You are bringing a soccer ball to a football game. Why blogs don’t matter.

Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are? The question itself is a bit of a stretch, but I think the shortest answer to it is one of the most American of all answers — the sports metaphor.

“Old media” — television, newspapers, magazines — are like Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with some more minor players like the National Hockey League (NHL). Blogging is like Major League Soccer (MLS).

Who?

Exactly.

Actually, the MLS really doesn’t matter all that much, even to soccer fans. It’s just kinda.. well.. there. What matters more are the many youth leagues, SAY, AYSO, ODP and regional travel leagues scattered around the country. If you did not recognize any of that, you’re not alone and it’s ok. Soccer doesn’t really matter.

In the United States, about 4-6 million kids play soccer, depending on whose numbers you believe. That is more kids than football and baseball combined. By the time they reach high school most of them have dropped out to play other sports like football or baseball. While their kid is playing soccer, parents are engaged, almost fanatically, but when their kid no longer plays soccer, the parents quit caring about the sport, dedicating their time now to an extra dose of football and baseball.

“It’s a good thing Johnny finally got into a real sport like football,” most dads think quietly to themselves with a sigh of relief.

Sportscasters openly mock soccer as not being a real sport much like television and newspaper journalists mock bloggers as not being real media people. Sports departments cover soccer only when they have to or when it fits a pre-determined narrative, like during the World Cup and then only begrudgingly. Mainstream advertisers won’t buy placement in soccer venues. Many have soccer initiatives only because they are looking to attract the soccer mom and many times only as an ancillary buy to a larger media placement. Soccer-only product enthusiasts find out quickly how shallow and cost-concious the market really is, many going out of business within a year after launching their product or service. The parallels to blogging v old media almost rise up and slap you in the face.

And how does soccer respond? Not by being itself but by trying to emulate the larger sports leagues. It organizes the sport into a large national league (MLS) instead of deeper, hyper-local clubs tied to the community. It encourages rule and play format changes to make the play more exciting to American audiences. More goals, more points per goal, more physical contact, shorter fields, fewer players on each side for more ball touches per player, more tournaments, more, more, more….

And even internally, soccer people turn on each other, gutting one league to form another, jealously guarding their own piece of turf or breaking off to form their own club or league when the director pisses them off. (Read points 2 & 3 at Brass Tack Thinking) Sound like a typical impromptu parent sideline meeting? Sure does.

In the end, it is blogging that will change to fit an old media model, not the other way around. Sure, there will be some hold-outs like we have grizzly soccer guys who collect in pubs to watch a Arsenal game and complain about how kids today don’t play futbold like they did back when they were young. And they will eventually die and take their fan loyalty with them.

In keeping the metaphor alive, millions of bloggers write a million and a half blog posts a day. More citizen journalism, opinion editorials, lifestyle, industry insights, restaurant product and movie reviews are published each day by bloggers than network journalists combined. And still we ask, does blogging matter?

Does soccer matter?

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do blogs matter?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Send to Kindle

Hershey chocolate bar and Charm City Cakes (Ace of Cakes); Major upset

Fans of the show Ace of Cakes will know what I’m talking about when I say that the Hershey bar cake Duff and crew made earlier last year was a bit of a puzzler as the wrapper was right-side up with Hershey, but the bar pieces inside were upside-down. So, the cake was made with the chocolate bar pieces upside down.

Ever since that episode, whenever I bought a Hershey bar (about 3 times a year) I peeled back the label like I was Charlie in Charlie and the Chocalate factory. The chocolate pieces were always upside-down. Until today.

Every year, we attend the NSCAA soccer show and I buy graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey chocolate bars for Tim Lewis from Australia. Apparently, he had not had a s’more until 2006 where we rectified that life omission. So, every year since, he gets a s’more kit. In exchange, he gives me a bag of Minties candies. This year, I forgot to grab the chocolate, marshmallows and crackers. So, they were sitting on my desk when I got back, ready to ship. (Tim, I promise I’ll get to it right after the blizzard blows over, I swear!) and the chocolate bars were calling to me. So, I grabbed one and peeled back the label.

RIGHT SIDE UP!!! Oh, this was too good to be true. So, I had to have another.

Up-side down. Huh. Could have been a fluke and since I didn’t document the event, I had no way of proving it.

In the interest of science, I had to unwrap another bar. Dang! RIGHT SIDE UP! iPhone camera, take a photo. And the lot number as well on the back.

So, we still don’t know why the bars inside are upside-down because it appears they are right-side up as well. Anyone at Hershey have a definitive answer? In the meantime, feel free to speculate amongst yourselves in the comments.

