Thursday, October 20, 2005

Holy Cow!

The Houston Astros are going to the World Series for the first time in their franchise history.

You didn’t surf by this site for my take on what is THE sports story of the year, but please indulge me for a few paragraphs.

Lots of adjectives were thrown around like 75-cent words to describe the 2005 Astros last night…all of them well- deserved.

All of them apply.
And like the city the team has so wonderfully represented—Classy.

Did you notice--no riots in the streets of Houston last night…no overturned cars set on fire, no raping or pillaging of the public. Just exuberant celebration from Uptown to Downtown and all around the town. Our morning news and traffic anchor, Tim Wolfe, who lives in a posh, upscale downtown Houston highrise, says the horns and sirens and whistles and whoppin’ and hollerin’ went on until well after 2am.

It is a sweet coda for the 2005 baseball season to bring the World Series to Texas for the first time. While this is a Houston story, it is also a win for the state of Texas, once again being thrust into the national spotlight…first for the opening of hearts, arms, and wallets for hurricane survivors, and now for opening the gates at MinuteMaid Park to the World Series.

If what goes around comes around, this is karma of the sweetest variety.

What a contrast to the story of the National Basketball Association imposing a dress code for its players when the regular season commences. Players will be required to wear business-casual attire when involved in team or league business. They can't wear visible chains, pendants or medallions over their clothes.

Call it the Bling Bling Ban…some of the players are calling it racism.

Stephen Jackson, a guard for the Indiana Pacers, says the new rule targets young black males because chains are associated with hip-hop culture. Johnson believes the league is afraid of becoming "too hip-hop." Perhaps…but when you see Hip Hopsters gunning one another down in the streets, and making millions on records that glorify violence, murder and general mayhem, can you blame the NBA for not wanting to promote that image, much less be associated with that culture…or the lack of culture?

Effective marketing is all about packaging and sending the right message, whether you're selling cars or season tickets to athletic events…which is a concept some coaches and players still don’t get. In Michigan, a little league hockey coach is under suspension for drilling his players in the finer points of brawling on the ice. The coach at a practice session of teenage hockey players ordered the kids to drop their gloves and helmets, and fight each other, one on one--leaving several kids bloodied.

Parents are upset but remaining silent.
The players on the team don’t want to be shunned by their teammates for challenging one of the traditional elements of the game.

There’s a mixed message being sent when you place kids in team sports to build character and an understanding of the concept of functioning as part of a group, and along the way, teach them to knock the stuffing out of one another because that’s how the game is played.

Maybe not.

You can change the culture of an organization…you can change the culture of an activity. It just takes a little discipline. Baseball has had its shares of knocks the past few years with a culture of indulgence of illegal “performance enhancing supplements.” The gambling thing didn't help, either. I think the corner was turned, however, when baseball wisely concluded Pete Rose does not belong alongside the greats of the game.

The NBA was tainted by the antics of players like Stephen Jackson in last year’s arena brawl. He was invited to sit out the next 30-games. At some point it doesn't matter how many points you score on the court, if team image is losing points off the court.

There must be something to the notion of dressing for the occasion. Dress like a hip hopster, most likely that behavior will follow. Substitute the bling bling for Armani or even Chaps, and it’s amazing how people respond—inside and out.

The business world has understood the concept for some time. They call it “dressing for success,” which the NBA now gets, even if some of the players don’t.

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