Education Off the Playing Field

FKudos to the Indiana University Kelley School of Business for the recent announcement of a partnership with the National Football League Players Association. Career development, certificate and degree graduate level program options are part of the mix for current and former players.

Preparing young people for life off the field is a very good thing. Astonishingly, media reports have indicated as many as three-quarters of NFL players are bankrupt within five years of retirement. Details are in this press release.

This is only the latest example of Indiana institutions and businesses working with athletes. The current BizVoice magazine spotlights Indiana University East and its online program for tennis players (including Venus Williams) and the Language Training Center’s work with LPGA golfers.

No Surprise: ‘Super’ Return Expected

There really wasn’t a whole lot of mystery, at least in my opinion, where the sentiment would fall on our recent poll question. The only unknown would be the margin of "yes" votes.

The question: Do you think Indianapolis will be the host city for a future Super Bowl? Coming off national and international accolades for convenience, friendliness and being all-around good guys and gals, most expect the NFL to be open to another bid at the appropriate time down the road.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard summed it up well during Super Bowl week that being in the regular rotation of every four or five years was probably not in the city’s best interests, but that another "super" effort in eight to 10 years might be more realistic.

In your responses, 92% said you expected a return visit by the NFL. Not a big surprise at all. We’ll see what happens in the years ahead.

Check out the current question (upper right of this page) on your key priority for the second half of the legislative session.

It’s Going to be a Super 10 Days

OK, it’s already a little more difficult to get out of our downtown Indianapolis parking garage. The areas to the north and east of Lucas Oil Stadium are currently filled with more barricades, scaffolding and lift trucks than one can (almost) imagine. And congestion should soon reach nearly unprecedented levels.

Bring it on! Yes, there are going to be a few inconveniences associated with Indianapolis hosting Super Bowl XLVI. But that’s like a tiny, temporary pimple on the face of the most beautiful woman or handsome man in the world. (OK, I struggled with that analogy, but you get the picture).

The attention of the nation and world will be focused on our city and state on Super Sunday and the days preceding it. Hoosiers should embrace the moment — and enjoy it. Most out-of-town guests will not arrive until February 2 or so; the first few days (starting Friday) are an opportunity for all of us to take part in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You can check out all the Super Bowl details for yourself. But as information continues to become available on the wide variety of concerts, programs, events, special activities, etc., I am convinced (in a purposeful mixing of metaphors) that we’re going to hit a home run. Indianapolis and Indiana are going to simply wow the National Football League, the fans, other visitors and anyone who is paying attention.

Once-in-a-lifetime may turn into a repeat performance a few years down the road. But don’t miss out this time around. And I close with practicing my closing line during my volunteer interactions with guests: Have a Super Day!

Capital City Looking Beyond Super Bowl

Inside INdiana Business reports on how Indianapolis is looking to capitalize on the upcoming Super Bowl long after the game ends:

The head of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association believes the city has a real opportunity to increase business after the Super Bowl. Association Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hoops says it’s important to make a great impression on corporate decision-makers who will be in the town for the game. During an interview set to air this weekend on Inside INdiana Business Television, Hoops also says the ICVA faces a challenge to fill additional hotel space once the Super Bowl is long gone. Watch video.

Does NFL Put Your Staffers on ‘Fantasy Island?’

I’m what you’d call a fantasy football enthusiast. I never allow myself to join more than two leagues, however (normally one with money, and one just for pride), lest I lose focus. And I’m not one to be bragadocious, but I’ve won my paid league three out of the last four years — but whatever. Surprisingly, women never seem to be as impressed by that on first dates as one might think. But they soon change their tunes when that $100 first place check rolls in at the end of the season and I treat them to a romantic evening at Applebee’s. "Go ahead, get some dessert; you’re rolling with a champion tonight."

Challenger, Gray & Christmas sent a release that I’ll post in its entirety below conveying that while 21 million American workers indulge in the seductive temptress that is fantasy football, employers may not need to view it as a danger to productivity.

