Archives For Sports

Go SouthWest Old Man

MH3 —  March 2, 2014

I am one thousand percent worried I will be the oldest delegate at SXSW this week.

I was further spooked last week, when the first fellow delegate who spotted me on the attendee list was a former intern…barely into their first real job.

Yet it’s high time I broke out of my conference routine. Later this month I will be attending IEG for the 19th or 20th time. But I need to change things up. This April will be the first time in several years I’m not attending the CSTA Sport Events Congress. It’s all I can do to resist the pull of SportAccord in Turkey or the Event Marketer conference in Salt Lake come May. The latter’s been replaced by the Mirren New Business agency conference in NYC. I’m still debating C2 in MTL and want to hear any thoughts people have on that.

(Kudos by the way to the TwentyTen Group and their XL Leadership Summit a couple of weeks back. Hearing lots of orbital buzz about how good it was!)

So I’m making some changes. Slowly.

My guess is SXSW will be anything but slow. I’m attending the Interactive week, which also is hosting three days of SPORTS this week. The integration of Sports with Interactive is generating pre-conference buzz among attendees. It’s a savvy move by the organizers, mirroring the very real collision between these two social movements on a daily basis. I’m excited to attend an event where I can hear Gary Vaynerchuk one day and Dick’s Sporting Goods the next!

Let me know if I can get anything for you while I’m in Austin. I’ve got to run and find my fake ID that says I’m 27!

Words Are Not Enough

MH3 —  February 23, 2014

Words are not enough to describe the last few days.

Our Canadian women and men laying waste to the Olympic hockey world. Our collective heartbeat thumping as one. Our hopes for gold doubly fulfilled.

We gathered as families, friends, colleagues, and classmates. We celebrated with strangers, commuters, bar hoppers, and barber shoppers. We arranged fake meetings, organized staff parties, and begged for Olympic-inspired class lessons; in hopes we could watch.

Hockey gremlins placed televisions in the strangest of places, as if inspired by the cleverest of Bell ads. Hockey addicts unapologetically stole looks at your laptop screen and bought permission with a shrug that said they couldn’t breathe without knowing the score.

Go Canada Go.

It didn’t come easy and we are glad it didn’t. Handwringing galore over our men’s lack of scoring was rudely overthrown by sheer panic in the women’s final. But while a goal post physically kept the team alive, it was the heart those women shared that downed this American dream.

For our men the final was not so climactic, yet the manner in which they played was equally dramatic. Mega-stars all, yet every one playing like a fourth line grinder, back-checking the Swedes into a ground chuck fit to become an Ikea meatball.

In the end, we can all name the champions we adore. Wickenheiser the ageless wizard. Toews the golden goal getter. At opposite ends of their hockey careers, each a multiple-champion, each surrounded by the same.

There are no words to describe them all.

McRib Fries the Tomato!

MH3 —  February 15, 2014

I love the fact that Mark McMorris has become the most followed athlete of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

He has now triumphed over Shaun White, aka the former Red Tomato, on both the slopes and the internet. Yesterday he was declared the most followed athlete as his broken rib medal-winning performance, combined with his made-in-Saskatchewan good looks, have proven too much for the once untouchable White. You may recall that White withdrew from the snowboard slopestyle event, declaring the course unsafe. McMorris, already suffering from a broken rib, took on the course and safely triumphed.

So now what for McMorris? It would seem the sky is the limit. No pun intended.

He could easily follow his dad into politics and become a provincial MLA….

He could sign with McDonald’s and do McRib commercials until he reaches old age….

He could start dating one of the teenaged groupies who brought him Timbits to his Toronto media interviews this weekend…. (Were they groupies or Tim Hortons marketing staff?)

He could apply for a trademark ruling on whether he or the Grey Cup champs are truly the best “riders” from Saskatchewan….

He could accept the honorary jersey I’m sure the Roughriders will bestow upon him at their home opener….

He should make sure he gets royalties from that same jersey as the Riders would sell your grandma’s green socks if they can make a buck from it….

He could ride off into the sunset, steering his BMW X5 through the prairie glow….

He best get ready for a wild trip.

Olympic Flame

MH3 —  February 9, 2014

Safe to say that whoever conjured up the “We Are Winter” headline for the Canadian Olympic Team’s current ad campaign should also get double duty as a weatherman. Many Canadians are shaking their heads at the cold, snow, wind, and ice that just doesn’t seem to stop. My fellow Torontonians are acting like hell has frozen over. But given that Rob Ford is still in power, that date doesn’t seem to have been reached yet.

Contrast your surroundings today with photos of palm trees from Sochi, and it’s clear to all Canadians that We Are Winter!

