Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Photo: twitter

Facebook and our email boxes are filled with posters, famous sayings and real life examples to encourage us, foment hope and inspire us with a spirit of never giving up. One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Winston Churchill, is “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”


There are few more vivid instances of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” than the Olympic figure skaters. With the world watching, if they fall in the middle of a routine, after thousands if not millions of hours of practice, whether alone or with a partner, they pick themselves up and keep going as though nothing happened—or so it seems on the outside. They are marvels.

My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the “worst” of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.


Erica Martell described a nail-biting competition for gold during the Olympic Pairs Figure Skating finale that I’d missed. It involved many falls and a juggling for the three spots on the podium. Going into the competition in fourth place were the eventual gold winners, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. It was Savchenko’s fifth Olympics and first gold medal. She’d previously won two bronze. Born in the Ukraine and competing for that country until, with her German partner, in 2003, they competed under his native flag, the 34 year old won for Germany. Her partner is from France.

In the men’s figure skating competition a few days later, Shoma Uno, who received the silver medal for Japan, fell right out of the box in the final round. He picked himself up and proceeded to astonish with the rest of his performance.

Do you watch the Olympics? Do the commentators add or detract from the coverage? What other vivid examples of pick yourself up and keep going, athletic or otherwise, can you share? Are there more athletes than before who compete for one country when they are citizens of another or has this always been the case?


Service of Loyalty and Respect: The 2015 American Team at the Presidents Cup

Thursday, September 10th, 2015


Phil Mickelson Photo

Phil Mickelson Photo

My husband, Homer Byington, a golf fan, sent this to me. One reason he follows golf is because of its history of good sportsmanship. He says it’s the only sport in which a player is honor bound to report his/her mistake.

What happened on Tuesday struck a welcome note in today’s “Win at all costs/you’re a total loser if you don’t” climate and approach that applies to more than sports these days—i.e. to politics, the arts, and business as well.

If you don’t follow golf, this year is the Presidents Cup, a challenge between American and international golf teams in Incheon, South Korea. Next year will be the Ryder Cup, a competition between the American and European teams.

Homer wrote:

Jay Haas, Photo:

Jay Haas, Photo:

I am flabbergasted. In this crass, selfish world of money grubbing athletes, the richest golf pros have put sentiment ahead of self-interest.

Every other year a team of 12 American pro golfers either plays a team of 12 European golfers or 12 international golfers. Competition is fierce to make the team, because of the prestige that comes from being a part of it.

The 12 player teams are chosen 10 statistically from the players with the best records and two by each team’s captain, an appointed older, non-playing golfer.

For 20 consecutive years, Phil Mickelson, 45, played well enough to make the American team statistically, a record few, if any, can match. This year he has played terribly, and his ranking has fallen all the way to 30th so he did not make the team statistically. Furthermore, there are at least 10 other Americans that also did not make the team, who have been playing better than he has, and theoretically, if chosen by the captain, would give the American team a better chance of winning.

Jordan Spieth, 22, No. 1 in world golf ranking. Photo:

Jordan Spieth, 22, No. 1 in world golf ranking. Photo:

This [Tuesday] afternoon, Captain Jay Haas of the American Team picked Phil as his first “Captain’s Pick,” as he said, “The guys on the team were adamant that Phil was the guy.”

Phil will probably play badly and the Americans may well lose the cup because of their choice, but what a way to lose it!

And I had thought Americans, particularly young ones, only cared about money and winning.

This decision has its roots in good sportsmanship, and represents recognition of an admired colleague’s contributions to a game.  There’s also encouragement—”we know you can do it”–in their choice. They have confidence Michelson still has it in him. 

Can you think of other examples either in sports, politics, the arts or business where young winners acknowledge the value of an older, recently less successful competitor who once led the pack? Do you think the team was nuts to add Mickelson?

Presidents Cup



Service of Good Sportsmanship vs. Winning School Sports

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

cross country fallen 2

The intransigence of Minnesota state officials about an incident involving the “no help” rule in a recent cross country race inspired the conversation on Rick Wolff’s “Sports Edge,” his sports parenting program on WFAN radio one recent Sunday morning. Two girls who stopped to assist another runner were disqualified and were not credited with finishing the race.

Wolff explained the reason behind the rule: Should a Good Samaritan move an injured cross country fallenrunner, more damage than good might result. At the same time he thought that being disqualified is a big price to pay for doing the right thing. In a typical cross country course there are plenty of tripping hazards–tree roots and such. Each case should be taken up on an ad hoc basis.

