Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ambassadors Team With Michael J. Fox Foundation

The Harlem Ambassadors are teaming up with Team Fox, the event marketing arm of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and presenting a fundraising event in our home base community of Fort Collins, Colorado. The event will take place on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm at Fossil Ridge High School gym.

The Ambassadors will feature our basketball show with high-flying slam dunks, ballhandling tricks, and hilarious comedy routines. The "Team Fox" challenging opposition will be an All Star team of local basketball, sports, and media personalities. While we have held events in recent years in the neighboring communities of Loveland and Greeley, this is the first true "home" game we've played in at least ten years.

So why now and why the Michael J. Fox Foundation? Because now we have the staff to self-promote our own event and we are partnering with Team Fox because of my personal interest in the cause. You see three months ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD).

Up to now, I've only told family, business associates, employees, and a few close friends. What has amazed me is the fact that nearly everyone that I have told about my PD has mentioned Michael J. Fox. By putting himself out there, Michael J. Fox has become the face associated with Parkinson's. And he's raised more than $205 million for PD research.

Because I've only told a few people, I have found myself in situations where some people knew and others didn't. I don't like that dynamic. Sitting at a table with family members last week at my niece Mashanda's wedding, I realized that questions my daughters wanted to ask were being squelched because of their desire to protect my privacy. My symptoms are mild (just some tremors), but noticeable, so what's there to hide anyway?

When my niece Sarah learned of my PD she sent me a very positive message and noted that "something tells me you'll be inspiring even more people than you already do!" In order to do that, I need to put myself out there in a courageous way similar to what Michael J. Fox has done ... so here goes.

You'll definitely being hearing more about our fundraising event on April 21, 2010 and ways that you can participate in supporting this endeavor. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tiffara Steward, a 4'6" point guard from Farmingdale State has signed to play with the Harlem Ambassadors Show Basketball Team. Steward won a roster spot at the team's training camp in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Ambassadors uniquely feature both female and male performers on the team's touring units.

"She may be small in stature, but she has a big heart and tremendous quickness," said Ambassadors President Dale Moss. Steward has won national acclaim at Farmingdale State winning the Jimmy V Comeback Award (2009), the Women's Sports Foundation Wilma Rudolph Courage Award (2009), and the USBWA Most Courageous Award. She is believed to be the shortest player in college basketball history.

In joining the Ambassadors, Steward shares in another record. When Steward is paired with 6'10" teammate Corey Thompson, the 2'4" difference represents the greatest height differential between teammates at any level in basketball history.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hoops for Haiti

Our Coach Majic Prophete is American-born of a Haitian family. When I attended the Mizzou Hall of Fame ceremony last month, in attendance were her sister Micheline, brother Alphonse, and her Aunt, all Haitian born.

Seeing the horrific scenes coming out of Haiti, all of our hearts were touched. For Coach Majic it truly hit home as she has lots of relatives in Haiti who have been impacted. The best way the Harlem Ambassadors can help is to use our talent and our show to raise funds.

Students from Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University are joining forces with the Harlem Ambassadors for "Hoops for Haiti," a fund-raising basketball event on Feb. 19.

Student government representatives from both schools are organizing the event, which is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to donate money to the Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund, as well as money or canned food to Food for the Poor.

The comedy-style basketball game will feature the Harlem Ambassadors vs. a team made up of faculty and staff from both universities.

The event is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. in the FAU Arena, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton. If you are in South Florida we encourage you to be in attendance.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The First Star

Harold "Red" Grange was the first pro football superstar. Immediately after concluding his college eligibility at Illinois, he dropped out of school and turned pro with the Chicago Bears. Grange was the first player to have an agent (C.C. Pyle) and Pyle teamed with Bears owner George Halas to arrange a brutal post-season tour to capitalize of Grange's notoriety.

Brutal is an understatement. Following a full college season, Grange played the last two games of the Bears' regular season schedule, and then played 10 games in 18 days in cold weather cities in December! Those 10 games were just a portion of the 17 game, six week tour. While Grange was never the same physically, he and his agent took in nearly $500,000 from the barnstorming tour and endorsements. That's when $500,000 was a tremendous sum of money.

