Mike Tice – PR Genius?

The most recent issue of Sporting News arrived yesterday with "NFL Can Mike Tice survive?" above the banner on the front cover. Inside was a feature article on the Vikings head coach entitled "Mr. Big’s shot." Also yesterday, the NFL Network ran a superb NFL Films piece on the Vikings that included a very flattering segment on Tice.

For a guy who just this offseason was embroiled in a high-profile Super Bowl ticket scalping scandal, he seems to have recovered nicely, mediawise.

There couldn’t be a more glaring contract between the media relations of Coach Mike Tice and his predecessor, Dennis Green. Where Green adopted a secretive and often combative relationship with the press while giving them precious few quotes that they could use, Tice is eminently quotable–often to his and his team’s detriment–and has a positive relation with the media.

The directed benefit of positive press as a result of Tice’s relationship with the media is on full display in the Sporting News article:

"If you have any brains, you oughta be pulling for him. I mean, it’s like taking the guy sitting at the bar, the one with all the loud opinions because he knows everything about everything, and giving him a whistle and a head coaching job. He’s one of us, you know what I mean-even if he’s like a foot taller? Hand him a beer and a cigar and put a Knicks game on and he’s the best company." 

Except for the hiccup of the ticket scalping scandal–where he would have been far better served personally but just shutting up–Tice has done a fine job of handling the media. And even in that case, where he kept digging himself into a deeper hole with the league with his candor, that very honesty helped him 1) keep the story from lasting longer than it otherwise could have and, 2) gave him credit futher down the road with the press. The Sporting News feature  dismisses the ticket scandal in the second paragraph:

"I want to talk to you for a minute. It’s about Mike Tice, OK? You probably think you’re some football genius so you know this Tice guy. Really tall and coaches the Vikings and got in trouble with the league for selling his Super Bowl tickets-what’s the big stink anyway?-and trades away his best player, that numbskull Randy Moss."

Keep in mind that Tice is laboring under the burden of job insecurity with a one-year contract and expectations that if the team does not go deep into the playoffs this year, he’ll be out of a job. This positive press helps Tice personally in the even he’ll be looking for a job at the end of the season, and the abilty to handle the press is no small qualification for a head coach in today’s NFL.

Vikings Vs. Jets

My first real high-definition game of the season and it’s a stinker. Gawd, did the Vikings look bad.

The first-team offense looked horrible. What could have been nice drives were marred by penalty after penalty. Danute Culpepper looked good but there was precious little else to cheer about. Michael Bennett did nothing to convince Mewelde Moore fans that he should remain the backup running back. Bennett ran for only a handful of yards and then fumbled a ball that led to a Jets touchdown. It wasn’t knocked loose; he just coughed it up. And though he picked up a blitz, he seemed surprised by it and didn’t quite get set for the block; he was leaning a bit when he made contact with the defender and, though he did get in the way, sorta pushed the blitzer into Daunte. Culpepper stiff-armed the guy, but still.

You gotta give Bennett a bit of a break, though, because the offensive line was not opening up even the smallest of holes.

Travis Taylor had a nice catch and run and nearly muscled his way into the end zone. He had to be brought down by a pack of three or four Jets. Nate Burleson had some nice catch and runs and Marcus Robinson and Jermaine Wiggins had some good catches as well,

On defense, the player that stuck out the most was nickleback Brian Williams, who got burned on I think three successive plays. On one scoring drive by the Jets, Williams totally bit on a head fake by the Laveranues Coles and gave up the TD. On another Jets score, a fade pattern in the corner to Wayne Chrebet, Williams did not make a play for the ball even though he could have picked it, or just knocked it away; instead, he fell down.

Special teams? Penalties. Two successive muffed kick returns, one that led to a Jets touchdown. Darren Bennett continues to inspire…fear.


When seventh overall pick Troy Williamson got in the game with the third stringers, Shaun Hill threw the first pass to him out in the flat between two defenders. Hill had to throw the ball inside and it was catchable, but Williamson made no adjustment to the ball whatsoever. The guy is raw.

After that pass, I was thinking why not just have Williamson run a fly pattern and thow it to him deep to give him some confidence? And then I thought, Oh, that’s right, Hill can’t throw it that far.

