Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

“Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it” -Henry Thomas Buckle

One of the first times I spoke with Josh Gordon, director of Competition Not Conflict, we had a long conversation about my desired course of work. We exchanged thoughts on ‘athletes in crisis’ and the issue of crime in the NFL came up. Mr. Gordon discussed the loss of credibility of the NFL and its various players thanks to the high rate of crime amongst players of professional football teams. Although this post does not intend to ignore crimes committed by other athletes, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the NFL is overflowing with it.

“The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower


Yesterday, I spent an hour watching a variety of homemade Oregon Duck anthems, from the famous “I Love My Ducks” to “Eugene Lean” to the very latest. It then started occurring to me what power a team has over an entire fan base. Victories and defeats really can pull us apart or bring us together. In fact, sports psychology has proven the whole “we” vs. “them” ideology for both good and bad times in a team.

Have you ever noticed that when our team is winning, we say, “Oh, we did so well against Tennessee last week.” But if they’re losing we ask, “Ugh why didn’t he make that pass? That would’ve saved them in the 3rd quarter!” This brings me to an even more specific point- If football has that kind of power over our language, what kind of power does it have over our psyche in general? Even further, does it draw parallels to other types of human activity?

Sports psychology, and psychology in general has always fascinated me. I wish there was a sports psychology program at the University of Oregon. Alas, getting back on track, let me ask you this question: Is football a substitute for war?
Now before you adamantly nod or shake your head one way or another, consider this- much of football’s language stems from war terms: blitz, bombs, and flanks. Play strategies are often configured the way war strategies are and vice versa. The rules of football today are like the rules of wars of old- clearcut, easy to understand, and with a clear winner after only a few hours of play.

In the last decade or so, wars have gotten much more complex. We’re finally out of Iraq but we’re onto Afghanistan. A whole generation of American children will have been born into these wars, with no knowledge of what peacetime America is like. Contrarily, Americans are tired of reading about and paying attention to our conflicts overseas. Our attention span is short, which is why it’s so easy to simply sit down to watch our favorite team play football.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion over this controversy. Frank Deford, dubbed as the “the greatest sportswriter of all time” by GQ, recently ruffled feathers by suggesting that fans are ignoring the increasing violence in the NFL. He was not the first person to compare football to war. He explains that football today is much more violent than any of our other sports, but that it fits into our very violent culture- from music to television to sports, we are a culture that thrives on watching people hurt one another.

Deford explains, “And for all the beautiful excitement in football — the kickoff returns, the long touchdown passes — the one constant is the hitting. We very much enjoy watching football players hit one another. That makes the highlight reel.”

The next day, war and peace columnist Paul Pillar of The National Interest responded with a firm agreement. He presented the idea that as wars got less conclusive, football became more so. He also discussed the fact that each week coaches focus on one opponent at a time and that each game’s goal is clearly about victory. Everyone participating and watching the game is clear about why they’re doing it.

Next week, we’ll go into further discussion about sports fans and about the “us vs. them” thinking that traps many of us. But for now, I want to hear from you- do you agree or disagree with this argument? At what point does the outcome mean more than the game itself, and what parallels does it draw to modern day conflict?

Let me just explain quickly that this will be  the first post of my blog’s face lift. Previously known as “The How To’s of PR Today,” I renovated it into a crisis management blog this morning, because I’ve been considering a future career in sports PR and yesterday, I think I brainstormed my niche– crisis management for athletes. Managing a crisis is tricky business to be sure, whether it’s in our own life or someone else’s, and many PR teams fail at it.

I am deeply grateful for the education I’m receiving through the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications, although I think if I were to add one class, it would be a risk communication 101 class. Everyone should know the basics of crisis management. I think the skills required for successful crisis management are related to those needed to solve conflict in real life. Therefore, here I am, practicing. Read my updated “Stats” section for more information. Now, onto Masoli…

As the PAC-10 expands, the Duck football team diminishes. Following his suspension in March after his participation in an alleged frat-house robbery, Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, a native of San Francisco, was caught this week with an ounce of marijuana in his glove compartment while driving with a suspended license and was promptly dismissed from the team. Although he’d had the opportunity to play for the Ducks during the 2011 season, that was ripped from him after the most recent infraction.

Coach Chip Kelly claims that he asked simply for Masoli and his teammates to behave. When Masoli showed that he couldn’t, Kelly could no longer keep him on the Ducks. Although Masoli has one season of eligibility of college football left, it remains to be seen about what will happen to him, particularly following his court date on June 24th.

So what can we learn from all this? From a PR perspective, I think Kelly’s quick decision to dismiss Masoli was well called for, especially after what happened in March. Masoli got his chance to behave, and when he failed to do so, Kelly put his foot down. Let it be a lesson to coach’s everywhere that no matter how good an athlete may be at his sport, it in no way entitles him to do whatever he wants and get away with it.

Secondly, there isn’t much Masoli can do other than live with what he did. Although he has one season of eligibility left, he’s walking a very narrow line. My recommendation would be for him to come out with a statement of regret and apology in regards to his actions. This would show fans that he is mature and that he cares about them. However, I believe this is up to the Oregon football department.

For us fans, it sucks. Masoli really was an incredible player and quarterback. In his year at Oregon playing starting quarterback, he completed 177 of 305 passes thrown for more than 2000 yards. His team looked up to him. His school looked up to him. And his fans looked up to him. He will be missed and he will be remembered for the things that he did– good and bad.