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The Positive Repercussions of Scandals in Sports July 27, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Sports.
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The last several weeks have brought a wave of turmoil to the world of sports.  From Michael Vick’s dogfighting indictment, to NBA referee Tim Donaghy’s gambling issue, to Bud Selig’s decision to follow Barry Bonds in his pursuit of the home run record, the three commissioners of their respective professional sports leagues have tough times ahead of them.  Even the Tour de France itself has become a full blown scandal with multiple riders being dismissed for failed drug tests and doping suspicions.  The major authorities in sports like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, as well as CBS News, have published articles describing how negatively these issues can affect sports.

However, if you look past the short-term consequences and the so-called bad publicity that these issues have produced, the long-term results will actually be quite positive.

Are you kidding me?  How can dogfighting and doping be good for anyone?  I know, I know, at first glance my allegation seems pretty ridiculous, but let’s dig a little bit deeper to see how these issues should play out.

1. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s brought to trial on allegations of his involvement in dogfighting on his property.

Answer this question:  How aware were you of the “sport” of dogfighting before you heard about this case?  Better yet, even if you knew of its existence, how much did you care that it actually went on?  I’m guessing not many people were very passionate about doing anything to stop dogfighting before this issue because it wasn’t mainstream.  Now Michael Vick has brought it mainstream, and all of a sudden, everyone is appalled of dogfighting, and some are even willing to protest at Falcons camp.  Well you know what? Dogfighting is terrible.  There should be a lot of people passionate about stopping this and willing to take action against it.  It shouldn’t take a sports celebrity being brought to trial to motivate people to stop something that is morally wrong and downright repulsive.  But now this trial has motivated people to act and will continue to do so.  It will place fear into those involved in dogfighting. If a national figure like Michael Vick can get caught, then so can they, and they won’t receive any kind of “celebrity” treatment like Vick may.  This trial may not completely squash dogfighting in the US, but it will at least slow it considerably, and that is an outstanding result.  As far as the NFL goes, it may look bad on the league, but is it really going to stop people from watching the games?  This may spark even more interest in Falcons games to see how they can cope without Vick, and there is no way it can turn loyal fans away that just love the sport of football.

2. NBA referee Tim Donaghy being investigated by federal agents for his involvement in gambling on games that he officiated and possibly fixing games to win money.

This issue is quite different from the Vick scandal.  Tim Donaghy has literally compromised the integrity of the NBA.  The referee is supposed to be the trusted, neutral figure in each game, and we now realize that he was certainly not to be trusted.  In the short-run it may turn some fans away from the NBA because they will decide that the league is just a fixed entertainment scam much like the WWE.  This is bad for the NBA as a business, but its not like the NBA has a huge viewer base for regular season games anyway.  For the few fans that it will turn away from watching those games, the NBA will gain in new viewers who are intrigued to see if they personally can see if any other referees are fixing games.  The playoffs will be under some scrutiny because teams and fans will demand that only the best refs work the games for their teams, and this scrutiny and publicity should actually draw some new viewers and, hopefully, new fans.  The NBA will also become a better officiated league because they now have to revamp their background checks and training processes to ensure everyone that only the best referees will be hired.  This should lead to better games and more uniform calls if the standards are improved.  This should also serve as a warning sign to other referees that they should never engage in any kind of similar activity because, with the heightened scrutiny, they will get caught, they will lose their jobs, and they will be prosecuted.

3. Bud Selig has had to make the decision of whether to be in attendance when Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s longstanding home run record amid allegations of Bonds’ steroid use.