With less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, fantasy football participants across the country are undoubtedly spending more time than usual fine-tuning their draft selections and rosters due to a lock-out shortened pre-season.  Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the extra time spent on player research may come during business hours.

However, even with an estimated 21.3 million full-time workers participating in fantasy sports each year, with some spending as much as nine hours per week managing their teams, the impact on overall workplace productivity is negligible, according to the workplace experts at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“In an information-based economy, productivity is very difficult to measure.  And the same widespread access to the internet from our desks, phones and laptops that allows people to manage their fantasy teams from any place at any time, also allows work to be completed outside of traditional 9-to-5 work hours,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to statistics from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the number of people participating in fantasy sports in the United States and Canada has grown 60 percent over the past four years to 32 million.  The Association’s research indicates that 19 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. have played fantasy sports in the past year. That comes to about 21,253,000 workers.

Football is, of course, the most popular fantasy sport, played by roughly 80 percent of all fantasy sports participants.  According to market research, players spend up to nine hours a week planning and plotting their strategies for weekly matchups in 70 million free and paid leagues (the average player belongs to 2.5 leagues).

“It is impossible to determine how much of that weekly prep time is spent during work hours.  It is even more difficult to determine how time spent managing teams during work hours actually impacts productivity or the company’s bottom line,” said Challenger.

“If you look at a company’s third and fourth quarter earnings statements, it is unlikely that you will find a fantasy football effect.  The impact is more likely to be seen by department managers and team leaders, who have a better sense of their workers’ day-to-day work flow.  Even at level, though, it might not be worth cracking down on fantasy football, unless the quantity or quality of an individual’s work drops off significantly,” he added.

A survey conducted during the 2010 football season by Challenger found that fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity.  Ranking the level of distraction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable impact, nearly 70 percent said four or lower.  Less than eight percent of respondents said the level of distraction rated a 7 or 8 and none of the respondents felt the phenomenon deserved a 9 or 10.

“An across-the-board ban on all fantasy football or sports websites could backfire in the form of reduced morale and loyalty.  The result could be far worse than the loss of productivity caused by 10 to 20 minutes of team management each day.

“Companies that not only allow workers to indulge in fantasy football, but actually encourage it by organizing company leagues are likely to see significant benefits in morale as well as productivity,” Challenger said. “In the long run, this may lead to increased employee retention.”

In a 2006 Ipsos survey, 40 percent of respondents said fantasy sports participation was a positive influence in the workplace.  Another 40 percent said it increases camaraderie among employees.  One in five said their involvement in fantasy sports enabled them to make a valuable business contact.

Furthermore, a more recent study by researchers at the National University of Singapore found that occasional non-work-related web browsing at the office can refresh tired workers and enhance overall productivity.

Despite evidence of fantasy football’s positive impact on the workplace, less than eight percent those surveyed by Challenger last season said their companies “embrace” fantasy football participation as a morale-boosting activity and none of the employers reported officially organized leagues.

And yes, for the first time, the Chamber is having an internal league for staff. Of course, it’s just for pride (and assuming pride is a zero sum game, I plan to acquire all of it by the end of the season).

Terry Bradshaw Coming to Indy; Talks New Labor Deal

Being the sports nut that I am, it was pretty cool to interview NFL legend Terry Bradshaw last Friday for the Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine. The four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and current Fox NFL broadcaster  is the featured speaker at our 2011 awards dinner this fall.

The excitement over the Super Bowl coming to Indianapolis should be building come November 17 when Bradshaw takes the stage at the JW Marriott. He said to expect some good stories, reflection and humor in his speech entitled, “Why Not Your Best.”

