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    Entries in Sports (160)

    Saturday
    Aug132016

    REPRISE: 10 reasons why you should quit the NFL for the Premier League

    Note: Today is the launch of the 2016 - 2017 season in the English Premier League. This is the sport you should adopt as your favorite this Fall. In that light, I am re-running a piece from last October where I laid out the case for you. Go Liverpool!

    10 Reasons Why You Should Quit the NFL for the Premier League

    October 31, 2015

    I am up early on a Saturday taking in Barclays Premier League match between my beloved Liverpool Reds and Chelsea, the defending Premier League champions currently mired in a slow start to the new season. I watch a fair bit of sports on TV, (I have pretty much no life), but after many years of increasing interest and appreciation of top-level soccer, I have mostly given over my Fall and Winter weekends to the Premier League, and have pretty much lost interest in the much more popular, (here in the US anyway), American football games (both college and in the NFL).

    Why is that? Why have I basically given up on American football, with only a passing interest in the country's most popular sport? Here are 10 reasons, just off of the top of my head. And if you are saying to yourself, 'Who cares what sports Steve likes?', I would answer, 'Probably no one. But it is my blog. And I am up early on a Saturday and this is what I feel like writing about.' So there.

    Ok, here are 10 reasons why I, (and maybe you too), should quit the NFL for the Premier League:

    1. Soccer has about 3 rules you need to understand in order to appreciate the action. Sure, there are more rules than that, but the essential ones are very few, they are pretty simple, (we teach 4 year olds how to play using these rules), and you can grasp them in about the first 15 minutes of watching a game. American football, and the NFL in particular, has about 3,593 rules, many if not most of them are incredibly complex, vary in their application, and even 'experts' of the game often fail to understand them. NFL football is akin to the worst of governmental or corporate bureaucracies - hopelessly dense, complex, and often unexplainable.

    2. Because of this complexity in the rules, NFL games are interrupted dozens of times (and on EVERY punt or kickoff it seems), by penalty flags, interminable on-field conferences amongst the numerous game officials, and delays in the game for video reviews, often frame-by-frame, of controversial plays. Again, the NFL resembles the worst in big corporations in that the games are really just a few seconds of actual things happening that are interrupted by meetings of paunchy, middle-aged men discussing and attempting to explain what just happened. 

    3. Let's talk about the actual game action then. A Premier League game consists of two 45 minute halves with the clock running constantly, with a few minutes of 'extra' time usually added for injuries and other delays. Add in a 15 minute halftime break, and the normal (meaning EVERY one), Premier League game takes a bit under 2 hours to complete, start to finish. It is a perfect amount of time to dedicate to a sporting event, a movie, a dinner with your in-laws  - pretty much anything. NFL and especially college football games regularly require 3 to 3.5 hours to complete. And for the amount of actual action that occurs in a game, (see Point 4), 3.5 hours for a sporting event is just insane.

    4. It has been estimated that the average NFL game, the game that takes about 3.5 hours to complete, and has 60 minutes of official game time, actually has only between 7 - 8 minutes of action, i.e., where the players are actually PLAYING football. The rest of the time consists of players walking back to the huddle, standing in the huddle, walking back to the ball from the huddle, and waiting for the quarterback to scream a series of incomprehensible commands and making wild gesticulations. The ball is then put into play for a few seconds, (the average NFL play lasts about 7 seconds), and the entire process is repeated. Unless it is interrupted by a penalty flag and a corporate board meeting by the aforementioned old men. Football is 3.5 hours of almost nothing happening.

    5. Premier League soccer (and all soccer really), consists of 90 minutes of almost constant action. There are no 'time outs', there are fewer delays for penalties and fouls. When there is a foul the one on-field referee in charge makes the decision, and the ball is put back into play quickly. There are no meetings to talk about the fouls, there are no lengthy delays to 'check the video replay', and there are no 'coaches challenges' like in American football. Soccer realizes, correctly, that it is a GAME, and not every tiny decision needs to be examined under a electron microscope.