Before Wolff asked his audience what they thought he shared a few other examples in which, unlike in Minnesota, the officials bent the rule.

  • In Memphis, runner Seth Goldstein noticed that a fallen competitor’s lips were turning blue and his eyes were slipping up into his head. Though runners ahead of him kept going, Goldstein stopped. Goldstein knew CPR from his lifeguard job and saved the other man’s life. He was pronounced a hero. Tennessee officials recognized the run.
  • In Ohio crowds encouraged officials to change their decision to disqualify after cheering two girls who had stopped to help a competitor. 

cross country 2And Wolff’s callers?

  • Some felt that the difference between the Tennessee, Ohio and Minnesota incidents was crucial: There was an adult by the side of the runner in Minnesota who told the girls to keep going and they chose not to. The callers felt that because an adult was alerted and on top of the accident, there was no need for the girls to stop.
  • Others said that our litigious society was at the bottom of the rule in the first place. If a do-gooder caused a fellow runner to require knee replacement surgery, for example, because he/she helped up the competitor prematurely, lawsuits might ensue.
  • Another said that he didn’t consider helping a fallen fellow competitor was good sportsmanship but rather, good “humanship,” and should be encouraged. Yet another said he would hire the Minnesota girls who helped over the winner of a race any time as he appreciated their attitude.

Should student athletes be encouraged to consider the greater good over winning? Would that make them misfits in today’s society? Should sports officials stick by the rules no matter what as the Minnesota officials did?  

cross country 4

Service of the Counterintuitive Part I

Thursday, August 28th, 2014



I’ve collected examples of situations that caused me to wonder. I found so many that I broke the list into two posts.

Starving the Victims

basket of rollsA friend told me about a 20-course dinner that cost $350 pp. The only reason that she and the other participants didn’t leave hungry was because they asked for baskets of additional rolls that had accompanied one of the microscopic, uber-trendy dishes. She described the portions as the size of bottle caps. This was in the US. Another friend who eats like a sparrow left a similar restaurant in London feeling hungry after finishing a pricey appetizer and entree.

Where’s the Sport?

Ask Google to “define game” and the first you see is: “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

So what’s with this horrendous knockout game that Wikipedia notes is “one of many names given by American news media to assaults in which, purportedly, one or more assailants attempt to knock out an unsuspecting victim, often with a single sucker punch, all for the amusement of the attacker(s) and their accomplice(s).”

Police think that a recent victim of this game was a pregnant woman–in her seventh month–who was knocked unconscious and to the ground after her assailant hit her in the head, according to coverage in The Daily News. Doctors say both she and the baby are OK.

Conflicting Reports

empty storefrontI read everywhere how the economy has improved, the stock market is flourishing, salaries and employment are up and yet I continue to see newly empty storefronts and increasing numbers of beggars in a city that we’re told is doing better than other places. In addition, I read reports by companies that cater to the middle class, such as Macy’s, that are lowering their outlook for the year’s sales. For what reason? Because of the “sluggish demand plaguing the broader retail industry,” according to Suzanne Kapner and Shelly Banjo in The Wall Street Journal.

I don’t like feeling stuffed when I leave a restaurant, but what about the trend to pay a fortune to leave hungry? What horrible mind came up with the knockout game where the sport is picking on a defenseless person and what about the people who play? So what’s true about the economy—is it as great as some say or not?

up and down indicator

Service of Conflict of Interest II: One Olympic Skating Coach for Top Two Winning Pairs

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Skaters 1

In the PR and marketing businesses clients are sensitive about conflict of interest and frown on it. For this reason agencies bringing in a bigger fish most often must resign the tadpole they represent.

So I was fascinated that nobody blinks an eye about Marina Zoueva who coached the gold and silver medalists in this year’s Olympic ice dancing competition as well as at the Vancouver games. The same pairs–Meryl Davis and Charlie White for the US [who won this year– in the photo above] and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada [who won four years ago–in the photo below, right]—both also earned silver at alternate games.

Skaters 2Julian Linden, who wrote “Olympics-Figure skating-Zoueva coaches gold and silver winners” for Reuters pointed out that Zoueva has coached these skaters for 10+ years “but [they] have completely different routines and styles, each as spellbinding as the other,” he observed.

