Tag Archives: Superbowl

Shaping a Generation’s Hopes and Fears: What’s the First Major News Story You Remember?

In this morning’s Eurasia Group newsletter, Signal, there’s this snippet:

Our life experience shapes what we want, what we hope for, what we fear, and what we think. Our generation has different expectations and assumptions about the world than our parents, and a new era gives our children perspectives that are distinctly different from ours. In a political context, it matters that there’s usually a generational divide between leaders and many of those they govern. I was about 7 years old before I first became (dimly) aware of national and global events.

Like Willis Sparks, I was young when I first became aware of national and global events. This reminded me of something that’s been making the rounds – what’s the first major news story you remember from childhood?

One of the first ‘global’ events I can remember is the Gulf War (the first one). In particular, I remember the Superbowl that happened right near the beginning of the war. It wasn’t so much the Superbowl itself (honestly, I had to double-check that it was the Giants who beat the Bills that year), but the festivities just before kickoff – the national anthem.

That year, Whitney Houston performed slayed (can I say that?) the national anthem.

It’s become relatively standard for there to be an honouring of military service members at sports events and frankly, it might have been a “thing” before the 1991 Superbowl, but watching Whitney Houston sing the anthem with patriotic images of officers in uniform and images of the flag… that was a truly memorable moment.

As it happens, I wasn’t the only one moved by the experience. I had no idea that that particular event inspired both Beyoncé and Lady Gaga!

The performance occurred less than 2 weeks after the start of the war and because of the war, the Superbowl was being broadcast for the first time in countries like Australia and Russia, which means that you could probably count this event as one of those times when a significant number of people on the planet were attending to the same thing.

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Returning to Signal:

With that in mind, consider how the following numbers will shape politics in important places.

Russians under 24 won’t remember Russia before Putin, and those under 34 have no memory of the Soviet Union. South Africans younger than 30 won’t have clear memories of apartheid. They know the African National Congress as the party of power, not the party of liberation. Chinese under 35 can’t recall a time when their country was not the world’s rising economic power. Iranians under 45 have no memory of life before the revolution. French, Italians, and Germans younger than 22 have never paid for a meal with francs, lira or Deutsche Marks. Brazilians younger than 39 and Nigerians under 25 have no experience of military rule. Americans under 23 won’t remember the world before 9/11. Those under 34 didn’t experience the Cold War. Those under 53 won’t remember racial segregation. Something to think about when trying to predict what citizens will want from their governments.

There really is something to the idea of how global events shaping our way of thinking about the world. Not only do Italians, the French, and Germans under the age of 25 only know their currency as “the Euro,” North Americans under 25 have only ever known the Euro to be the standard currency of Europe. Might that mean that in 15-25 years when the twentysomethings are in power in these countries, there could be a push to re-establish their own currency? Maybe… but today’s post is not meant to debate monetary policy.

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Consider the idea of institutional memory. In some companies, there’ll be people who have been through a number of organizational changes. For instance, the people who’ve “been there long enough” to remember when “that function was decentralized” and “why we decentralized it.” These people (and this knowledge) is so important, especially if there’s a push to move in a ‘new’ direction that just turns out to be what the company was doing 10 years ago. [Aside: this adds a different flavour of the importance age diversity in work teams.]

Reflecting on how global events can have a cascading effect on generational shifts can make it easier to understand how companies (or countries) can oscillate between extremes.

For some folks, “Mr. Gorbachev — tear down that wall!” is the first thing they remember.

For others, it’s: “Not Guilty!”

As Sparks said above, most people under 25 read about 9/11 in a textbook, rather than watching it panic-stricken on a Tuesday afternoon.

The next time you frame your understanding of why a company, country, or even your work team (!) is returning to a policy that was retreated from many years ago, consider the generation of the leaders in charge and some of the global events that may have shaped their understanding of the world.

NOTE: This was cross-posted.

