflation of the Patriots’ game balls. So, if the allegations are true, we now have two issues to consider: 1. He purposely broke the rules to gain an advantage over his competitors (cheated), and 2. He misrepresented his involvement and awareness of the under-inflation issue (lied).

The most obvious question among marketers is, how will this affect his brand? His endorsements? His fan appeal?

It’d be easy for me to jump on the rival bandwagon and encourage his sponsors to invoke his morals clause, tear up his contract and move on to the next brand powerhouse. (Assuming if these allegations are proven, they do actually conflict with his morals clauses.) Currently, Brady pulls in an estimated $7 million per year in endorsement deals with brands including Dodge, UGG and Under Armour.

Recently, we’ve seen seemingly countless instances of irresponsible behavior from athletes across all sports, leagues and genders. Domestic abuse, doping, animal cruelty, addiction, sexism, etc. These issues are of the most serious nature.

According to the Wells Report, Brady may have encouraged his equipment manager to deflate some footballs, then denied having done so. Is it wrong to cheat? Yes. Is it wrong to lie? Absolutely. That’s why morals clauses exist. But, at the end of the day, it’s irresponsible of us to compare his alleged actions to much more serious infractions of his pro athlete counterparts.

What it boils down to for sponsors, fans and marketers is one simple fact. Brands must be credible to be successful. When an athlete loses his credibility, whatever the reason, he loses his ability to connect with fans and, ultimately, influence their purchase behavior.

If the league comes down with this rumored one-year suspension, Brady’s visibility, or lack there of, will inevitably further dislodge his brand from the grasp of his loyal fans. What Brady needs to do now, is get out there and reinforce the brand that has so effectively forged the emotional connection with millions of fans around the world. Rather than go into hibernation, Brady will need to be more accessible to fans than ever before, so that when he emerges on the other side, fans won’t have forgotten his number.

As an audience, we have grown accustomed to looking at the bear hug from Commissioner Rodger Goodell on stage at the NFL Draft, as the official seal of approval that an athlete has “made it”. We’ve come to expect the flamboyant suits, with a timepiece as big as a dinner plate, paired with a vibrantly colored flat-bill cap, sporting the logo of the athlete’s new employer. As NFL fans we expect all of this to unfold on the stage of Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Not this year.

The 2015 NFL Draft was moved to Chicago, the league’s first step towards building a new tradition. Did the move backfire, keeping the Draft’s two biggest stars, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, away from all the hoopla? Winston and Mariota have opted out, choosing to celebrate at the location of their choice, surrounded by friends and family.

Typically the draft was for blue-chippers only. If you didn’t get picked you didn’t want to be sitting there all dressed up with nowhere to go! But with the two bluest of chips in 2015 choosing to leave Rodger at the alter and host their own draft parties, the NFL should be worried about the state of the NFL Draft as a live spectacle with big names to draw a national TV audience.

The NFL is a copycat league where style, superstitions and trends spread like wildfire. The success of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning set in stone that the NFL is a “pass-first” league, meaning the running back position has been diminished to a shadow of its former self. In 2001, the Patriots took the field in the Super Bowl as a team instead of the traditional player introductions. The Pats won. There has not been another player introduction at a Super Bowl since.

If Winston and Mariota go 1 and 2 respectively, you better believe we will see more blue-chippers sitting on their parents’ couch, reacting on a delayed satellite feed, than we will getting love from the Commish’ on stage at the Draft. Attending the draft might become inauthentic or taboo for future big stars.

So don’t be surprised when the 1st pick of the 2016 NFL Draft is sitting in a lawn chair at a barbecue in Fort Lauderdale, getting paid to wear his Under Armour sweats, flipping burgers on a Char-Broil grill and getting the good news on his Samsung phone. As every draftee is told time and again when making the transition from college to the NFL, “It’s a business.”

Whether driven by money or superstition, this NFL tradition could be on its last leg and Rodger Goodell might need that hug.

It seems like the same cities are always in play for Final Fours, Super Bowls and other major sports events. There are plenty of rankings of the best sports towns, but I wanted to take a look at the bigger picture from the business perspective. Let’s try to get in the minds of a sanctioning body, league or promoter and see what they’re considering when picking a host city. Here are my top five picks for the best American sports towns for major events.

New Orleans

superdome1-640x307

  • Venues: 7
    • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a classic, if a little old. But it’s still good enough to host Super Bowls and Final Fours. The Smoothie King Center is right next door and has some very solid amenities.
  • Location: 9
    • It’s not a moderate walk from the venues to the French Quarter, but it is doable (1.5 miles). A good amount of hotels on both sides of the river and lots of fun house rentals are available.
  • Atmosphere: 10
    • There’s always something going on from festivals to music, food and culture. Any time you go there for an event, you know you’ll have something to do in between games.
  • Big Business: 1 (Fortune 500 company with headquarters in the city)
    • Large companies aren’t the only ones who can spend on sponsorships, high-end tickets and parties. The thought here, was the number of Fortune 500 companies located in the city was a harbinger for its role in big business. New Orleans gets a pass here b/c it’s such a massive tourism hub, people are dying to spend big bucks in the Big Easy. 

