Archive for the ‘Sports & Society’ category

Chris Berman’s Bold 2011 ESPY Prediction (Satire)

July 15th, 2010
ESPN's Bob Ley and Stuart Scott are smiling.

Their legendary broadcasting buddy, Chris Berman, stepped way outside the lines this morning on my sports television talk show with a bold prediction. Booyah!

Commenting on last night's ESPY Awards in LA, the Swami passionately picked me—Michael Anthony Raffone, aka Mike Raffone, or simply MIKE, as a lock for a 2011 ESPY in the new ESPY category—Breakout Broadcaster of the Year!

Uncharacteristically agitated at his beloved employer, Berman bemoaned that the World Wide Leader in Sports has apparently whiffed on the opportunity to sign me—the World Wide Leader in Sports Humor—to a long term Sports Center anchor gig!

Berman berated ESPN management as, "rumblin', bumblin', and stumblin ," their way through contract negotiations with my agent. ESPN's most revered television reporter appeared exasperated by the thought of probably losing me—the long awaited microphone messiah—to a rival sports media company. ESPN co-hosts Ley and Scott shared similar sentiments.

Berman stated, "MIKE is a perfectly constructed Titanium American Microphone, manufactured with only the finest imported components. He can't possibly make a mistake—unless a team of writers and animators program him to do something stupid."

Berman continued by saying, "ESPN will look back, back, back, years from now and painfully regret its decision not to sign this new MIKE guy for the next Millennium. Picking any human smooth-talking suit over MIKE rivals that of the Blazers drafting Sam Bowie over another Mike way back in 1984!"

Calls to ESPN management were not returned. Speculation surfaced that high powered heads in Bristol will roll for failing to sign me—the new ultimate talking head in sports!

Berman blasted bureaucrats in Bristol and bemused that, as America's favorite new sportscaster, I... will... go... all... the... way... to the ESPY podium at the Nokia Theatre in LA in July 2011.

Straight talk. No static.

MIKE—thee American made voice on sports! - Become a Fan today!

The 10 Dumbest Michael Vick Moments

July 15th, 2010
A few years ago, Michael Vick was one of the National Football League's biggest stars. His No. 7 jersey was one of the best-sellers in the NFL, he had beaten Brett Favre and the Packers at Green Bay in a 2003 playoff game, and his signature sneakers and Nike commercials (remember the "Michael Vick Experience" theme, anyone?) were memorable--at the time. The man from Newport News, Virginia, electrified the crowds at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, the hometown of the Virginia Tech Hokies. He later translated his then-wunderkind game to unbelievable heights in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. But yet... At first, small cracks (remember the marijuana incident at the airport in Miami?) started to display. Then his world came tumbling down when all his fortunes and fame were stripped away for his involvement (and inability to 'fess up) in dogfighting. Michael Vick has found himself in a bit of a bind again lately, but we'll discuss this all in the following 10 mistakes that led to Vick's downfall.

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The Top 25 “Where Were You When . . .?” Moments in Sports

July 15th, 2010
Whether wonderful or horrible, magical or sorrowful, agonizing or triumphant, we always remember where we were and what we were doing for the truly landmark world events. The Kennedy Assassination, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, man walking on the moon, 9/11, and so on. And so it is with sports as well. The question naturally arises—will "The Decision" be one of those moments? Years from now, will we remember where we were and what we were doing when we found out that LeBron James was taking his talents to South Beach? I think not. Here's a look at the Top 25 such moments, at least according to this guy.

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Beware The Red-Balled Menace: Adult Kickball

July 15th, 2010

Now that the World Cup  is over for another four years, American sporto-centric fans can turn their ire from soccer to another form of foot-related fungus:

Organized adult kickball leagues.

Just about every playground veteran has experienced kickball, and until recently, those memories usually ended with childhood transitions into soccer or baseball or softball. In the last 10 years, adult leagues have been popping up across the country, usually in large metropolitan areas.

Like a lot of kids, I used to love kickball. The beautiful game... and one of the simplest and cheapest, too. Played like baseball, you need about a dozen kids, a ball and a yard. Had this idea blossomed in about 1985, I would have tried to secure regional franchise rights.

I’d read with some bemusement stories of adult kickball leagues on  and even the Wall Street Journal . But the real red flag appeared in my local big-box sporting goods store, where I came face-to-face with the “official” red rubber ball of the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA ).

Leave it to adults to wreck another childhood pastime.

It used to be coins or stamps, then moved on to action figures and baseball cards in the 70s and 80s. As with those collecting endeavors, if it possessed profit potential, it was exploited. Markets were saturated until they exploded, and some never recovered. If the products depicted living human beings, their legal exploits didn’t help. Just ask anyone in the 25-45 demographic about their shoe boxes full of O.J. Simpson  and Barry Bonds  memorabilia.

