Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, March 12, 2021

train to the game
Despite grousing over allowing a bailed-out bank to spend millions on sports naming rights, Citigroup is still going to see its brandname atop Citi Field, new home of the New York Mets.

But they won’t see that name at the subway/train station stops:

Instead, the station, on the No. 7 line, will be called simply Mets/Willets Point. New signs will go up soon replacing the old signs, which say Willets Point/Shea Stadium. The nearby Long Island Rail Road station will be renamed in the same way.

“We’re willing, as we have said, to entertain corporate names on stations, but only for a fee,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This civic shakedown only works if the stadium/arena in question actually has a for-sale nameplate, though:

Across town, the Yankees will also open a new stadium, but they are keeping the old name. Mr. Soffin said that the names of the 161st Street/Yankee Stadium stations on the B, D and No. 4 lines would not change.

A new Metro-North Railroad station at Yankee Stadium, built with $52 million in authority money and $39 million from the city, will have a slightly different name. It will be called Yankees/E. 153rd Street.

So the Yankees are exempt. As for the Metropolitans, the MTA went after the second-hand dollars — they hit up the baseball team for a fee, rather than Citigroup. It’s a novel approach, and I wonder if other metro areas around the country shouldn’t try the same tack with their local teams.

Or else… millions of fans, especially out-of-towners, will get lost on the way to the ballpark? Actually, by making the destination-designator as dead-simple as the name of the team tenant, I’d think this would be preferred — you might not know the current name of the barn, but you’d surely know the name of the team you’re going to watch. On the flip side, it could get hairy for concerts and other non-sports events.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/12/2021 01:22 PM
Category: Baseball, Business, New Yorkin', Politics, SportsBiz
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Unless there’s an unusually high concentration of “Diff’rent Strokes” fans in Chicago, I’m thinking that the plan to rename the landmark Sears Tower to “Willis Tower” is going to unleash a big ball of hatin’ in the Windy City.

Nevermind that the building’s naming-rights holder, insurance agency Willis Group Holdings, is backing up its branding play by moving a bunch of its offices into the Tower. Or that Sears vacated the joint six years ago.

I find it interesting that one corporate tag is more cherished than another. I think that’s mostly due to sheer longevity: Sears’ name has been attached to the hemisphere’s tallest structure for nearly 40 years, so any change would be reviled, regardless of quality issues. This does prove out the effectiveness of grabbing the naming rights of major construction projects (chiefly sports arenas and other mass-market magnets) before they go up: Mindshare-wise, people form an instant attachment to the “birthname”. In fact, the association with the sponsoring brand tends to blur — I know that, for instance, Buffalo’s former Rich Stadium, the granddaddy of named-rights stadia, rarely ever conjured up the food-processing company that it was supposed to be promoting.

In any case, maybe Willis Group should hire Todd Bridges for the presumed renaming ribbon-cutting ceremony…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/12/2021 12:27 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Pop Culture, SportsBiz, TV
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Thursday, March 05, 2021

trade fair
The annual carnage that is the National Hockey League trade deadline ended yesterday at 3PM EST, and the biggest news was the relative lack of big-name moves.

Not that there was no action. Calgary is the consensus big winner, with its acquisitions of Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold supposedly thrusting the Flames to an equal tier with the Red Wings and Sharks, the class of the West. And the cellar-dwellers did their due-diligent dumping, with both Tampa Bay and Toronto shipping bodies (with their salaries) out of town.

As for the in-betweener teams, I naturally focus on my hometown New York Rangers. The Blueshirts were already in the midst of transition, with a new head coach in John Tortorella and an old familiar face — Sean Avery — already arriving prior to D-Day, keyed by a sliding playoff position with a month to go in the season. Taking into account that instability, what could the trade market bring to aid the situation?

GM Glen Sather landed a couple of big fish: D Derek Morris and RW Nik Antropov in separate deals with Phoenix and Toronto, respectively. In exchange, they surrendered a couple of draft picks along with D Dmitri Kalinin, F Nigel Dawes, and F Petr Prucha.