Indianapolis

  • Venues: 8
    • Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse are new enough to have all the suites, scoreboards and amenities you want, but styled in a way that feels like they’ve been around forever. White River State Park is a perfect location for outdoor concerts or other shoulder programing for a major event. Bonus points for having a domed stadium. Home of the nation’s first sports tourism bureau!
  • Location: 8
    • There are plenty of places to eat and drink from fun dives to fine dining within a short walk of Indy’s stadiums. There are several walkable neighborhoods near the stadiums that are exciting but not overwhelming. It’s a hub for amateur sports organizations like the NCAA, USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field, USA Football and USA Diving.
  • Atmosphere: 7
    • The most low key of all the cities on the list – and the one I currently call home – gets up for big events. There’s a different vibe here during the weekend of the Indy 500, or when the Final Four is in town. It doesn’t have the every day feel of Chicago or New Orleans, but feels sort of similar once the event is upon us.
  • Big Business: 6
    • Just a few more than New Orleans, but not as many as some of its Midwest counterparts.

Dallas

  • Venues: 10
    • Jerryworld, American Airlines Center and Globe Life Park are all very sweet. With two of the more powerful and savvy owners in Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones, the amenities in each stadium are top notch.
  • Location: 8
    • The one thing not to love here is like everything in Texas, the commutes are big if you’re headed to Arlington from Dallas or points north. The AAC has lots of good bars nearby, but you’re a bit out of the way if you’re at the ballpark in Arlington.
  • Atmosphere: 9
    • The Big D has a big city vibe for sure, there’s plenty to do from art to history and more. The weather is milder than Chicago or Indy, but can get a bit hot in the summer.
  • Big Business: 19
    • It’s not New York, but it’s in the same conversation as Chicago when it comes to large companies.

Phoenix

  • Venues: 9
    • It has four major sports (like Chicago), but with newer stadiums and each team has its own venue. The natural grass field the Cardinals play on rolls out of the stadium to soak up some sun, then rolls inside for game time. Amazing!
  • Location: 8
    • The football and hockey stadiums are out in Glendale (25 minutes from downtown), but have some entertaining areas built around them. Baseball and basketball facilities are downtown and easy to access from anywhere in the city
  • Atmosphere: 10
    • Great golf, sunny nearly 300 days a year, lots of beautiful landscapes for hiking and biking. It’s going to be nice when you’re there, so that’s a bonus that other cities can’t promise.
  • Big Business: 4
    • All the local stadiums have title sponsors (Jobing.com Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, Chase Field, US Airways Center) and there are a handful of Fortune 500 companies though the city lost one last year after the US Airways and American Airlines merger.

Chicago

  • Venues: 8
    • They have all the types of arenas you’d need – baseball, hockey, basketball, football, soccer – though none are that new. Soldier field alone has hosted football, hockey and soccer recently. Pretty impressive for an older stadium.
  • Location: 9
    • Depending on the stadium, the neighborhood changes. Soldier Field has some great spots not too far from it, Wrigley Field has a whole neighborhood named after it that’s full of bars and restaurants. It’s #3 on the list of cities with most hotels in the US (after Vegas and Orlando) and therefore has the most of any on this list. Mass transit is a piece of cake here.
  • Atmosphere: 8
    • The weather can impact travel and events so a Super Bowl at Soldier Field probably isn’t happening anytime soon. However, there are few cities with a big city feel like Chicago has. There’s always something to do.
  • Big Business: 21
    • Lots of huge companies, and plenty of satellite offices in the Second City. There’s no shortage of brands to spend a pretty penny on and around big sporting events.

None of these cities are perfect for hosting events, because no city is. However, these are some of the best by any measure and the top five by my criteria. If your team travels there for a game or your favorite sport hosts an event or tournament in one of these locations, book the trip, it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

What thorn? The thorn that has stuck with Pete Rose since then-MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti slapped Charlie Hustle with a lifetime ban from baseball after the Dowd Report concluded that he bet on games, and possibly his own team, while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 2.07.07 PMBut there’s a new sheriff in town and Commissioner Rob Manfred has already received a formal request from Rose asking that the ban be lifted. Rose’s past attempts from former commissioners Fay Vincent and Bud Selig fell on deaf ears.

At 73 years old, it’s doubtful he’ll ever guide a major league team or even get back in the game in any significant management capacity. This is clearly about that small village in the county seat of Ostego County, New York.

Cooperstown.

Simple as that.

Rose has admitted he bet on games. And I think any reasonable sports fan can see, at the very least, that’s a huge conflict of interest. Sports has rules. Managing a team and betting on games is a big no-no. Did Rose purposefully rig games his Reds played in so he could make money, or even make other people rich? We may never know.

Regardless, it’s bad.

Former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice admits he used illegal ‘stickum’ on gloves during his career. But last I checked, he’s still in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Two different situations,” you say? “Not the same thing,” you proclaim?

Illegal is illegal. Facts are facts.

And the fact is that, as a player, Rose had 4,256 career hits, still a major league record. Rose is a Hall-of-Famer. Not for managing. Not for likeability. But for being among the best hitters of all time and one of the hardest-nosed players ever. He was a hit machine!

Simple as that.

So, is it time, after all these years, for the new Commish to lift the ban so the Hall board can vote to induct Rose?

This isn’t the “Humanitarian Hall of Fame,” or the “Nicest Guy You’ll Ever Meet Hall of Fame.” It’s the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And it’s where Rose belongs.