Thankfully, today it now seems assured we will have a football season. When I spoke with Bradshaw, he didn’t hold back on his feelings regarding the labor negotiations between the players and owners, the general public’s perception of it and how things used to be:

“To a fan, it’s greed vs. greed, but I’ve wanted to tell the fan this for years, for decades: The players were held in bondage. They were like Exodus in the Bible. The Israelites wanted out and the pharaoh wouldn’t let them go, and finally Moses came and performed his miracles and set his people free. That’s kind of what happened with the players. We didn’t have the freedom to move from team to team, we didn’t know what players were making, and we didn’t know what the teams were making and whether or not that little $40,000 check I got at the end of the year should have been making $400,000 or $500,000. The (first) CBA (collective bargaining agreement) forced them to open up the books.

Like any worker out there, if you’ve got a four- or five-year contract and it expires, and some other organization says ‘We want you to come over to our place,’ the Indiana Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have the right to say, ‘Wait a minute, we have a right of first refusal.’ You take the best offer and you part company. It’s all about money; always is. If somebody offers you twice what you make now, you’re leaving. This is the American way; it’s capitalism at its best.

The players only get roughly two negotiation periods in a football career, because the average life is only four years, I think. I’m definitely more inclined to support the players in this.

When it’s all said and done, the players are still going to be taken care of. The older people (retired players) are going to be taken care of; the pensions are going to be taken care of. There’s a lot of great things. And that’s why the CBA is taking so long. I do not blame the players for taking their time as I would insist they do, to make sure. Because it’s 10 years before they can come back and revisit. ‘Well, you didn’t talk about the helmet issue,’ … then it’s too late.”

Indy Doing Its Part to Prepare for Super Bowl (Just Need Players)

Officials organizing the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis are comfortable with the progress of the event, which is slated to bring an economic impact of "at least $150 million" to the area, according to a recent Indianapolis Business Journal article. The Indy Star reports on the status of preparations:

Coordinators of Indianapolis’ 2012 Super Bowl efforts said during a briefing today that all plans are on schedule for the February event.

“At 300 days out, we are very pleased with where we are,” said Mark Miles, chairman of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. “We are at or ahead of schedule in every respect.”

Well, except for one — the game itself.

The National Football League and the players’ union are at odds over a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFL initiated a lockout. The players have decertified their union, prompting charges of bad faith from the NFL. A federal judge in St. Paul, Minn., is expected to rule in the next couple weeks on the players’ request to lift the lockout.

As he has been saying for months, Miles and other Super Bowl planners expected the uncertainty. And he warned today that it may not be until late summer or early fall that anyone gets a good indication of whether there will be a shortened NFL season, or even one at all.

During today’s briefing, Miles preemptively broached the topic before taking reporters’ questions.

“Our job is to plan and to be prepared. And that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.

Asked whether he was encouraged by the federal judge’s recent statements urging the two sides to return to the bargaining table, Miles said: “Not really.”

Ultimately, he said, progress on the labor agreement front is out of the host committee’s hands.

Green & Gold Paint Thicker Than Water

The Heartland Institute’s "Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly" newsletter was recently released. You should read the whole thing, but we’ll feature this gem about some serious Green Bay Packers fans. Also, lawsuit aside, kudos to the Packers for a lifetime of some serious branding success. A waiting list of nearly 75,000? Is this Lambeau Field or Heaven?

Forget the issue of who gets the family jewels when dear old Dad kicks the bucket. In Wisconsin, the more important question is who gets the Green Bay Packers tickets.

Two brothers are currently embroiled in a court battle over 13 midfield Packers season tickets. Their father left the tickets to one brother but stipulated the brothers were to share any proceeds from scalping them, allegedly worth about $250 to $300 per game per ticket. The brother without possession of the football tickets claims in court the tickets really belong to both of them.

The Packers are among some NFL franchise teams designating season tickets as family property. The tickets rarely go on the market, and there is a multi-millennium-long waiting list. “For instance, if you put your name on the waiting list today, you would be number 74,659,” Sports Illustrated noted a few years ago. “An average of 70 people give up their tickets every year, which means you’ll have your tickets by the 3074 season. Luckily you’ll still catch Brett Favre’s last year.”