“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?

It’s been a long time since I blogged (here thinking I’d have so much time this summer), but hey, I’ve been working and jump-starting my career in sports media by planning a totally fun and unique track and field event at none other than the University of Oregon’s famous Hayward field.

I started thinking that I wanted to get involved in sports PR around the same time as this opportunity practically fell into my inbox. Competition Not Conflict, a non-profit organization that’s part of the University of Oregon’s School of Law Dispute Resolution program, was hosting its first annual fundraising event to raise money for what they do- create ways to work through and prevent conflict in sports, whether it be between coaches and players, players and fans, or… well, whoever, really.

Considering it was a related field of work, I jumped right in and ended up as the PR Coordinator for the entire event. All I can say is it’s been great fun and awesome experience. But now, I’m sure you’re wondering exactly what the event is…

“A Night at the Races” will be the name for Competition Not Conflict’s primary annual fundraising event. It was inspired by the spirit of TrackTown, USA (Eugene’s nickname) and the glamour of horse racing. What I love most about the event is that it’s geared toward the community- meaning any one can spectate or participate. There will be great local vendors, great entertainment from UO Cheerleading team, and then of course, my debut singing the National Anthem (I just had a singing lesson today to get my voice back in shape).

I’m planning on continuing to work with Competition Not Conflict (CNC) throughout the remainder of the year, blogging for them and getting more experience in sports related PR. Look for me coming up on Fridays on the CNC blogging website shortly. And swing by if you’re in town Saturday evening. It’s “A Night at the Races” you surely won’t want to miss!

When non-golf fans think about golf, they think of the sport as an individual game. However, those who know golf or play it professionally realize that golf is no longer about the golfer striking out on his own to face the beautiful, yet deceptive golf course. In modern times, the golfer has a sidekick, a confidante and, ultimately, a teammate in his caddie.

And the caddie’s job is incredibly important and not necessarily easy to do. Just recently, the New York Times golf blogger Bill Pennington experienced what it was to actually be a caddie. He explains that it’s much more than carrying golf bags full of various types of clubs, towels and any other little knick-knacks essential to the golfer. Pennington spent the day not only with 24-year-old LPGA golfer Brittany Lincicome, but also with her caddie, Mike Hobbs, who explained, “It isn’t about coming up with yardage numbers, and most people can learn to read greens. It’s about reading people. It takes time, but you get to know the player, so you can help her play her best even under stress.”

And knowing the golfer is essential. Phil Mickelson and his caddie, Jim “Bones” MacKay have been together for 12 years and have formed such a strong relationship, that MacKay has not missed a round. According to the St. Petersburg Times, he often knows what Mickelson is thinking before even Mickelson can say it. Caddies have a difficult role, for they must know when to agree and when to disagree with the golfer.

Also, if a golfer misses a shot due to poor or misjudged advice from a caddie, the caddie risks losing his job. Some caddies don’t feel comfortable disagreeing with the golfer. Says Don Robertson who caddies for Cliff Kresge, “I might think it’s the wrong club, but he seems so sure about it. In that instance, I shut my mouth. The last thing I want to do is put a doubt in his mind.” Contrarily, some caddies, like Duffy Waldorf’s caddie, John McLaren, know their golfer so well that they don’t mind disagreeing with them.

The golfer-caddie relationship is indeed a complicated one. In the relatively intense competitive golfing atmosphere, it comes down to the golfer and his caddie facing the green and all that it might bring. Sometimes they succeed and others, they fail. The best caddies, if they make a mistake have to say, “Okay, it’s just one shot. We can get through this.” It is a relationship that must be built on trust, faith and resilience.

Recently I watched my boyfriend play in the Oregon Golf Amateur Championships. His caddie, a good friend and fellow golfer, took the week off of work to work with him. After a bad round early in the week, his caddie turned to him and apologized. He explained that if he could’ve given my boyfriend different advice, the outcome would’ve been better. The two guys merely exchanged glances and then shrugged it off. Next time.

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.

There’s something else you should know about me, dear readers. I am Slovenian and proudly so. While many of my friends know nothing of their heritage, I can proudly say that I’ve seen my “homeland” three times already and that it really does feel like home. I feel particularly grateful for all the family I have over there. At least if I ever end up lost in Europe I have somewhere to go. But here’s the funny thing about Slovenia… No one knows where it is.

People I first meet often wow over my very Slovenian last name- Strgar (pronounced Struh- gar) and sometimes they’ll even tell me I have an accent. Funny, considering how I was born in Minneapolis and grew up in the Northwest for most of my life. Then they’ll ask me where my last name is from. It’s Slovenian, I tell them. Where’s that?

Let me tell you. It was the first part of Yugoslavia to secede in 1991. It’s a tiny country settled right on the northeastern corner of Italy. It’s the size of New Jersey and has a population of nearly 2 million people. It’s bordered by Italy, Croatia, Austria, Hungary and the Adriatic Sea. But then again, the article in the New York Times on Saturday could’ve told you that.

What it also could’ve told you (unless you’re an avid soccer fan) is that Slovenija (as it’s really spelled, at least in Slovenian) has a really impressive soccer team. According to the article, Slovenia is the smallest country vying for the 2010 World Cup. However, that hasn’t stopped Slovenia’s team in the past as it qualified for the 2000 European championships and the 2002 World Cup.