Although this is a major event, it is really just a small piece of the huge steroids puzzle in baseball.  Selig has made the right decision to follow Bonds until he breaks the record, but it is his obligation as commissioner to acknowledge outstanding accomplishments in his sport.  Whether or not Bonds is legitimate, the record is an amazing feat, and at the very least, the commissioner of his sport should acknowledge it.  It would be a different story if Bonds had admitted to steroids or if enough evidence surfaced that proved he did.  In that case, action should be taken against Bonds, and an asterisk should be placed next to his imminent record.  With no legal evidence, Bonds is innocent until proven guilty, and the commissioner cannot risk shunning one of the sports’ greatest players.  The real issue here is the use of steroids.  It has been well documented that baseball went through a period in the last several years where home runs and power numbers have been astronomical, and several athletes have admitted to or been caught with steroid use.  The positive outcome from this is again the heightened scrutiny and the improved processes that have been put in place that basically require any player that wants to amount to anything in his career will not dare try steroids.  He will get caught, and he will be put to shame with his career likely over.  With testing in the past being relatively lax and players always looking to gain an edge, it was bound to happen at some point.  Now, the issue has gotten so big and so mainstream that it will prevent widespread future use.  The new procedures cannot wipe out steroids completely, but they definitely put fear into the players thinking about using them.

4. Several Tour de France riders were ejected from the race including race leader Michael Rasmussen on the basis of using illegal performance enhancing drugs.

This issue has lead some to completely disregard the Tour de France altogether, and I admit, this should force the tour to lose some of its fans because of the recurring nature of these problems.  Cycling was nowhere near popular until Lance Armstrong captivated fans with his 7 straight victories.  He gave Americans a reason to care and to follow the Tour.  Even last year, when Armstrong retired, Floyd Landis was able to draw some attention because he was a fellow American from Armstrong’s former team, and he made things interesting by taking the lead, nearly falling out of contention completely, and then miraculously charging back in the late stages to take the lead and eventually win (and then it didn’t help much that he was stripped of his title by a positive drug test after the race ended.)  But this year, I heard that the Tour de France started and was mildly surprised because I had no idea that it was about to begin.  I consider myself pretty current on sports knowledge as I watch Sportscenter almost daily and read espn.com just as often, but after I heard about the Tour starting, I did not hear a single story about anything for over a week.  I had no idea what was happening, and I could not have named a single rider involved.  In the last several days, however, the big news broke out that Alexandre Vinokourov and race leader Michael Rasmussen among others were kicked out of the race.  Rasmussen was even kicked out by his own team without an actual positive drug test.  I realize that the Landis situation last year and the ongoing problems with doping in cycling should have convinced riders to stop, but it doesn’t seem to have worked that way.  The least that these doping scandals can do is to generate some buzz about the sport and get some people to care, which in my case, it has done.

Overall, these scandals may seem like a black eye to their respective sports, but if you look at it in the long-run, the sport itself will be made better because of it.  Just like Michael Vick’s dogfighting incident, a scandal may even motivate a national cause to improve our country, something that reaches beyond the realm of a professional sports league in a very positive way.


5 Qualities of a Leader July 16, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Leadership.
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I recently attended the Diversity Leadership Program in Chicago.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the weekend, but I came back with a great experience and a few tidbits of knowledge that I know have helped me understand some things better.  Although the weekend focused on a variety of topics, leadership was the primary lesson.  Of the people I noticed that exemplified great leadership throughout the weekend and the activities that showed us how to lead, these are my top 5 qualities that define a leader.

1. Confident – Leaders know what they bring to the table and are confident that their input will be realized and taken into action by the group. 

2. Charismatic – The people that stood out the most as leaders were very vocal and energetic and showed that they were passionate about all of their actions.  They were not afraid to put themselves on the line and had no fear of embarrassment or failure.

3. Assertive – Leaders take action on what they want done so that they can lead by example rather than just giving out orders.  The best leaders were always looking to give input or take action at all times.

4. Knowledgable and Well-Spoken – To become a leader, your input and actions must be of value.  A conversation with a leader is always interesting and they are always providing their insight on others’ questions and experiences.  Communication is such a big issue. It is absolutely essential for a leader to learn how to speak well in order to get his or her point across in an efficient manner.

5. Ambitious – Leaders truly want to lead.  No one is going to become a leader if they are indifferent to the outcome because there is then no real incentive for them to take responsibility.  I noticed a competitive edge in the best leaders that allowed them to always be striving for something better.

The Key To Starting Your Own Business July 9, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Entrepreneurship.
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There are many books and websites out there claiming to reveal the secrets to starting your own business and becoming a successful, rich entrepreneur.  However, there is really only one thing that matters when you’re starting a business or really any substantial task- iniative.

