So Long, Coach Oviatt

Yesterday we informed Griz Nation via our website and social media outlets that football strength and conditioning coach Rob Oviatt had left the team due to personal reasons. Coach Oviatt served in his position at Grizzly Athletics for four seasons.

I quite often say that I don’t get too close to the coaches. They are busy doing their thing and I am busy doing my thing. While there are some exceptions (I am friends with some of the younger coaches) I never developed much of a relationship with Rob. Of course that had nothing to do with conflicting personalities or a feud, our paths just didn’t cross that much. He was always very gracious when I would bring down groups of young children through the weight room for tours and of course I would see him on a daily basis in the athletic department or out in the stadium but it never led to in-depth discussions about life.

A photo I took of Rob Oviatt at the 2012 Montana Pro Day.

A photo I took of Rob Oviatt at the 2012 Montana Pro Day.

So why am I writing a blog post about Rob Oviatt if I really never had a connection with him? Well, I actually do have a connection that I will get to later but that is not the answer to my question. Rather, I am just writing to say I am sad to see him go because of the reputation and experience he brought to Grizzly Athletics.

Out of everyone in our athletic department, no one matched the resume of Rob Oviatt when it came to experience at top-tier athletic programs across the nation. Not any coach, not any administrator, not any marketer, not any trainer, etc. The places that Coach Oviatt not only worked at but succeeded at would make anyone with just a smidge of intercollegiate athletics knowledge take immediate notice. While he headed the strength and conditioning programs at Pac-12 schools like Oregon State and Washington State, he also worked for several powerhouse football schools as well. We are talking about places such as Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and LSU. During his time at the University of Kentucky he was twice voted the SEC Strength Coach of the Year (1997 and 1998). Yep, during his 30+ year career he left his mark all across the nation.

I snapped this one in North Carolina when Coach Oviatt led the linemen on to the field at Appalachian State.

I snapped this one in North Carolina when Coach Oviatt led players to the field at Appalachian State.

Although I am not qualified to determine what a successful strength program constitutes, others rate his work here at Montana as outstanding. Probably legitimizing that sentiment the most is our head football coach who didn’t even originally hire Oviatt. According to Dave’s release, Mick Delaney credited Coach Oviatt with conditioning the team in such a way that only two players this past season went down with season ending injuries, a rarity for any football program at any level. Mick also noted the high amount of respect that all the players had for him.

I just find it cool that our athletes and staff got to experience the work of a guy who coached at the very highest level of college football and was recognized as the best at his trade. If you worked in our department you would find out that several people have their own good-natured colorful stories and memories of Rob. Mine would be just watching him out at practice monitoring his stop watch and sounding the air horn for practice session changes while also welcoming and chatting with the NFL scouts that would come by to watch practice. He knew them all.

Coach Oviatt was always looking at his stop watch.

Coach Oviatt was always looking at his stop watch.

But I do have one more memory and it regards the connection I mentioned at the start of this post. During my junior and senior years of high school my football team would travel over to Pullman, Washington, for the Washington State summer team camp. The head strength and conditioning coach of the Cougars at that time was no other than Rob Oviatt. Over the course of those four days in both 2003 and 2004, Coach stretched us out before each practice session under the hot Pullman sun. Then, later in the evenings, we linemen would report to the football weight room and he would put us through a mini workout session. I remember him and the other guy helping to run things made it perfectly clear to us that any collegiate gear other than Washington State apparel was not allowed in the facility…they were always really nice about it.

Of course in my high school state I looked on at college football strength and conditioning coaches with a certain awe and reverence. If you told my 16 year old self that I one day would be on the same payroll as Coach Oviatt I would probably tell you to get out of town.

Best of luck, Rob Oviatt. Griz Nation sends its best wishes to you and your family. Don’t Blink.

Reser Ramblings

I get positive feedback from my readers about my multiple topic blog posts so I don’t feel as guilty as I used to about writing them. You see, they are easier to compose and take less time to write than one of my normal posts. Because of this, I felt that I was subtly screwing over my readers as I dashed through a few topics, posted my ramblings to my blog, and then enjoyed the extra time that I had saved. But because of the reassurance from my loyalists that they don’t take my condensed blog posts as a slap in the face, I will still try to feature one a week. Tonight is that “one” of the week so let’s get started.

