Yes, Virginia


Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it's so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Clau.


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prov. Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the law. Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all rea. Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

St. Johnezsms Pulls Out Some Nostaligic Threads With “Ugly Sweater Night”

College hoops in New York has been dormant for too many years. The last two years, not one local college even reached the NCAA's or the NIT, so all the good brand equity and loyal following that had been built over years of success for Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's, Manhattan, Hofstra, Fordham et al… has been lost. That doesn’t even begin to take in the losses from the casual sports fans who would follow and attend games, especially for SJU at MSG and Seton Hall at the Meadowlands, when the two were giant killers and at the top of the hoops hierarchy. The good news is that the potential to rebrand and grow as marketing properties still exists in the area, an area where hoops in the winter is still very very strong. The other piece of good news is that the teams in the area…Seton Hall, Rutgers, and now St. John's…finally appear to be on an upswing on performance, which can lead to more interest. Still that casual fan to fill distressed seats, even on campus, can still be very elusive in this transitionary time. So what to d. Well St. John's came up with a great promotion for a pre-holiday Tuesday, holding “Ugly Sweater Night” on the Jamaica campus. those showing up with the ugliest of sweaters get a discount on a ticket and a chance to win other prizes, including being part of a faux Guiness World record for the largest collection of ugly sweaters. The event pays homage to the Red Storm's legendary coach Lou Carnessecca, who was known for his garish collection of sweaters during his time on the St. John's bench. Will it fill the buildin. No. Does it get some buzz and create a fun visual at no cos. Yes. It also may move a few tickets at a tough time of year against an opponent, Bryant College, that no one would be lining up to see. On another level it sends a connection message to the current team and supporters of the glory days past, which is the team was stuggling may be troublesome, but in today's positive times, is a good message and connection. Now ugly sweater nights are not new, but to tie to a sometimes forgotten tradition it is a smart and easy promotion for the Johnnies.

Some other good reads…The Bergen Record's Ian O’Connor has a nice background piece on Nets President Rod Thorn…the LA Times‘ TJ Simers had a very indeoth piece on the inner workings of the USC athletic department and the issues with AD Mike Garrett…'s Stan Hochman has a review of Bill Lyons’ book on former NFL Commish Bert Bell… and the Washington Post had an interesting look into the college search business through the eyes of recruiter Bob Beaudine.

Can The Ivies Derive Green From Athletic Marketin.

Before the recent economic downturn, the whispers regarding the upgrading of the competitive level of Ivy League athletics were abounding. The large endowments of many of the schools were bringing the institutions to perhaps remove the paperwork and qualification for financial grants and give all students who qualified for enrollment a basic grant for free tuition. The thought was that it would be an efficient way to use the endowment money, and the reward of free tuition for academic excellence would pay off with a more satisfied and even more loyal alumnus in the future. So if you took away all the need-based paperwork for athlete.especially in football and basketball but even for hockey, and combined it with the state of the art facilities already in place and the promise of a best in class education, would more academically gifted athletes choose say, playing at Harvard as opposed to playing at Boston College, or maybe even playing hoops at Penn as opposed to Duk. While the transformation would.t be overnight, the possibilities for athletes who did compete on a high level both athletically and academically were very intriguing. Could athletics find a bigger place in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League schools, where football once was kin.

So we fast forward to today, where school endowments, although still very large, have been hit by the downward economic crisis, and now those free rides seem to have taken a back seat. Still, could now athletics, and sports marketing, fill a financial void that never existe. It presents a very interesting challenge for the Ivy League yet again. Most schools have never looked to invest in ancillary sponsorship dollars related to sports, although it could be argued that the quality of such an alumni list to tap into, even just the athletic alumni, could be pretty intriguing for many brands. The diversity of marketing through athletics, keeping in mind the large numbers of sports most Ivies offer, to both athletes and to the current student body is also intriguing. And a changing of the guard in me.s basketball, where Tommy Amaker has raised the profile at Harvard, Cornell is vastly improved, and others that were once doormats are now more than competitive out of conference, has made the Penn/Princeton domination a thing of the past. A recent article looking at Pen.s sudden mid-season change in coaching pointed to the fact that maybe athletics is becoming too important at the Ivy League level, but maybe it is the opposite. Schools are now seeing the ability to use athletics and sports marketing to perhaps raise ancillary dollars and continue to market the school to a very diverse audience.

Yes there is the argument that athletics can be a drain on the focus of a University. Hofstra and Northeastern have dropped football and the University of New Orleans is transitioning to Division III, but with the facilities in place, the balance of academics and athletics and an already stellar international reputation, why could.t a raised presence for Ivy League schools fill a role, especially a growing financial on.