All the perfect “entrepreneurial characteristics” or exhaustive planning you do won’t get you anywhere if you don’t actually take the iniative and get things started.  Great things don’t happen because of good ideas or perfect characteristics. They happen because people take action to make them happen.

 If you’re worried that you don’t have what it takes to start your own business or to complete that huge task that you’re dreading, then nothing will ever happen.  Just jump in and start doing everything you can to make it happen.  At that point, if you want it to work out, it will.

Is The United States Still On Top? June 29, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Changing the World.
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I’ve posted on here before about the US losing its edge in certain areas such as engineering and education.  While I believe this is still true, I came across a very interesting article in this week’s edition of The Economist.  The title sums it up well: “Still #1.”

The article basically states that although the United States may seem weakened right now due to the War on Iraq among other things, America still has its hold on the lone superpower position.  China has been growing and will soon take over the US in terms of economic size and purchasing power but still has a very unstable political structure that could crack at any time.  Investing in countries such as China is a great idea right now, but a large amount of risk is involved due to this unstable political structure.  The Bush Administration, according to the article, has set the US back in the short term, but has not actually affected the balance of power that the United States still holds.

The United States still carries the most “hard” power because it has the largest and most powerful military force.  The emergence of China and India is only good for the United States because these emerging economies will be trading a much larger volume of goods with the US.

 I believe this article is correct in all of its claims.  I would only like to add a cautionary aside.  The United States may still be on top for now, but if we continue to have poor political leadership or don’t improve our education system and overall motivation, the balance of power could shift dramatically. 

What has gotten the US to the point it’s at, will not necessarily allow it to remain at the top.  The playing field has changed, and there is a new set of rules.  The balance of power will shift to whomever can adapt, embrace, and create these new rules better than anyone else.

Entrepreneurship Implications June 27, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Entrepreneurship.
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Here’s another mind map I created, this time on the concept of entrepreneurship.  I’d still like to get input from you on what you’d like to see posted next.  I enjoy creating these, but I want to make sure they are actually useful to you. 


Pageflakes’ New Setup June 27, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Collaboration.
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For those of us who read quite a few different blogs, a news aggregator/personal home page is a fairly useful tool.  iGoogle, Newsgator, and Netvibes are a few of the most popular applications for this, but I personally like Pageflakes a lot better than anything else I’ve tried.  The interface on Pageflakes is much better looking than most and allows you to view just a short snippet of all the recent posts on that particular blog.  Of course you can add many different kinds of widgets as well, such as a calendar, to-do list, and videos.  If there is a link or a picture in the post, Pageflakes displays it on the main page.  You can always read the first several lines of the post without even having to click to it so its easy to determine if you’d like to read the whole article or not.

Tomorrow, according to this article from The Next Net, Pageflakes is set to introduce a major new feature to their site.  Along with all the wonderful current capabilities, users will now be able to enter Pageflakes’ social network and share his or her page and collaborate with others.  This should be an interesting new feature because it opens up the possibility to see what blogs your friends, or like-minded people are reading, and also just browse to find any kind of new information that you’re not aware of.

I also think that this will propel Pageflakes towards the top of the news aggregator/personalized page segment of the market.  Pageflakes already has the most visually pleasing site, and now adding the blazing hot trend of social networking capabilities, it should be even more enticing to new users.  Give it a try. You mind find it to be a substantial upgrade to what you are currently using.

Mind Maps — Creativity June 26, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Creativity.

I think Mind Maps are fairly helpful in coming up with new ideas and sparking creativity when a problem arises.  I’m going to start posting some of my mind maps on this blog, hopefully to spur some thinking within your minds, and maybe they will actually be helpful to you at some point.  The first one I have here is a mind map on the concept of creativity.  I’m hoping to do a lot more in the future, and I’d like your input on something that would be helpful for me to create.  Enjoy!