Week Two of Community Service with Griz Basketball Team: Last week I went along with the Griz basketball team as they ate pizza and played with kids from a local children’s center. Tonight I joined them at the Montana Food Bank Network where they volunteered for a couple hours. After getting a tour of the facility that holds 8 million pounds of food we went into a room where the players and coaches (Coach Rupp and Coach Jono made the outing this time) packaged macaroni. Two team members scooped macaroni out of what seemed like a bottomless bin, two other team members then weighed it (it had to weigh in at two pounds), and then two other members sealed the bags using a pretty sophisticated machine. Even with doing a somewhat mundane task the team seemed to have a blast doing it. Both Coach Rupp and Coach Jono are hilarious guys and they had a great time serving along with their players.

Players and coaches from the Griz basketball team volunteered tonight at the Montana Food Bank Network.

Players and coaches from the Griz basketball team volunteered tonight at the Montana Food Bank Network.

Lists Made for Facebook: You can’t scroll down your newsfeed these days without seeing numerous lists with random numbers covering certain conditional topics. You know what I am talking about, right? Lists such as “29 signs you know you were born in the 1980’s” or “34 characteristics of true hipsters” or “24 crazy facts about Disney World that you didn’t know”. Sure, many of them are farfetched and many are just a ploy to get you to click on the link so you can be treated to an onslaught of advertising but I don’t sweat them too much.

In my opinion, I find other past Facebook trends much more bothersome such as quotes smashed into hideous box graphics or “share this to show support for…” images/statuses. Mostly though, I am just thankful that now I am seeing more links for “22 ways to know if you and Taylor Swift would be best friends” as opposed to the drawn out “____ things about me” statuses that seemed to have a good two week Facebook run last month. I can tolerate lists that I have the choice of clicking on but I start to get a little annoyed when I constantly read about how many tattoos someone has or what their name would have been if they were born the opposite sex.

Colin Kaepernick Hatred: Okay, I admit it, the way Seahawks fans and the media in general have portrayed Russell Wilson as a saint and Colin Kaepernick as the anti-christ has gotten a little out of hand. Although Kaepernick looked absolutely ridiculous sporting his backwards-sideways hat and headphones during his postgame interview on Sunday, he pays his dues in the community. Although not as publicized as Wilson’s involvement, anyone can find documentation of Kaepernick’s good works past the football field. I think the guy deserves a little more slack than what he has received. Anyway, what I am trying to say is if you need to unleash more aggression on the 49ers please give Kaepernick a break and just send it Jim Harbaugh’s way.

Kaepernick puts his work in while not playing football.

Kaepernick puts his work in while not playing football.

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It seems like the flu is going around so I hope everyone is staying healthy or on the fast track to a speedy recovery. Have a great rest of the week and thank you for reading my blog. Don’t Blink.

To Buy the Bucket of Popcorn or Not?

One of the best parts about going to the movies is the irresistible and unmistakable smell of popcorn that immediately hits you the moment you walk from outside the parking lot and into the lobby of the movie theater. That special smell gets me every single time as I always end up purchasing a bag/tub at the concession stand. It doesn’t matter if I am stuffed, I still fork over the money to eat popcorn at the movie theater every single time.

My local theater in Missoula is owned by Carmike Cinemas. This particular movie theater chain has a promotion where they sell giant buckets of popcorn that are re-useable for the full calendar year. You simply pay the price for the tub and then you are welcome to bring it back throughout the year to get refills at a discounted price each time you go to watch a movie. For someone like me, most people would say that I should definitely cash in on the deal. Even though it does make sense over the long run, the initial price turns me off.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn....not so much the microwave version though.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn….not so much the microwave version though.

Okay, ready for the price of one of these calorie-loaded, year-long bottomless popcorn tubs? Try $19.75. Want a refill on that tub? For the rest of the year you will just have to pay $3.75.

While I do thank Carmike Cinemas for saving us a quarter and saving us the shame of spending 20 bucks on popcorn, the $19.75 price tag does make me a little squeamish. Not that I haven’t squandered larger loads of money on even stupider things during my twenties but I think the fact that most times when I am tempted by the deal I am reminded that I just paid $20+ for movie tickets  and the notion of equaling that price in popcorn makes me decide against it. However, I am starting to have second thoughts.

On Friday night I went to “Lone Survivor”. While in line to get my traditional bag of popcorn I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else in line with me seemed to have the 2014 refillable buckets. I guess I had not realized the popularity of them until that night. I mean really, how could all those people be wrong? I bought a large popcorn and a soda and it come to somewhere over $14. Instead of getting my popcorn fix just for the movie that night I could have paid five dollars more (without purchasing the soda) and set myself up for discounted popcorn throughout the rest of 2014. If it was an ordinary movie I would have thought about my decision throughout the whole two hours but since “Lone Survivor” blew my socks off I forgot about it until after I walked out of the theater.