    6. While the rest of this post is a little cheeky, this point is pretty serious. While injuries happen in all sports, and sometimes they are serious injuries, for the most part soccer at all levels is much, much safer than football. Despite all the advances in protective equipment, the nature of football leaves almost EVERY player injured at some point. While NFL players are grown men, and are compensated well to accept these risks, the culture of American football extends much further into society, where the participants are neither grown men or compensated at all for these risks. This season alone 7 high school football players have died from direct football related injuries. Read that again. SEVEN high school kids have DIED from playing football. I find it incredible that 99.9% of American society is ok with that. 

    7. In the US, Premier League games (that last a total of 2 hours like I mentioned), are played in the morning across all US time zones. That means you can wake up early, take in a couple of matches, and still be free by Noon or so to do whatever it is you SHOULD be doing on the weekend instead of sitting on the sofa watching sports. You can get your fill of game action and still not be a jerk to your family or friends who don't care about your fantasy team and want you to be an actual contributing member of society on Saturdays and Sundays, and not some loser who is constantly checking his phone to see how many receiving yards Odell Beckham Jr. has racked up. 

    8. The match commentators for the Premier League games are exceedingly better and more entertaining than their NFL counterparts. Premier League commentators use words like 'comprehensive' and 'beguiling' and describe players with phrases like 'He is a wily campaigner'. NFL game analysts mostly like to talk about what team coaches said to them in meetings the day before the game. When NFL commentators try to move past the obvious 'The team that makes the least mistakes will win today', and get into the intricacies of the game action, 'Tampa rolled their high safety over to the weakside to guard against the naked bootleg action from Seattle', almost no one watching the game has any idea what they are talking about.

    9. And speaking of TV coverage, in the US anyone with a decent cable sports package has access to EVERY SINGLE Premier League game on LIVE. Every game is on TV. In the NFL, America's most popular sport, the only way you can get access to every game live on TV is to subscribe to the satellite TV provider DirectTV and order a premium NFL package to get access to all the games live. There are a couple of ways to get access to streams of NFL games as well. But in 2015 the fact that I as a subscriber of Time Warner Cable, one of the largest cable companies in the US, can't order up or subscribe to any NFL game that I would like to see on my TV is absolutely insane.

    10. (I promise this is the last one. If you have made it this far well, bless your heart). The pinnacle of the NFL season, the Super Bowl, is primarily enjoyed by millions not for the actual game, 'Who is playing again?', but for the TV commercials. The actual game is just a side note for the commercials, the halftime show, the endless tweets and columns about which big corporation 'won' the game by having the best TV spot, and the discussions of what kind of plausible excuse can you come up with to call in sick to work the next morning. Aside for the fans of the two teams playing, and the people who have bet on the game, no one really cares which team wins the game. Let's talk more about that Doritos spot instead.

    That is it. I am out. Thanks for indulging me. 

    And by the way, Liverpool 3 - Chelsea 1 - Full Time. Go Reds.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Friday
    Aug122016

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #2 - Summer Olympics Edition

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of running out of good ideas this week, I am going to steal borrow for this site. So here goes, the second installment, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). I am going with a Summer Olympics theme this time around, as I have caught just enough of the proceedings, (about 15 minutes a day), to render an authoritative evaluation of the spectacle and competition.

    So here goes...

    Overrated

    1. Opening Ceremony - Too long, too much nonsensical blathering by the commentators, and what essentially amounts to the the most boring parade of people wearing funny hats you've ever seen. Is it fun to see a few recognizable superstars milling about with the rest of the interchangeable rowers and team handball players? Sure. But on the whole, the opening ceremony is terrible. And overrated.  

    2. Rowing - If the entire sport consists of the activity you do to train for doing the sport, that adds up to a really uninteresting event. It really is not that far removed from watching a line of people on the treadmill at Planet Fitness. Side note: Ask the rower in your life about the classic movie, Oxford Blues sometime.

    3. Zika, deadly, bacteria-laden water, crime - In the run-up to the Rio games, much of the reporting was frightening in nature. Zika virus carrying mosquitoes were rampant, the waters for some of the competitions were horribly polluted and unsafe for the competitors, and if you strayed too far off course, you were likely to be mugged, or worse. Aside for a few, seemingly isolated issues, the games (so far) have been executed well, more or less.

