Archive for March, 2010

Mark McCormack and Roone Arledge: Visionaries of Sport and Marketing

PART I: Mark McCormack and a Lesson in Negotiation

The father of sports marketing.  The man who sealed the greatest and arguably the most important deal in the history of sports with a simple handshake.  The man known for being one of the toughest negotiators and shrewdest businessmen in the industry.  The visionary who, in Cleveland in 1960, founded the largest sports marketing firm in the world that today extends its services to the management of artists, models (i.e. Kate Moss), expositions, speakers (i.e. Jack Welch)… the list is far too exhaustive and would prove much too exhausting to continue here.  Instead, in this section we will talk about how Mark McCormack (1930-2003) used his mastery of negotiation and boldness to change the world of sports forever.

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Silence and Shrewdness

Silence.  It can be a time of reflection and tranquility or listening and planning.  For Mark McCormack, it was one of his greatest tools in the formal conversations held in boardrooms and casual talks with colleagues on the golf course.  He would let the person across from him do all the talking and give it all away by asking a few questions and listening intently.  Discreetly.  Silently.

His greatest rival for nearly 30 years, Donald Dell of ProServ, would later say that “[McCormack] did more to change the field of professional sports than anybody,” according to S.L. Price’s piece “The Visionary.”  With an athlete’s sheer determination and ferocious competitiveness, McCormack pushed himself and his employees to the limit in order to be the best.  His first deal was sealed over a game of golf with the great Arnold Palmer in 1960 that today is worth $200 million.  Over the decades following that fateful day and as the value of such deals became more apparent, negotiations have resembled the easy atmosphere of that afternoon at the links less and less and gradually become the usually long and drawn out affairs that involve excruciatingly complex discussions on ROI (Return On Investment) and careful attention to metrics and benefits we find in publications like the Sports Business Journal.  Because McCormack pretty much wrote the book on sports marketing and management, his firm, International Management Group (IMG), is worth well over $1.3 billion dollars as we begin the second decade of the new century.  Since those early days in Cleveland, McCormack’s IMG has represented talent and either owned or co-owned nine tennis tournaments and marketed/televised eight golf and tennis Grand Slams – IMG even contributed to the creation of China’s professional basketball league.  These are only a few of IMG’s assets.

All of this did not come haphazardly.  McCormack’s silence helped him gain the advantage in negotiations as his counterparts talked too much and unwittingly revealed their plans.  It also made it easy for his clients to communicate their needs.  Regarding the former point, though, it was known throughout the entire industry that this was his greatest negotiating tool and Dick Ebersol, just after beginning his stint as head of NBC Sports in 1989 and on his way to a meeting with McCormack, reminded himself: “Don’t babble, and for God’s sake don’t give anything away.”  Price’s article describes this occasion in detail and how Ebersol eventually gave away his plan to merge NBC with IMG.  (FYI, Ebersol’s plan never came to fruition)

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PART II: Roone Arledge and His Imagination

The father of Monday Night Football.  In 1970, just 10 years after Mark McCormack’s IMG started signing athletes and hosting sporting events all over the world, Roone Arledge (1931-2002) made pro football America’s new pastime.  Surely, Johnny Unitas led football into the mainstream in the 1950s through his heroics on the field and artistry as the leader of a Baltimore Colts team that defeated the New York Giants in the nationally televised 1958 NFL Championship Game, which was also dubbed the “Greatest Football Game Ever Played.”  The stage was set and televisions all over America were tuned to the game of the week.  However, it was after Joe Namath shocked the world when he delivered on his guarantee that the New York Jets would defeat Unitas’ Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969 that the NFL had its perennial superstar.  Men followed his exploits on the field and women everywhere swooned; consequently, it was ABC Sports’ Roone Arledge who realized that the league was ready for prime time.  It was 1970: it was time the world watched football from Arledge’s eyes.