It's all described in "The First Star: Red Grange and the Barnstorming Tour That Launched the NFL" written by Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson. I enjoyed the book and it's the true story of what pro football was like in the early years.

When games resembled rugby scrums, Grange brought speed and open-field running to the table and thrilled fans both at Illinois and with the Bears. He thrilled sportswriters too, including damon Runyon and Grantland Rice, who helped make Grange famous in their nationally syndicated columns:

Rice wrote:

"There are two shapes now moving / two ghosts that drift and glide / and which of them to tackle / each rival must decide / they shift with special swiftness / across the swarded range / and one of them's a shadow / and one of them is Grange"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Memories

In my previous business, I consulted with NFL teams' marketing departments and corporate sports sponsors. Actually, in those days back in the 80's and 90's, only about half the teams were doing any marketing at all. To call a one or two person staff a "department" would be generous. The personal relationships that I had with marketing people at teams like the Packers, Lions, Chiefs, Giants, Bears, Oilers, Saints, 49ers, and Bucs were all of the friendly, first-name variety.

As marketing staffs and budgets grew, there became many more people, more levels, and the less personal relationships came to mean in doing business with NFL teams for sports marketing programs. It's one of the reasons that I got out of that business and started the Harlem Ambassadors. But it was good while it lasted.

Each NFL team gets a allotment of Super Bowl tickets regardless of where they finished in the standings. In the marketing programs that I would arrange, I always included the rights to purchase Super Bowl tickets into the deal. As a result, from
1990 in New Orleans through 1996 in Tempe, Arizona, I had tickets and attended every Super Bowl. I skipped 1997 back in New Orleans and then attended the 1998 Super Bowl in San Diego as my last.

All told I was blessed to attend Super Bowls in eight different cities (New Orleans, Tampa, Minneapolis, Pasadena, Atlanta, Miami, Tempe, and San Diego). By far the most memorable was in 1991 in the "Big Sombrero" in Tampa. The first Gulf War had just started, helicopter gunships circled the stadium, and security was super-tight. Whitney Houston sang one of the most spine-tingling national anthem renditions ever and US flags waived when fighter jets flew over in formation. The game between the Giants and Bills was one of the best ever, concluding with Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood's wide right miss.

Not only was I fortunate to attend these games, but through various connections (often good friend Tim Pearson at NFL Films), we were able to attend many of the NFL Properties parties. I had my picture taken with Diana Ross, Queen Latifah, and Muhammad Ali. I saw the Temptations, Fats Domino, Wilson Pickett, the B-52s, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, and many others. I grazed on some incredible buffets. It was great while it lasted.

Big sporting events have morphed into mega sporting events. Those tickets that I got every year for $75 or $100 face value are now $500 face minimum. I have no desire to go back. This sounds self-serving but in this day and age, I would rather see the faces on young children meeting the Harlem Ambassadors in a high school gym in Kansas or Mississippi. I rather see a parent who is spending quality time with his or her family in Oregon or Michigan. Grassroots entertainment and sports events have their place and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


The Hall of Fame ceremonies Friday at Mizzou were great and Lade Majic did a great job representing herself, the University, and Harlem Ambassadors. The women's basketball staff at Mizzou were tremendous all weekend long. Associate Head Coach Lynnette Robinson went over and above in proudly showing Majic and I the spectacular facilities they have.

How much the athletic facilities have grown their since my daughter ran track at Mizzou in the late 90's is incredible. Coach Robinson and Head Coach Cindy Stein invited us to the morning shootaround and we met the entire team. Majic gave the women some motivational words prior to their game versus #10 Baylor.

Baylor features 6-8 freshman Brittney Griner. I walked past Griner in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, she's a legit 6-8. Watching her dunk effortlessly in warmups, she is also an athletic 6-8. It was a privilege to watch the game sitting next to retired Mizzou coaching legend Joann Rutherford (422 wins in 23 seasons at Missouri).

Majic's words must have made an impression. Despite being down initially 11-0, the Tigers battled back, outworked Baylor, and won a 70-62 upset victory. Again, the hospitality shown to us by Missouri women's basketball was incredible. Thanks Coach Stein, Coach Robinson, Dr. Rutherford, and everyone connected with this classy program. We are cheering for you!