Tag Archives: creative recruiter

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

This blog was viewed about 81,900 times in 2010.

In 2010, there were 42 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 350 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 25mb. That’s about 7 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was November 15th with 1,143 views. The most popular post that day was On Writers, Copywriting and How to Build a Portfolio.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, twitter.com, networkedblogs.com, facebook.com, and mikepalma.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for mike palma and mikepalma.com.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

Thank you

Thanks for reading and following mikepalma.com. I look forward to providing more original content in 2011 that helps creative agencies grow. A healthy blog makes for a happy new year.

Turning the RFP Process Around: A Maverick’s Guide

How Creative Agencies Can Control Their Own Fate

You are a maverick. You have your own creative business or career. That’s a fairly intangible and subjective commodity. You survive and advance on guile. You succeed through desire — the greatest of all inspiration. You grow serendipitously, through good work and karma. At the end of every year, you wonder not only “how did it go by so fast?” but also, “how can i keep this up?” It’s no game for kids, selling creative ideas that sell. You understand the difference between creating content and communicating. You know how to communicate well and effectively for your clients. Yet you are too busy or modest to do this for your own business or career — often preferring to “let the work speak for itself.” It sometimes does but it often remains silent.

You are not a conformist. Yet, you conform to the rules of engagement for agency growth. You comply with the RFP process. This is unlike you. It quietly eats away at you — particularly in a pitch against agencies that you know you are a better fit than. You put yourself in this position. You played the game. You played by the rules. You allowed everyone to level the playing field. You allowed yourself to look and sound the same as everyone else. You are supposed to be a creative agency and yet you let creative “speak for itself” in the engagement process. You did nothing creative about the creative. Did you think all clients can tell the difference?

You have a chance to do something about it. You can begin by first vowing to take fate into your own hands. Then you can pick 5 – 15 companies/brands/clients you KNOW you can help and should be working with (no more than 3 in any one category). Then you can tell them why. But, as it stands now — you are just playing the new business game, responding to RFP’s, kissing consultants’ asses, bringing in some smile-and-dial monkey, or some of the new Twitterati to blog and tweet your way to fame and fortune. You realize tweeting for new business is just a technologically advanced form of “cold calling.” Whatever you want to call it — you’re at the mercy of unknown and therefore sinister forces. That is NOT the way to control your own fate.

You can tell them why they should be working with you in a creative way. You can tell them why in their own language, in their own format. You can send them an RFP. Why not? They have no problem sending you an RFP. Why can’t you return the favor? If nothing else, it will get their attention and you will stand out from the pack. And if the RFP is crafted and worded intelligently with relevant and insightful questions, you will score more points than directing them to your web site or blog. Your insights should be unexpected and dramatic based on the homework and research you’ve done on that particular brand and its category.

You are a maverick. Act like one.

Next: A Sample RFP Sent TO a Prospect

The Sporting Scene: Turkey Awards 2010

“Someday, I will be a sportswriter”. That’s what I said to myself in 1968 after I saw Walter Matthau play Oscar Madison in the film version of The Odd Couple. Well, that day is today. The wide world of sport is winding down another year, and there’s plenty of bird to go around. So let’s get right down to it, the biggest BOOS of the year go to:

Tiger’s Turkey:  Hank Haney — He was so busy fixing Charles Barkley‘s swing and Ray Romano‘s swing that he forgot to, you know, fix someone else’s swing.

Turkey Tiger:  Jim Joyce — This is the umpire that blew a routine out call at first base, costing Detroit Tigers‘ pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. People are human and they make mistakes. But, this was egregious. Someday, a player will take an umpire or referee to court and win. Why is it that you and I are liable for our professional errors and omissions and sports officials aren’t? Has anyone else noticed that his proper name is James Joyce?

Turkey Apartheid: Koman Coulibaly — This FIFA World Cup Official cost the US a historic win. Not that I care about soccer. But, it’s one thing to miss a call on the global stage, or blow a call, or choke on a call. It’s another thing entirely to manufacture a call. Does anyone with half a brain believe that the World Cup is not fixed?

Evil Empire Turkey: George Steinbrenner — The Boss takes a posthumous Turkey with him down below. In the year of his passing, Georgie managed to make sure he got his monument in Yankee Stadium. In a clear-cut case of penis envy, it dwarfs DiMaggio’s, Ruth’s, Gehrig’s and every other Yankee’s monument.