To keep warm, it’s time to fire up our Olympic cheer and support our athletes. Maybe due to 2010, or maybe I’m too close to my own industry, but it feels like the excitement around these Olympics is unprecedented for an “away” games.

At skiing this weekend, the clubhouse was flying every flag of the competing countries while my 11-year-old competed in a home-made biathlon. His snowboard instructors crafted a special course on the hills which featured a target shooting zone. My son didn’t win, but he didn’t fail his drug test either! All over the hills were kids, instructors and parents sporting Canadian flags, jerseys, jackets, even pants!

At dinner parties, barber shops, nail salons (my fave) and work, more people are wanting to tune in. Or have debates about how a kid from Regina can become a medalist in snowboard slopestyle. Yes it’s flat in the prairies, but Mark McMorris overcame that years ago, and a broken rib this week, to shine in this brand new event.

A telling story I saw unfold this week was when the Canadian biathlon team uniforms were held up somewhere in Russia, almost causing our team to compete in perhaps more natural gear (I made that part up). But the President of DHL Canada jumped in, summoned his troops, and soon the delivery was in the hands of team officials, and our athletes were attired in a more appropriate shade of red!

As the games unfold, Team Canada is only going to get hotter and more stories will emerge. So from chilly Creemore today I say – GO CANADA GO!

Sleepless in Seattle

MH3 —  February 3, 2014

Why in the name of Jim Zorn does everyone think the Super Bowl game was boring?

A safety on the first play from scrimmage?
A pick-six interception return by an obscure linebacker soon to be Super Bowl MVP?
A drum solo by Bruno Mars?
A gritty TD reception by an undrafted free agent?

I thought it was a great spectacle, albeit not a close game.

The highlights, big plays, and momentum-changing moments beautifully illustrated the true storyline behind the game. This game wasn’t about Manning vs Sherman; prolific offence vs dominating defence; skiers vs sippers. It was about Passion vs Precision.

The Precision was Peyton Manning and John Fox and the Denver Broncos’ attempt to out-think, out-plan, and out-scheme Seattle. Instead they were knocked out by the passion of the Seahawks.

That passion oozes out daily through the energy and emotion of Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. Maybe it was the decade in the California sun, but this 62-year-old man looks and acts 42. Once cast off from the NFL coaching ranks as too soft and too caring, his return to the league has been clearly categorized as triumphant with this Lombardi Trophy win.

Carroll honed his approach at USC and created a college football powerhouse with the Trojans. He didn’t change a thing when he returned to the No Fun League. Instead, what he has done is showcase the power of having a purpose, instilling confidence in your charges, and understanding that passion will always win out over system.

Carroll’s will to win is every bit as strong as the namesake on the Super Bowl trophy. It would be a disservice to suggest that Seattle doesn’t have complex schemes and systems. Of course they do. But more than that, they have a culture, a program, and a sense of team that goes far beyond any X’s and O’s.

Fearmonger

MH3 —  January 19, 2014

This morning, while taking my son to his freestyle skiing competition, I drove past one of my former rivals from my high school football days.

Predictably, he groaned as I began to tell him about every game we played against this school. Not again, he begged, and I begrudgingly retreated into silence. But silence can often prove to be a blessing, as it allowed me to think about my worst game against this rival.

It was the year I finally won the starting QB position. We travelled to this school for a season opener that we should have won. Instead I let the team down, played a tentative game, messed up my play calls, and cost us a victory.

Why? I was afraid. Panicked I would screw up. Frightened to lose my role. In the end, my fear-induced ineptitude swiftly cost me my QB job. This was my first experience realizing that if you think about something too much, it will come true.

There is no greater enemy in the arena or the boardroom than fear. Nothing frustrates me more than when I hear one of my employees is afraid of screwing up or even worse, afraid of me. I once had a client tell me I scared them.

Creating an environment devoid of fear has been a relentless objective of mine for several years. The only thing I want people to be concerned about is not trying. Not giving their all. Mistakes will happen. Initiatives may fail. Pitches may be lost. But trying and giving it our all is the true victory. Not trying is failure. I think I am most upset with people when they won’t try. The effort is as important as the result.

It’s a lesson we need to apply away from work as well. If you have kids who play sports, you have no doubt been a part of some great seasons and some crummy seasons. Odds are high that during the crummy seasons, your child and her teammates competed in a culture of fear. Usually created by a well-meaning coach who thinks she is installing a system, but doesn’t realize she’s installing a Pavlovian condition.