Send to Kindle

Soccer stupidity in America

44928201All the soccer fans have probably heard by now that David Beckham is leaving the LA Galaxies to go play for AC Milan. Who cares, good bye. But what makes this somewhat of a sad story is that the MLS, the media and pretty much everyone who has no idea about who really runs soccer in America had hailed Beckham as the opportunity to bring the World’s sport, the “beautiful game” to America for good. This was the legitimization of soccer in America.

They were wrong because soccer in America is not about soccer and probably never will be. Having hung out on a soccer touchline for more years than I can remember, it is about two things:
– Power and ego for the adults running the sport
– Getting a college scholarship

I try not to be a cynic, I really do. But, every now and again, stuff happens that reaffirms my beliefs. Today, a team sent a tournament the following email:

Although I have registered our team in your tournament, we will not be able to compete in the tournament. I haven’t sent in the payment. But, I wanted to make sure you knew that we need to withdraw from the tournament. Our Coach is not available to travel with us that weekend due to a scheduling conflict with his [über-competitive league] team. Please let me know if I need to submit any additional information in order to withdraw.

As a parent, what I hear from the coach is this:

I demand unquestioning allegiance from your kid to me, but I will not give it back to you. I don’t care about anything that won’t get me fame and stroke my ego. Coaching your kid’s “B-team” at a tournament you really wanted to go to won’t get me that, so is just not as important to me. I am only using your kid to fund my “Über A-team” anyway. It is all about ME, ME, ME!!! (visual of cape flapping in the wind, barrel-chested stance.)

And this is why soccer in America is failing and will fail. The adults are not about the game; they are about themselves.

Probably why Beckham is leaving. It only took him 17 months to figure it out, but once he did, he probably wanted no part of that game. To leave LA celebrity to play in Italy is one huge vat of desperate “get me the hell outa here, mate!”

Send to Kindle

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

Send to Kindle

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

Send to Kindle

About Rufus

Some people have wondered about who Rufus really is and wondered if he is really who he says he is on DogWalkBlog (and elsewhere). So, just so you know.. and you know who you are.. everything on this blog is real. Here are some popular questions.

Is Rufus a real dog?
Yes, Rufus is very real. He was born in June 2000 and “rescued” from Jack’s in Trotwood by a very caring family who lives in Englewood, Ohio. There, he has flourished in the lap of near luxury, enjoying a MINIMUM of three walks a day, chasing rabbits, squirrels and playing with a squeaky toy.

Does Rufus really write this blog?
Well… not really,. He is, after all a dog and he has no thumbs. So, typing is very difficult. But, he is the alter-ego of his owner from time to time. At other times, he is a reflection of the world around him. Everything is this blog is a nakedly honest opinion as there really is no reason for a dog to lie or act a part. Rufus may change his mind from time to time or alter an opinion after some reflection, but the writings are a genuine glimpse into his mind.

What is Rufus’ favorite food?
He is a dog, so he has trouble narrowing down his one favorite. But, in order of preference, honey-dipped Tim Bits (but only from the Englewood store), then a double cheeseburger — without ketchup and onions — from McDonalds, Wendy’s vanilla frosty, a Frosty Paws from Captain Freeze and hot dogs from Englewood Indoor Soccer late at night.

Does Rufus vote? Does he have a political affiliation?
Rufus does not vote, but again, he is a dog. He does not have any political affiliation. He does pee on the Englewood Government Center lawn, but he has not yet shared what he really means by that. He has no political affiliation and his only criteria for being critical of any politician is they are acting stupidly.

How about a religion? Does Rufus believe in God?
People, again Rufus is a dog. But he celebrates all major religious holidays as long as they have some sort of food attached to them. Rufus does believe in God because things are way to complicated and designed to be a happy accident.

How do I become a fan of Rufus?
That one is easy. Just comment on his blog or send an email to rufus@dogwalkblog.com and ask to become a Rufus Fan. If you give him a mailing address and your name, he will send you an autographed photo with a personal message.

Last question. Does Rufus really sign his photos?
Yes, that is Rufus’ real paw print on the photo every fan gets.

Last question, for real, I promise. I want to send you something. Can I have your address?
Sure. If you would like to send a card or a letter or something like that, send it to:
DogWalkBlog, PO Box 6, Englewood, OH 45322

If it is larger, like a big box of sweaty money (extra points for naming that movie reference)
DogWalkBlog, 893 S. Main St, Unit 245, Englewood, OH 45322

Footnote I finally added on Dec 14, 2014: Rufus passed away on Oct 7, 2008. I still him terribly.