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His Vision Becomes Ours (and Thank You, too, Mr. Namath)

In the late 60s, Arledge quickly realized that sporting events televised in the evening, such as the Olympics,drew large numbers of viewers.  Essentially, Arledge developed/created Slo-Mo replays, Instant Replay, up-close camera angles, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” Monday Night Football and the first commentator team for the weekly spectacle that came on the heels of Namath’s spectacular rise to fame in the NFL, and according to an article by Ed Sherman in Professor Jeff Bail’s “Principles of Sports Marketing” course reader (exact source unknown), Arledge also took television coverage of the Olympics beyond just a series of sporting events by changing the production format.

In his article, Sherman refers to NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol’s take on Arledge’s success.  Ebersol said of his colleague and teacher: “Roone saw two things… sports was ready for prime time and the athletes should be portrayed as personalities, not just sports figures.  It’s amazing TV didn’t see this.  Before, it was just between-the-lines coverage… He turned the way sports are done inside out.”  Arledge certainly had the right guy for that in Joe Namath… what a personality he was and still is!!!  I would argue that two of the four greatest things to ever happen to the NFL – in no particular order – were Roone Arledge’s creation of Monday Night Football and Joe Namath’s talent and personality (the third is Johnny Unitas and the fourth is the merger with the AFL.)  With Namath launching the football through the night sky and the team of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith doing the commentary upstairs, viewers had the complete package of spectacular performances on the field and storytelling in the booth.

Joe Namath gave women a reason to watch football and helped make the NFL more popular to more people and groups around the world.  However, it was Roone Arledge who, with all of his great contributions to TV and sports, gave Americans a reason to not be so sorry to see the sun set on Sundays and look forward to Monday evenings.  He gave a day back to everyone who bemoaned the return to work and always longed for just one more night of leisure.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

As always, thank you for your readership and all thanks go to God for giving me the opportunity and good health to do my work.  If you have any comments, please feel free to share.

Lastly, I hope that, like me, you take from this article that in order succeed, one must use silence wisely, follow the athlete’s example of how to pursue a goal and attain it, and how true boldness and a commitment to one’s vision and faith in one’s imagination are essential elements of success.

NASCAR 2010 Season: An Assessment of NASCAR’s Position on the Sports Brand Life Cycle

For decades, NASCAR has experienced consistent growth – at least since the 80s – and is often the subject of debates over which sports property enjoys the most fan loyalty.  No other sport in America makes an entire weekend or week-long affair of its events and attracts more people to its venues; in fact, a NASCAR venue can seat 75,000 fans (such as the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL) and Daytona International Speedway easily accommodates over 165,000.  Since NASCAR tracks have such large capacities, the property and its tracks must work that much harder to fill every seat and should there be empty sections at the start of a race (especially those that are televised), each vacant space represents one more bit of evidence of NASCAR’s somewhat troubling position in what is referred to in sports marketing as the “sports brand life cycle.”  Just as the league slowly slides from maturity into decline, league sponsors, television networks like Fox, and fans are wondering what the league is doing to turn the tide and begin a new phase of growth and prosperity.  This week’s article will focus on some of the problems that have plagued NASCAR over the past 5-10 years and a few approaches the league is taking to revive its anemic revenue figures, reassure its sponsors of the league’s viability, and make fans (NASCAR’s greatest asset) an integral part of the remedy.

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“Step Up, We’re Waiting For You”

Volume 12, Issue 40 of Sports Business Journal features an in-depth article on how Brian France is changing his management style in order to revive NASCAR.  Though the words “step up, we’re waiting for you” belong to one motorsports executive, many stakeholders share this sentiment, according to Michael Smith’s excellent article.  Sponsors and partners do not question France’s ability; rather, they question his resolve.  Brian France’s father, Bill France Jr., was a lively and loquacious manager and leader.  He attended just about every race while he ran the family business Bill France Sr. started on the sands of Daytona in the 1940s.  Brian France is seen more as a “behind-the-scenes” leader who prefers to keep a low profile and does not actively seek out the limelight.  According to Smith’s article on page 15, Brian France was taken aback when it was suggested that he is not a “take-charge leader in his six-plus years as CEO.”  With vigor, France replied, “If you’re going to compare me to somebody else, my father or whoever, I’m not going to be somebody else… I have to manage in a way that fits my style and approach.  Not everybody is going to agree with that.”  Unjustly, comparisons to his father and grandfather hurt France’s image in the eyes of team owners, sponsors, and other executives.