Not to be lost in this all is that it is still mid-January. If I pull the trigger and purchase the bucket now I will enjoy the benefit of $3.75 buckets of popcorn for pretty much the maximum time possible. I do plan to see a lot of movies this year.

“JUST BUY THE STUPID BUCKET!,” many of you might be yelling right now.

Well, I have concerns against it as well. Just because I can purchase something that will probably give me more for less in the long run it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the way to go. Do I really need to enjoy the largest bucket of popcorn possible at each movie I go to? At some point I should respect my body and cholesterol level. Also, living in an apartment, space is somewhat limited and I don’t know if I want to store it in one of my cupboards. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of fresh popcorn at the movie theater but I am not as enthusiastic about a cupboard smelling like the waiting room of a tire shop. Finally, if I can’t glue my fingers to the handle, chances are that I might forget my $19.75 bucket a time or two when I dash off to watch the latest blockbuster.

I know I am going against every journalistic principle by not taking a stand on what I am going to do but my personal jury is still out on whether I will buy the bucket or not. I will say that if forced to give a prediction, I think I will end up giving in sometime this month and purchasing it. But, if for some reason I am kept away from the theater for the rest of January I might just pass on it. One thing is for sure, you know I will keep you posted. Don’t Blink.

Crying Babies in Church

With this post I am not trying to act sarcastic, condescending, or holier than thou so please don’t think I am writing this in that type of tone. I am basically just asking for insight and feedback.

I attend mass at historical St. Francis Xavier in the outskirts of downtown Missoula. It is the biggest Catholic parish in the city and offers a beautiful setting, solid preaching, and great singing. It also offers many options as the mass schedule includes four different times over the weekend (5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. on Sunday). About 90% of the time I attend the 6 p.m. Sunday evening contemplative mass. For someone like me who works many weekends throughout the year, a later mass on Sunday is very welcome. It allows me to obviously make it to church and on many weeks it really gives me my first time to relax and reflect over the week in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

Notice how I said “quiet and peaceful”. The setting at the 6 p.m. mass is special. The lights are turned down low, there are fifteen minutes of singing leading up to the opening prayer, it is never crowded, you aren’t tempted by the smells of a pancake breakfast swirling through the church, and, like I said, it is quiet. On a personal faith level I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I feel like I get the most out of the Sunday evening mass. If possible, I would attend it every single weekend. However, that is not always possible.

Every now and then, like today, I attend a different mass. When choosing an alternative I mostly try to hit the 5 p.m. Saturday vigil (because it most resembles the 6 p.m. Sunday mass) but that doesn’t always work out. Next in line for me is the 8 a.m. one but sometimes after pretty much not sleeping the whole week, I do elect to cash in on a couple extra hours of shut eye, thus leaving me with the 10 a.m. mass. On days like today where I do attend the later morning session I do prepare myself before walking through the church doors and then say a little prayer for increased patience when I find my pew because I know I am going to need it.

St. Francis Xavier clearly identifies the 10 a.m. mass as the “Family Mass”. In order to make the other masses (such as the 6 p.m. Sunday one) so peaceful and reflective they advise people with babies and toddlers to attend the 10 a.m. session. Before I say as much as one negative thing about how I get distracted, let me say thank you to St. Francis for making this distinction and to the families for observing it.

So while I attend 10 a.m. mass knowing full well that it will most likely be noisy and understanding that all the parents in there are not only following the wishes of the parish but also acting as great moms and dads by raising their kids in the church, sometimes I think the noise level gets a little out of hand.

My basic question is this: At what point do you leave your spot in the pew and take a crying or misbehaving child to the back of the church, out to the lobby, or outside?

I understand quick crying fits and the occasional random outbursts but if a baby has cried for the past three minutes of the priest’s homily or if a four year old is yelling at his sister during the blessing of the Eucharist isn’t that the cue to remove the child? I understand it is a family mass and certain noises are expected and accepted but am I off base to say that when a child becomes a legitimate distraction to others it is time to take him/her to the back? Maybe I am totally off on this. Like I said, I do my best to avoid this type of situation entirely but sometimes I do find myself at the family mass and at the mercy of the parents’ decision to either take their child out or keep him/her in place.