But the next series was all about Williamson. Hill proved me wrong by throwing a 50-yarder to Williamson, who just had to run underneath it. The dive ended with a short slant route to Williamson, who caught it, turned on the afterburner, and dove into the end zone, leading with an outstretched hand full of football. That was his most impressive play.

I’m extremely impressed with Ciatrick Fason‘s vision; it seems like he’s got extraordinary periphrial vision because he always seems to know where to cut to the open field. He makes great lateral cuts. But two nice runs and Fason was helped off the field after a Jet fell on the back of his right calf as he was running. Hopefully, he’ll be okay.

The game’s not over and it sure has been ugly thus far, but, hey, we got to see Troy Williamson catch a couple of passes. So it was worth it.

Maybe next week we’ll get to see Fred Smoot shut down some receivers (are you listening, Brian Willimas?).

Minnesota Thunder Soccer – Best Pro Ticket In Town

Tara Last month–Friday, July 15th, to be exact–I took two of my nieces to a Minnesota Thunder game at James Griffin Stadium and, I gotta tell you, I had a blast.

My two nieces are soccer fans, so I decided to treat them to a game. Me, I’m not much of a fan. I used to play goalie when I was a kid and used to follow the Minnesota Kicks–even got my picture taken with one of the Kicks’ stars, Alan Merrick. I’ve always thought the game was much more fun to play than to watch. But my nieces love it, so I’m game.

I’ve got a very strong aversion to nosebleed seats–probably because I’m used to going to sporting events at the H.H.H. Metrodome, a venue that is good only for truck-pulls and rollerblades (not that I’d really know, I just know it ain’t no good for sports or concerts)–so I decided to get the best seats I could for the kids…and myself.

The Thunder’s ticket prices top out at $20, for which you get on-the-field, 10-yards-from-the-sideline seats. And they are, without a doubt, the best value for your pro sports money in town. No other professional sports team offers you seats as close to the action for the price as these tickets do–even the St. Paul Saints. And, by the way, any seat at James Griffin Stadium will be better than any seat at the Metrodome.

Mn_thunder1 The game we went to was on a night with beautiful weather and against the Montreal Impact, who, at that point in the season, had not lost a game. The Thunder gave up an early goal on a ball that bounced off the hands of goalkeeper Joe Warren but kept up with an opponent who, as my niece remarked, was far more aware of where their players were on the field than the home team. It’s true, and it showed in the Impact’s passing game because the visitors just seemed much more crisp. Nevertheless, the Thunder kept the Impact from scoring the rest of the game and, toward the end, turned up the heat and created several scoring opportunities for themselves that, utlimately, they just didn’t cash in on.

Mn_thunder3 But, damn. It was exciting. It was exciting to be so close to the action and be able to see so clearly how the teams were playing. My nieces absolutely loved it. It did not hurt at all that before the game began they were each given–given–a free leather, regulation-sized soccer ball.

Since I’m not a huge soccer fan, I really thought the most enjoyment I’d get out of it was that my nieces were having a good time. But it was a blast.

It’s a great way to spend a summer evening.

10,000 Maniacs

One of the many things I love about my new iPod is that buying it has forced me to burn my music collection and the process has got me listening to stuff I haven’t heard in a long time.

Tonight I ran across the 10,000 Maniacs’ fantastic second album, In My Tribe. I just absolutely love that thin guitar sound of the group.

Anyway, I had to listen to my favorite song from the collection, Verdi Cries. It is such a sad and touching song but it’s the imagry of the lyrics that I love the most–that of a man locked away in his hotel room listening to Aida, and told from the eyes of a girl who steals his pastries from his breakfast tray and who is taken away by the opera:

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand
sing of a lover’s fate sealed by jealous hate
then wash my hand in the sea
with just three days more I’d have just about learned the entire score to aida

Nate Burleson Has Got Ups

The reason I wanted us to draft Mike Williams instead of Troy Williamson was Williams’ height–a six foot five target is an awfully nice asset to have in the red zone, as we know from the luxury of having had Randy Moss for seven years.

I mentioned Nate Burleson‘s leaping ability when describing my fantasy red zone squad, but I didn’t have a number to quantify that ability. Now I do: the six foot one Burleson has a 42 and one half inch vertical leap.