To stakeholders, France seemed to be losing interest in NASCAR when it appeared that he may have been looking to head an NFL team roughly five years ago, Smith writes.  He attends only about half of the season’s races and is not very visible when he does.  France contends that NASCAR is very different today from the league 15 years ago when it was only a 100-man operation.  In fact, NASCAR currently employs over 1,700 people and France’s responsibilities outnumber those his father was burdened with as CEO.  Nevertheless, one wonders if better communication regarding the evolution of NASCAR’s culture would have helped France and the stakeholders better understand each other’s situations.

Brian France has done exceptionally well building and developing relationships between NASCAR and primary sponsors and partners. It would be unfair to ignore the fact that only months before he became CEO, France played a key role in the title sponsor negotiation with Nextel (and eventually Sprint) worth $750 million over 10 years, according to Smith’s article.  Also, Michael Smith writes that in 2005, Sirius Satellite Radio agreed to a five-year, $107.5 million deal making it the “official satellite radio partner of NASCAR” beginning in 2007.  The list goes on and on, and though France is partly to blame for the slow progress the league is making in improving its numbers, one cannot dismiss other marco-environmental factors such as the weak economy and new technology.

Before the start of the 2010 season, France’s mission involved meeting with every track management team and broadcast partners to address concerns and devise solutions that would be implemented throughout the season.  Weak attendance at races is a key issue and the solution lay with the fans.  He successfully identified what ails NASCAR and formed plans to bring it back to life, but he did not do it alone.

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How the “Car of Tomorrow” Exacerbated Some of the Problems NASCAR Faces Today

Since NASCAR adopted the so-called “car of tomorrow,” fans and drivers alike have complained that races are less competitive.  Part of the reason it was developed was to address safety issues that largely stemmed from the tragic death of the late great Dale Earnhardt.  Ironically, his son and NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is one of the many drivers who decries the car of tomorrow.  Surely, while every driver including “Jr.” appreciates a safer machine, he points out that it drives very differently from the previous designs and requires the driver to nearly relearn how to race altogether.  Earnhardt and several others feel that NASCAR became less competitive since the introduction of the new machine, but don’t tell that to back-to-back-to-back-to-back and current NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmy Johnson!  There is no disputing that Johnson worked for every single title in his historic run, but Earnhardt and company may have a point.  Still, it is hard to believe that NASCAR is hurting while Johnson is setting records year after year.  It has been postulated that the “car of tomorrow” and rule changes that favor safety over physicality – such as the elimination of the bump-draft in recent years – are partly to blame for decreased interest in the sport that has enjoyed the nearly unbreakable loyalty of – arguably – the world’s greatest sports fans.

One more thing… the “car of tomorrow” has also left merchandise such as clothing and die-cast toys featuring the previous design in many a retailer’s inventory collecting dust and languishing in obsolescence.  This is another proverbial “hole in the ship’s hull.”

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Conclusions: NASCAR’s Solutions

Decreased interest and participation has led to decreased sponsorship revenue over the past 5-10 years that has been catalyzed and represented by – among other factors including a difficult economy – a thinning of the crowds that attend NASCAR events and lackluster TV ratings.  Though the property has been slow to act over the last 3-5 years, it has recently taken several steps to address such issues as “blandness” and the perceived decline in competitiveness.   Brian France made a personal appearance on the pre-race show on Fox before this year’s Daytona 500 and reassured fans that NASCAR is a “contact sport;” essentially, his presence on TV and subsequent bold assertion certainly answered the call-to-arms from NASCAR stakeholders for the CEO to be more visible and reignited a passion in the hearts of many a fan.  He also sits in on more team meetings and communicates more openly with teams, sponsors, and partners.  According to Smith on page 16, team owner and driver Michael Waltrip says that at meetings France “is the first dude to speak… and that’s good.  He’s the one we want to hear from.”