It remains to be seen how deep the Ivy League schools across the board will go into the athletic branding pool. Some schools like Columbia and Penn have made investments in sports marketing positions to exploit the opportunities that already exist, and virtually every school has a staff member focused on promotions and ways to balance cost. Yet no one has culled the alumni, brand and athletic power to make a string run, either alone or as a group, at sponsorship dollars. Maybe there is a need for Ivy network which would feature both athletic events and academic program.maybe it is a brand that steps up and asks for the access in exchange for support of athletics. However one thing is sure, in these challenging times the Ivy League schools do offer an intriguing cache which could raise the competitive level higher for larger sports like basketball and football. The question is, will the schools deem it a short term fix that could lead to the headaches of big time athletics, or can they deal with the funding headaches that could keep growing a pain all their ow. The answer as to which is less painful and which is more profitable remains to be seen.

Sports Books Worth Reading And Giving From 2009

I will be the first to say I am not a strong critic, nor do I read every book out there. However I do read a great deal and try to figure out what are the books that teach me something, even of some of the most public of figures, that I didn’t know before and what can I take away from this that can apply to work, personal life or friends, colleagues or family. Also, what do I think are just really well written stories. So below I have highlighted a list of some of the books I have gotten to and enjoyed, and others may enjoy too. Some are on most people's lists…some are a little more obscure, but all are well written and have great value. I also have to admit I have not read Bill Simmons’ book or Chris Ballard's on the NBA, or the Agassi book or my friend Jon Wertheim's book on tennis this year. That is my bad, but that's what the holidays are for. These are also in no particular order, other than Marty Appel's name started with A and thats the first one I thought of. Feel free to send along other suggestions to me at

Munson, The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain by Marty Appel…Marty is a great publicist and a baseball lifer, and took the time to tell a story that gave fans insight into a tragedy years afterwards.

The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
Again, not being a Yankee fan but a fan of good writing, Tom had amazing access and Joe spoke his mind to let people inside the Yankees…not as controversial as made out to be but plenty insightful.

Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America By S.L. Price Scott Price tells the tragic story of another baseball lifer, Mike Coolbaugh, and all those around him…it is more a story of small town America and dreams than of baseball, but it is a great read.

Bowden: The Life and Legacy of Bobby Bowden By Mike Freeman With the legendary coach retiring, Mike Freeman gave us a great look back not just of his career, but of his family, his coaching sons and what makes a legendary coach just that. Not controversial but great insider info.

When The Game was Ours By Larry Bird (with Jackie MacMullan)
This book takes us back to when Larry and Magic started and gives fans a great look inside the hearts and heads of two legends at the same time. Lots of anecdotes and really helps tell the story of where the NBA got to and how.

Shooting Stars By LeBron James (with Buzz Bissinger) Maybe we already know too much about the NBA's dominant player today, but looking back at how he got to where he is today, and what went on in his high school career, helps us understand him a bit better. Anything with Buzz Bissinger is always worth reading as well.

Shooting For Tiger By William Echikson This book had nothing to do with Tiger Woods, girlfriends or wives. It is a very nice tale of the junior circuit in golf told by a man and his son, who is working his way up the Tour. Again great insight into the future stars of golf, and a very well written account.

W.ll Always Be Pals By Tom McManus Tom played several years in the NFL, and like other more famous recollections of father/son relationships, this one is a memoir that lets us see how a driven pro athlete gets to be who he is. Very nice story.

The First Fall Classic By Mike Vaccaro Another look back at how baseball got to be where it is today, written by a columnist who dazzles people every week in the New York area. Well researched and well told.

The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl In a year where soccer continued to rise and could explode in 2010, one of Sports Illustrated's best writers takes us inside the how and why of David Beckham, soccer in the US and much more…even before the LA Galaxy made it to the finals of MLS this year.

Is President Obama Losing His Sports Jone.

One of the smarter moves President Barack Obama used during his campaign to lure the interest of the casual voter was to introduce his athletic side and interests into his platform discussions. It started with shooting baskets with Sports Illustrated's Scott Price, while discussing his background in and affinity for basketball. He threw out a first pitch and donned his beloved White Sox cap; he played more hoops with the University of North Carolina on another primary stop, analyzed NCAA brackets, talked BCS and hit some golf balls for fun. Meanwhile Senator Hillary Clinton looked uncomfortable talking baseball, Senator McCain, despite being an avid outdoorsman, stopped in at a NASCAR event but took his private time hunting away from the cameras, and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin regaled us as a hockey mom. None were as effective with the casual male sports fan as President Obama, and that feeling resonated with a male audience who may not have followed his campaign closely before. It made him much more “one of the guys.” He shoots hoops and likes baseball and talks about it all very comfortably. Did it lure some vote. Probably. Did it detract at any poin. No way.

