Oh, there is so much to talk about in sports today. As I thought about what I wanted to talk about this week, I realized that so much of what is on my mind was focusing on the negative. A rant regarding this topic or an annoyance about that. Boy, have I got a lot to say. But as I sat down to write this blog, I decided all of those topics could wait, at least for this week.
As the holiday season is upon us and we are starting to feel the unity and love that overtakes us as we inch closer to the end of the year, I want to celebrate one of the best things about sports in general and its athletes. The way they give back.
This world has experienced an exceptionally high number of tragedies and has endured very difficult events this year. Natural disasters, evil acts and the daily exposure of selfish and egotistical behavior by people, corporations and governments. All of these have impacted each one of us, either directly or indirectly. We have all known someone that has been there for or felt the pain of….fill in the blank. The world is in pain and we are all clearly feeling the “heat” of all that is going on. Luckily for many of us sports provide a welcome distraction from the seemingly never-ending barrage of bad news. But sports and its athletes are doing so much more than merely serving as a means to distract ourselves periodically through our weeks and months.
Athletes are giving back. They are giving their time, reputations, money and in-kind contributions to support local and international charities.
The total amount of money being donated by sports leagues or their athletes is a hard number to pin down. There are bits of information from different sources, but from what I can piece together if you just look at cash donations we are talking hundreds of millions each year. For example, this year sports teams and athletes raised approximately $55 million in aid relief for Hurricane Harvey alone! Every sports franchise, at least in the U.S., has a charitable foundation through which it donates to local charities sometimes giving upward of $5 million per year. Every major sports league takes on numerous giving back campaigns during its season. One of my personal favorites is the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” which even though it doesn’t specifically raise money for different organizations it raises awareness in a big way through promotion and personal stories shared during the week of the campaign. I guarantee the organizations that are supported by each athlete who runs on the field wearing their cleats see an increase in donations as a result.
There are so many charitable initiatives organized each and every year in sports. And so many things to say about sports as a platform for giving back. Mostly good, some maybe not so good. But the bottom line is giving back is one of the best things about sports. At The Distillery Inc., we espouse to our clients that sharing is one of the major foundations to building lasting fulfillment in life in general, not just when one is playing professional sports. The old saying of “the more you give, the more you get” is not just a clever cliché. It is a universal truth, that for some reason is easier said than done.
Which is why I am infinitely proud to be a sports fan. Because no matter the motivation behind the giving, the industry certainly gives and it gives in a big way. Maybe even more than other comparable multi-billion-dollar industries. The leagues and their athletes worldwide set great examples for those that look up to them of what it means to give back. They show us that sharing does pay off. That caring is a crucial element in all we do as a community and a society and that without a doubt, the more you give the more you get. Happy Holidays everyone!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
There must be something in the air - and I don’t mean Christmas. I’m not sure what it is, but something has to be causing the extra aggression and unreasonable behavior exhibited across the NFL this season. I know this is a sport where aggression is perceived as a component that helps win games. The aggression is expected, even seen as necessary. I like to think of it more as passion than raw aggression but, whatever it is, the NFL definitely has it. It is something that we, as fans, are used to - something that we don’t always love about the game but accept. Football is, after all, a game where 22 players are purposefully chasing, hitting, sacking, and blocking each other on every play.
There is something different about this season though, a season where it seems that every other play sends yet another yellow flag flying from a referee’s pocket - followed by ejections and, oftentimes, suspensions and fines. In all my years (and there have been a lot of them at this point in my life) of watching and loving the game of football, I have never, ever seen this preponderance of intentional, unsportsmanlike - even cruel - conduct. Even the famed “Steel Curtain” defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70’s, whose reputation for being big, burly, and mean, were never called out by fans or the press for steamrolling way past the line of unsportsmanlike conduct.
The incidents in just the last few weeks’ games have definitely gone above and beyond unsportsmanlike conduct. They have become “un-humanlike” conduct. Hitting a man who is already down or out of bounds at the end of a play; running across the field to tackle someone from behind; instigating physical fights and punching people when they aren’t looking. This is all over-the-top behavior. And, players who have NEVER been known for fighting, or even been seen caught up in the middle of a fight, are suddenly taking cheap shots. Rob Gronkowski? Seriously?