I would love it if parents told me what their standards and rules are when it comes to making the call on keeping or removing their children from mass. What goes through your mind when your baby happens to just naturally act like a baby and begins to cry? Are there standards you have in place with how you are going to act in the situation? Have fellow church-goers ever given you an annoyed or hostile glance before because of your kids?

Again to all parents, do not take what I am saying too personally. I know I play a big role in how much I want to deal with this. I recognize the good parenting and baptism promise fulfilling work that you are doing. Please also take to heart that if you do keep your crying baby in mass for way longer than warranted I still don’t hold as much scorn for you as I do for the disrespectful mass attendees who let their cell phones go off in church. As long as you don’t get to that point, you and I will be just fine. Don’t Blink.

Sitting Down with Bryden from “The Bachelorette”

Bryden Vukasin is so much more than a reality TV star. He is a decorated member of our military. He is a semi-pro football player. He is University of Montana student. He is a son, brother, and boyfriend. Most apparent though when you meet him, he is one of the nicest and most genuine guys you will ever meet.

I met Bryden through his girlfriend Becky Weidow last May. While attending Becky’s graduation party she introduced me to Bryden who at the time was fresh off from shooting “The Bachelorette”. I had a nice conversation with him and throughout the summer we saw each other a couple more times. Not wanting to be “that guy” I didn’t grill him about his new fame. However, with 2014 now upon us and some nine months removed from the show, I asked Bryden if he would mind chatting with me about his experience on America’s most popular reality show franchise. Without hesitation he decided to humor me and accept my request. Yesterday evening he graciously allowed me to ask him anything I wanted.

Last night Bryden Vukasin graciously let me ask him anything I wanted.

Last night Bryden Vukasin graciously let me ask him anything I wanted.

Why He Left The Show

Let’s just start with the most controversial part of Bryden’s time on “The Bachelorette” when he left the show. If you search blogs and message boards you will find speculation about why he left, with many theories pointing to his relationship with Becky, but the truth was that he just didn’t have a truly special connection with Des. Even though Bryden says “she liked me a lot” the feelings were not reciprocal. Adding to his decision to leave the mansion, he was tired.

“While the first night is exciting, as time goes on it all kind of sucks you down. The drama associated with living with a bunch of guys and competing for one girl wears on you,” Bryden told me.

It is true that Bryden and Becky knew each other and started to hang out before the show. The two met at the University Center on the University of Montana campus in the commons area. But when Bryden got word that he would be on the show and only had three weeks until shooting started, he didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity. The two decided to let things play out and if things were salvageable when he returned they would go from there.

Behind The Scenes

I made sure to satisfy the curiosity I have always had about what happens behind the scenes of these types of shows during downtime. According to Bryden, there was a lot of it. He did his best to fight off boredom throughout his entire time on the show. Many people don’t realize that although they get to live in a luxurious mansion, they are confined to it as well. Eventually it starts to feel as if the walls are starting to close in. “Many mornings were spent at the pool,” Bryden explains. But other than that, when he wasn’t in front of the camera there just wasn’t much to do. They didn’t have access to their phones, the internet, or music. Even more maddening, the mansion has no gym facility so the guys were left to do their own type of jailhouse workout. “Lots of sit ups, push ups, and running,” Bryden described as his workout regimen. One of the very few times he got to leave the premises was when the show producers took him and a few of the other cast members not included in one of the dates out to sushi. Besides the unordinary $400 dinner tab they ran up, doing a seemingly ordinary thing such as going out to eat was a very refreshing and rare occurrence.

The cast members were always encouraged to loosen up though. Bryden noted that throughout the mansion you could find “drawers full of liquor” with every type of choice you could imagine. While he primarily didn’t go overboard while on the show, there was one exception. The night before he was to tell Des that he wanted to leave the show, he got the urge to tell her right then. One of the show’s producers, adamantly against Bryden’s desire for spontaneity, drove his attention to one of those liquor drawers. The two went shot for shot until Bryden’s desire to break the news to Des was suppressed.

Bryden is one of the nicest guys you will meet.

Bryden is one of the nicest guys you will meet.