Turkey Jingo: “God Bless America” – I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m some Pinko Commie. Just because I read Fidel Castro‘s Reflections and The Unabomber‘s Manifesto or have sneaking suspicions about 9/11 and John Lennon’s assassination, doesn’t mean I don’t love my country. I wear Levi’s and Aldens. I carry Filson. I play Titleists and Taylors. I eat lunch at Manuel’s Tavern. I love America and support its capitalist democracy by patronizing its brands. I put my money where my nationalist mouth is.

But, I’ve had enough of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch of MLB games. First, it minimizes “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” — a baseball tradition. Second, we already sing the National Anthem before the game. We don’t need another National Anthem, we have one. And most seriously, hard-working, good-paying decent American fans have been escorted out of major and minor league stadiums for having the audacity to go to the restroom or simply stay seated during “God Bless America”. When did Irving Berlin become so damn important? Oh, I know — Hilary and crew sang it on 9/11. Hey, I don’t want to be reminded of 9/11 every time I go to a ball game. Nor Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, or Nagasaki. One of the reasons I go to the ballgame is to get away from that shit.

Turkey in Turkey: Allen Iverson — I’ve always defended Iverson. When they said he was a “bad kid”, I said he was a great competitor and a winner. When they said he was a shot pig, I said he was the only guy good enough to get his own shot at the end of the 24-second shot clock. I said I always wanted him on my team. Sadly, The Answer fell victim to the NBA Maggot/Entourage mentality. He’s broke. Without a home in this great country, you would think he could have done better than Turkey. It’s like watching Tiger Woods play on the Hooters tour. I have had a bad impression of Turkey ever since that movie, Midnight Express. I feel bad for Iverson, but he’s now Turkish to me.

Traditional Media Turkey: ESPN — Like any sport fan, the network has become home — like family. Yet, it has grown irresponsible while wielding its burgeoning power. For one, Lebron’s The Decision was in poor taste. Whoever hatched the idea in LBJ’s camp should have been spanked upon proposal. ESPN housed the debacle. They should have simply said “no”. For another, who is Dick Vitale to be telling college presidents who to hire and fire? The guy spent a grand total of two years as a college coach. How would he know? Maybe because he is such a Dick? I cringe when he deifies blatant cheaters and pontificates on the virtues of running a clean program. He would know too much about the former and nothing of the latter. But, it takes a thief to …

Michael Milken Turkey: Ted Forstmann — This is a late-breaking story, but if it’s true, it’s pretty gooey. This guy runs IMG, the company that manages coaches, athletes, events, licensing, et al — they touch professional and collegiate sports at every level and every touchpoint. In a 3-year period (’04 – ’07), he allegedly gambled some $600,000 on games and events that his clients played or coached in. It just feels like insider trading to me.

Turkey Leftovers: Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Gilbert Arenas, Reggie Bush, Bruce Pearl — You can read about these guys on Fox Sports. But only on mikepalma.com do you get the real turkeys.

The Turkey Awards, Inaugural Edition

It’s that time of year again. We commemorate Pilgrims (code word: “Puritans”) who supposedly shared a turkey dinner with Native Americans before they banished them from their land and doomed them to the eternal fate of caricatured logos for sports teams and cigar stores. So in honor of such blatantly celebrated misanthropy, we bring you our first edition of the Turkey Awards — in recognition of all that is lowdown in our industry.

Just so you know, nobody likes a feel-good story more than me. I really did cry when Ol’ Yeller died. I look for good news every day. As they say in Missouri, “Show Me”. I’m all eyes and ears. But I’m not easily fooled by all the wolves in sheep’s clothing who have hopped on the Cause/Environmentalist/Phony Baloney Bandwagon. Maybe I’m naive, but I find it hard to believe that tire and carpet manufacturers, for instance, can make credible sustainability claims. Or that any QSR chain can credibly align themselves with any health initiative, whether it’s breast cancer or whatever. They manufacture death. It’s like the old subliminal messages in beer and cigarette ads — except there is nothing subliminal about them. You’d think some of these charities would tell our robber baron companies to bug off and “we don’t really want your blood money”.