Why Coke’s Super Bowl Ad Was Really Smart

By now, you’ve probably seen some of the coverage of Coke’s “controversial” Super Bowl ad. To be honest, I’m with Coke’s Ad Director on this one, “I don’t see any controversy here.” Don’t get me wrong, I can understand where some of the detractors are coming from, but I tend to side with the Ad Director. In case you haven’t yet seen the ad, take a look:

In a word, I thought the ad was beautiful. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in Canada and I am used to (and appreciate) multiculturalism a bit more than the average American, who knows. Knowing that the Super Bowl has become an event that transcends the borders of the USA, maybe Coke was, surreptitiously, also trying to reach potential customers beyond its borders. Now, that hypothesis seems kind of silly given that the song that’s being sung in many languages is “America the Beautiful,” so let’s revise it and say that maybe Coke is trying to reach current (or potential) immigrants to the US.

Regardless of it’s initial aim, the controversy has stirred up so much discussion that the ad is being shared across the internet many times over. The last time I checked, the video had been viewed almost 8,000,000 times in 3+ days. I can’t think of many companies that don’t wish they made a video like this that’s been viewed this many times on social media (not to mention all the discussion that’s happened in print, TV, and online).

Then, there’s also the copycat-esque videos that extend (or poke fun) at the ad. I came across this one the other day and couldn’t help, but chuckle:

I haven’t seen anyone from Coke comment on it, but I’m sure that, at least off the record, they’d probably laugh at it, too.

Circling back to the original ad, I wanted to draw attention to the internationalist flavour to it. It’s still a few years off now, but folks are projecting that in the next 25-30 years, the majority of people living in the USA won’t be the same as it is today. Instead, there will be a majority of minorities. Meaning, adding up the population of all the minorities will mean that there are more people who identify as a minority than identify as white.

Tying this to the advertisement by Coke and I can’t help but think about how strategic it was for Coke to try and, if this was their strategy, attract younger immigrants to the brand.

What’s Wrong with the Dallas Cowboys?

Yesterday evening was the last game of the 2013 NFL regular season. It featured the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys — bitter rivals — in what was a game where the winner was crowned the NFC East division champion. Both teams took very different paths to the game. The Eagles started the season quite poorly, losing 5 of their first 8 games. The Cowboys finished the season quite poorly, losing 3 of their last 4 games (including the game last night against the Eagles). The one win in the last 4 games for the Cowboys was in the game just before last night’s game where the team’s QB, Tony Romo, played through a season-ending injury to lift the Cowboys to victory.

As Tony Romo was one of the team’s stars, most people didn’t give the Cowboys much of a chance of winning last night’s game. However, there they were, in the waning minutes of the game, with a chance to win. What happened instead? A mental error. The Cowboys have been making mental errors near the end of the game more frequently than they had been in decades past. More importantly, there have been these mental errors when the game is on the line.

Let’s back up for a moment and look at the Cowboys as a franchise. They are one of the most storied football teams in the NFL and certainly one of the most lucrative. In the ’90s, they had what could be called a dynasty when they won the Superbowl in 3 out of 4 years between 1992 and 1995. In the decade of the ’90s, they only missed the playoffs twice (1990 and 1997). In that one decade, they made the playoffs more times than they have in the past 14 years (6 times). What happened?

In 2000, Troy Aikman, the star QB of the ’90s for the Cowboys, retired. In the time between Aikman (and Romo), the Cowboys had a potpourri of QBs that I’m sure most people would rather not remember. In 2006, when Romo took over as the starter in the middle of the season, the Cowboys went on to make the playoffs. They went on to make the playoffs in 3 out of the first 4 seasons that Romo was the QB, but haven’t been back to the playoffs in the last 4 seasons.

Based on how some of those seasons ended and/or how some of those playoff games ended, it seems evident that Tony Romo is in dire need of a sports psychologist. If we go back to the 2006 season playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, Tony Romo dropped the ball when the kicker was attempting a go ahead field goal with less than 100 seconds left in the game. Or the playoffs in the next season when the Cowboys were tied for the 2nd best record in the NFL. Tony Romo threw an interception in the end zone with less than 10 seconds to go in the game. Or last season’s final game when all the Cowboys had to do was win and they were in the playoffs — Romo threw 3 interceptions. Last night Romo didn’t play, but if we can look at more than one game this season when Romo threw an interception when the game was on the line (against the Broncos and against the Packers).