Basically, the sum total of this roster redo is intended to have a limited impact. I think the front-office operating philosophy is that Tortorella can squeeze more inspired play from the existing core personnel, so only a couple of tweaks were needed. Their major playoff tweaking came with Tortorella’s hiring, so they’re going to ride that through. And beyond the short-term of this playoff run, both Morris and Antropov are in contract years, so they could be off the books for next season, leaving enough cap room in 2009-10 for a more serious retooling if needed.

I don’t have a problem with that overall. That said, I think the Blueshirts could have helped themselves a little more, especially when it came to forward.

Antropov, at 6′6″, is being hailed for bringing needed size to the lineup. The problem is, he doesn’t play up to his size. He’s having a potential career year; unfortunately, that translates to about 25 goals and 60 points. He’s been a perimeter player his whole disappointing career, and the Rangers already are loaded with those types. In my mind, they needed a finisher whose instinct is to shoot before passing. Antropov just brings more of the same, which has been the chief offensive problem on Broadway this year.

Again, if Torts can successfully implement his up-tempo gameplan and unlock the offensive skills that Chris Drury and Scott Gomez have, then Antropov might slot in nicely. But it’s a risk — worst-case is that they’ll continue to roll out three lines that over-pass and don’t shoot. Morris can actually help in that area with puck distribution (plus his simple addition-by-subtraction in helping move Kalinin out of town), but it could be iffy.

I was looking for a deal that would net Erik Cole, who I consider to be the pure shooter the Rangers need. That doesn’t necessarily show up on paper — Cole’s numbers are worse than Antropov’s this year. Still, in New York, Cole would have had the opportunity to fire away, and at least the chanciness of relying upon the current roster to change their habits would be reduced.

Anyway. Now the roster’s more or less set (barring timely recalls from AHL Hartford — stand by, Mark Bell!), we’ll see if these moves were enough to keep the Rangers in a playoff berth. Although I get the sinking feeling that it’ll come down to the final day of the season, with Cole scoring a clinching game-winner for Carolina that bumps New York out of the eight spot…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/05/2021 03:38 PM
Category: Hockey, New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, March 03, 2021

back for seconds
You’d be tempted to conjure up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s oft-quoted maxim that “there are no second acts in American lives” while absorbing the news that Sean Avery is back in the National Hockey League as the New York Rangers claimed him on re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars today, a move long expected.

But then, Fitzgerald was probably never a hockey fan. Plus, Avery is Canadian. So all’s fair game on Broadway for the rest of this season.

Since this is a reunion for Avery and the Blueshirts, it’s only appropriate to take into consideration the scandalous “sloppy seconds” slip that got him into trouble in Dallas, and dovetail it with his return to Madison Square Garden. Presumably, he’ll be watching his mouth a little more during his current NHL tour of duty.

UPDATE - Well, this just ain’t right ;)

Don’t ask me why the NYTimes/Blogrunner singles out this blog for such momentous news. It just does.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/03/2021 01:21 PM
Category: Celebrity, Hockey, New Yorkin', Wordsmithing
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Monday, February 23, 2021

coaches on ice
When I decamped from Florida three years ago for New York, little did I suspect that Tampa Bay Lightning then-head coach John Tortorella eventually would follow the same path north.

Yes, Torts is the new bench boss for the New York Rangers. He has 21 games to instill a Camp Torture-ella environment among the Blueshirts, and thus hopefully reverse the slow-but-steady slide out of playoff contention they’ve been on for the past month. I have my doubts that a couple dozen games is enough time to get things moving in the right direction, but at least it’ll set the foundation for next season.

As for the now-deposed Tom Renney: I have no problem with canning the coach mid-stream, and for all the talk of player underachievement, I think the lack of organization and discipline among the coaching staff was really glaring over the past couple of weeks. It culminated with last night’s listless OT loss to the Leafs, when I noticed several botched shift changes and positional mis-matches. I kept the TV on long enough to watch Renney’s postgame press conference, and I could tell he knew that he was a goner, and deservedly so.