This was the most hostile politically charged election year in history. Why? Well, beyond the actual politics of the candidates — media has enabled any cracker with political ambition and an HD camcorder to become a creative director. So we’ll begin the inaugural edition of the Turkey with the worst of a very bad lot. These are the lowest of the low, the bottom of the barrel, the seeds and stems, the outhouse of our industry. And we proudly bring them to you. Mikey, roll the tape.

Clinging Scoundrel Turkey — Let’s start with the worst commercial of the year, political or otherwise. One that supports violating our constitutional rights — and our true freedoms (all in the name of “freedom”, though). Don’t get me started on the war on terrorism. We lost that one in 32 minutes nine years ago. Anyway, enjoy this spot — it’s what happens when you put patriotism in the wrong hands.

Turkey Farmer — Let’s go right to the most notorious ad of the year. This guy  in Alabama scares me. And he ran for Agricultural Commissioner. The last thing you want to do is piss this guy off — he’s liable to spray Agent Orange on your crops. Go ahead, make my day.

Uncle TurkeyOkay, I’ve got to admit, I laughed at the next spot. The visual is pretty funny, Uncle Sam as a profligate pig. It’s so ironic, it warrants an honorable mention. You are what you eat, and we eat a lot of humble pie.

Turkey Jingles 1 and 2 Let’s exit the political arena with a song, well, actually two songs. Here’s two candidates with their own jingles (can we say they are “jingle-istic” patriots?). How blatantly gratuitous (and therefore condescending) to the youth and minority vote can you get? Take a look at Mike Weinstein, doesn’t he look like a hip dude? Isn’t that tune rockin’? I bet he smoked pot once.

Hold on, I need to jump in the shower, I’ve got all this sleaze all over me — be right back.

Okay, let’s move on to the to the Private Sector. There’s plenty to be ashamed of outside the political arena.

Shoo Turkey, Shoo —  Skechers is a pretty cool shoe brand. Well at least I thought so until I saw this spot. Can somebody say, “disconnect?”. Enjoy this one, it’s awful.

No Flo Zone Turkey — Flo from Progressive Insurance? Come on. Do we really need to dumb down dumb? Isn’t dumb dumb enough? We don’t need to show the link — she’s ubiquitous. You know her and you hate her. How can testing produce this kind of spokesperson?

Souse Grouse If drinking Svedka Vodka makes me act like this, then I will definitely need another drink. Thank you.

Turkey SushiOkay, we know them as a Japanese car company for the consumer who lacks the need to drive a pretentious vehicle. And I know this is a dealer spot and not a brand spot (I admire that there is any concept at all, actually). But forgive me if I don’t recognize the  connection between this “Paparazzi” spot and Honda‘s target.

Singing Turkeys–Time for another song. Although this is not a jingle — it’s an opera. A really bad opera at that. Where’s Pete Townsend when you need him? Try not to spew your stuffing and gravy over this one.

That’s enough Bad TV for one post. Let’s move on to the new frontier, Digital. Everyone talks about Social Media like it’s the salve that heals all marketing wounds. The good news about Digital? It’s viral. The bad new? It’s viral. If you run a bad spot, or a controversial print ad — you can just pull it — you’ll get some bad press, along with the requisite bad karma and in a few weeks — it all goes away. But if you fuck up Social Media, you’ve created a monster that might not ever die — it will take on a life of its own.

Chocolate Turkey Get a load of Nestle’s foray into Facebook, a cautionary tale for the Media Socialists.

Epcot TurkeysJust so you know that the US of A doesn’t corner the market on Social blunders, here are the five worst International Social Media Campaigns.

So, that’s about all I can handle for one post. There’s so many Dishonorable Mentions that we could post from now until New Year’s Eve, but we need to put a governor on this exercise. Have a Happy, y’all.

Friday:  The Sporting Scene continues with its very own Turkey Awards

On Writers, Part II

The Elements of Style

Due to the popularity of the post, “On Writers, Copywriting and How to Build a Portfolio”, I’ve decided to continue on the theme. Of my 38 posts, it’s been the most heavily re-tweeted. So we’ll give our readership more of what it seems to want.

