Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Real Worth of Landon Donovan's Stunning US Goal in the 2010 World Cup

Landon Donovan scored an extra-time winning goal for the US against Algeria to bring the American team back from the brink of despair and elimination. Some have called the goal the most important in the history of US soccer. I agree, but for reasons beynd the obvious advancement of the team into the second round of this year's World Cup.

Although I have often criticized Donovan over the years, I am prepared to admit I am wrong about his development and leadership. Moreover, the manner in which he scored this goal is equally as important as the goal itself.

Donovan made himself available to the Tim Howard, the US goalie as soon as Howard made a save against a threatening Algerian attempt on goal. Even with time dwindling, Donovan didn't panic, he didn't heave the ball upfield as most American players are wont to do. He used his speed, ball possession skills and vision to launch a counterattack, something that most youth coaches in this country don't teach often, or well enough.

From the moment little kids step on the soccer field, some coach, parent or other misinformed adult begins to shout "pass!" Soccer in America has resembled pinball rather than the strategic game of skills and movement it is meant to be.

With Donovan's goal, young (and older) players have an example to emulate which encourages possessing the ball, taking on opponents, and distributing the ball only when it makes tactical sense. Perhaps the greatest example Donovan set was the continuation of his run after passing to Jozy Altidore who took the original shot at the Algerian goal. When the keeper allowed the ball to rebound away, Donovan was there to calmly collect it in stride and confidently tuck it into the back of the net. His effort was not a fluke, nor merely a matter of being fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. If you watch his run from the outset, you will see that he never slowed, nor did he hesitate to take up a position in front of the net that gave him a chance for a rebound, and an open lane to the goal.

If he never scores another goal for the US, Donovan has secured his place as the most accomplished player to ever don a uniform for this country. The manner of play in which he scored this particular goal is a model for every player who seeks to elevate their game to the level of world class. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the Record Regarding the US World Cup Team

Just so I don't appear to be a complete "Monday morning quarterback" let me go on record right now saying I hope Desmond Clarke does not see any further action for the US in the World Cup. He is the weak link. While most of the people who I consider to be most knowledgable about soccer tell me Michael Bradley is the real deal, I believe his lack of creativity and attack-mindedness are severe liabilities. I hope he proves me dead wrong. Findley is not capable of playing in a forward position at this point in his career, much more seasoning and should be replaced before Friday's game. Coach Bob Bradley is not likely to do any of these things, least of which is to bench his son. There, I'm on the record.

World Cup Soccer Starts Five Days Late

FINALLY! A World Cup match worth watching. In one of the few matches of this year's tournament that wasn't played by two teams trying not to lose, Spain threw everything it had at Switzerland through a relentless attack that nearly wore out the field on the flanks. The Swiss would bend but not break, demonstrating brilliant defense. As I predicted before the WC got under way, Switzerland is a team that must be taken seriously.
I thoroughly enjoyed this 1-0 victory by the Swiss despite predicting Spain as the eventual winner of the WC. I stand by my prediction. Spain's somewhat selfish play, especially in the first half, squandered numerous scoring opportunities. With so many stars on the roster, each wanting to put their stamp on the game, shots were taken that were often less than the best alternative. I believe the coaches will address this, and Spain will be one of the two teams to advance from Group H. Unless the wheels fall off, Switzerland will be the other team simply because Chile and Honduras lack the balance of attack and defense shown by Spain and Switzerland.
This game was especially satisfying to watch because I turned off the volume and watched the game without the din of the vuvuzelas, which I consider an embarrassment to all concerned, while also avoiding the less than insightful commentary of the announcers. When I saw Mike Tirico and Alexis Lalas were the in-studio analysis team, I was freed up to finish my morning paper before the start of the second half.
The World Cup has now shown the potential we all knew it had to present entertaining and intelligent soccer. Now that everyone has their first game out of the way, and they are jockeying for one of the two available spots in each group that moves on to the single elimination round, every team will need to play to win, or at minimum, save face. FINALLY, the real World Cup is under way!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

BP and the Gulf Oil "Spill"

I've held off writing about the BP Gulf Oil Spill simply because there is so much being said about it, and my highest concern is not out of professional interest related to the BP brand, but rather the ecological disaster that will be with us for at least decades.

I am prepared to give BP some very valuable and expensive PR and image advice as a public service. Forget about your damn image. Fix the real problems, solve the crisis, and to hell with you image management. More on this later.

As vain as it sounds, I am breaking my silence because two regular readers indicated they were eager to see my reaction to the BP/Gulf oil spill. First let me say, I am disgusted that BP and parts of the media continue to use words like "incident" and spill in describing this. An incident is a temporary, limited, or periodic occurrence, out of the ordinary that generally does not have long-term repercussions. A spill is what happens when you lift your glass of milk too fast and some sloshes out. Neither of those terms applies to the obscene events that continue, largely unabated, along the southern and now eastern shores of the United States. If they were to cap the well this moment the obscenity will continue in the form of devastation to our environment, loss of livelihood, damage to the food source, and economic impact that is truly immeasurable and likely to be felt for decades, if not generations to come.