One last note: TSN saw fit to mention this consequence from Renney’s firing:

In an interesting sidenote, all four NHL teams that opened the NHL season in Europe have now fired their head coaches this season. In addition to Renney, other coaches to get the axe are the Penguins’ Michel Therrien, the Lightning’s Barry Melrose and the Senators’ Craig Hartsburg. Those teams were part of the NHL’s move to generate interest overseas by holding regular season games in Prague, Czech Republic and Stockholm, Sweden to kick off the 2008-09 campaign.

This is TSN engaging in veiled jingoism, implying that the league shouldn’t dilly-dally overseas or else bad things would eventually accrue. So that means that coaching staffs on next year’s European quartet of NHL teams — the Red Wings, Blues, Panthers, and Blackhawks — better watch their backs…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/23/2009 10:47 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Hockey, New Yorkin'
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Thursday, February 19, 2021

Yesterday while walking around Manhattan isle, I encountered not one, but two instances of the familiar New York Yankees team logo displayed upside-down, as pictured above (next to the regular version, for comparative purposes).

Well, they weren’t exactly as pictured above. In both cases, the logo was on articles of clothing (a winter cap and a sweatshirt), and the people wearing them had chosen to turn those articles inside-out. So what was on display was the reverse-stitching of the logo, in its mirror-imaged form. It actually looked unusual enough that, both times, it took me a few seconds to recognize exactly what I was looking at. The first time around, in the case of the cap, the weird outlines of the reversed “NY” put me in mind of some kind of Klingon alphabet symbols

Anyway, I’m sure that both cases, the effect was unintentional. Still, I’d like to imagine that this flipping of the Yankees imagery was some kind of silent protest, conscious or not, in response to the ‘roid-raging Alex Rodriguez scandal. In similar spirit to flying an upside-down flag.

Probably not. But why not make it so? I say, any Bronx Bombers fan pissed off enough over A-Rod’s a-roid situation should reverse out their Yankees cap, tshirt, and other merchandise and walk around with it in full view. It’ll be non-committal way of showing off displeasure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 11:57 AM
Category: Baseball, Fashion, New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, February 17, 2021

FedEx has an undeniable case of the basketball jones. Consider:

This week, the package-delivery giant attempted to graft its corporate colors (orange and purple) onto the men’s hoops uniforms of the University of Memphis Tigers. The NCAA declared this — amid the multifarious advertising and marketing imagery also on display in the arena during “FedEx Appreciation Night” — to be in violation of the church-state divide, and so squashed it.

I wonder how many people recognize that this is but the latest try by FedEx to buy its way onto the jerseys and shorts of big-time basketball. In fact, the last high-profile attempt was when the National Basketball Association arrived in FedEx’s corporate hometown of Memphis in 2001. The then-Vancouver Grizzlies got a $100 million package offer from the company that led to naming rights for the eventually-built FedEx Forum, and would have also included a complete makeover for the franchise: The new orange/purple uniforms, and a name change to “Memphis Express”.

The arena portion of the deal went down fine, but the NBA killed off the team corp-branding. Like the college guys today, the pro-hoopsters weren’t (and probably still aren’t, almost ten years later) ready to sacrifice the essence of their franchises to the marketing gods — yet.

Regardless, this points to a pattern for FedEx. The C-level braintrust obviously really wants to muscle its way onto the hardwood, and identifies big-league sports in general as a desirable marketing channel. If any corporate entity succeeds in buying a franchise identity among the major pro/college sports, FedEx seems to have the inside track.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/17/2009 09:20 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, SportsBiz
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the competition
Coming soon to an Olympics near you (yes, seriously), it’s yoga as practiced in competition.

The rules have to get around the challenge of achieving mind-body harmony within the competitive arena:

The end goal of all yoga is to get to samadhi, a state of enlightened bliss where the ego separates from the self and the practitioner realizes that he’s powerless to control the vagaries of an endlessly shifting universe. Obviously, this can’t be quantified. Instead, yoga competitions involve various asanas, or poses, within hatha, the physical branch of yoga. As in diving, figure skating, or Platonic philosophy, there’s an ideal form.