Yes, writers are a peculiar and dwindling lot. Without writers, what would we read? Lately, I’ve taken to buying and reading books on my iPad. I just finished, Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It To the Revolution. And I’m now beginning the new Mickey Mantle book by Jane Leavy. Neither book is terrifically well-written; nor riveting. The subjects are interesting and occasionally fascinating but the prose itself lacks a certain craft — a style. This reminded me that we are not to confuse topical or entertaining content with good writing.

As Auden said so well, “It is the duty of the writer to make language new” (I know, I beat that line into the ground, but it’s the best one I’ve ever heard about writing). I didn’t understand this at first. Or, I understood it on an academically superficial level. But, when I first read Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City in the mid-80’s, I finally grasped what Auden meant. It reminded me of Kerouac, in that each page was exciting — not so much for the narrative — but for the language and the style. When a great narrative meets original style, you have a masterpiece, like The Great Gatsby. It doesn’t have to be a novel. It can be an essay (“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”) or journalism. Actually, one of the most compelling works I’ve ever read is the Unabomber’s Manifesto. Revolutionaries make great writers — I regularly read Fidel Castro’s weekly column, Reflections.

Strunk & White have taken a lot of hits. Long dismissed by the high-waisted, khaki-wearing academic set as “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice” — yet, just the title itself, The Elements of Style, strikes a chord in me. It begs the question, “What makes a writer a good writer?” I keep going back to Auden’s quote, but that too lacks instructiveness. Sure, Dylan can write songs, but what makes them good lyrically? What makes Howard Gossage special? What makes an Updike novel an Updike novel? Well, it’s the same thing that made Twiggy a sensation, and Jackie O an institution: STYLE.

How does one define style, then?  That’s a bit like trying to catch lightning in a bottle (eek, what a cliché!). That’s like trying to describe the color red to a blind person (there you go! make language new). Or diagramming a play for Julius Erving. Style repels definition — it relies on grace, color detail and description. These are some of the elements of style — but they are not style itself. Style is distinctively original and inimitable (yet entire industries thrive by mimicking it). You can write like Bob Dylan, but you can never be Bob Dylan.

Narcissistic writers reveal themselves — their verbosity overwhelms the narrative, or the lyric, or the ad. Don’t confuse description with verbosity. Even if you are a walking thesaurus, you are still not a gifted, stylish writer. You just have a good memory. That will get you through college, but it won’t win you the Pulitzer prize — or even a One Show Pencil. Style derives from acumen and attention to detail. It is learned in diners and train stations. It is acquired through experience by reading, listening, observing. Writing style begins with a sensitivity to the human spirit and condition. Writers look at the world differently. They extract meaning from the mundane. They distill amazement from the minutiae. This is why they are often monikered as “eclectic” — as if they don’t fit in to society.

To illustrate the point of verbosity versus description, let’s take a quick look at Bruce Springsteen’s writing. His first three albums are verbose beyond immediate assimilation. Clearly, a young, ambitious (and somewhat narcissistic) writer trying really hard (maybe too hard) to be a poet. I like some of those songs, they’re good. But with his next three albums, he grew as a poet and did what all great writers learn to do: SAY MORE WITH LESS. He became a reductionist. He made language new. Darkness On the Edge of Town, The River, and Nebraska, with their minimalist, austere and stripped-down lyrics are works of a disciplined writer. I’m not knocking the first three records, but it’s instructive to see how the writer evolved from an ebullient romantic to a disciplined realist. In short, writing is not typing. It’s typing and editing and reducing.

What does all this have to do with advertising? I read a lot of “agency positioning” stuff. Everyone seems to have a new tag line for their agency: “Rethink Everything”, “The Factory”, “Brand Storytellers”, “Ideas for the New Whatever”. Yada. My favorite agency tag line is 84 years old, McCann-Erickson’sTruth Well Told”. This captures my point in 3 words more accurately than this entire post (talk about verbosity, Palma!). It’s not the content, or the concept, for that matter, that is king — it’s the WAY agencies tell the story that brings value to brands and clients. Yes, we need a good story, just like Updike needs a good narrative. But, what makes Updike Updike is the way he tells his story. Many a great ad concept died from failure to tell the story compellingly.