    4. Judo - I watched one judo match. It lasted for four minutes, almost nothing happened, neither combatant scored a point, and the match was decided on the equivalent of 'yellow card warnings'. I've been at funerals that had more action and excitement.

    5. Golf and Tennis - Probably should not be in the Olympics, or perhaps should take a page from soccer and become Under-23 events, or something like that. The top tennis players and golfers in the word are colossally wealthy, and the source of their wealth has never been nor will ever be winning a medal at the Olympics. When the very best athletes at a sport don't really want to show up at the Olympics to compete in that sport, it is probably time to have a re-evaluation of the entire event.

    Underrated

    1. Rugby - I caught a fair bit of both the Men's and Women's Rugby (in the Olympics it is the 'Sevens' format), and just about every game was exciting, fast-paced, and blissfully over in about 30 minutes. Rugby Sevens might become the next big thing. After Tikka Masala flavored potato chips that is.

    2. Table tennis - Makes the underrated list as the top , 'I bet I could do that if I only had a couple of years to practice' Olympic sport. No, no, you can't. But it is still a really fun watch. Add a few red solo cups of cheap beer to the table and you have America's next great spectator sport. 

    3. Archery - Makes the underrated list solely for one reason - the cool as hell bucket hats that most of the archers wear.

    4. Javelin - Of all the 'throw this thing as far as you can' sports, the best has to be javelin. The USA would be better at this if the government hadn't banned lawn darts about 20 years ago. Lawn darts was how many an aspiring javelin thrower got their start as a 7 year-old. 

    5. Fencing - A lot of yelling, a lot of slashing at people with a sword, and a lot of normal-sized people competing that gives you at least a hint of (false) hope that someday you might be an Olympian too. I am all about the Fencing.

    Properly Rated

    1. Men's basketball - Pros: Most of the teams have several, or at least a few NBA players, and the overall talent level and competitiveness of the games has improved. Cons: It still is a little dull to watch the USA beat some over matched team by 45 points. 

    2. Swimming - Is it great as a USA citizen that we seem to win just about everything? Yes. Is it a little bit falling into Men's Basketball territory in that regard? Yes. And I hate the chlorine-heavy air that always seems to surround any indoor pool. And don't even get me started about what might be in that water.

    3. Team Handball - Sort of relatable because it seems like a combination of sorts between soccer and basketball. Sort of not relatable because after about 3 minutes you have no idea what is really going on. The one game I saw pitted Denmark v. Croatia who were wearing similarly colored uniforms and it was impossible to figure out who was who.

    4. Weightlifting - Would be on the 'underrated' list if not for the occasional gruesome injury. And it would definitely be on the underrated list if they somehow incorporated some of the classic 'World's Strongest Man' type challenges. It would be awesome if the Beer Keg Throw or the 'See how far you can pull a bus using a rope that you have to hold with your teeth' were Olympic sports.

    5. Race Walking - Ridiculous to look at on one hand, but on the other hand weirdly compelling.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Jul202016

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #1

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of running out of good ideas this week, I am going to steal borrow for this site. So here goes, the first in what may be a series if I remember to do this again, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). Expect a mix of HR, workplace, Tech, sports, pop culture, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Overrated

    1. SaaS - Yes, it's better than on-premise. Yes, innovation and upgrades come faster. Yes, in some cases total cost of ownership can be less than traditional software. But implementations are still tricky, integration can be a hassle, and the amount of vendor FUD is astronomical. I am not saying SaaS is 'bad', just perhaps a little over-promised and a little overrated.  

    2. Apple - more and more, the hardware matters less and less. As long as Pokemon GO works, who cares about the device?

    3. Employee pulse surveys - Asking employees what they think once a year is probably not often enough. Asking them every day? Probably too much.