The competition involves five compulsory poses: standing-head-to-knee, which goes just as it sounds; standing bow, in which you balance on one leg with one arm extended forward and the other arm drawing back the lifted leg; bow pose, in which, on the floor, you grab both feet with your hands and arch back; “rabbit,” which involves scrunching up into a little ball; and a seated forward stretch. After that, the competitors get to pick two optional poses, where they can really strut. They have three minutes to complete the routine, or else they get penalized.

I’m imagining much chest-bumping after your synchronized yogi-mate nails that rabbit pose.

Two thoughts from me:

1. Suddenly, Wii Fit Yoga — which I had considered antithetical by nature of combining videogaming with a meditative-based regimen — makes a lot of sense.

2. For some reason, I want to see what would happen if the Master of the Flying Guillotine were to bust in on one of these yoga-thons.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/17/2009 11:03 AM
Category: Creative, Other Sports, Videogames
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Monday, February 16, 2021

In his critique of the current “What Is ‘G’?” series of Gatorade commercials, Slate’s John Swansburg gets downright Andy Rooney-ish over a couple of the faces featured:

They are, respectively, Chaz Ortiz, a 14-year-old skateboarding phenom, and the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop dance crew that favors Jason-style hockey masks. No knock on skateboarding or hip-hop dance, but do these guys belong in the same commercial as Bill Russell? Ortiz and the Jabbawockeez stick out as a sop to a younger generation.

In addition to mistaking Jabbawockeez‘ facewear as Friday the 13th-inspired, rather than the obvious theatrical masks that they are, Swansburg apparently missed out on Shaquille O’Neal’s NBA All-Star tribute to the dance troupe, dubbed “Shaqawockeez”:

So, if this hip-hop act — which takes its name from Lewis Carroll’s poem — is good enough to hang with Shaq, I’d say it’s good enough to hang with Russell in a sugar-water commercial.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/16/2009 03:23 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Food, Pop Culture, TV
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Tuesday, February 10, 2021

I sure as hell don’t agree with the “Why We Love Winter” sentiment that accompanied the above photo (never have been a fan of the bone-chilling cold). But I like the picture itself, taken by news photog Vyacheslav Oseledko, very much.

The photographic subject is a young goaltender in Kyrgyzstan, sporting a homemade mask as he competed in the country’s amateur hockey championships last month. The mask is not only reminiscent of the oldschool “birdcage” style protective mesh — it looks as though it really might have been crafted from an actual metal cage. Speaks of the standard of living in this largely rural Central Asian country.

And remember, this is Kyrgyzstan, not its larger and better-known neighbor Kazakhstan. Even the NYT Web editor couldn’t keep it straight, as the original image file was incorrectly tagged as “kazakhmask533.jpg”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/10/2021 01:14 PM
Category: Hockey, Photography
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Monday, February 09, 2021

A set of two pop-cultural quotations — one new, one quite old — stick in my mind this morning. So I might as well mark them down here:

“Hell, Poot, we’re all whores; might as well be the best.”
- Maxwell, North Dallas Forty (different from the original dialogue in the book by Peter Gent — “Ah, but we’re all whores, aren’t we? I guess I should take some satisfaction in being the best.” — but one of the few details of which were improved with the filmed adaptation)

“We may be whores at my agency, but we ain’t pimps!”
- Ari Gold, “Entourage”, episode “Dog Day Afternoon”

I’m picking up a decades-long call-and-response between Maxwell’s and Ari’s declarations. Probably, it’s just me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/09/2021 10:47 AM
Category: Football, Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing, TV
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Saturday, February 07, 2021

horsin' around
When the National Basketball Association announced that it would recreate a little piece of schoolyard ball during the this year’s All-Star Weekend with the introduction of a H-O-R-S-E event, it undoubtedly won hearts and minds with such a fan-friendly move.