Because of how the game ended last night, with the Cowboys QB — again –throwing an interception when the game was on the line, I wonder if there might be something else at play here. A couple of years ago, I wrote about some of the problems that the Vancouver Canucks goalie was having in the Stanley Cup Finals and how there might be something else that was affecting play. I wonder if that might be happening with the Dallas Cowboys’ QBs right now.

Part of the reason I talked about the success of Troy Aikman and the Cowboys during the ’90s is because I wonder if something changed — energetically speaking — with the “position” of the Cowboys QB. I know that this might sound strange, but it’s an option worth considering. Tony Romo has been one of the best QBs — statistically speaking — since he’s been in the NFL. He’s already thrown for 50 more TDs than Troy Aikman did in his career and Romo has played in 50+ less games. Romo currently has a 95.8 career passer rating. Currently, that ranks him 5th highest — all-time. Assuming Romo is able to recover from his injury, he’ll more than likely pass Troy Aikman on the all-time passing yards list, where Aikman currently ranks 30th. Tony Romo has been a fantastic QB for the Cowboys — statistically. However, when the game is on the line, things haven’t exactly gone his way. As a result, I’m lead to believe that, a) a sports psychologist is in order, and b) maybe there’s something energetically at play that’s affecting the organizational position of “Dallas Cowboys QB.” It might behoove Jerry Jones to call someone who can figure it out.

The Habits of Individuals: The Power of Habit, Part 1

One of the great things about road trips (when you’re not the driver) is that you can read. Of course, presuming you don’t feel sick when you read in the car, it’s a great thing you can do. Several weeks ago, I was able to get through a book that’s been on my desk for too long: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I first wrote a little something about the book in May after I saw a post about it on Farnam Street. Let’s call that post Part 1a and this one Part 1b. Over the next three days, I’ll look at the three sections of the book: the individual, the organization, and society.

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Having had training in psychology, I really enjoyed the first section of this book. Duhigg delves into some of the psychological factors of habits and I was pleased that I was still able to remember much of the terminologies and functions from neuropsychology (hippocampus, amygdala, etc.).

Very early on, we learn about how brushing our teeth wasn’t as common 100 years ago as it is today. Thanks to some brilliant executive who, in a sense, tricked us into wanting to brush our teeth. As I was reading through this chapter, I was reminded of Edward Bernays. I kept thinking that Duhigg was going to bring him up, but I guess his work wasn’t exactly having to do with habits, so it would have been unnecessary. Nonetheless, for those of you who read Chapter 2 and find the discussion of toothpaste and Febreze interesting, I suggest doing some reading on Edward Bernays.

In the last chapter of this section, we learn about Tony Dungy and his excellent work with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. I was surprised I hadn’t read about Dungy’s methods prior to this book. I guess it goes to show you just how much there is out there to read and process. Dungy used principles of habits to improve the success of his teams. We also learn a little bit about Alcoholics Anonymous in this chapter. Having never been to a meeting, it was illuminating to hear the story of how AA got started (a story that’s been told many times over). It’s also amazing just how embedded within the 12 steps are principles of habits.

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The main takeaway for me from this first section was Duhigg breaking down the habit loop and explaining how to change a habit. There are important things to remember like the fact that even long after you think you’ve changed your habit, the neural pathways are still there such that you could slip back into your old habit. For a good recap of how to change your habits, I recommend checking out the short video of Duhigg in Part 1a.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the habits of successful organizations.

Is it Time for More International Sports Events?

I’m that I haven’t written more about , but I’ve got a couple of posts (including this one) coming on the subject.

Having been born and raised in North America, the sports that are ‘native’ to me are very different from the sports that would be native to me had I been born and raised in a different part of the world. I grew up watching the (hockey) and (baseball). I played baseball all the way up to (and for part of) university. The weird thing to me is that when I visit places abroad, it’s not that these sports are foreign (or looked down upon), but that these sports aren’t played and revered in the same way that they are in North America.

For example, when I was for a few months, it was all about the (rugby). In fact, the country kind of “shuts down” when the All Blacks are playing. This doesn’t usually happen in North America. Well, maybe more accurately, it doesn’t usually happen in the US. I know that it definitely happens in Canada. Remember the in Vancouver? More specifically, remember the game? (22 million people of the 33 million living in Canada) watched Sidney Crosby score the overtime winner.