Through the wonders of Internet search—another wonder with maximized profit potential—I pulled up more than two million links for “kickball," plus the back story of WAKA. The idea for an adults-only kickball federation was launched in the Washington, D.C. area  in the late 90’s. Naturally, as popularity swelled, some infighting and competition began, and rival circuits sprang up.

Proving once and for all that truth is stranger than fiction, a set of “official” rules were published and intellectual property was claimed by one side. Apparently without enough legal action crowding court dockets  inside the Beltway, legal teams joined the kickball brouhaha. Eventually, the rival leagues settled out-of-court in 2008.

Nothing like representing the interests of Washington-insider types during the tea party era. Makes the Abner Doubleday-Alexander Cartwright controversies over baseball's origins look like a real playground game.

As obesity rates continue to defy gravity, I suppose any outdoor adult activity should be applauded, but grouches like me still think of kickball as a kids activity. I'm not begrudging the adults their fun, but the leagues seem awfully commercialized. My favorite kickball action is still that stumbled upon on a playground during a walk or ride.

Hopefully for the kids it’s available in a PSP version.




Dynamic Exchange in Communicating with Collegiate Athletic Coaches

July 14th, 2010

Whenever I lecture on collegiate athletics recruiting, a primary area I focus on is using “deliberate” communication with college coaches in an effort to build sincere personal relationships. Although eligibility, financial aid, contacts, and evaluations are all very important, I am convinced the area of communication is very important to the likelihood of success in the college search for athletes.

I choose the phrase “dynamic exchange” to help differentiate between normal communication and effective communication with college coaches.

The aim is simple: Whenever you communicate with college coaches, you want to create “impact,” with the aim of continuing the momentum you have developed in advancing your recruiting effort.


Dynamic and Exchange (Defined)

Dynamic: adj. active, energetic, capable of giving a sense of power and transmitting energy.

Exchange: n. the giving or receiving of one thing in return for something else.

If we view the college recruiting process from its simplistic state, I think we can agree that in the end, both coaches and prospects are looking for the right match. That said, I strongly feel that the prospect and family willing to develop a “give and take” and an “ebb and flow” strategy in their recruiting tactics will have the best chance in carving out their college search—and with communication as the tool.



Remember, college coaches have their sights set on recruiting and retaining the top prospects on their list. But as they move down the list, they will be looking for “grey area components” that divide the best from the rest and they need your help.

Whether it is an on campus visit, phone conversation, or e-mail correspondence with the coaches—make it count. The old adage is true: Measure twice, cut once. The better prepared we are before we communicate with college coaches, the more tangible the results will be. College coaches are grounded, commonsensical individuals who pick up on the little things that can make a big difference.



Practicing communication skills is the same as doing your homework or spending four hours working drills in the gym or on the playing field. The more diligent and sincere your effort, the better prepared you will be to communicate with confidence. Remember, the manner in which you express yourself, your interests, and your intent can have a direct effect on the level of interest college coaches will offer.

Keep accurate contact logs of all phone calls, e-mails, and face-to-face contacts you have with college coaches. This will help families organize information that will assist them in future planning. It will also help prepare follow-up communication that will generate fresh “action” items to be discussed in future contacts.


Cultivating relationships

If you want to separate yourself from the rest of the recruiting pack, I strongly suggest you make it your goal to communicate with college coaches about your sincere interest in their program. If you give the coaches every reason to believe that you are attempting to cultivate a reciprocal relationship with them, it sends a positive signal that will, in most cases, cause a coach to take a second look at your recruiting file.

Remember, there are three key qualities college coaches are looking for in prospects: Quality students, strong athletes, and kids that bring a high character component to the table. Never underestimate the character component in your recruiting effort. It could very well be your ace in the hole.


The “scratch your head” syndrome

If you are that “blue chip” kid that most college coaches are pursuing, your recruiting journey will probably be a little less bumpy. On the other hand, if you are grouped into the active recruiting file of prospects that need to compete more aggressively for athletic scholarship, an admissions component, or walk-on opportunity, you need to go above and beyond and find a way to rise above the rest.

The “scratch your head syndrome” is a typical crossroads most college recruiters approach each year and with few exceptions. They are either stumped to how their recruiting list should be ranked, or, for some reason, they are giving a prospect a second and third look for intangible reasons. They are “scratching their head” in a worthy struggle to give a kid every opportunity to fit into the “team puzzle” and it typically happens with prospects and families who have pushed the envelope in their recruiting effort.

I encourage every family and athlete I work with to begin with the end game and work backwards to the beginning of the college search. Just like that magical season, win or lose, you can proudly look back and say you gave it your best shot. The same should hold true in the college search. And using dynamic communication with college coaches

that has “grip,” will open up new and exciting parts of your character that coaches will pick up on and appreciate greatly.


Tom Kovic is a former Division I Head College Coach and President of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence,” an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

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