And when it subsequently announced that it had sold the naming — or really, lettering — rights to said event to GEICO, it probably lost those same hearts and minds all over again.

I don’t know what Geico shelled out to get their name on this, but it’s genius. I’m almost amazed someone larger (other five-letter brands like, say, Pepsi) didn’t get their hands on this first. Someone earned their Christmas bonus on this sponsorship deal.

You’d think they’d have kept it all in the animal kingdom by using the five-lettered word “gecko”, as a fit-in with GEICO’s famous spokes-lizard. But that wouldn’t be as obvious in highlighting the brand, and that’s what this is all about, after all.

It’ll still be the same Hangman-meets-freethrow rules, but now the five-letter chances spell out the brand-name car insurer. Doubtless the sponsor is hoping the NBA treatment will spread downward, so that someday kids playing streetball will challenged each other to games of G-E-I-C-O.

This is, of course, another example of direct corporate branding creeping ever closer to the on-court (and on-field, and on-ice) product. No big surprise that hoops is leading this charge, as it already sold off part of the game boxscore to Lenovo with a custom-created stat category. This time it’s just the All-Star Game, so it’s not exactly sacred ground; still, this horsing around is a bit unsettling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/07/2021 03:30 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball
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Friday, February 06, 2021

This week’s improbable common link between Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Japan’s venerated sport of sumo wrestling: Marijuana-smoking scandal.

Both parties are feeling the shameful fallout. But I see a potential synergy here, especially for Phelps. Consider this scenario:

The gold-medal champion is suspended for three months by USA Swimming from competition, he’s lost at least one major corporate sponsorship, and he’s even considering bowing out of the 2012 Olympiad. With everything falling apart around him, how would you expect Phelps to react? That’s right: Retreat to the mind-clouding escape that every bong-hit provides. And since he’s not competing, the subsequent munchies — on top of his famed daily 12,000-calorie diet — will catch up with him quickly enough. By May, we’ll be seeing tabloid photos of a dazed and confused 500-pound Phelps, wandering around and wondering what his next move will be.

And that next move would be… Sumo! With all that acquired bulk, plus the now-regular pot habit, he should fit right in with the Japan Sumo Association. Phelps will abandon the swimming pool for a new athletic endeavor, as the newest non-Japanese star to compete in the ancient ring. I’m betting he’ll reach championship status inside of five years.

He’ll need a new sumo name, of course. Maybe something like “Phelpsakaki”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/06/2021 11:18 AM
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Other Sports, True Crime
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Monday, February 02, 2021

down party
The inevitable review-roundup for the Super Bowl XXLIII TV ads is in, and the verdict is that it was a same-old same-old lineup:

Although the country’s circumstances are far different than in previous years, many of the more than 50 spots shown on Sunday would not have seemed out of place in any Super Bowl of the last decade or two. All the elements that are supposed to make for successful big-game commercials were displayed, over and over again, as if bonuses were being awarded on Madison Avenue for the least creative briefs…

It was regrettable, a missed opportunity, that so few of the two dozen sponsors dared to be different on Sunday. Perhaps they were afraid they had to play it safe because of the economy and the national mood.

The sour economy was cited as a creative deterrent before Super Sunday. And indeed, the post-mortum opinions go along with this desire by the advertisers to avoid the touchiness in celebrating rampant consumerism with overblown ads.

Except that it doesn’t make much sense.

It doesn’t make much sense to reserve a 30-second spot in NBC’s Super Bowl lineup for a record $3 million, and then go for restraint. It’s like paying a $50 cover charge to get into your town’s hottest, most exclusive nightclub — and then go sit in a far dark corner, hoping no one sees you, because you don’t want to offend anyone else there. Once you’ve committed your entry fee, there’s no advantage in laying low.

