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.