Little 500 Glory June 26, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Changing the World.
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Although this probably isn’t consistent with great new ideas or conversation, I couldn’t help but post this exciting article from ESPN.com.  Indiana University’s Little 500 has been ranked #26 on the list of 101 Things Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die.  Now I’m a huge sports fans, and many things on this list sound incredibly appealing to me (especially #19 UNC vs. Duke Basketball Game), but I was astounded to see the Little 500 ranked above such well known sporting events like the very event it’s named for, the Indy 500, and also The Kentucky Derby, U.S Open Tennis, and the Daytona 500.  Little 500 is definitely an amazing weekend, and I think it would be great to see an even larger contingent of pure sports fans attending rather than just IU students and alumni.

If you think about it though, the Little 500 was first started as a small bike race put on by a campus group.  It didn’t take a whole lot of effort, but once people started to enjoy it like the members of that group did, its popularity skyrocketed.  Why don’t you start an event you’re passionate about?  All it takes is a little effort and support, and with some luck, someday your event could be listed as something you must do before you die.

Free vs. Paid Web 2.0 Sites June 25, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Web 2.0.

The internet is booming these days with the creation of thousands of new sites in the so-called “Web 2.0” category.  Ranging from social networking to productive gadjets, or “widgets,” to interactive forums, this Web 2.o movement is actually quite useful.  The one thing I find interesting though are the business models these sites are carrying out.  Most of the new Web 2.0 sites are free to anyone, but there are several quite popular sites that require paid memberships as a full option.  One prime example that I am familiar with is LinkedIn .  I know there are dozens of others that require a paid membership, but these two sites in particular are what I would like to focus on.

First of all, there are two prime revenue generating concepts for a Web 2.0 site: paid subscription and advertising.  Google cleary revolutionized the internet advertising business and many companies have followed suit.  Advertising has become such a huge source of revenue that it is very easy for a popular site to earn a massive profit off of advertising alone.  Networks like MySpace and Facebook are worth millions, even billions of dollars, and their members pay no subscription fee.  However, LinkedIn, the self-proclaimed “King of business networking,” charges a substantial fee for any of their premium services.  LinkedIn is a wonderful tool with many outstanding features and many people have been able to truly leverage it for business success, but with all the pressure from other start-ups offering similar or superior features for free, it could easily become obsolete.  There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether Facebook could completely dominate LinkedIn’s market segment by allowing different parts of your profile to be viewed by different contacts.  This would ultimately allow users to have a professional profile and a personal one so that they can moderate who sees what.

If this is the case, or if another start-up offers a service with superior features to LinkedIn for free, why would I still use LinkedIn?  I might maintain my account there, but encourage my contacts to join this better service so that more could be done.  It isn’t common for people to have profiles on different sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and it also isn’t common for a brand new company to essentially take over even if it starts far behind (watch Facebook begin to dominate MySpace in a few years to see what I mean).

Essentially, I believe many users will get frustrated with LinkedIn, especially if they move to a greater reliance on paid subscriptions.  When I am only given a limited amount of introductions and network questions, it discourages my use of these tools altogether.  I don’t understand why they can’t see the reward of moving to a free system with all the features and then luring every potential customer now that the LinkedIn name is well-established.  The ad revenue would be enormous, and would probably easily outpace the revenue from the subscriptions.

Another service that fits this description is the Motley Fool Community.  I love the Motley Fool website, and I also think their innovative ranking system within Motley Fool Caps is outstanding.  However, why do I have to pay $30 a year to use their discussion boards to ask the questions I want to discuss?  If this service was free, it could easily become the prime place on the web for financial discussion, and the ad revenue would be huge.

 I hope the Web 2.0 sites currently using a business model of paid subscriptions will quickly see that this is an inferior strategy.  It is too easy for another network to come along and wipe you out because the new network is free.  Dropping these paid subscriptions will lead to more revenue, bigger social networks, and happier users.  Gotta love a win-win.

Book Marketing June 22, 2007

Posted by Bryan Povlinski in Marketing.

One of the projects I’m working on right now is to help promote a book written by a colleague.  It’s a great book from what I’ve read so far, but it hasn’t gained any kind of momentum in terms of sales.  A few of the ideas that I’ve brainstormed so far is to contact influential TV personalities or ask prominent bloggers to write a review, but other than that I don’t have many more ideas as of yet.  It’s something I’m working on, but I’d like some other input.  Any interesting ideas?