That said, the ads were, as a group, generally unremarkable. But I don’t think that the Great Recession-dampened zeitgeist had anything to do with it. Rather, it has everything to do with risk-management combined with return on investment. To wit:

That $3 million pricetag is indeed a huge commitment for advertisers. So much so that they want to ensure that their ad messaging to a rapt, millions-strong audience is as sure-fire as possible. To achieve this, instead of trying something new and untested that might hit or miss, most of them avoid taking chances with the creative concepts in these Super showcase commercials, and go back to old concepts that have proven to be effective in the past. The economic climate has little to do with it, other than drive the need for a significant sales boost — but then, that’s the goal every year, recession or not.

So, the high cost of entry to have an ad run during the Super Bowl serves to, almost paradoxically, lessen the risk-taking associated with that spot. Companies play it safe because there’s so much money and attention focused on that Super commercial, and therefore the corporate-think process takes over and results in a lowest-common-denominator final.

Certainly, not every Super Bowl advertiser stayed the staid course. The first-timers like Cash4Gold.com obviously differentiated themselves (particularly that one, with a shift away from their familiar infomercial-like spots to, well, an infomercial-like spot featuring MC Hammer and Ed McMahon). And Pepsi flexed their creative muscles for their brands, thanks to a broad rebranding strategy that they’ve been showing off for weeks anyway. Finally, Miller High Life exploited the $100K-per-second airtime buzz by promoting its 1-second ad.

Also factor in that merely being in the Super Bowl advertising lineup is a sufficient mark of distinction. To a point, the effectiveness is achieved just by showing up — those 90 million pairs of eyeballs are going to be actively engaged for at least the first couple of seconds, regardless of what’s in the commercial. So it’s certainly not crucial that the ad hits a homerun.

But for the most part, the safe play was at work, and only because the big money for the airtime triggered that reaction. If the ad watchers want to cast blame for the lack of innovation between ball possessions on Super Sunday, they can start and end with the pricetag.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/02/2021 12:35 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, TV
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Sunday, February 01, 2021

In a National Hockey League pre-Super Bowl matinee today, the Boston Bruins visited the Montreal Where’s Waldos. As you can surmise from the photo above.

Seriously, I appreciate hockey history, and applaud the Canadiens for celebrating their century of existence. That doesn’t mean they have to don all the long-ago uniform designs the club has sported over the years. Especially not with those red-white-blue striped leggings, which makes them look like school-aged girls or something.

I’m wondering just how many replica jerseys of this 1912-13 “Barber Shop” look the Habs gift shops are selling. Considering that they lost this game 3-1 to the B’s, I’m guessing they aren’t flying off the hangers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/01/2021 05:26 PM
Category: Fashion, Hockey
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Yup, the 43rd Super Sunday is here. And I’m parked in front of the TV screen, absorbing the ESPN pre-pre-pre-pregame coverage leading up to the 6:28PM kickoff.

While I’ll happily keep the preliminaries going as background noise, I’m not particularly engaged in it. Fact is, it doesn’t feel much different from any other football Sunday. I’m not tabbed to go to any Super Bowl parties, which suits me fine as I’m a bit under the weather anyway. I’m contented to lay low throughout the day until the main event.

Once the game starts, I’ll watch it, but I don’t see getting too much into it. I’m not particularly committed to either team; one’s been here too many times to recount, and the other, frankly, has dumb luck to thank for its berth. I don’t feel any real excitement over their participation, nor in the outcome regardless of which one wins.

Still, I’m watching. What else can you do on America’s most secular of Sunday celebrations?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/01/2021 11:47 AM
Category: Football, TV
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Sunday, January 25, 2021

With the National Hockey League in the midst of the 2009 All-Star Game festivities in Montreal, now’s as good a time as any for me to take a varied, mid-season assessment on various of-the-moment topics. In no particular order:

- The All-Star Game itself has generated a good amount of nattering over the fan voting irregularities, which resulted in both Eastern and Western starters coming from only four NHL teams: Pittsburgh, host Montreal, Chicago, and Anaheim. The griping points out that this homerism shuts out merit-based votes for players who racked up stats more worthy of All-Star recognition.