Although I'd like to see the government take a more visible role in all of this, I have no way of knowing if they are controlling the situation, or what pressures they are putting on BP behind the scenes. I suspect they are making life at BP a living hell. At least I hope they are.
Do we need to continue offshore drilling? Unfortunately, yes. Can we afford as a nation and a responsible society to do it under the conditions and regulations that exist today? Absolutely not. Some areas are just too precious and represent too great a risk to the public well-being. In other words, stay out of Alaska. And probably Florida's waters, etc., etc.

Prior to this disaster I would not have thought it took a rocket scientist to figure out that when you punch a hole in the crust of Earth, literally miles under water, from miles away, you have to figure something terribly wrong could happen, and design a number of back-up plans for "what if . . .” Clearly, that wasn't done. Moreover, it appears BP took as many shortcuts as possible and ran a variety of unsavory risks in the manner by which they set up and operated this site. I've read that the techniques they used in this well are not uncommon among other members of the industry. These companies know its risky, and not necessarily the best methods, but they are committed to keeping costs down and shareholder value up. If ever there was a case for Congress to step in and completely revamp an industry, this is it.

Now to matter of the BP brand. The jackasses working in the PR effort to protect BP's image should be ashamed of themselves. Proof that some people will do anything for money. Lots of it. Don't be swayed by their feeble defense that as professionals, they have an obligation to offer BP their services. They were not sworn to some PR version of physician's Hippocratic Oath. For the record, they might want to refer to a particular portion of that oath that reads: "First, do no harm."

This is a brand that does not deserve to be saved. See, a brand isn't about image. It's about behaviors. BP's behaviors have been deplorable. Instead of running costly full-page newspaper ads to tell America BP takes full responsibility and is going to deal with this to find a solution - FIND THE DAMN SOLUTION! Stop the media circus they are conducting, try being truly open with the American people, fire Cheney's PR person who you brought in to wave her magic wand over it all, (Can you believe they actually hired this twit?), begin offering some protection from the toxins to the thousands of workers you brought in to start cleaning up (despite BP's efforts to portray it as simply picking up litter, this is very dangerous work).

BP is about to prove once again, what I have been saying for my entire career: A brand is the property of the intended audience, not the company trying to advance it. A brand exists only in the minds of the stakeholders, not in the hands of the corporate wonks or shareholders. When BP chose to engage in risky behaviors for the benefit of its stakeholders, it made everyone on this planet a stakeholder. I believe, in response to one of the greatest corporate foul-ups in history, BP is about to see a "stakeholder" revolt unlike anything previously known to man.

I have no sympathy for those local BP dealers who claim their sales off by as much as 40% and the consumer outrage is misdirected at them. If for years you have gladly profited off the good will and clout of the BP brand, then you have to be prepared to accept the negative fallout you rightfully share in the disaster. You collectively chose as dealers not to hold your supplier to higher standards and failed to ask the right questions about procedures that might have prevented this.

The BP brand is dead. They corporate wonks that run the place will quickly set out to replace the name or sell off the assets as soon as the federal government lets them out of the headlock that is meant to keep them focused on cleanup. Don't be surprised to see the Amoco name resurrected. Is this a good move? I don't think so, but naming isn't BP's problem so until real changs are made in behaviors there, what they call the brand will make little difference. 

Despite how angry the public gets and how costly this becomes to BP it is predicted they have more than enough insurance and assets to weather this. Sad, isn't it? BP might be a far smaller company when this is all over, but even that is unlikely. No, BP has protected itself well financially and you shouldn't expect they will shrink out of existance. That is not to say they might not, slink out of existance. Expect to see them drop a few tens of millions on image enhancement and a major rebranding effort. I do expect the BP name to go away in this country. People who cite how Exxon was able to continue after the Exxon Valdez disaster are comparing apples to oranges in the percieved relative magnitude of the situations, the long-term damage, the mood of the public for corporate irresponsibility today versus then, and the ability of social media to generate ire that wasn't possible during the Exxon era. I expect those BP PR wheels are already turning and some of my former colleagues are sopping up enough buckets of money to affort their own homes in the Hamptons alongside those of their clients.

If you get a chance, check out @BPGlobalPR on twitter. This person, identifying them self as Leroy Stick knows more about branding than most of us who claim to practice it for a living - probably because he/she has a clear moral compass, good judgment, sound reasoning and compassion for people and our Planet ahead of profits. Hey, come to think of it, BP, isn't that what a brand should be based on?