Season Returns

Snow covering rolling hills. Flowers blooming in green fields. Sun shining brightly on sand. Leaves falling from maple trees.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. What’s your favorite time of the year?

Mine lasts longer than those… starting the first weekend in September and ending right around 11 p.m. on the second Monday in January. Just thinking about it brings back so much.

Vivid memories of my younger years. The Big Shootout. Whoa Nellie. Woody vs. Bo.

My first career. Pony Express. Liberty Bowls. Midnight Yell Practice.

Wonderful moments. The Play. Hail Flutie. VY in the Rose Bowl (twice).

Today officially begins a new college football season… my 54th as a diehard fan.

There used to be one game broadcast each week – and a team could only be televised a few times each year. Now there are games on most every night Wednesday through Saturday… and sometimes, following three hours of College Game Day, I have three TV’s going plus a couple more clashes streaming on my iPad and iPhone.

Unless of course, I’m in the stadium. Which is where I’ll be at exactly 3:30 p.m. CDT today… following our regular tailgate meal. Look for me. I’m in burnt orange.

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Powerful Note

Powerful Note

For the ninth year in a row, I returned to my television roots this month and produced the general sessions and awards celebration for a franchising company. The keynote speaker was Alan Stein, Jr., who works with NBA and college athletes. Here are the highlights of his 60-minute talk – delivered without a single PowerPoint slide!

Full Commitment: Alan asked Kobe Bryant to put him through his typical workout. Kobe: “Sure, we start at 4.” Alan: “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”  Kobe: “4 a.m.” Alan arrived 15 minutes early to make a strong impression. Kobe was already dripping with sweat, having spent 90 minutes warming up. “Kobe wasn’t the greatest player of his era just because of talent. He outworked everyone and never got bored with the basics.”

Strong Habits: Forty-two percent of everything we do is auto-pilot. “We do things either ‘because of’ or ‘in spite of’ our habits.”

Flexibility: “If you’re not agile, you’re fragile.”

WIN: “What’s Important Now.” Stay in the present moment, let go of what just happened and refocus on what’s next. “Always choose a response that moves forward and improves a situation.”

Motivation: Steve Nash was a two-time MVP – and while an exciting offensive player, those skills might not be his greatest contributions to his teams. The Hall of Famer led the League multiple times in ‘emotional deposits’ – high fives, fist bumps, pats on the backside. “Those are just as important to success as scoring and assists.”

Leadership: Put 10 rubber bands on your wrist each morning. Every time you compliment a team member, move one to the other hand. At the end of every day, all of them should have switched positions.

Developing Trust: “It’s not about me. It’s about you… and how I make you feel.” Alan said he met legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski for a few minutes at a practice. Several days later an envelope arrived at his home. It was a thank you note from Coach K. Toward the end of his talk, Alan took a note card out of his jacket and said, “This is that note. It made a tremendous impact on my life.”

When the session finished, Alan handed me a pair of basketball-themed dress socks and a note card: “David: Thank you so much for your amazing help and support… and for being so awesome to work with! Let these socks remind you to ‘be where your feet are’ and live in the present moment. I appreciate you.” That felt really good.

Later I told him that our son had played high school basketball and watched many of his videos. Alan asked for his address. Within a week, Kyle received a similar pair of socks, a hand-written note card and a copy of Alan’s book.

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Dream Escape

As I write this, I’m staring at my copy of ‘The Iowa Baseball Confederacy,’ written by W.P. Kinsella in 1986. You might be more familiar with his other novel – ‘Shoeless Joe’ from 1982 – which was inspiration for the film released seven years later: Field of Dreams. Tonight, Major League Baseball plays a game on a new ballpark built adjacent to the historic field.

Perhaps you recall Kevin Costner’s main character, Ray Kinsella, and his unending devotion to following the voices arising out of his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come” and “Go the distance” and “Ease his pain.”

Perhaps you remember his pursuit of the elusive writer Terrence Mann – played by James Earl Jones – and the scene beneath the Fenway Park stands where Ray says “What do you want?” and Mann rants about “I want them to stop looking to me for answers” and several other frustrations before realizing Ray is asking about food from the concession stand.

Perhaps you remember the ‘ghosts’ of Shoeless Joe Jackson and teammates on the Black Sox walking through the outfield corn wall and playing, 70 years after their scandal shook the sports world.

Perhaps you remember Mann’s speech: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Perhaps you remember the ending, when Ray’s young-again father asks, “Is this heaven?” and Ray answers, “It’s Iowa,” then says, “Dad, you want to have a catch?”

What I remember is walking out of the theater and not saying anything the next 15 minutes in the car. For on that hot summer day Field of Dreams became the only movie I ever saw with my father.

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Fruitful Misdirection

June 9, 1981… I’m sitting with nine rising college seniors in the office of the news director of KDFW-TV in Dallas. We’re there to start our summer news internship. He’s going around the room, asking each of us what we envision for a career. When it’s my turn, I say, “I really want to be in sports, but you didn’t have that internship here.”