But writing is all in the details and you got to hand it to Star Tribune writer Kevin Seifert for giving us the visual to end all visuals that illustrates just how much Ups Nate has got:

Largely unnoticed, receiver Nate Burleson made one of the more amazing moves of training camp Tuesday morning. As the receivers group jogged to a drill, Burleson caught up to receiver Daryl Jones. Burleson put his hands on Jones’ shoulders and then leapfrogged him as Jones stood straight. Burleson cleared the 5-9 Jones’ head by at least a foot.

That’s what I’m talkin about!

eXpensive Xbox 360

Microsoft has announced the pricing for their next-generation console Xbox 360 and it’s gonna be mighty expensive.

In order to offer a more attractive price point, they’ll be releasing two versions of the console, the Xbox 360 and the Xbox 360 Core, at $399 and $299, respectively.

The Xbox 360 will include the Console, a 20-gig hard drive, a wireless controller, an Xbox 360 faceplate, a headset (no word on whether or not it’s wireless), a component HD AV cable and ethernet cable, an Xbox Live Silver membership and a Media remote control. Also note that there is only one controller.

The Xbox 360 Core will include the console, a wired controller, a faceplate, an Xbox Live Silver membership and a standard AV cable.

GameSpot quotes a securities analyst who calls the $299 price point a publicity stunt: "They’re doing it to say they are launching at $299. The hardcore guys will absolutely not buy the $299 model…only a complete idiot would buy the $299 model." 

Can’t say I disagree, especially when you consider that you’ll need a hard drive if you want to play your existing Xbox games on the console.

Game Informer just wants to know how much the whole thing will realistically cost.

So do I. So when I saw the price points and looked what each console came with, it was clear I’d have to buy the $399 model. Okay, so that’s $400 bucks for the console, I’ll need another controller, so throw in another $40 for that, I don’t have to, but I’ll want to go wireless, so that’s another $100 for networking adapter. That’s $540, so far.

And I still don’t have any 360 games. Sure, with my $400 model, I’ll be able to play my old skool Xbox but, damn, when you got a new tricked out toy, you really gotta go full out and see what it can do. There are two games that I would want to play out of the 360 (X)box, if you will: Madden 06 and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. At sixty bucks a 360 game, that’s another $120. We’re up to $660, ad some tax, and we’re looking at nearly $700.

Looks like Christmas will only come for me this year.

Football Agents & Public Relations

Maybe it’s because I’ve only just noticed it, but it seems to me that now more than ever I am noticing athlete’s agent’s names in print whenever a story has something to do with negotiations. Again, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like a new phenomenon. And it seems deliberate.

I know, for example, that Daunte Culpepper‘s agent is Mason Ashe, Fred Smoot‘s agent is James "Bus" Cook, Bryant McKinnie‘s agent is Ben Dogra, Troy Williamson is represented by David Canter and Ethan Lock has Erasmus James as a client. I know these agents names simply because I read stories about the players’ contract negotiations.

I don’t recall ever knowing players’ agents before this year. I suspect that’s because the agents figured out that it was a good PR move to get their names in print.

It’s free advertising for the agents. With their names print alongside those of their clients, each rising generation of football players knows who represents whom and therefore, who might represent themselves. The rising celebrity of agents can also benefit the players themselves.

Just ask any Green Bay Packers fan who they are more angry at: hold-outs Javon Walker and Grady Jackson, or their superstar agent Drew Rosenhaus. Most fans will blame Rosenhaus for the player’s behavior, sparing the player the wrath of the fans and helping ease their transition when the hold-out ends.

Citing Rosenhaus, of course, is a double-edged sword. Rosenhaus is perhaps the perfect example of an agent who deliberately attracts the spotlight. He’s been the subject of an hour-long ESPN segment and his controversial tactics invite media attention to himself.

But as of today, is tactics appear to have backfired for his most high-profile client, Terrell Owens, who returned to practice with the Eagles today amid renewed media speculation that the team will not conceed to his demands.

Despite the Owens/Rosenhaus situation, the growing celebrity of agents is an interesting, and logical, phenomenon.