Brothers United

Tonight on ESPN, the Downtown Athletic Club will announce the 77th recipient of the Heisman Memorial Trophy – awarded each year to the ‘outstanding college football player in the United States.’ Right now, players you’ve likely never heard of are participating in the 112th renewal of a contest that best exemplifies what the sport is supposed to represent.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

With all the bad news that’s surrounded college football the past year, it’s good to wrap-up the season with a matchup that’s rooted in tradition, honor and respect… and once upon a time some darn good football. Most people aren’t aware that during an 18-year period in the middle of the last century, players from the nation’s service academies won five Heismans: Doc Blanchard, Army (1945); Glenn Davis, Army (1946); Pete Dawkins, Army (1958); Joe Bellino, Navy (1960); Roger Staubach, Navy (1963). Success didn’t end there for these gridiron legends.

Blanchard became an Air Force fighter pilot and retired as a colonel. After fulfilling his military commitment, Davis played in the NFL. Dawkins was a brigadier general who led the 101st Airborne, earned his Ph.D. and – as a civilian – was vice chairman of Bain and Company. Bellino served 28 years in the Navy and Naval Reserve, then became a successful businessman. Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. In 2008, Roger the Dodger sold his real estate firm for hundreds of millions.

This year, as always, I’ll be watching. Not really caring who wins – don’t tell my former Navy fighter pilot father-in-law – just appreciating the teamwork, discipline and execution of athletes who know there are more meaningful things in their futures. Playing football for the academies (including Air Force) is most about learning to work with your unit to carry out the plan… which serves them well when they transition to young military officers.

Of course, after beating the heck out of each other for 60 minutes on the playing field, both teams will walk together toward the Cadets and Midshipmen in the stands for the playing of their songs. It’s a mutual display of admiration and acknowledgement that soon they’ll be fighting for the same side. There will be sadness for the team that comes up short on the scoreboard today – and a memory to last a lifetime.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

Go Navy. Beat Army.


A Look Back In Time

One of the necessary skills for being a sports television producer is having the ability to back-time a broadcast off the air. That means if your designated off-time is 4:58:30 p.m. EDT and it’s 4:55:08, you have to quickly recognize you have 3:22 to conduct an interview with the player of the game or winning coach, get in the last two 60-second commercials, and have the announcers smoothly wrap up as you count down, “5-4-3-2-1-black.”

Having lived that life from 1981-’95, I find those particular talents come in quite handy in the business world. First, I’m seldom late for anything. In sports television, you’re judged on two things: how you got on and off the air, and what the other three hours looked like. It’s pretty much 50/50 on the grading scale, so you learn to be on time and on your game. Second, I break down big projects into small pieces and typically get them done as scheduled. That ability likely comes from knowing that in a football game you had four commercial breaks each quarter, so you learned to think and communicate in terms of ‘here’s what we’ll do during the next segment.’

You don’t have to have worked in television to become more efficient. The key to improvement is to adjust your approach to think in terms of the clock counting down. The moment you walk in the door you’re losing time. So plan your day accordingly… schedule specific tasks and commit to getting them done. Remember, you can never gain back a single minute, so treat each one preciously. You’ll become more adept at moving forward and within no time you’ll be judging yourself as an A+ in productivity.


Tiger Beat

As a former sports television producer, I pay close attention to the talent who provide play-by-play and commentary on the airwaves. In my opinion, the smoothest voice belongs to Jim Nantz of CBS – who in the last nine weeks hosted the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Championship and The Masters… all from the best seat in the house. He’s rock-solid, friendly and knows exactly when to raise his calm voice to a crescendo of excitement. My wife and I met him a couple of years ago and he was kind and engaging, with his ego solidly in check.

Which is why I am disappointed he chose to weigh in, after the fact, on Tiger Wood’s slips of the tongue at Augusta last weekend:

“If I said what he said on the air, I would be fired. I read in the USA Today and it was called ‘mild language.’ Someone on my broadcast team dismissed it as him having a camera in his face. Well, guess what? Phil Mickelson had a camera in his face all week and did you ever hear him come close to approaching that? He didn’t hit every shot the way he wanted. Have you ever heard Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus use that kind of language? What are the parameters between what’s right and wrong?”

My disappointment is Nantz went beyond the role CBS pays him millions to fulfill. He’s supposed to be Switzerland and remain neutral on and off the air so his journalistic credentials remain solid. Yes, television is entertainment; however, in my perhaps antiquated viewpoint, the role of the play-by-play person is to set the stage, call the action and ask hard questions of the commentators.

Think about the next time CBS airs a golf tournament and Nantz asks Nick Faldo about Phil Mickelson. Will you think, “You know, he’s a Phil fan; doesn’t like Tiger.” By inserting himself into the story,  Nantz lost an important piece of what makes him outstanding: objectivity.

By the way, I’m no Tiger apologist. Yes, I think he’s the greatest golfer. Off the course, Tiger messed up big time with his family. His public persona, which made him wealthy, was far from his personal actions. That said, as all business leaders know, change is a work in progress… two steps up and one step back. Hopefully, Tiger corrected his sexual misconduct. He’s clearly still struggling with salty language. Let’s see how he adapts over the next few tournaments before piling on again.