Maybe she is as afraid of losing as I was? Maybe she too had the same experience when she was 15? Maybe she too will drive past an arena from her youth, where fear got the better of her one game, and realize that fear doesn’t breed success.

Green Cup

MH3 —  November 27, 2013

The confetti had barely landed on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup Parade when the “dynasty” talk started.

If it wasn’t for a couple of excruciating losses in 2009 & 2010, the Riders would be sporting four Cup titles in the last seven seasons. Even winning two in that span puts them ahead of many of their rivals.

But off the field, the green Riders are a green dynasty. It’s estimated they will sell close to $10 million in merchandise this year; more than all other CFL teams combined…unless the Argos release the highly coveted limited edition Rob Ford XXXXL #12 jersey he has been modelling. It’s even more than most of the Canadian NHL teams, minus obvious exceptions like Toronto and Montreal. The Grey Cup Festival week and game generated $123 million for the local economy, which happens to be a part of what is now Canada’s richest province!

Brent Butt joked at one Grey Cup event that Saskatchewan loves football so much because the province is shaped like a football field. I might suggest the economics might also generate some of that affection!

But there is a key lesson in all this excitement. Like Darian Durant, it wasn’t so long ago that the province was trying to wave its team goodbye. They were lovable, yet losers. They were adored, but unsupported.

Magically, the team turned to community ownership and in a dramatic oversimplification, you could say the rest is history. But it’s true; community ownership has built this green machine. Over the Grey Cup weekend, Commissioner Mark Cohon talked about a 10th team for Atlantic Canada becoming a reality. The community ownership idea being eyed as the key business model.

Nothing makes more sense to me, for the CFL, than to see the Atlantic Schooners become a reality. The very real fan club by the same name would probably agree. A 10th team would do wonders for the league.

But I wonder if more teams shouldn’t look at this model. Sport building community. Community building sport. This past May we themed our sponsorship conference “Building Community.” Guess where we held it?

Saskatchewan. Home of the Green Cup!

The Grass IS Greener

MH3 —  November 20, 2013

This isn’t an “I am Canadian” ad, but Mr. MH3 has watched CFL football almost everywhere in this country.

But the word ‘almost’ wasn’t inadvertently placed in my opening sentence. Incomprehensibly, impossibly, inexcusably, I have never watched a game in the purest home of Canadian football, and also the home of one of my favourite prime ministers. For a Torontonian, I have been to Regina, Saskatchewan more than most, I’m sure. This is trip number 10, I think. Although one of them was during Craven, so maybe that should really count for at least 2.5 trips on its own! But it’s still the only current CFL city that for some reason I’ve never watched a game in. Actually I’ve watched the Riders play when I’ve been in Regina. But I was at a sports bar and the team was in Hamilton, so that doesn’t count.

As I’m bumpily (too bumpily by the way Captain Crunch, if you can hear me up in the cockpit) strutting on gilded wings towards the Regina airport through the evening sky tonight, it’s dawned on me: Grey Cup 101 will be my first Riders home game ever. Holy Horseshoes in my gitch, Luck is my middle name. And no, Dumb isn’t my first.

Rider Pride here I come. You’ll probably be happy to hear, I AM a Riders fan!! Big time. Favourite CFL team of all time. I already put in a deposit for future season tickets. Can’t wait to do a boys weekend trip for a game. Hopefully Russ Jackson, Condredge Holloway, Tom Clements, J.C. Watts or one of our other legendary former quarterbacks will inspire our current pivot’s play.

Yep, it’s true. I’m an Eastern Rider man. Sorry 306, me loving the Red and Black.

But now I’m troubled. Speaking of Red and Black, the new Ottawa team won’t be a Rider brand. So maybe I should become a Western Rider man. I have to admit this is troubling.

Truthfully, I’m not sure who I’m going to cheer for. The Ticats played all year at my alma mater, Moo U, and I’m a big Hank Burris fan and in awe of Kent Awestin. (Oh come on, of course I know it’s Austin). On the other hand Double D and Double C faced some pretty long odds to steal home field advantage for the Coupe final being hosted by the entire province of Saskatchewan. I’m pretty stoked for the football-crazy atmosphere that’s erupting when we are wheels down.

Saskatchewan so loves its football. I was in Calgary, with the 13th man, a couple of years ago and the Red Mile was definitely dyed green that weekend. Oh, I’m sorry. Is there a provincial law against the number 13 in your fair province? How silly of me to forget.

So I will start there. Let’s cheer for coaches on both teams who can count to twelve. Twelve is symbolic of what makes our Canadian game so amazing. Twelve players. Endless motion. Three downs. 110 yards. One optically bigger ball (according to some soothsayer named Lysko that used to be seen north of the 49th).