The team has only let in 4 goals during its qualifying run, mostly thanks to 25-year-old goalie Samir Handanovic who also plays for Italy’s Serie A. Slovenia is blessed with 21 other players who play for foreign club teams. The 11 starters play on teams such as Belgium, Poland and Germany. Although the Slovenian team has a couple players in their early 30s, the majority of the team is in its mid-20s.

It was an unexpected victory for Slovenia, however, despite their strong team. Slovenians worldwide will be routing for this small, but mighty team. Whether they have the manpower to defeat powerhouses like Spain or Brazil, it is still hard to say. The fact that they made it is enough of a national morale booster.

For me, the fact that Slovenia will be playing is enough for me. I wish I could be in Slovenia at such an exciting time. I guess I’ll have to settle for the Slovenia vs. US game.

The blog assignment is officially over. The school year of 2009-2010 is practically over. Summer is so close I can taste it (and the fact that I’m buying country music en masse again proves that). I believe I told you all before that I fully intended to keep this blog going, and, well, that’s as true now as it was then.

I’m so grateful to my professor for giving me this opportunity because I honestly wouldn’t have taken the initiative to do near daily writing. However, now that I have the space, I figure I might as well use it.

Thus without further ado, here is my foolproof guide to studying for finals, and, well, how to survive.

In my opinion, spring quarter finals (and I’m talking about those on the quarter system here) are the hardest to take. You’ve already had two other sets of finals, summer’s coming (although the weather here in Oregon doesn’t show it), and it’s just that time of year when you really don’t want to be in school. I feel ya. So here you are, the ways I survive finals.

1) Breathe: No, I’m serious. It sounds really cliche, but it’s true. It’s really easy to get caught up in minute details and forget to breathe. Breathing is important. Try some guided meditations and fall deep into your center.

2) Focus: When it comes right down to it studying for finals is all about time management. Set aside strict study time and stick to it. Try and do it in the middle of the day when you’re most awake, rather than those wee hours in the morning when you really should be sleeping.

3) Sleep: Although finals is notorious for re-arranging sleep schedules until they’re practically non-existent, now is not the time to give up sleeping. Sleeping is essential to mental health and dreaming helps you process your every day experiences. So catnaps won’t cut it.

4) Exercise: Another thing that’s easy to fling out the window once finals come a knockin’ is exercise. It’s hard enough to find time for it normally, but even harder during finals week. Don’t let it go! You’ll feel more in tune to yourself and just as Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde “Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy…” What more advice could you need?

5) Eat (Well): You’re spending 5 hours in the library and it’s easy to just take a huge bag of chips to snack on, right? No. Ever heard the phrase, you are what you eat? Well, it’s as true as ever. Finals is a time when you should be eating a lot of really good food and taking vitamins. No need to get sick now!

6) Relax: Remember how I was talking about time management earlier? You should also schedule in some relaxation time every now and then (even if it’s just for an hour). I know, I know, it’s easy to say to yourself, “I’ll get all this done and I’ll have all summer to relax.” No, relaxation time during stressful events is also critical to your mental health. Therefore, don’t feel bad about lounging on your bed, having some friends over, or watching a movie. You need it.

And finally, remember that nothing lasts forever… Especially finals. So good luck, everyone. I know you’ll do great!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again. One of my dream jobs would be to get some really sweet job in sports public relations. I grew up around a variety of sports- from basketball to soccer to tennis to golf and thus consider athletics merely a part of life. Although I didn’t play any of these sports in particular (I did equestrian events), I remember all the different sporting seasons and wishing that I knew more than I did.

Sports seem to have a language all its own. Listening to my father, brothers and the myriad of other men throughout my life discuss Michael Jordan’s latest play, Edgar Martinez’s homerun or Roger Federer’s amazing serve confused me. Since I decided that that’s what I wanted to do, I told my boyfriend (who is quite the golfer, actually) that I really want to learn the basic roles of various players and the rules of the games.

One day, when I represent high profile players, I want to be able to keep up on the gossip, not to mention, it’s great summer BBQ conversation. So I am making it one of my many missions to increase my sports literacy. I want to know exactly what a line drive is, a first down, and birdie shot.

After doing a little bit of online research, I realized I’m not the only one without a clue about all the fancy, shmancy sports lingo. Luckily for all of us sports illiterate citizens, there are resources for us that exist. Some of these include:

1) Incidental Contact: Learn to Love Sports, a website that sells audiobooks detailing rules about a variety of different sports that are mainly targeted to women. Check it out.

2) Also, a kids’ guide is Ducksters.com, where children or practically anyone who reads it can learn everything they’d ever want to know about their favorite sport.

3) Finally, and this is something I’m trying to do more often, is to keep up with my college’s various athletic teams, as well as keeping an eye on ESPN SportsCenter and such. Ask someone to fill you in if you hear something interesting about a particular athlete or team and then just start keeping yourself up to date.

Obviously, like everything else, sports literacy isn’t something easily picked up by everyone. Just like learning a different language, some people pick up the grammar and rules more easily than others. However, you can increase your literacy enough so that the next time someone brings up the topic of the Cavs, you can just smile and nod and say, “Yeah, that was a ridiculous foul, wasn’t it?”