It is crazy! There has to be something in the air.
Does the air smell like frustration about team management? Does the air have the ashes from fires of corruption within the league? Does the air carry the cold frost and numbness that comes from being criticized for choosing to take a stand against social injustice? Does the air contain the fallout of players struggling with impulse control because they’ve taken too many hits to the head over the years? Or, is the air simply filled with the sweat of pampered players who feel entitled and just want to do what they want, whenever they want to?
Whatever is in the air, as a loyal and hardcore fan of football, I am begging the players to figure this all out and STOP IT already. You are debasing a beautiful game that is already facing its share of critical problems. As a fan, it is hard enough to watch players get injured. It is hard enough to accept that you are comfortable watching a sport that can oftentimes have long-term physical issues for the players who put themselves out there each week for the glory and for the fans. You are making it so difficult for us to stand by you. You are making it so difficult for us to watch you - for us to let our children watch you - and you are making it so difficult for us to support all of the other good things that you do.
Maybe this is a bit naive, but perhaps you could run around the block a few times before each game. Hit a punching bag? Talk to your kids, or share love with your significant other? Have you considered therapy of some sort? Do something to help you control those aggressive impulses that lead to “un-humanlike” behavior on the field, and get back to focusing on being the very best player you can be on the field...and the very best person you can be off the field. Your fans, particularly your youngest ones, thank you!
By: Wendy Rosenthal
Transitions are hard. Often times, very hard. Human beings, with few exceptions, don’t like change very much. And, when we are forced to change, the transition is almost always the most difficult part of the process. In fact, there is a whole industry built around making business transitions and how to effectively do so without creating corporate havoc. So, if we know that transitions are difficult, and we know that even large multinational corporations hire expensive consultants to help them through those, why are we surprised that a 20-year old NBA rookie is having trouble adjusting to life in professional sports?
Lonzo Ball has been taking a lot of heat from the press and other players in recent weeks, as he has been thrust onto centerstage of one of the NBA’s most winning and iconic teams - a team that is trying to rebuild in hopes of regaining its glory from years past. And, yes, Ball was brought onto the team to be a linchpin in that rebuilding process. That is a lot of pressure - even for a more seasoned player. And, yes, his father has spent a lot of time hyping him up and telling anyone, anywhere, who will listen that Lonzo is the “next coming” for basketball. And, yes, Lonzo’s numbers are not as stellar as everyone wants them to be.
But, let’s be a bit more realistic about what is going on here. We are literally six weeks into the season and it will last another five months. Since the season started, Lonzo has had to transition from being a college player to a professional athlete. Even some of the greatest professional athletes across all sports have commented on how difficult this transition is, and how the level of play and skill goes up a great deal. Only 1-2% of college athletes even go into professional sports. So, all of a sudden, Lonzo is playing with the elite of the elite, rather than the typical college blend of the good, the great, and the spectacular. He has also had to deal with his father’s antics, his brother’s antics, and the constant spotlight glaring on him. I don’t know about you but, when I was 20, that type of pressure would have had me under a table, curled up in the fetal position, and wishing it would all go away.
At The Distillery, Inc., we share with our clients who are transitioning to a life beyond competitive sports that the transition period is the most critical. What you do during that time can dictate how your entire life will unfold. The key thing we share is that change, no matter how difficult, must be viewed as a tool to ignite one’s desire, and unlock one’s potential, so that growth can be experienced. This process is much like the one an athlete engages in by working out in order to build physical strength, stamina, and so much more. Change and transition are crucial ways to make ourselves better at who we are and what we do.
What I have seen is that Lonzo has already had a triple-double. He is watching and analyzing the film on every game and trying to figure out what he can do better, what adjustments he needs to make, and so on. He has kept a relatively cool head, despite the media bashing and all of the other noise going on around him. Ok, maybe he received his first technical foul against the Nuggets the other night. That might actually show that he is starting to step up and play more along the lines of a professional player. I think if we all go back and look at how we performed in the first six weeks of anything meaningful that we ever did, we would see that it took us time and effort to make the transition and grow into a success.
I say, let’s cut Lonzo some slack and let him transition into his professional career with a bit more mercy and compassion, understanding that it takes time to be a true superstar.
By Wendy Rosenthal