Rules changes such as the reintroduction of the bump-draft have revived the physical nature of the sport and new drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick have increased and diversified NASCAR’s fan base.  Also, NASCAR’s broadcast partners have standardized the start-times of most of their telecasts in order to conform to the pattern established by NFL coverage (Sunday at Noon EST usually signals the beginning of NFL game coverage) so that viewers easily remember that race coverage starts at the same time as NFL programming just a couple of months before.  NASCAR has improved its business-to-business efforts and added more sponsored “fan zones” at tracks like Daytona to generate more revenue and enhance the fan experience at events.  Finally, some of NASCAR’s efforts to revitalize itself come from interviews with actual fans – focus groups consisting of NASCAR fans that represent different demographics and psychographics yielded perspectives and ideas that would help the league out of its slump.

NASCAR’s situation is definitely not bleak.  The league needs a new plan, sure, but it is far from beaten.  Every property experiences rises and falls in its life cycle, but some like the USFL have died off.  I have the utmost confidence that NASCAR will be just fine, though.  It is in capable hands.

So, let’s watch closely as NASCAR deals with these and all of its challenges throughout the course of the season. When you watch a race, look for empty sections in the stands and see if you can identify fluctuations in attendance.  Hopefully, tracks will sell more tickets this year than last.  Also, keep an eye out for on-screen ads.  NASCAR has stepped up efforts to sell these ads in order to increase revenue.  So far, the season does not look too bad… in 2010, the Daytona 500, for instance, posted its highest TV ratings in years.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Thank you for your continued readership.  I hope you enjoyed this week’s article and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them.

NEXT POST: 22 March 2010

Dear Readers,

Finally, the semester is over and I have concluded the bulk of my responsibilities as a Marketing Intern at Northwestern University Athletics.  I am maintaining a 4.0 GPA in the Master of Sports Administration program at Northwestern University and have this semester’s final exams/presentations behind me.  At this point, I think a retreat to a couple of my favorite hobbies – writing music and some rollerblading – is in order.  Of course, some much needed rest could not possibly be neglected at this time either!  Best of all, I get to spend extra time with my fiancee.

So, I will take this Monday off from my weekly compositions.  Nevertheless, I will have the next post up by next Monday night – as is the norm – and in the meantime you can always reach me by commenting on an article or sending me an email at ComSportsBiz@gmail.com.  Thank you for your readership.  I sincerely hope that the information here has helped you as much as composing it and communicating with you has helped me.

Man, after visiting family in Wisconsin and seeing dear and familiar faces this weekend, and reflecting on the hard work that defined every step I took over the past 6 months, I couldn’t be happier.  What a life.

Cheers,

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Sponsorship Valuation: 5 Ways a Property Can Identify Intangible Benefits and Justify Greater Fees

On 7 February 2005, IEG, “the leading provider of consulting, valuation, measurement, research and training to the global sponsorship industry,” (http://www.sponsorship.com/About-IEG/Overview.aspx, accessed 5 March 2010) published a report on the steps a property can take to raise the value of intangible benefits when they approach a potential sponsor.  I will briefly discuss five of the benefits they presented in their document as seen in Professor Jeff Bail’s Fundamentals of Sports Marketing. Essentially, the property must create the need for the sponsorship.  According to Rob Prazmark, Senior Vice President of New Business Development with IMG (Mark McCormack’s International Marketing Group, the business that created the sports marketing industry) as cited in IEG’s document, “We live in an over-supply world, and sponsorships are not a commodity.”  He affirmed that if the property can prove ROI (Return On Investment), companies will be much more willing to find the necessary consideration to seal the deal.  Even though tangible benefits – those that can be measured in dollars and cents and could be standardized – provide important information on the value of media buys, ticket backs, on-field signage etc., once calculated they would only account for a small fraction of the final value of a sponsorship deal.  Valuation of intangible benefits is one of the most intriguing problems in sports marketing and is at the center of many a controversy in the industry.  The successful “sale” of intangible benefits requires certain creativity and a thorough knowledge of both the property and brand to increase its effectiveness.

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Number 1: a property’s prestige and the relevance of its sphere of influence.

