Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category



12
May
10

Sid vs. Ovi: A Picture is Worth a 50 Goal Scorer!

Kudos to NHL.com for running this data point chart to illustrate the difference in the style of play between the NHL’s lone 50 goal scorers this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin.  These charts illustrate in a compelling manner where each player scored their goals from during the regular season and are evidence of each guy’s style of play: Crosby is a “puck holder” (a playmaker) and Ovechkin is a “puck mover” (a shooter). Both players are great and you’d want them on your team if you had a chance to get them. However, in this case the argument goes, Ovechkin, whose team was eliminated in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, was the easier player to defend because he shoots a lot from the high slot (i.e., farther away from the net) where as Crosby waits and waits and moves closer to the net before shooting. Crosby and his teammates are facing a decisive seventh game versus the Montreal Canadiens tonight in Pittsburgh, and he has been limited to only one goal in this series. Nevertheless, the charts do a great job of giving a visual picture to the way each guy plays the game.

Why don’t we see more of this? Clear, concise use of the English language is the foundation for effective communication. However, in the time I’ve spent using new media over the past year I’ve noticed a lot of people lack the ability to illustrate their message visually. In the age where we are inundated with information on a daily basis, I believe the ability to get your point across with a photograph or a chart can be a difference maker like an Ovechkin slap shot in communicating your message.

While thinking about this recently, I stumbled across Amy Mengel’s blog posting on this very subject. Her words sum up my thoughts succintly:

“Written pieces certainly have their place and purpose, but an eye-catching chart, infographic, or photo set may convey your message more memorably and in less time. Presenting information graphically forces us to trim away the superfluous details that can clutter our writing… Often it doesn’t occur to us to present information in a different format.”

Perhaps the father of modern visual communication is Professor Edward Tufte. Just recently I started reading two of his works, Visual Explanations: Images and Quanities, Evidence and Narrative and Beautiful Evidence. He’s a very “rich” writer, meaning I think you need to read his stuff more than once to really get it. And he absolutely hates Microsoft PowerPoint, by the way. But he is tremendously insightful on how to use visual information in modern communication.

I don’t know if Tufte prefers Crosby over Ovechkin, but he’d love the chart.

08
May
10

Another Bust Bites the Dust: Raiders Fire Russell

Photo: Associated Press

This just kills me. Sports Illustrated online columnist on Don Banks, a former Minnesota Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote a post-mortem piece today on the Oakland Raiders releasing, i.e., firing, their starting quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick from 2007, JaMarcus Russell. The apparent cause was a lack of motivation and work ethic by Young Mr. Russell. I’ve heard this before: A player liked the trappings being a pro athlete gave him more than he loved the challenge of excelling at the game which game him the lifestyle in the first place. Now he’s done.

The Raiders committed $39.6(m) for Russell’s first contract, but according to Banks’ piece, the money might as well have been spent in Vegas. As one of his sources said:

“[The Raiders] knew the question about his self-motivation going into the 2007 draft. They gambled, and they lost. I just think he doesn’t really want to be an NFL player. He was a great college football player, but he didn’t want it in the NFL.”

There’s an accompanying photo gallery featuring some superb photos (none are mine, however) of Russell from his college days at LSU and as a pro along with comments from 12 football experts giving their prognosis on his skills and his future as an NFL QB.  Only one of the experts wondered about his work ethic. One. “It (his pre-draft work out) just blew me away. If I had the first, second, third, fourth, fifth pick in that draft, I would be tearing apart his personal life trying to figure out whether or not I could trust this kid with $10-million …,” said NFL Networks analyst Mike Maycock.

Apparently, the Raiders didn’t do enough homework. Now here’s my point: If you were spending that kind of money on a rookie, wouldn’t you want to be sold on his work ethic and leadership abilities? I would. It goes without saying that you can have the most talent in the world, but if you have little work ethic or are a high maintenance person (needing a lot of attention to get you going), you won’t amount to much. One of my mentors as a young guy was Ron Woodey, general manager of the St. Paul Vulcans and a scout for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Mr. Woodey always wanted to know whether a player was an “overachiever.” Whether for the Vulcans or the Flyers, a player’s work ethic was a question he wanted to have answered sufficiently. Years later, that has stuck with me.