Send to Kindle

Myths and Rumors about Rufus

Some people have wondered about who Rufus really is and wondered if he is really who he says he is on DogWalkBlog (and elsewhere). So, just so you know.. and you know who you are.. everything on this blog is real. Here are some popular questions.

Is Rufus a real dog?
Yes, Rufus is very real. He was born in June 2000 and “rescued” from Jack’s in Trotwood by a very caring family who lives in Englewood, Ohio. There, he has flourished in the lap of near luxury, enjoying a MINIMUM of three walks a day, chasing rabbits, squirrels and playing with a squeaky toy.

Does Rufus really write this blog?
Well… not really,. He is, after all a dog and he has no thumbs. So, typing is very difficult. But, he is the alter-ego of his owner from time to time. At other times, he is a reflection of the world around him. Everything is this blog is a nakedly honest opinion as there really is no reason for a dog to lie or act a part. Rufus may change his mind from time to time or alter an opinion after some reflection, but the writings are a genuine glimpse into his mind.

What is Rufus’ favorite food?
He is a dog, so he has trouble narrowing down his one favorite. But, in order or preference, honey-dipped Tim Bits (but only from the Englewood store), then a double cheeseburger — without ketchup and onions — from McDonalds, Wendy’s vanilla frosty, a Frosty Paws from Captain Freeze and hot dogs from Englewood Indoor Soccer late at night.

Does Rufus vote? Does he have a political affiliation?
Rufus does not vote, but again, he is a dog. He does not have any political affiliation. He does pee on the Englewood Government Center lawn, but he has not yet shared what he really means by that. He has no political affiliation and his only criteria for being critical of any politician is they are acting stupidly.

How about a religion? Does Rufus believe in God?
People, again Rufus is a dog. But he celebrates all major religious holidays as long as they have some sort of food attached to them. Rufus does believe in God because things are way to complicated and designed to be a happy accident.

How do I become a fan of Rufus?
That one is easy. Just comment on his blog or send an email to rufus@dogwalkblog.com and ask to become a Rufus Fan. If you give him a mailing address and your name, he will send you an autographed photo with a personal message.

Last question. Does Rufus really sign his photos?
Yes, that is Rufus’ real paw print on the photo every fan gets.

Send to Kindle

My fifteen minutes of fame

My fifteen minutes of fame
Thursday, February 1st, 2007 07:01:27 AM

Well, it finally happened! I’m famous, at least for the next fifteen minutes. So, I thought I would take this space to shout out to the various places and folks that got a mention in my article! (Dayton Daily News, Neighbors Northwest, page 1.) Tim Hortons, Rivershark, Inc., TourneyCental, and our very, very Special Olympics Polar Plunge that you should pledge, even if it is only a buck. Please folks, this is a really, really important and fun event. So pledge!! And if you want to come out and plunge, give Rufus a call at 937-836-6255.

And of course, a link back to the DDN at www.daytondailynews.com (or at our soccer page here.)

Well, that is about all of my fifteen minutes, so go back to your lives, read some more articles and get yourself addicted to blogs. They’re fun to read; fun to write.. (except for that space bar.. I don’t have thumbs and it is hard to hit…)

Send to Kindle

“It’s all about me!” awards


I’ve decided to award the “It’s all about me!” award to people I see that are deliberately oblivious to others around them.

The latest winner of the “It’s all about me!” award goes to the parent in the red jacket.. The photographer was taking championship photos at the Troy Strawberry Festival Soccer Invitational and this one parent just could not wait until he had captured the official photo. So, some kids in the lower left corner will not have the honor of recognition for winning their division, but hey, the parent got his/her photo of their little brat!! Screw the rest of the team….

How sad.

Send to Kindle

Business advice from a 20-something

I was sitting outside the Uptown Cafe in Oxford, Ohio this morning, drinking coffee, watching the sights… and this 20-something unlocked his bike from the meter and asked me if I was with Vanguard (my free computer bag had the Vanguard logo stitched on the front). I told him no, but we entered into a brief conversation about bicycles (he works at BikeWise, kitty-corner to the Uptown. Long story short, we talked about the consolidation of bike shops and his remark was, “Most of these places fail because they fall in love with the bike and forget about the business.”

Well, interesting philosophy with soccer as well. Most of these “think of the children” and “purity of the sport” people who feel that money somehow taints youth soccer need to take a lesson from our Bike Wise friend. Stay focused on the BUSINESS of soccer and that will enable you to enjoy the SPORT of soccer much, much longer.

Send to Kindle