Essentially, the property must demonstrate that it is relevant to the sponsor’s audience.  For example, if Lego feels that the property seeking their sponsorship appeals to football fans (i.e. the NFL) but does not necessarily mean much to people who would buy their toy sets, the value of such a partnership would certainly diminish.  However, if Gatorade is the brand in this case and not Lego, they stand to gain from a marquee sponsorship of the NFL because of the league’s prestige in professional football.  They would be wise to use their prestige to argue that theirs is the number one football league in the world and America’s true pastime since the late-1960’s; by partnering with them, Gatorade would enjoy a boost in fan perception by aligning themselves with the NFL and share in the property’s prestige among football fans.  By the way, this partnership already exists and stands as one of the most expensive sponsorship deals in all of sports.

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Number 2: a property’s recognizability and ability to convey messages that the sponsor values.

When a sponsor signs on, it shares the property’s voice.  Agreements that soar into the stratosphere in regards to price, such as the New York Mets’ stadium naming rights deal with Citigroup Inc. that will cost the bank $400,000,000 over 20 years, have much to do with the visibility of the property’s logo and name.  Promotions and media coverage that tie the sponsor with the property go a long way here.  For instance, when Jeff Gordon wins a race, he does not simply state that his team and car fared well; rather, he will always say “the Dupont Chevrolet Impala” was fast and handled like he wanted.  You cannot calculate the cost of this approach to increasing a property’s recognizability or awareness – it simply works.  This leads us to…

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Number 3: the audience’s loyalty to the property.

NASCAR fans’ loyalty to the league and its drivers has been well-documented for decades and is one of the greatest intangible benefits it pushes when securing a sponsorship deal.  The IEG report clearly states that “the theory is that the more loyal stakeholders are to a property, the more loyal they will be to a property’s sponsors.”  This is not an instant process, however, and requires that the property take additional creative steps to activate the sponsorship.  For instance, a property can use its own media or even in-game announcements to thank sponsors for their involvement and mention how they contribute to the property’s success.  The property must have tactics in place that makes its fans aware of how continued support from its sponsors makes the fan experience enjoyable and unique.

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Number 4: a property’s ability to ensure category exclusivity.

The property could offer a sponsor exclusivity in a certain category.  For instance, if the Cincinnati Bengals sought sponsorship from McDonald’s, they would be justified in asking for more consideration if they made McDonald’s their official QSR and did not entertain any offers from competitors.  Exclusive intellectual (i.e. website banners) and physical (i.e. signage) space guaranteed to a sponsor creates a stronger bond between the latter and the property and helps the sponsor communicate to an audience without the noise generated by a competitor.  A property must guard from closing out a category that could generate more revenue through the involvement of more sponsors.  If NASCAR gave Home Depot category exclusivity, 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson’s car would look very different from the one we are already so familiar with and Hendrick Motorsports would have needed to find another sponsor willing to pay the kind of money it costs to have its logo painted on the machine’s hood.  In that case, category exclusivity could hurt the property.  However, in such a case NASCAR could discount the price of Home Depot’s sponsorship since Lowe’s would be allowed into the NASCAR family of sponsors.

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Number 5: a property’s ability to activate.

The question here is whether or not the property can leverage a benefits package into tactics that can change buying behaviors in favor of the sponsor and drive sales.  Properties must go beyond such traditional marketing strategies as increasing signage and adding more advertisements in programs; in fact, it is imperative that they initiate turnkey programs such as connecting the sponsor with a retailer that would assist the sponsor in selling its products or services, for example.  In such a case, the effectiveness of a property’s business-to-business efforts become a key point of discussion when negotiations begin to focus on activation.  Also, implementation of promotions that are proven to resonate with the property’s fans help the brand blend smoothly into the fan experience and keeps it from interrupting an event with advertisements.

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Conclusion:

In the end, the property must know the brand well prior to solicitation in order to get the most out of its inclusion of intangible benefits in negotiations.  Marketers must understand their potential sponsor well enough to customize their packages to suit the sponsor’s needs and make the property’s intangible benefits applicable to the sponsor’s marketing and sales goals.  IEG’s points prove that marketing is a service performed for the benefit of both the property and the brand.  A property can maximize the value of its sponsorship deals if it identifies the intangible benefits it offers, commits to developing them over time, and customizes them to benefit potential sponsors.