    4. Company Culture - Important, sure. But not more important than Talent or Strategy.

    5. Pokemon GO - It is kind of fun. Just kind of.

    Underrated

    1. Turning off smart phone notifications - You will be amazed how much more relaxed and focused you will be

    2. Amazon - How can the biggest e-commerce titan be underrated? Because they are into everything - enterprise cloud services, content, droned, spaceships, and who knows what else. 

    3. Single sign-on - Where did I put that piece of paper with all my passwords again?

    4. The New York Knicks - A playoff team in 2016-2017. I am sure of that. 

    5. Big Brother - Yes, I am watching this again. I actually am watching it as I write this post.

    Properly Rated

    1. Candidate experience - Yes, it is important. It is about as important as lots of things that are all kind of important. You need to spend some time on it. Just some.

    2. Twitter - Probably not as influential and important as it could/should have been. Probably not as 'dead' as some pundits like to think.

    3. The Olympics - I don't know anyone who loves the Olympics. But most of us watch at least some of the Olympics.

    4. The Golden State Warriors - Vegas had the over/under on Warriors wins for next season at 68.5, which seems just about right to me.

    5. LinkedIn - It is slowly but steadily becoming more pointless by the day. But you still need to make sure you have a complete profile on there and pretend you care about it once in a while

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Monday
    Jul182016

    Are you a buyer or seller of talent?

    In sports, and I will contend, in most other industries as well, teams and organizations are either 'buyers' of talent, i.e, the best candidates and people leave other organizations to come there to work,  or are 'sellers' of talent, i.e. they tend to lose their most talented people to other, better opportunities and organizations. 

    The problem for organizations however, is figuring out where they want to be on the spectrum of 'seller/buyer' of talent, vs. where the market (and the talent), perceive them to be on said spectrum. In other words, it can be pretty easy for team and organizational management to in accurately peg themselves as a buyer or acquirer of the best talent, when the talent no longer sees the organization as all that desirable.

    And in big time sports like Major League baseball, NBA basketball, and international soccer/football at the highest levels we see this tension between desire, perception, and reality plays out often, as teams vie for the services of the best and most talented players. 

    Case in point, the potential transfer of one of European soccer's top players, Paul Pogba from the Italian club Juventus to the English club Manchester United. Juventus' management sees themselves as an acquirer of talent clearly, as evidenced by this quote from team manager Massimilliano Allegri on the Pogba situation, (courtesy of Business Insider).

    "I am calm about the English rumours. Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs. 

    "This is not a selling club that just lets its players go. Pogba belongs to Juve and at the end of the day he too will want to win another Scudetto (Italian league championship) and hopefully the Champions League.

    "We have grown in terms of appeal and awareness of our own capabilities. So far our market this summer has been eight out of 10, bringing in players of international pedigree like Medhi Benatia, Dani Alves, and Miralem Pjanic."

    Tease that out a little bit and we can see clearly that Juventus see themselves as a talent acquirer - they think Pogba would be better off remaining with Juventus instead of leaving for Manchester United, and additionally, they are 8 out of 10 in acquiring top-level players against competing clubs.

    Meanwhile, Man United, long considered a buyer or acquirer of talent themselves, but who have dropped a bit lately due to some disappointing results, see the potential Pogba signing as one that cements and solidifies their reputation as a desirable location and organization for the very top tier of soccer talent to ply their trade. 

    Where Pogba ends up deciding where to play his soccer is a decision that will validate the ambitions and self-perception of one of these two organizations, and cast some doubts on the other. Both teams see themselves as 'the' destination for talent of Pogba's level. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Why does this matter to you and your organization?

    Because it serves as a reminder of two important points. One, it is important to understand that no matter how you perceive your organization's desirability as a place to work, your self-perception needs to align with market reality in order to better inform and shape your talent strategy.

    And two, at the end of the day, your organization's perception and position as a talent buyer or seller is a decision that the talent makes, not you. No amount of branding, or history, or posturing, or past glory will make up for the best talent deciding a competing organization over yours. 

    It's good to know where you stand in the pecking order, and it is better to know how and why the most talented people decide to put you there.

    Have a great week!

    Saturday
    Jul162016

    Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League - #8ManRotation

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engages, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was proably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great weekend!