So the election comes and goes and the President continues his sports interests … he attends a Wizards game in a turtleneck and sits court-side, and talk of bringing a basketball court to the White House to replace the bowling alley runs rampant. Staff members are frequently seen being part of pickup games on the road. Athletes and teams make a trip to the White House a must stop during their D.C. swings, whether the President is in residence or not. Hall of Famers show up in record numbers, a new office to assist in growing Olympic sport and youth issues is announced. Talk of Opening Day for baseball and Final four predictions abound, despite all the challenges that are ongoing in the real world for the new President.

Yes there are the traditional champion's visits, but the sense of sport for this President (even with his predecessor being a former MLB owner) has never been higher. Even on the international scene, the optimism around the coming vote for the 2016 Olympics, right in the President's backyard, gives the Chicago bid a welcomed boost.

Time then moves ahead, and alas, our sporting President has moved on to bigger issues than pickup ball. Healthcare reform, the repayment of bank loans, and the war in Afghanistan rightfully dominate the agenda these days, and his most forward link to sports lately, August's trip to Copenhagen to support Chicago's Olympic bid, ended badly.

Has the President abandoned using sports as a social unifier to reach the young male who loved watching him mix it up on the court and play catc. Probably not. Using that sports platform to address the growing issue of childhood obesity in this country, will be a welcomed statement at the right time, perhaps as a part of another step in healthcare.

One prominent former athlete, (now NBC broadcaster) Tiki Barber, has made a trip or two to the White House to show his plans to use playgrounds … the plan is called “Play Proud”… as a spot where children in inner cities can resolve conflicts and build a base for healthy play, and that could certainly factor into the administrations’ plans for the future. The Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport, announced in June, is also finding its place amongst those in DC, and could be rolled out on a larger platform as we move toward the Vancouver Olympics in February. All will find its place in time.

So has the President stopped being the “sports guy. Nope. Will we see him dropping in on a Georgetown hoops game, or the NHL Winter Classic or the Super Bow. Probably not soon.

Like all of us he just doesn’t have time right now for catch. That's also probably a good thing.

The Business of Baseball Never Sleeps…

Maybe it's because the World Baseball Classic pushed the World Series into November. Maybe its because the winter meetings came at a time this year when the rest of the sports world was Tiger-crazy and not much else was going on. Maybe its because baseball is doing as good a job of strategically stretching out its news over a longer period this year. Whatever the reason, the amount of information that is ongoing for the business of baseball seems endless, and for those involved in the branding of America's pastime, its probably a good thing. Whether you are following the business of minor league baseball and the great things that so many teams do to stay relevant with offseason promotions, or are part of all the hot stove action going on, or are taking interest in the potential Hall of Fame candidates announced, or even getting ready to purchase tickets for the Sunday Night opener on ESPN, there is no shortage of daily information, news and notes for the baseball fan, ardent or casual. While virtually every other sport on the planet takes an offseason, baseball finds ways to stay relevant. Even on the competition front, as baseball finishes in North America games are starting in the Caribbean, and in 2010, in Australia with a new pro league. Is it overkil. Does it lose relevanc. Strangely not. More importantly if you are involved in the branding business of baseball, the sport finds ways to stay top of mind, giving the brands that are involved on some level incentive to stay fresh and informed. While some may decide the actual season is too long, the fact remains that as a business and as an entertainment property, there may be no sport that feeds the sould of its core fan more than baseball, and in these challenged times, that's a good thing for ROI.

Some other good reads…Media Post had a good piece today on Samsung's blogger competition for the Vancouver games…Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski has a good piece with the Kings’ Gavin Maloof, giving his reasons for why gambling could make sense for the NBA…and Barry Janoff has a good q and a with Ironman CEO Ben Fertic.

Can The Paralympics Be A Marketing Platform For Brand.