One last note.  The sponsor itself must define its sponsorship criteria in order of importance using a rating matrix based on a scale from 0.1 to 1.0, with 1.0 being the highest on the list.  They are usually rated based on their importance and relative to other criteria the sponsor deems important.  This helps the sponsor stay focused on its needs and gives the property a chance to customize its benefits package to better assist the sponsor in reaching its goals.  Also, prior to working with a particular property, the brand/sponsor ought to apply a similar analysis of properties to identify which would better fit the strategies the former is currently executing.  Properties would be rated on a scale from 1 to 10 using the same criteria categories in the aforementioned analysis to better gauge their relevance.  Finally, the brand/sponsor would multiply the criteria score by the property’s ranking in that category and add them all up for a grand total that will range from 0-100.  This calculation helps a brand/sponsor determine a property’s relevance.  This valuation/appropriateness system, though not perfect, helps marketers break through the clutter of potential properties and save time in the search for the best sponsorship deal.  Properties would be wise to bear this brand-side process in mind when the time comes to decide which tangible and intangible benefits to enhance and develop since keen brands/sponsors are watching and measuring carefully.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

As always, thank you for your readership.  Please feel free to add your own perspectives here.

The Pros and Cons of Playing Sports (or, Why Should People Play Sports?)

The Pros

Sports certainly can bring out the best in people and enhance their most noble qualities.  At a young age, men and women begin defining their values and when sports are taught by conscientious coaches and encouraged by caring parents, they can prompt a child or young adult to perform selfless acts of proper sportsmanship and gallantry.  One of the great disciplinarians and military minds in American history, General George S. Patton, had a high regard for athletes and sport as did the Duke of Wellington and the latter acknowledged that sport prepared his men for the decisive victory in the battle of Waterloo versus Napoleon’s Grand Armee in the War of 1812.  Success cannot be achieved without discipline or a strong work ethic, and when attained with earnest regard for ethics and morality, victory transcends the material realm and turns inward to the heart of the man or woman on the field.

Several examples of how sports’ lessons nourish the soul may be found in a few select readings.  In Jim Thompson’s Positive Coaching Alliance’s Bottom 10 Moments and Top 10 Moments in Sports, 2008, we see some of the best and worst that men and women can achieve as competitors and citizens.  When, in 2008, the USC Trojans squared off against the UCLA Bruins in college football’s most heated rivalry, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel took a time out after the initial kick off to match the two time-outs USC had to begin the game with; USC had only two because of a sanction the NCAA issued the Trojans the week prior.[1] Such displays of good sportsmanship are in line with one of the seven key descriptors of modern sport according to Professor Craig Lamay of Northwestern University’s Master of Sports Administration program: competition is fair and equal. An observant and ready student of sport may regard such a gesture as a symbol of how fairness and equality transcends competition and hatred (as a USC alum, I can attest that there is certainly no love lost between both schools.)  Number one on Thompson’s list is Central Washington’s Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace carrying their opponent, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon, around the bases after the latter hit the game-winning home run in a crucial game and was injured as she rounded the bases.[2] Holtman and Wallace knew that the home run would not count if Tucholsky did not round the bases and could win the game on a technicality, but this is not in keeping with the definition of modern sport.  It would be dishonorable to win in such a way.  In both the USC versus UCLA and Sara Tucholsky examples, we find coaches and students by profession — these are full-time college students, after all — demonstrating that it is not just winning but how you win that counts.

These ladies and gentlemen demonstrated a high regard and respect for their opponents and the sport itself; both occasions afforded all participants – members of society aware of these events and competitors alike – lessons in selflessness and gallantry.  Spectators can certainly internalize the deeds of the days discussed and gather their own interpretations of these events.

In Ann Dodge and Brenda Robertson’s article “Justifications for Unethical Behaviour in Sport: The Role of the Coach,” the authors begin the introduction by observing that “sport can be a vehicle for teaching positive lessons, and those lessons come from involvement in activity where ethical dilemmas occur frequently.”[3] Though it is not always the case that sports teach noble lessons, as we will see in part B of this week’s article titled “The Cons,” it cannot be discounted that in one play, at one pivotal moment in a sporting event, a person’s view on life and/or of themselves may change forever.  A student of academia and/or life as well as an athlete can learn the value of discipline, a good attitude, and honor from sports and apply them to their own pursuits of perfection whether at home or while engaged in the duties required to maintain one.