My thoughts: Get over it. Fan voting isn’t intended to result in fairly-measured selections — it’s meant to allow diehard fans to act as boosters for their favorite teams and/or players. It’s like walking into McDonald’s for a meal, and expecting to tuck into filet mignon.

If the idea of a coveted starting spot at the ASG being “wasted” bothers people so much, then here’s a simple solution: Stop calling them “starters”, and call them “All-Star Fan Selections”. Keep them in that 30-second first puck-drop formation, but label them something more in line with what they truly represent, and assuage the hardcore purists at the same time.

- I guess I’m the only hockey fan in creation who didn’t get that YoungStars is a pun on “youngsters”, right? Yep, I thought so.

- Speaking of the YoungStars, I liked the Rookies vs. Sophomores format.

Beyond the All-Star concerns…

- Fighting in hockey is again getting some mull-over time at the NHL level. I’ve already made my feelings known on the neverending debate, and will only add this: The proposed penalty for helmet removal during a fight will be one more rules-based indirect deterrent against fighting, same as the instigator rule. So I see the latest controversy as another soft move toward the eventual removal of fisticuffs from the game.

- The Islanders have managed to generate some artificial buzz by agreeing to play a preseason game in Kansas City, thus sparking speculation about their arena situation on Long Island.

I characterize the situation as “artificial” because, well, it is. Neutral-site preseason games are not even remotely a unique event — half of the NHL participates in them every year. They’ve never been viewed as preludes to team relocation. And Kansas City’s situation with its major league-bereft Sprint Center is also not unique — arenas from Hamilton, Ontario to Houston have hosted NHL games, without the visiting teams setting off speculation.

So I view this story as purely a creation out of the Islanders’ PR department, intended to stir up media frenzy and put pressure on officials in Hempstead to push through new arena development to keep the club in New York.

As for KC: I’ve already noted that the new arena there is a shoehorned affair, not suitable for long-term major-league occupancy. Add to that the relatively small size of the Kansas City media market, and it’s looking like a bad option for the NHL or NBA to set up shop there. Any team that moves into that barn is going to be short-timing it, looking for a new facility and/or location within 10 years. Therefore, as a hockey fan, I actually hope that the NBA beats the NHL to the Sprint Center, and let the resultant headaches go to David Stern.

All that said, and accounting for the inherent revenue-generating limitations of the Kansas City market: If the Sprint Center does land either a hoops or pucks team, I see a strong possibility that it will become the first Big Four team to adopt a wholly corporate-based identity, i.e. the Kansas City Sprinters. With Sprint-matching uniform colors of yellow-and-black.

- Finally, regarding the actual on-ice action and the standings: I’m as surprised as anyone that the Phoenix Coyotes have moved into fifth place in the West. The long-time doormats have quietly sneaked into playoff contention; I see them going out in the first round, but it’s still an achievement.

Their Eastern counterpart is probably the Buffalo Sabres. Both teams are largely doing it with mirrors, along with some underachievement by other clubs (Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa come to mind). Nice surprises, for as long as they last.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/25/2009 08:11 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Today was the day I marked for picking a winner for the $250-valued Pepsi Ultimate Super Bowl Party Pack, with all the football-flavored trinkets as pictured above.

And so I did. I ran the comment number-designators through the list-randomizing utility at Random.org (a site which, incidentally, provides way more about true-random versus pseudo-random generation than you’d ever want to know — unless you’re like me, and are interested in such numerical minutiae). The result: Comment No. 17 by Melissa came out the winner. A result I couldn’t have picked better by my lonesome, since I consider seventeen to be my personal lucky number.

So the upshot is that Melissa will be receiving the stuff sometime this week. Congrats, and thanks to all who chipped in.

Some wrap-up results from this giveaway process, for my own edification:

- The majority of the entries came from mommybloggers. I didn’t get the connection at first, because I was thinking that this sort of thing would appeal primarily to football fans. But it makes sense, obviously: Super Bowl Sunday is a big family-to-family gathering, so moms would gravitate toward themed presentations of the day’s snacks. I also get the impression that Pepsi directed much of the blog-marketing for this promotion toward the mommyblogging niche — which means I was the odd duck in the rotation.