Authenticity of the Show

Many people from the outside looking in, including myself, wonder how authentic shows like “The Bachelorette” are. When it comes to probably the most important part such as the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the cast members, Bryden says most of what you see is the real deal. So rest assured, the heart and soul of “The Bachelor” franchise is very much genuine. But don’t hold your breath if you think scenes in the show aren’t rehearsed. When the cast traveled to Atlantic City, Bryden told me that they re-shot the scene of the guys walking into the hotel four different times. The rose ceremonies, which typically had around 40 crew members huddled around the set, were typically manipulated and reconfigured based on what could generate the most excitement and suspense. Like during one ceremony Bryden was presented with the second to last rose but when it aired it had him receiving the last rose. Reaction shots are also redone frequently. For example, when Chris Harrison notified the cast that they would be traveling to Germany, they re-shot the reaction of the guys smiling and getting excited until the crew had what they wanted.

“I heard they have like a 30 person editing crew” Bryden mentioned about the show. That would surely explain how conversations are routinely taken out of context and moved around to twist the dialogue and portray themes that the producers are gunning for, as Bryden alerted me to. But don’t think those producers are all about trickery and deceit. Bryden was very complimentary of many of them who worked on his show. He said that they would give out honest advice before different shooting scenes to various cast members that would make them look better once the show aired if they heeded it. But of course, the producers always encouraged the extreme. They wouldn’t think twice about telling cast members to say and do crazy things. One producer pleaded with Bryden to bring his dog on the show. He nixed that idea.

Becky took this picture of us during this past summer.

Becky took this picture of us during this past summer.

The Aftermath

Bryden told me that besides a couple tweets sent her way, he is no longer in contact with Des. The exact opposite can be said about his fellow competitors. Bryden keeps in touch with many of the contestants from season 9. While I did say earlier that Bryden partly left the show because of the drama of competing against a bunch of guys for one girl, the friendships he developed with them overshadowed the natural showmanship that occurs on these shows. When “The Bachelor” premiered on Monday night he chatted on the phone with his good friend Juan Pablo, who will have his pick of bachelorettes this season. Bryden designates James and Kasey as his favorite cast members.

The aftermath he experienced once back at home probably won’t surprise you much. Of course, Becky had lots of questions. When the show started to air, the attention he received when going out was intense, so much so that when he entered a bar near pandemonium would break out. Drunk girls would stumble up to him and ask naïve questions about the show. Everyone would have their phones out and everyone would want a picture. Although the freak out sessions by the Missoula community has toned down a few notches in the past several months, it is still hard for him to totally shed from the minds of college girls and reality TV junkies the almost dream-like role he played in the living rooms of millions:

“I still get recognized pretty much everywhere I go,” Bryden shyly admits.

Was It Worth It?

When it comes down to it, Bryden doesn’t hesitate when I ask him if it was worth doing the show: “Absolutely. I got to go to awesome places and meet awesome people. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Bryden would do another reality show and he would utilize the same philosophy he took with him on “The Bachelorette”:

“You can’t pretend to be someone else, you just got to be yourself. If you aren’t, the truth will eventually come out.”

It should come as no surprise then that Bryden has few complaints about how he was portrayed on the show. The “timid, small town” persona they tagged him with while not entirely 100% accurate could have been worse. All in all, the Bryden you saw on your screens during season 9 of “The Bachelorette” was the Bryden I sat down with for dinner last night.

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Bryden Vukasin seemingly has it made. He has the experience of a lifetime in his back pocket. He has a promising military career. He has a beautiful girlfriend. He has over 10,000 Twitter followers. He has connections all over world. He has more different talents than most of us can ever dream of possessing.

But Bryden isn’t satisfied yet.

From our conversation last evening, I learned that he still has ambitious goals. I am talking stuff past the amazing things he has already done. Without hesitation, I will put all my money down on him achieving them. Thank you Bryden for your time, it was a pleasure. Don’t Blink.

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Bonus Notes:

* Bryden auditioned for the show at the Sunrise Saloon in Missoula, Montana.

* He estimates that he was onset of “The Bachelorette” for three and a half weeks.

* Wearing clothes with logos was strictly forbidden. Crew members had to remove labels from every product in the mansion.

* There would typically be 2-3 camera people in each room.

* While shooting the show, Bryden saw Chris Harrison about as much as we see him on TV. He was not around much (and if he was, he was out of eyesight of the cast).

* I asked what the main difference is from a season 9 contestant and a typical Missoula guy…he said it is just culture. Most of the guys on the show hold national corporate jobs. Some of them dress in a way that looks like they just walked out of a GQ magazine.

* When the first episode aired, Bryden viewed the show at a friend’s house where a big party was held in his honor. He watched subsequent shows at his mom’s place.

* Speaking of Bryden’s mom, his whole family was very supportive of his reality TV stardom.