If you’ve never been to a Grey Cup, the emotion of what my iPad is sharing with you probably doesn’t mean much. This will be number 14 or 15 for me. I really should do an accurate count. I’m not just a groupie; I’m the groupie club President. Grey Cup week has few event peers when cast as a canvas for what our great country portrays.

Hey Canada, park your Ford frenzy for a week (please tell me you liked my pun…Ford…) and smell the greener grass.

Kicking Game

MH3 —  November 13, 2013

I think every year I could write an emotionally charged blog when my football season ends.

If we finished with a championship win (circa 2005 & 2009), then the storyline might be about how my players overcame the odds or how they developed as a team.

If we finished with a playoff loss (insert the other 18 years of volunteer football coaching here…unfortunately), then I could pursue plot lines of valiant effort, or perhaps how I underperformed as a coach, or a wait-till-next year rallying cry.

This year, following our quarter-final upset loss last week, I could highlight being out-coached, a team that was overconfident despite fielding only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent, mistakes by me in the kicking game, key injuries to some of our best receivers, and mistakes by my team…also in the kicking game. Did I mention a team that fields only 21-22 players versus 45 for our opponent?

After the game, I was particularly obsessed by my errors in the Kicking Game, but was reminded by a knowledgeable parent of one of my players that one play doesn’t win or lose a game. He’s right, though I only half believe him today….

Admittedly, I’m a sore loser. I’ve been looking inward, very very deeply, over the last few days. Realizing that at 48, it really is time for me to grow up. Thankfully, I think I’ve stumbled over the reason why I feel this way.

It’s not the losing that really kicks. Because losing suggests I’m jealous of the winners. I’m not. They deserved to win. What hurts isn’t the loss of the game, it’s the loss of purpose.

When the season is on, everyone on a team has a common purpose. A brotherhood. A galvanizing force. When the season ends, the suddenness of that loss destroys that purpose. It’s the ending of the mission that hurts. Failure isn’t what creates fear, it’s the end of the journey and what that entails.

This is the true Kicking Game moral. It applies to sports, business, a husband and wife saving for their first house, a person trying to lose weight, someone facing a grave disease. The journey, the mission, the effort is the reward. The outcome is important; in most of my examples there is much more at stake than winning a silly high school football game. But even winning a championship results in the silence of the post-season the next day.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, I’ve recovered faster than ever from this loss. I’ve got a ton of missions to sink myself into. Work, clients, helping my wife and kids fulfill their dreams, mentoring my staff, supporting a sick colleague. Given what’s going on in this world, from devastating typhoons to ridiculous mayors, there is so much for us all to become a part of. Having a mission can be so powerful. So instead of waiting for next season to get my kicks, I’m going to tackle everything else in my life like I do my beloved Lawrence Park Panthers. As a volunteer, a leader, a committed partner.

That will give me lots of kicks!

Out of Bounds

MH3 —  October 16, 2013

Last week, my high school football team was involved in a game-ending incident.

Some people called it a brawl. Others called it a fight. Some called it unnecessary roughness. I call it unnecessary.

On the surface, our player started it by manhandling an opponent out of bounds on a play that was completely on the other side of the field. At first I was quite angry. Later, after watching film, it was clear that both players were the villains and they had been going at it for most of the game.

The scuffle that ensued resulted in many more players joining in and candidly my players were outnumbered and out-slugged. At one point it escalated to a scary tipping point, but players and coaches stopped it.

It was touch and go for a moment.

There were some bumps and bruises. This week, suspensions are being laid down. But there is more significant damage than that. I am concerned about how two players could get so mad at each other during a game, a simple game, that they want to fight. They need to respect the sport, the opportunity they are given, and embrace it. Yes, teenage egos can be fragile and tempers even more shaky, but football is a game of hitting, until the whistle blows.

Then it’s time to dust yourself off and help your opponent up. And leave it at that.

I love this game too much to let one scary incident chase me away. But looking at film of the episode does send chills up my spine, as one of my players is kicked in the back. Thankfully, all involved cooled down and the two squads shook hands before parting.

It was in the handshake line that my faith in the game was restored. You need to know the referees did not want us shaking hands. But myself and the opposing coach made it happen. It became more than a handshake. Player after player on their team apologized to me for what transpired, complimented us on a good game though we lost by three TDs, and several even opened up for hugs that meant the world to me. Not only for me, but for many of our players.

Thankfully, the spotlight shifted to the midfield armistice, far from the out-of-bounds area we had bloodied only minutes earlier. Here we embraced our tormentors and rejected the previous senselessness. This was, after all, just a high school football game.