- As usual, the SEO marketing is what drew the most traffic toward this offer. Disappointingly, the special sidebar image/text link ad I threw together resulted in practically no clickthroughs — which tells me that the sidebar in general is probably not the best-optimized piece of the screen for this blog. On the other hand, the text within that ad generated keyword optimization site-wide, and did indirectly draw some extra traffic from searches containing Super Bowl-related queries.

- Similarly, I get the feeling that the entries that did come in came from searchers who were explicitly looking for Super Bowl contests, often specifically this one. I know a couple of forums tipped off readers about the presence of my post. In other words, practically no casual/organic entries — pretty much everyone who participated was on a mission to enter a contest (no complaints from me, just acknowledging it).

- I braced myself for multiple-entry attempts. I had plenty of default metrics to detect any such shenanigans: IP addresses, traffic logs, etc. There were indeed a couple of easily-noticeable attempts, and a few more questionable ones. Ultimately, I decided not to worry about it too much; I made allowances in the selection process without actually disqualifying anyone. Pepsi’s criteria for giving this away was fast and loose, so if they weren’t going to worry about it, neither was I.

- Geographic spread of the 52 total entries was pretty wide. I didn’t bother keeping a map, but for such a small pool, it was varied enough, with people from coast to coast participating.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/25/2009 06:49 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Food, Football
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Saturday, January 24, 2021

The Washington Capitals joined the National Hockey League in 1974. And now, only 35 years later, DC is coming around to hockey, with sellouts and sports-talk chatter to prove it.

And they have star power to thank for it, in the guise of Alex Ovechkin. A Stanley Cup or two would help things along, too:

[Mario] Lemieux’s term — “hockey town” — is frequently used to describe the old-school burgs that made up the NHL’s “Original Six,” from Detroit to Boston, New York to Chicago, Montreal to Toronto. It has, in the last 30 years, applied to places such as Philadelphia and even Dallas. Those are places [Capitals owner Ted] Leonsis has spent time studying.

“There are cities that you say, ‘Well, how did they become hockey towns and do so great?’ ” Leonsis said. “They won championships. That’s the answer. That’s why, to me, everything else is noise.”

Nothing succeeds like winning. There are other avenues to success, of course. Leonsis himself had high hopes when he first bought the team back at the turn of the century. Drawing from his background with AOL, he had visions of building an online-driven, superstation-like fanbase for the Caps, similar to what the Atlanta Braves achieved in the ’80s and ’90s via the pre-Time Warner TBS. That never took off, so back to square one: Winning championships with personable players. Sound strategy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/24/2009 04:52 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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Friday, January 23, 2021

Mindful that I’ve run into resistance to the use of common male-oriented sports-metaphor office jargon, I take note of the following:

The quarterback-in-command phrase “calling an audible” ticks up more Google results when relating to business than it does when relating to football. Indicating that it’s acquired a distinctly off-the-field cachet, probably among business-speak chatterers who have no clue as to the gridiron original.

Yes, I know those search results are far from definitive; they’re intentionally quick-and-dirty. Just a snapshot. If anyone actually wants to do more in-depth research into this niche-y topic, be my guest.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/23/2009 11:26 AM
Category: Business, Football, Wordsmithing
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map it outIf your sense of humor is highly-developed enough to allow you to easily laugh at your surroundings, then the United Kingdom has entire towns and villages in which you can amuse yourself:

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

Language, and the evolution of it, being so fluid, I don’t rightly know if English is the only tongue in which these punchline-like designators could occur. I’m hoping it’s a unique Anglo-Saxon oddity.

And, for some reason, I’d like to see retired NASCAR drive Dick Trickle do a circuit tour through these UK sites. I suppose if the racing-car league ever wanted to do a European expansion, that would be the way to kick it off.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/23/2009 10:59 AM
Category: Comedy, Other Sports, Wordsmithing
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