As we head toward the Vancouver Olympics and continue to immerse ourselves in the Tiger Woods train wreck, it is interesting to look for other opportunities where a brand like Accenture can potentially look to re-invest the millions just pulled away from Woods. Is the Paralympics an opportunity for Accenture or other brands looking to partner with great storie. This past week's Sports Illustrated had an amazing dual tale of two Paralympic stories from Beijing…Marin Morrison and Nick Scandone…who not only epitomized the Olympic spirit of overcoming great odds, but were also phenomenal athletes themselves before disease (brain cancer and ALS) got the better of their bodies, but not their minds or spirit. Wertheim did a great job of capturing the spirit of the Paralympics…full crowds of everyday people who could not get into the Olympic games, athletes from all over the world overcoming great challenges to succeed, yes to win, but also to compete, all great examples of what sport is supposed to be all about. The event did receive solid media coverage but was not the media extravaganza that the regular Olympics are, and as such suffered from branding exposure that is growing but nowhere near what it could be. Could a brand or brands, with a great integrated marketing campaign, turn its focus to the Paralympic. There would be no shortage of stories…they would get great appreciation from a loyal global following, they would have a created media platform to tell their story as to “why,” and they would be a leader in the branding world as one of the first all-in sponsors of Paralympics. The athletes are solid players in social media. They are well spoken, come from varied backgrounds and are appreciative for the coverage and the ancillary dollars that could come in. The have a wow factor just for what they are able to achieve as individuals and as a group. They could also be a platform to again educate a public that is still skiddish at watching people with disabilities. Given the advanced technology that now comes along with replacement limbs and rehabilitation, could there even be an education and inspiring science component built i. Tech companies, pharma, insurance, military…all have the potential to line up, as well as rising brands looking for a non traditional splash.

Yes there are brands that do put money toward these great athletes…Nike, The Hartford, Visa…all take shots at activating with these athletes as part of bigger picture deals with the Olympics or with individual Federations. However, Paralympics is not the focus, it is the add-on. Now that's justifiable with the dollars spent toward the winter and summer Games, but wouldn’t other brands be interested at a second tie. When we are looking for heroes to activate on a broad scale event, maybe the Paralympics can provide that opportunity. We can look to Vancouver to see a potential answer.

Some other good reads…The New York Times gave us a great look into the life of Johann Santana…AD Week has a look at the top 10 brand launches in 2009…Tara Sullivan in the Bergen Record has a look at Tiki Barber's philanthropic work…and Yahoo's Martin Rogers has a look at all the drama surrounding Italy's Serie A.

On Heisman Weekend, “The Rudy Awards” Score Points…

“Rudy.” Great story, great movie. Yes the real Rudy is a bit over the top, bit that's another story. It never detracts from the essence of the message the movie conveys. “Rudy” resonates with people on so many levels, and if the idea gives rise to ways for others to have their story told and be inspiring to those around them today, then its a very noble effort for the creators.

So this week, when the finalists for the High School “Rudy” Awards were announced, it was time to help give these real life overachievers a bow, and congratulate those who came up with the idea and the criteria for selecting the winners. The “Rudy” honorees come from all over the country, all walks of life, and all have amazing stories of how they have overcome great challenges to play high school football. A $10,000 academic scholarship and the inaugural RUDY Award goes to the winner, with $5,000 scholarships going to each runner-up. The selection committee included Jim Mora Sr., former Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints Head Coach; Andrea Kremer, NBC Football Sideline Reporter; Shaun Alexander, former Seattle Seahawks running back and NFL MVP; Drew Bledsoe, former New England Patriots quarterback and four time Pro Bowl selection; Jenn Brown, Inside the NFL Special Correspondent / ESPN GameDay Correspondent; Mike Smith, the 7th all-time winningest High School Football Coach in America; and Andy Beal, President CBS MaxPreps, Inc.

The stories range from kids who have overcome disabilities of every level to those who just outworked those for the love of the game. They never had to be the stars, but they inspired and led by example and made indelible imprints on all those who they touched. The award and the program is in its early stages, and naturally started with football, given the ties to the awards namesake and the sport. If the right brand support can be found, the ability to take the “Rudy” to other sports is a natural. It celebrates all that is good about competition at its base level, and hopefully with media support can grow beyond its first year. It is also very interesting that the awards come along at a time when interest in high school sports is at a premium. ESPN has launched its series of local stations covering high schools, MSG Network in New York has launched MSG Varsity, and others will soon follow. The “Rudy Awards” could be a great fit for any programming partner, locally, regionally and eventually nationally.

The fact that the award finalists are announced on Heisman Weekend should also not be lost. As the finalists parade through New York and across CBS for college football's most coveted individual award, the “Rudy's” remain at home watching and enjoying. While the Heisman does involve both character and athletic ability, the “Rudy's” are all about character, with the biggest ability being inspirational. Are there parallels and potential connections between the two in the futur. Perhaps. Are there awards already existing with similar platforms like the Arete Awards, shown on CBS every fal. Yes. But from a branding standpoint the casual sports fan and marketer understands what “Rudy” is, and the stories that follow make it a natural for those looking for a platform that transcend sport. There may be one Heisman winner this weekend, but the “Rudy” award could create a much bigger local footprint at a time when sports are becoming more and more local.