I hear so much stuff from or about writers these days — “digital writer”, “heavy broadcast writer”, “conceptual writer”, etc.. How about just being a WRITER? Write something I want to read — something that entertains, or educates, or motivates, or inspires, or gives me goosebumps, or makes me laugh or cry. If you can do that, you are a writer.

Evaluating Talent: 5 Tips from a Coach

How to Spot the Winners

Creative agencies and college athletic programs share one key commonality: their success relies upon recruiting top talent into the fold. Talent is the only true commodity. All other inventory and overhead are a means to the end of attracting and retaining talent (so the agency can attract and retain good clients). Agencies hire renowned architects, build cool spaces or plush midtown offices. College athletic programs erect shiny new arenas and renovate stadiums with skyboxes. Small & Mid-sized regional creative agencies are similar to small and mid-major athletic programs. They have to recruit harder and smarter. They have to evaluate talent more judiciously, and be able to find the diamond in the rough — the talent with upside and desire.

I was a college basketball coach for six years at a mid-major program — Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA. My primary responsibility was recruiting student-athletes that could compete at high levels in the classroom and on the basketball court. Like mid-sized agencies, there was nowhere to “hide” a recruit that wasn’t a good fit (male enrollment: 1,200). If we brought the wrong kid in, not only did it cost us wins — it cost us one of our precious few scholarships. Just like mid-sized agencies, the wrong hire sets the agency back. Evaluating talent becomes the difference between the winners and the losers.

There are two kinds of talent in any field, in my opinion. Let’s call them Original Talent and Derivative Talent. The original talent is one-of-a-kind. Their work and skills are special and distinct — nobody does it quite the way they do it. The derivative talent is skilled and able — but replaceable. Gifted, but not indispensable.

I’ve found that it’s difficult to separate the “game” from the recruit. If a kid plays the game “the right way” — he’s probably a solid dude. If he is a shuck and jiver on the court — that’s probably the way he is off of it. It’s a little trickier with creatives, but it’s difficult to separate the person from the portfolio. The trick is to discover if the book matches the recruit. So how do you do that? What can you do to recruit more smartly and effectively– to evaluate more judiciously? Here are some things I did as a coach and like to incorporate into my creative recruiting.

1. The Walk — Before I’d watch a recruit play in a game, I just wanted to see how he walked. I could tell a lot by that. So I’d get to the gym early to be there for the JV game so I could watch the kid walk into the gym, and then walk into the locker room to dress out. His posture, balance, gait and grace literally signaled how “grounded” he was. I looked for something I call a “humble swagger.” All the great ones have this. Some have more of one than the other. But I look for the perfect balance.

I was surprised at first that “The Walk” also applied to creative talent, (a slouch is a slouch).  Greatness begins from the ground up, not the neck down.

2. Good Hands/Handshake — It’s amazing how many great athletes can’t catch the ball. They can run like a banshee and jump out of the gym but throw some of them a pass from 18 feet with some zip on it and it’s concrete city.  Coaches that ascribe to “the best available athlete” theory of recruiting often wind up with a team prone to turnovers.

So how does this apply to creative agencies? Well, once I pitched a nice piece of NASCAR business with an agency. We had great work, except a creative guy spilled his coffee all over the tissues. I remember another creative guy would develop “the shakes” when he presented work internally and externally. His hands rattled the table. He may have been better suited to be a gynecologist. Others always seem to be fumbling stuff. Finally, ever get the dead-fish handshake? It was somewhat in vogue about 10 years ago. It creeps me out. Or the Fred Flintstone handshake, where you need to ice down your hand afterwards? In sport and in business, I want people with sure hands and solid handshakes on my team.

3. A Peculiar Habit or Trait — This is pure Palma and impossible to substantiate, just my school of evaluation. I’ve noticed that the truly great ones — those with Original Talent  — ALL have some distinctive peculiar habit or trait. One of the greatest copywriters I’ve ever recruited chews paper. Another great radio writer had a voyeuristic affinity with a telescope in his office. One of the greatest high school basketball players I’ve ever seen had this unusual neck tic. In some, it’s their dress. In others, their diet. But, behind nearly every great original talent is some distinctive peculiar habit or trait.