Bob Henry stands up, says to the others, ‘Excuse us,’ and takes me across the open newsroom to the small cubicle of the sports director. “Find something for this kid to do the next 10 weeks,” he says. The sports director looks at me and replies, “OK, but I’m leaving this afternoon for Milwaukee, so you’ll have to wait. Oh, and see that pretty woman out there? She’s mine. Stay away.”

I recall the next day clearly, because Major League Baseball went on strike. When he returned, the sports director asked me what I knew about sports. I brain-dumped a whole lot of trivia… and told him I’d had a sports internship in Austin at ‘the worst television station in Texas.’ I mentioned that because of limited resources, I got to do everything and learned how to edit videotape highlights.

A few weeks later, he went out of town again and asked me to pick him up at Love Field when he returned. I lived in Fort Worth and wasn’t all that familiar with the Dallas airport area. On the way back to our downtown TV station, I got lost. So we spent an hour in the car… talking and getting to know each other. That 33-year-old man and this 21-year-old kid became fast friends.

The summer passed quickly, the internship went well, and my last day arrived. A few hours before Live at Five, he said, “I’d like you to be my sports producer.” I said: “That would be great. I graduate in May.” He said, “The job won’t be here in May, I need you now.”

That evening, he spoke to my parents and told them he would ensure I’d graduate… and the next morning I drove to Austin to meet with the Dean of the Journalism School, written job offer in hand. “We’re here to educate and prepare you for a career. Seems we did that.” UT waved the ‘last 24 hours must be taken on campus’ rule and I went to work on Labor Day 1981 – making $5.05 per hour. It was a blast… and I learned so much from him.

On June 12, 1982, I was Best Man at the wedding of the sports director and the pretty woman. He worked there another year, got fired, and moved across town a week later to WFAA. There he found fame by airing strong opinions on sports and injustices of the world.

Fast-forward four decades to the day from that first meeting. He’s retiring in a few months. Congratulations to you and Chris for a well-earned rest – and thank you for taking a chance on me, Dale Hansen.

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Madness Resumes

After 710 days and a lot of self-discipline by all, one of the nation’s best sporting events returned today. While fan attendance is limited in the Indiana bubble, turning on the TV this morning and seeing hoops is a reminder we’re thisclose to a new tomorrow.

In March 2004, I wrote these ’11 Things You Can Learn From The NCAA Tournament’ and thought it appropriate to share them again:

  1. There’s Room For Everyone – Goliath typically wins (UCLA and Kentucky have the most trophies), but every so often David conquers (UNLV, Villanova and Syracuse have claimed titles in the past 20 years). Even if you’re not the biggest, you can still perform the best.
  2. Little Things Count – This year, 21 of 63 games were decided by four points or less. Missed free throws and blown lay-ups are often the difference between victory and defeat. Stay focused on the big picture, but don’t forget to keep a close eye on the details.
  3. Everyone Watches The Coach – Just like a coach’s demeanor affects the attitude of his players, employees pick up on the mindset of their boss. It’s not ‘Do they notice what I’m doing?’ It’s ‘They notice everything I’m doing.”
  4. You Gotta Believe – Twenty times in the past 21 seasons a team seeded 10th or lower advanced to the Sweet 16. No matter how difficult things get or how tremendous the odds appear, remain positive and keep working hard every day.
  5. Experts Are Often Incorrect – Four #1 seeds have never made it to the Final Four. Listening to those supposedly in the know is important, yet remember it’s just someone’s opinion. The real proof is how things play out on the court .
  6. It’s A Team Concept – While St. Joe’s had two outstanding players, its impressive run among the nation’s elite was the result of outstanding team play. Like a coach, your job is to give employees the best chance for success by placing them in roles that capitalize on their strengths and complement one another.
  7. Competition Sneaks Up On You – Stanford entered the tournament with a 29-1 record. Alabama barely made the field with 13 losses. They met in the second round: Alabama 70, Stanford 67. It’s easy to keep an eye on big competitors, but the ones who aren’t on the radar can swoop in unexpectedly and take away your customers.
  8. Give A Second Chance – Seven of the top nine players on Oklahoma State’s Final Four team started their college careers elsewhere. Make sure your employees understand that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as lessons are learned and shared.
  9. It’s A 40-Minute Game – In the first round against Richmond, Wisconsin trailed by 13 midway through the second half. After scoring on 20 straight possessions, the Badgers won going away. Quick fixes aren’t always the best choices. Stick to your game plan, adjust and remain committed to executing what you do best.
  10. Fans Make A Difference – All those screaming folks with painted faces decked out in their school colors really can affect the outcome of a game. Identify the raving fans among your customers and ask them to sing your praises loud and often.
  11. Celebrate Success – CBS signs off each championship game telecast with a moving video showcasing the tournament’s best highlights. It’s important to take time to “cut down the nets” and give employees their “One Shining Moment.”
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