D-League “Hoax” Gone Bad Not Bad For Publicity…

Into the “seemed like a good idea at time” file this week goes the D-League's Utah Flash, who staged an elaborate and well attended hoax, luring thousands of fans to their game against Dakota with the thought they were going to see NBA legend Michael Jordan take on former Jazz nemesis Bryon Russell in a halftime exhibition that would recreate Jordan's jumper over Russell in the NBA Finals, one of the greatest shots in NBA history. In retrospect, the idea was all about what makes minor league sports great…a larger than life promotion that lures fans to entertain them regardless of the outcome on the floor. It is something that D-League commish Dan Reed does better and better with his clubs each year and has helped slowly grow the D-League into an effective promotional tool in smaller markets for professional hoops. The challenge had a large price tag for the event ($100,000 offered up to Jordan) a solid viral campaign that had Jordan sightings all about town and all over radio and the digital space, a boastful owner in Brandt Andersen and a willing foil in Russell to go along with it. The only problem with the stunt was that there was never a big inkling of what was actually going on until the fake Jordan showed up on the court to a chorus of boos and disappointed fans, which cost Andersen some money in refunded tickets and Reed some issues with the public. Still to call the stunt a “fiasco” is unfair and untrue. It brought attention to the franchise, it was meant to be fun and lighthearted (and could have been a fun fake promo, although not to the tune of 7,000 fans probably), it showed how well digital media can drive rumors and innuendo and it had willing participants. Is it a problem that no one in the media caught on, (although Steve Luhm's piece in the Salt Lake Tribune Sunday was full of innuenedo and disclaimer which left more than enough open that it was a stunt) or check with Jordan's folks (or even the Bobcats, where he is a part owner) to see if it was tru. No. Should the team have teased a bit more to lead people to believe it was a hoa. Probably. Still it was not Disco Demolition Night, it was not some of the poor taste promotions that ask people to show up to mimic celebrity criminals and at the end of the day the owner fixed a wrong by offering refunds. Was the intent exactly what the minors are supposed to b. Absolutely. Maybe it needed a bit of tweaking and a tad more honesty, but one has to give the franchise credit for pulling it off and understanding that sport is supposed to be fun, and at the D-league level all about promotion.

The Coaching Network An Untapped Activation Model For Brand.

They have always been the iconic role models that have shaped thousands of lives, from little league to the highest level of competition. They are dedicated and driven, mercurial and emotional, volunteers and mercenaries, teachers and mentors. They are coaches. Yet for all the time, effort and value they put in, these men and women usually never get the recognition or capitalize on their success as much as the athlete. Sure there are the superstar.Lombardi, Parcells, Torre, Bryant, Jackso.that have crossed over into the mainstream, as much as for their personality as for their onfield success. However as a group, probably because the very nature of coaching is selflessness and the field is so transient, coaches have rarely united as a brand to drive revenue and interest in the profession.

However that has changed in recent years, as large groups of coaches have been able to unite and become very effective in leveraging their experience and time in philanthropic endeavors. Whether it is coaching in tuxedos, wearing pins for Alzheime.s or Autism awareness, getting teams to wear pink for Breast Cancer, not wearing shoes to generate interest for destitute children in Africa or raising money for cancer awareness by staging events and special tournaments, the coaching fraternity has found its niche as a brand. The latest example of a mass fundraise for cause was documented recently in the New York Times, where Villanova football coach Andy Talley went through his vast network of former players and their families to build a huge chapter for a Bone Marrow registry.

Is the mass fundraising and awareness effort by coaches just an extension of their usual selfless work, or can it lead to bigger branding opportunities on a commercial leve. There are always the coaches and former coaches who break through in beer commercials, and other individuals who find their niche in other business campaigns, usually after they have retired. But for a non-traditional brand that is looking to find the right core group of motivated, well spoken and dedicated spokespeople, whether they are head coaches or the mass of assistants, perhaps the coaching fraternity is an undervalued asset. It certainly has been on the charity side, and the results there have been outstanding.

Some other good reads…USA Today had a good profile of Nike CEO Mark Parker…Hoops Hype had a list of the top 10 NBA players on Twitter…and the Sports Business Journal had a good piece on the new partnership between Bloomberg Sports and