4. Eye Contact — I’m not a shrink but I know poor eye contact signals evasiveness or worse, insincerity. As a coach, I would never recruit a kid who didn’t look me in the eye. They didn’t have to say a lot, but they had to make consistent eye contact. When I recruit a Creative Director for an agency, I make a point to try to meet him. They’ve  got to look me in the eye when they explain why they are motivated by the opportunity. If not, it’s lip service.

5. See Them Sweat — How are they under adversity? Do they exhibit grace under pressure? Do they handle victory and defeat with equal dignity? These are key indicators of character. Are they truly competitive (true competitors need to compete, NOT win)?  Truly competitive people never accept in victory what they would not accept in defeat.

I remember getting numberless VHS tapes of basketball players from all over the country. Invariably they were made by coaches or parents trying to get their kid a scholarship. Besides the obvious “highlights-only” editing, the biggest problem with video evaluation of talent was that you never got to see the kid actually sweat. There is no perspiration on video.

Then when I got into creative recruiting, I received all those 3/4″ reels from creative talent. Cassettes. DVD’s. When the work was brilliant, I still needed to know that the work was actually the recruit. I needed to “get to the gym early” to see the recruit walk (meet them for coffee, breakfast, etc.). It’s a similar dynamic as the creative recruit’s portfolio is the “highlights-only” video of the advertising world.. It is, too often, accepted as Gospel. We neglect thorough evaluation. They’re really good out of the windup but we fail to see them pitch out of the stretch position.

This is where online recruiting really hampers small and mid-sized creative agencies. It leaves them more vulnerable than ever to poor fits. It seems easy, post an ad for a job and count the resumes. The problem is, the top talent — the Original Talent — is not looking on web sites for a job. They’re playing. And winning. Online recruiting is shallow and sterile.. You get a hundred resumes, 90 of them are blatantly poor fits so they get deleted on contact. Ten of them are potential recruits. Now how do you evaluate them? They will be pretty adept on the phone, they’re ad people — they know how to talk and sell themselves. I prefer to watch them walk….

The Sporting Scene, Volume II

In the course of a business day, I’m asked many questions. New business questions. Recruiting questions. Creative questions. Marketing and advertising questions. Sometimes it seems as if my entire day is spent answering questions — via email, IM, Skype, AIM, text, tweet  and believe it or not, the telephone.

Not all these questions are business questions — being known as a kind of “sports guy”, I’m often asked questions about sport. The Sporting Scene, Vol. II will examine some common and interesting sporting questions I’ve fielded in the past few weeks. Staying true to the mission of mikepalma.com, each answer will ultimately address the marketing and advertising ramifications for each topic question.

As a prelude, athletes are brands. Professional franchises (sports teams) are brands. The leagues– MLB, the NFL, the NBA, et al, are brands. Coaches are brands. Educational institutions have become brands, largely because of their athletic programs. The money involved is staggering. When a college basketball coach is the highest-paid state employee (not the highest paid university employee, but the best paid STATE employee), you know there’s a lot of money involved. That coach is Jim Calhoun and that state is Connecticut. He is probably not the only one.

Lots of questions, so let’s go:

1. Will Tiger Ever Win Again? Will Tiger Ever Win Another Major?

Ok, that’s two questions. But both run rampant in the Palma pipeline. And they both have a similar answer. In short, I think “yes” to both. But, neither is a lock. The game of golf is 90% mental. Winning a professional golf tournament requires a clear mind, supreme confidence, a killer instinct and the ability to stay in the present. No golfer, not even Tiger Woods, can overcome the loss of any one of these four critical winning attributes and win. This is not your local municipal qualifier we are talking about — this is the PGA Tour. Have you seen some of these young whippersnappers? Dustin Johnson? McIlroy? Watney? Ricky Barnes? These guys are really good. Not to mention the previous wave of young talent that has now hit its prime — Furyk, Cink, Harrington, Kuchar, et al..

“The field” has become so talented and equipment has become so technologically advanced that it’s nearly impossible to win a tour event without your “A” game. And to have an “A” game going — you need the four mental cornerstones — a clear mind, supreme confidence, a killer instinct and the ability to stay in the present. Doesn’t it seem as if Tiger has lost all four? It reminds me of David Duval. “Double D”, also a former #1 Player in the World — a guy who once shot 59, lost it the “other way” (he dropped out of sight to raise a family). But Duval’s fall from grace is instructive — once it goes, it may be gone for good. Can we imagine Duval ever winning again? How about a Major? THAT’S how fragile the golf swing is. I think Tiger wins again in two years. But, it’s NOT a lock. He can easily be the next David Duval.