I can’t think of many other instances in which competitors welcome counsel from the same source. As I wrote, it doesn’t happen in advertising or public relations.

When a team of physicians, either in the same or allied specialties, collaborates to diagnose and cure a patient you could say competitors are working for the same client/patient. But the same thing can happen in marketing or PR when a corporation brings in several agencies to practice a specialty for one brand–so this example doesn’t hold up.

I admire this trust in the fiercely competitive world of sports. Does the Olympic spirit shine on the dynamic?  In what other industries are relationships that are considered a conflict of interest by most thought of as copacetic?

 Sochi 2914

Service of You Can’t Win: President Obama, Event Timing, Redskins, Debt Limit and Voting

Monday, October 7th, 2013

you can't win them all charlie brown

Sometimes you can’t win.

The options President Obama has when dealing with the Syrian or debt limit crises could be summarized: No matter what, too many innocents will be killed or hurt.

RSVPFortunately most of us don’t have to weigh options with such momentous repercussions, yet choices come up daily that work for some and not others. Plan an event for an organization, company or family and it’s inevitable: some can’t make mornings, others can’t fit in anything in the evening, lunch is out and didn’t you remember that favorite Aunt Muriel is off to her annual timeshare on the only weekend you, your brothers, sisters and cousins can travel to the family reunion?

Result: Noses out of joint.

RedSkins helmetThe owner of the Redskins football team is being challenged to change the team’s name as it offends Native Americans. Even the President chimed in suggesting clearly that he consider an alternative. In discussions I’ve heard on TV and radio nobody remarks on the millions spent to build the brand and what it will cost to create the new identity. Goodness knows, these teams almost print money so that’s not the primary consideration but still. Regardless of the decision there will be many who disagree.

Choose a menu for your guests winding it around allergies and taste preferences and you’re sure some will think you hadn’t considered them.

You can’t win at the polling booth when you object to both candidates. [I can think of one Senatorial race like that and I’m happy I don’t live in that state.]

Is flipping a coin the only thing you can do under such circumstances? How do you make choices when you’re not totally happy with any option? Are there words that work to soothe injured feelings of those whose preferences must be disregarded?

Photo: Coastal Capital Wealth


Service of Apology II

Monday, April 22nd, 2013


The topic of Rick Wolff‘s radio program “The Sports Edge,” on WFAN–it focuses on children’s sports–continued to be coaches who bully, in the aftermath of the Rutgers basketball scandal. During yesterday’s show he said he’s heard of countless examples of bullying in other school and college sports programs and asked listeners to share examples.

One of the callers was a wrestling coach who admitted to losing it after he observed one of his best athletes giving up at a major tournament after the first round of three. He said he dressed down the student the next day, screaming, yelling, using the f-bomb, underscoring what a disappointment the kid was to himself and if this wasn’t bad enough, he did it in front of the team.

wrestlingHe said that he immediately met with the student’s parents to apologize to them and the young man and then he met with each of the families of the other team members and did the same thing.

Meanwhile, last week, Rupert Murdoch refused to apologize for the New York Post‘s decision to run images of two men who were not the Boston Marathon bombers. “On Media” columnist Dylan Byers reported that the Murdoch-owned paper was the only major print publication to use the photos.

FBIMurdoch said that as soon as the FBI changed course–it was they who had distributed the photos but it wasn’t clear that the bureau meant the media to receive them–the paper removed the photos. As Byers noted, Murdoch obviously couldn’t delete them from the already-distributed printed copies.

In a statement, wrote Byers, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Col Allan, wrote that the two men weren’t identified as suspects. The headline associated with the image: “Bag Men: Feds Seek These Two Pictured at the Boston Marathon.” The bag reference was to the bags they carried.

So what about the reputations of the young men implicated by the headline that flirted with accusation? Are they collateral damage in the quest to be first with the news so it’s OK?

I’m sure that a smart lawyer could figure out a slippery way for Murdoch or Allan to sound as though they were sorry should their coverage have given the “Bag Men” or their families a start. Maybe one of them, like the coach, will meet with the young men.

Are public figures so afraid of being sued that they won’t apologize? Or is it a macho thing? Does this attitude then filter down to the rest of us so that often vendors respond “no problem” instead of “I’m sorry” when you ask them to right a mistake? Or have some successful people forgotten that they can and do make errors and that the thing to do is to apologize?