Good luck, JaMarcus Russell. I hope you saved your money.

01
May
10

Yahoo! says former Lions player a bust. Really?!

Photo by Vince Muzik

Left over thoughts from the NFL Draft. Yahoo! sports blogger Doug Farrar wrote this in his Shutdown Corner column “Draft Busts of the 2000s: Where are they now?”

LB Ernie Sims, Florida State: Recently traded to the Eagles, Sims was yet another (former Lions GM) Matt Millen overdraft – he was taken ninth overall despite serious concussion issues in college. So far, he’s been most noted in the NFL as a rangy but undisciplined player who tends to whiff mightily in space.

Click the link to Ernie Sims stats and you’ll notice he’s listed as six feet tall. Ernie Sims is NOT six feet tall! If he is six feet tall, I am Michael Jackson.

Back in 2007, I covered a Lions game at Ford Field. At one point as I was standing on the sideline, I found myself standing only a few feet away from Sims. I’m not particularly tall, and Sims was shorter than I am. He’s about 5-foot-8 (at the most). Scouts will often show up to see a player and give him the “eye ball test.” In other words they’ll show up to see the guy in person just to make sure they really are as advertised. Sims should have flunked the test. Combine that with his concussion issues, and it’s likely Sims should have never been rated a first rounder by anyone.

As former Iowa Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry used to say, “Big fast people beat little fast people.” The constant in Fry’s equation is the word fast, i.e., speed. Being 6-foot4, 220 lbs. doesn’t automatically make one an athlete. There’s more to it than that. You must be able to move. And if a guy has a head for the game and he can play, then he’s a player no matter his height.

Sims a “Millen overdraft”? As a first rounder, yes. Sims is a terrific athlete, and he still could blossom into the next Sam Mills, another “short” linebacker who had tremendous success in the NFL. But taking a guy who’s undersized that much leaves you open for heaps of criticism if the guy flops. I liken it to what famous Fidelity Fund manager Peter Lynch once said about picking stocks: If you buy IBM and it goes down, people wonder, “What’s wrong with IBM?” If you buy a small growth stock of a company few have ever of before (like Pep Boys Manny, Moe and Jack) and it goes down, people will say, “What’s the matter with YOU!” Same applies here.

Ernie Sims has been well compensated financially for whatever trauma there was to being an “overdraft.” Hopefully, things will work for him in Philly.

 

29
Apr
10

U.S. Army General: “PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid”

The PowerPoint slide shown to US commanders shows security, economic and political conditions in Afghanistan.

Can’t help but comment on this because it strikes a chord with me. The Daily Mail of London brings us this story on how U.S. in Afghanistan has come to loathe the Microsoft software known as PowerPoint. The article quotes Brigadier General H.R. McMaster who “banned the presentation package when he led an offensive in Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2005.” The General is quoted telling the New York Times, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control… Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

General James N. Mattis, the Joint Forces Commander, was even more demonstrative: “PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

My favorite quote on PowerPoint came from someone at Padilla Speer Beardsley, a Minneapolis-based PR  firm I interned at several years ago. It’s a truism I live by: Stories are compelling; PowerPoint presentations aren’t. If you have something to say, wrap it up in a story to illustrate your point. If you recite a bunch of facts listed in bullet point fashion, people won’t remember it nearly as well — if at all. Think about it.

24
Apr
10

Tyson Alualu: Yeah, we remember him!

Photo by Vince Muzik

As I was pulling into my parking spot at the Minnesota Vikings draft Party at Jimmy’s in Vadnais Heights Thursday night, I listened to the incredulous tone of the guys on the radio as the Jacksonville Jags made their first round selection in NFL Draft — Tyson Alualu, defensive tackle, from the University of California Golden Bears!

Say what?