Marketing Spin: Funny how Duval laid low, raised a family, got into health foods, lost weight, quit smoking. Nobody cared about his lifestyle. He stopped winning and consequently lost most of his endorsement deals. Nobody cared. But, Tiger’s saga — EVERYBODY cared about that. He flew in $15,000 per night hookers from Italy, had a harem of porn stars and seemingly had carnal knowledge of half of Orlando. Yet Nike stands behind him. Oh yeah, I know, he lost AT&T, and a few others. But the big one is Nike. Their golf brand IS Tiger Woods. They drop Tiger Woods and they might as well get out of golf. Heck, they have essentially lost Michael Jordan. They cannot withstand losing Woods too. Without Woods and Jordan, Nike might as well go back to being a running shoe company.

2. What Happened To the Red Sox?

The better question may be, What Happened to Baseball? Doesn’t it suck? The infrastructure. The imbalance of finance and power. The ballpark experience. The umpiring. The product itself.

Okay, back to the question. Boston had a rash of injuries to key players, yes. And not just 15-day DL stints — but broken bones and surgeries.But, injuries are a part of the game — even A LOT of injuries. No, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of two starting pitchers — Josh Beckett and John Shellackey. Those guys have even an average year and there’s fall baseball in Beantown. The good news? Theo Epstein can begin rehearsing his set  for the Hot Stove, Cool Music fundraiser.

Marketing Spin: With their cable deal with NESN and the age-old curse twice-broken, guess what — Boston doesn’t NEED to win anymore. TV ratings are down, scalper’s ticket prices at Fenway are down and the Pink Hats have taken over. Look for the Sox to play it safe financially in this new decade and be content to be more of a “brand” than a team focused on winning.

The bigger concern is the game of baseball itself . The attrition and fallout from the Mitchell Report has finally caught up with the game. I can’t remember a season that was so uninteresting. The biggest story was an umpire’s call. Or Roger Clemens’ Federal Indictment. Or was it George Steinbrenner’s death? But, it was anything but a positive baseball story. The game will undoubtedly survive, but it needs some fixing. A good place to start would be to speed up the games by enforcing the rules. I never believed in a salary cap before, but it’s working for the NFL and the NBA. Baseball’s financial infrastructure isn’t — I mean we have a team going to the playoffs that can’t make payroll without Chapter 11 protection (Texas). The Dodgers are part of a divorce settlement. The Yankees… well, that’s all you really have to say … they have become synonymous with wretched excess, like Lehman Brothers and the rest of the Wall Street pigs. It’s almost embarrassing being a baseball fan these days. It hurts me to say that.

3. What Do You Think of LeBron’s Move to Miami?

Didn’t it seem as if LeBron James was trying to miss shots in the playoffs? Hey, he earned his right to free agency via the collective bargaining agreement. Free agency begins with the word “free” — he is free to do whatever he wants. What sucked was the nationally televised public humiliation of an entire city — the heart of rock and roll — Cleveland. Yes, James is ruthless. But I blame ESPN. How tasteless. Most surprisingly, LBJ didn’t take the NY money — that proved to me it wasn’t about the money (although $111 mil is not pro bono wages). This Heat team reminds me of the ’68 Lakers — the triumvirate of Wilt, West & Baylor, seemingly a dream team. Guess what? They lost. Why? The rules only allow one ball on the court. LeBron may well turn into this generation’s Chamberlain — the poster boy for losing.

Marketing Spin: Even if he wins, he loses. And if he loses, he’ll be branded a loser. A sure recipe for disaster. However, he will not suffer greatly in the world of endorsements. Yes, his image will take a hit. But, he hasn’t been busted for drugs. He hasn’t gambled on the game. He hasn’t contracted HIV. He hasn’t had affairs with multiple porn stars. Nope. He signed a free agent contract with the Miami Heat. I can’t see any sponsors outside of Cleveland, Ohio taking umbrage with that.

Next: The Ryder Cup and a Preview of the Harvard/Yale game.