Service of Priorities

Monday, October 8th, 2012

counting-pennies1Frills tend to lose out when money is tight but not in New York City. According to Gina Belafante in “….18 Holes In the Head” in The New York Times, “the city is spending $97 million to construct a public golf course in the park.” That’s Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.

It will open in 2014 and Trump National and International Golf Clubs will run it.

golfWho will use it and how will they get to Ferry Point Park with golfing equipment? Who can afford the time and money to play golf these days except for those who belong to private clubs? And as far as healthy exercise is concerned, there are tons of other less expensive ways of getting it–take walking.

Maybe $97 million is too small an amount to bother about but it should be enough to fill a few potholes. Last year I broke my foot in one and this year a 20-something in the office has wrenched her knee so badly as a result of potholestwisting her leg in a hole that she may need surgery. A cab we were in came to a dead stop in the middle of a street so as not to lose his transmission by sailing into a deep-dish hole on 10th Avenue a week ago. [Meanwhile we could have been hit from behind by another car unfamiliar with the road as our driver was.]

Am I being overly severe criticizing a plan for people to have fun? Think it’s because I don’t play golf? Can you think of other things to apply almost $100 million to in this or in any other city instead of a golf course?


Service of Responsibility

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

nascarGolfer Roray McIlroy accidentally hit a fan in the head with his ball at the British Open in Lytham St Annes last week.

The ball of an 11 year old New Jersey boy went rogue and hit a bystander. He was warming up the relief pitcher in the bullpen at a Little League facility.

Accidents happen. You go to a NASCAR event and if you’re in the wrong spot in the stands you might find a piece of metal in your arm caused by flying shards from a crash on the track. Ball boys and girls at tennis tournaments can easily get bonged. I suppose you could even find a giant wrestler in your lap if your seat is by the ring. What if a fan hurts him or herself trying to catch a foul ball?

little-leagueThe now 13 year old Little Leaguer is being sued by the woman who was hit, according to news reports, for $150,000 for medical expenses plus an unknown amount for “pain and suffering.” Sidebar: I was brought before a judge and the two lawyers during a voir dire in NYC civil court a few years ago because one of my questions was, “Will the jury be given parameters to define the financial range of pain and suffering in this case?”  I was told “no” and excused from that case’s jury pool.

When you go to a sports event, do you accept the potential hazards of doing so? Should people who attend a free event sign a release or if they buy a ticket, should there be 2-point type written by lawyers on the backs of each one that discharges the producers or players from potential suits in cases of inadvertent harm to bystanders?


Service of Practice

Monday, June 13th, 2011


Rick Wolff, host of WFAN’s “The Sports Edge” on Sunday mornings, interviewed Paul Tenorio of The Washington Post about high school soccer the other week. In comparing US and European youth sports programs, it’s clear that here, the emphasis is on playing and winning, not on practice. European youth soccer teams clock in at about three practices a week to one game, they said. The inverse is true for young soccer players in this country.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” isn’t handy so I turned to Wikipedia which describes the author’s 10 thousand hour rule. “Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the ‘10,000-Hour Rule’, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” I agree with the practice part. That’s about five years working a 40 hour week.

communicationsI’m a believer in on the job training but the smartest office workers and best athletes need to perfect some skills and learn the rules of a sport or culture of a business even in something as obvious as person-to-person contact. Regardless of the burgeoning number of ways we have of contacting one another these days, we don’t always do so. Many students in university mentoring programs and the members of industry association committees who have recently graduated–even those who’ve majored in communications–would be given a D in responsiveness and follow through. There are exceptions and the careers of these young people are soaring.

If nothing else, a person needs to learn to listen, follow instructions and remember them to successfully complete the simplest task. It can take a while, less time with practice.

I just dropped off and picked up dry cleaning at an outpost in a rural area. A senior staffer was showing the ropes to a young-woman-in-training. The nubie will be in charge of this drop-off store and alone. Jen, who preceded her and was fabulous, worked there for over three years. Jen just moved to Seattle with her boyfriend. She told me that she didn’t know how to use a computer, but she never made a mistake inputting our jackets, coats, slacks and sweaters to the dry cleaner’s computerized cash register that spun out descriptions of our clothes along with the price.

What’s the rush to play before we have basic skills? Do we have no time to train or to practice whether in sports or at work? Does this approach affect the quality and expectations of our young athletes and workforce?


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