Young Mr. Alualu, the 10th overall selection, wasn’t scheduled to go until later in the draft, perhaps as late as the fifth round according to some. Maybe he was a reach. Time will tell. However, if you watched the Golden Bears play the Gophers last September here at TCF Bank Staduim, Alualu stood out. He was very “active” as they like to say in the business. At half-time, my friend Matt Sherman, himself a former quarterback at Iowa (1994-97), said, “That one defensive tackle they’ve got is really good.” Were Matt and I the only ones who took note?

“Has anyone ever in the history been this much of a reach?” one of the guys on the radio inquired. Yes, and the name should be very familiar to football fans. William “The Refrigerator” Perry was selected out of Clemson by the Chicago Bears in 1985. “The Frig” was thought to be more of a fifth rounder due to weigh concerns. Those who remember the great ’85 Chicago Bears team know Perry etched a place in NFL history as the blocking back for Walter Payton in goal line situations who also scored two TDs himself as a rookie, one in the Super Bowl. He played 10 NFL seasons.

The NFL Draft is fun because you get to see where your favorite college players will continue their careers. Beyond that, it gets ridiculous to think you can forecast the future. Rick Reilly of ESPN put it well: “It’s a drama with no ending.” It’s just a start; the conclusion comes years later. The day after is way too early to talk winners and losers.  That’s why the late Toronto Maple Leafs chief scout Pierre Dorion told me back in 1990 during a conversation we had in his Marriott Hotel room, “You never criticize some one else’s player decisions because you never know when you’ll be the one picking a dog — and the one subject to the criticism that goes with.”

16
Apr
10

Taking Note of Jimmy Clausen

One coach I grew up working with was Kevin Hartzell, then head coach of the St. Paul Vulcans and now back in the business coaching the Sioux Falls Stampede of the U.S. Hockey League, a Tier I Junior (16-19 year old players) League based across the Midwestern U.S. Hartz made it a point to notice how a player approached his work, feeling it was indicative of the sort of player he was. Did the kid pay attention to detail or was he sloppy? Was he early for practice or was he always a late arrival? “Little things” Hartz would call them.

That stuck in my head last night watching ESPN’s  Jon Gruden’s QB Camp, a film session Gruden does with the top four quarterback prospects — Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, TimTebow,and Jimmy Clausen — in this year’s NFL Draft. Claussen has gained a reputation for being arrogant. For what reasons, I don’t know. My friend Michael Floyd caught passes from him at Notre Dame for two years and liked Jimmy. That’s all the recommendation I need.

Photo by Vince Muzik

Clausen took some harsh, no-holes-barred criticism from Gruden, reputed to be an expert indeveloping young quarterbacks, as to what he could do to improve his play. Whether it was a just a product of the way ESPN edited the show, Clausen didn’t mind writing down the criticisms  Gruden had. This isn’t the sort of thing an arrogant person would do. It was reminiscent of what photo editors at Sports Illustrated have told me when critiquing my work; it’s not any fun. While taking notes won’t make you a great player, I would say that’s one of those “little things” that tells me how Clausen approaches his work: He’s a student.  Maybe the other guys have great memories; however, if they are human like the rest of us they are prone to forgetting things if they aren’t written down. Personally, if I were a young guy trying to make it in the NFL, I’d want to remember every important point a teacher like Gruden had to say to me. Even if it weren’t pleasant; it’s the only way to improve.

Personally, I think Nebraska’s defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is the best player in this draft hands down. Sam Bradford I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole after that shoulder surgery and Tim Tebow is a project not worth of a first rounder. Colt McCoy is worth a long look at the right price, but Clausen gets my vote. Of  course, whatever team he goes to will have give him good offensive line play or else he’ll get killed, but that’s another issue. For now I’ll go with Clausen.

13
Apr
10

Target Field Opens!

Amazing what some good begging can do for you. I’m not much into baseball, but I knew I had to be at opening day of Target Field, the brand new home of the Minnseota Twins here in Minneapolis. Luckily, Sports Illustrated baseball editor Nate Gordon gave me the call up from AAA to hit in the big leagues. All of these are mine except for one; the fish eye photo was by my partner for the game, Tom Dahlin. This gallery shows what the features of the new park inside. Target Field should be the place to be this summer, especially for those night games.