This whole post was sparked by a couple of ‘global’ sports events. The first, the . I happened to be in Munich on the day of the game (I’ve never seen so many uniformed and undercover police in one place!) From what I understand, the UEFA Champions League Final is like the Superbowl in the US, but only 5 times . More noteworthy for me is that the Champions League Final usually draws more viewers internationally. This is due, in part, to the teams that play in this league not all being from the same country. Nonetheless, when I’m watching a game like this, I feel like there’s more of a shared community. I can imagine people in Spain watching the game at the same time that people in Russia and Australia are watching the game. Of course, that may be the case with the Superbowl, but I don’t feel it as much.

The second sports event that helped spark this post was . Having an Italian lineage (my last name is STANGHINI), I feel a sense of connection to the country and by extension, the . I was really excited when they tied Spain during the group play and then a little worried when they tied Croatia. They went on to beat Ireland to advance to the knockout stage where they then beat England on PKs and handily defeated Germany setting up a rematch of their first game in the group play with Spain in the final. The game seemed close in the 1st half (even though Spain was up 2-0), but once , Spain dominated control of the ball.

Both of these events made me think more about sports on a global level. They made me think (and wish?) for more coverage and (excitement!) from North American countries of international sports events. Yes, baseball is fun and it’s great to see the Blue Jays play the Red Sox or the Yankees, but I really liked the when Cuba played the Dominican Republic or the USA played Japan. I really like it when there’s more of an international engagement. Yes, I enjoy a good Leafs game, especially if it’s against the Canadiens, but I get even more excited to watch a Canada-USA game or a Canada-Russia game. The one problem I can see with all of this is that North American countries are simply responding to their customers. That is, the customer wants to watch the NFL or the NHL, so that’s what gets put on the .

Although, there has been a decided shift to show more international sports events on TV. For instance, I notice that there is a lot more coverage of cricket on Rogers Sportsnet. Maybe North American countries are moving in this direction. Only time will tell.

The Superbowl and Twitter

Earlier today, I took the time to watch the . While I watched the Superbowl, I also followed things on Twitter — something I have never done before. I currently do not have a Twitter account and so the ‘‘ is something that is quite foreign to me. I do find myself onto Twitter from time-to-time, to read various updates about things, but I am by no means an expert on the social networking site.

I think part of this is because I currently do not have a cell phone. For some reason, to me, Twitter goes hand-in-hand with a blackberry or an iPhone and just seems a little odd to be tweeting solely from a computer. But really, what do I know?

Anyway, as I was following some of the things happening on Twitter, I was treated to a number of good laughs. The Late Show writers were jokes throughout the whole game. Some of them were quite funny. I also noticed something that is probably known to most people who use Twitter: . “Top Tweets algorithmically selects and retweets some of the most interesting tweets spreading across Twitter,” (straight from the bio page for Top Tweets). I found many of the ‘top tweets deserving of an “lol” as I watched the game and followed the tweets.

As the game wore on, I noticed that as a player would perform well on the field or something would happen, almost immediately, it would become a trending topic on Twitter. There are nearly (or maybe are now), 200,000,000 users on Twitter. For things to be immediately trending so quickly, it’d mean that quite a few of those users would have to tweet that topic.

I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone the popularity of the Superbowl around the US. People gather at parties all across the nation whether they enjoy football or not. The Superbowl has become one big social event and as such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that things that happen during this ‘massive social event’ would be ‘revealed on Twitter’ — instantaneously. I can’t help but think of the possibilities for using Twitter for “good.” As some have written about, for their ‘revolutionary’ actions. I’m thinking beyond one country and thinking globally.

What if we used Twitter to organize a worldwide day of silence or mass meditation? I’m sure I’m not the first person to have come up with this idea given how long Twitter has been in popular culture, but I think that it would be, downright awesome if something like that could happen. A day organized through Twitter where everyone meditated at the exact same moment. I like how has a domino effect, but I think it’d be cool if there were a day where there was also a simultaneous event. Something that is positive and contributes to the greater well-being of our planet.