[1]Jim Thompson.  “Positive Coaching Alliance’s Bottom 10 Moments and Top 10 Moments in Sports, 2008.” http://www.positivecoach.org/bottom10.aspx (as found on Northwestern University’s Blackboard page for the MSA 400 course on 27 June, 2009.)  1.

[2]Thompson, Jim.  “Positive Coaching…”  1.

[3]Ann Dodge and Brenda Robertson.  “Justifications for Unethical Behaviour in Sport: the Role of the Coach.” http://www.coach.ca (as found on Northwestern University’s Blackboard page for the MSA 400 course on 27 June, 2009.)  1.

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The Cons

While sports can bring out the best in some, it is not difficult to find examples on local and international information media of how athletes and participants disgrace themselves and the sport on and off the field of play.  Dodge and Robertson state that “it is almost a truism that socialization into sports nowadays has as much to do with becoming adept at… [many] forms of cheating and violence, as it does with furtherance of athletic excellence.”[1] Number three on Thompson’s list is an excellent example of disregard for rules and unnecessary violence in what is arguably the most celebrated spectacle in sports: the Olympic Games.  In the 2008 Summer  Olympics, Angel Matos was angered by a call made by the referee officiating his taekwondo match and kicked the latter in the face in a base show of anger and selfishness.  It would logically follow that after reading their points of view on unethical behavior in sports, Dodge and Robertson may not be surprised by this display of man’s darker side.  This lack of concern for others is not unique to Angel Matos or Taekwondo (as a brown belt, I attest that the art does not condone such behavior and instead teaches respect and honor for your opponent and the art itself); in fact, disregard for both rules and fairness accompanies a lesser tendency to develop a keen moral character as described in Andy Rudd and Sharon Stoll’s research on the type of character athletes possess.

Rudd and Stoll performed a quantitative analysis that would determine the differences, if any, between the character of athletes (mostly involved in team sports) and non-athletes.  Though this analysis did not appear to make allowances for the samples’ socioeconomic status, age, religious affiliation (Randall Balmer’s article on http://www.sojo.net titled “Is God a Rams Fan?” drew several parallels between sport and religion, as did Carl T. Hall’s September 29, 2003 article in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “America and the Church of Baseball” which would make religion a relevant detail in this study) or whether or not the sample called “non-athletes” ever played sports (organized or not) at one time in their lives or another.  Nevertheless, the researchers provided data that accounted for variance in their statistics and drew several conclusions that marked a broad line between athletes involved in team sports and non-athletes and their respective views on the importance and relevance of morality.  Their analysis, in short, revealed that females (both athletes and non-athletes) “scored significantly higher than males [on the moral character index]… and males scored significantly higher than females on the social character index of the RSBH Value Judgment Inventory.[2] All in all, in qualitative studies that summarize the news of the day such as those found in popular information media and quantitative analyses like the work provided by Rudd and Stoll one finds sufficient data to support the notion that athletes, in general, tend to act more out of selfishness and with little regard for morality and ethics than those who are not full-time athletes.

Support for the claim that sports create a lack of concern for others, whether or not the “other” is an opponent or a teammate, is readily available on every medium spanning academia and popular culture.  Does this mean, though, that in the aggregate sports foster bad sportsmanship?  I would argue that, like any tool, it can be used to build or destroy.  It is up to the athlete to decide what to do with the life-changing potential of sport and the audience to interpret the actions they witness or learn about.


[1]Dodge, Ann and Brenda Robertson.  “Justifications…”  1.

[2]Andy Rudd and Sharon Stoll.  “What Type of Character Do Athletes Possess?”  http://www.thesportjournal.org/article/what-type-character-do-athletes-possess. (as found on Northwestern University’s Blackboard page for the MSA 400 course on 28 June, 2009) 1-4.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Thanks go once more to Professor Lamay for providing me with the prompt for this article.  And once more, thank you for your readership.

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