* At the other end of the spectrum, Bryden’s military friends pretty much just make fun of him for it.

* Besides “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette”, Bryden’s favorite reality show is “The Amazing Race”.

* His least favorite reality show is either “Jersey Shore” or the “Real World”.

* Although strongly discouraged and rarely allowed, if a cast member went as far as a couple feet off the mansion premises or off the hotel property (such as to smoke or just get some fresh air), a member of the crew would have to go with him.

* Bryden and his fellow cast members frequently played Cards Against Humanity to pass the time. They reached a point where they just started to make their own cards.

* I mentioned that Bryden plays semi-pro football. He played the last two seasons for the Missoula Phoenix. Because the Phoenix recently folded, he is looking for a new team.

* Make sure to follow Bryden on Twitter: @BrydenVukasin

Reser Notes

Since at least three weeks have passed since I last did one of these posts, this evening I want to rapidly cover a few random topics and then call it a night. I got to save up you see, tomorrow night I got a blog post that I am pretty excited about. Without boring you with a long intro, let’s dive right in.

Student-Athletes Making a Difference: I left the office today a little before 5 p.m. and I drove out to the Watson Children’s Shelter, a local facility where disadvantaged youth are given a place to stay. You see, our back-to-back Big Sky Conference champion Griz basketball team not only dominates on the court but in the community as well. Each Tuesday this month they will complete a community service exercise and today they were putting smiles on the faces of children who really need some joy in their lives.

I went out to the shelter and covered the service of our team. Basketball staff members Kurt Paulson and Joe Petschl brought pizza for everyone as the student-athletes and the children sat in the dining room together and shared a meal and lots of laughs. I sat back and admired the scene as our student-athletes naturally made those kids feel so special. After dinner, the players and kids went out to the play area and continued to connect and have fun. I don’t think there is anything that can end a day better than witnessing something like that.

Members of the Griz basketball team who volunteered at the Watson Children's Center tonight.

Members of the Griz basketball team who volunteered at the Watson Children’s Center tonight.

Florida State vs. Auburn an Instant Classic? No Way!: I really enjoyed watching last night’s BCS National Championship. The game was played down to the wire in the best college football venue in the nation. It was a good game, no doubt. But it wasn’t a classic. In my blog post from Sunday night I said a classic must be an extraordinary game but the Seminole-Tiger game wasn’t. If the game went to overtime maybe it would have been. Or if Auburn scored on the final lateral-filled play* I might classify it that way. Or if the teams would have produced more of a high scoring shootout I could be talking classic. Or if it was an exciting game for all four quarters I might concede. But last night simply did not deliver on any of these.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. The 2014 BCS National Championship had its work cut out for it even before the game kicked off. Even though it was the last national championship game of the BCS era, the nation did not get up for it. I had never seen a less hyped championship game than this one, but for good reason though. It simply lacked a solid storyline. You had an ACC Florida State team that played a weak schedule competing against an Auburn team that had a loss on its record and that almost got beat by Washington State. Many people fell into the typical social media fueled emotional trap and called the game an instant classic. Nah.

Encourage Rather Than Scorn: My friend and fitness extraordinaire Saskia posted a New Year’s Day photo on Instagram asking regular gym goers to have tolerance, patience, and compassion for the new people walking through the facility doors as they begin their resolutions of working out and living a healthier life. While it is natural to become a bit peeved at the suddenly cramped gym quarters and while it is a bit too easy to look down on people we might not think will last, Saskia reminds us to think back when we were in that position and to have some empathy.

I agree 100%. So many of these people are really putting themselves out there. They are trying to make a positive change in their lives. What sense does it make to mock and shun them? No doubt most of these people are scared, intimidated, and a little lost when they first hit that gym floor. We need to do all we can to welcome them and encourage them. After all, we should all have a desire to see others succeed. If not, we probably live shallow and depressing lives and are by no means better than the new membership rookie we are snickering at because he is struggling to work a machine. Make a positive difference.

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With the holidays over, this first full week can kind of drag on so take to hear that you are 40% through it already! Have a great night and you will hear from me tomorrow. Don’t Blink.

No Controversy Here, Two Totally Different Songs

Two artists I used to not care for that much. Two artists that I now like. Two recent successful singles released. Two songs that are pretty much the same?

I have followed the career of Sara Bareilles since she hit it big back in 2007 with “Love Song”. Although I was not a big fan from the onset, I grew a greater appreciation for her when I watched her live in concert when she played here in Missoula in 2011. She put on a solid show and I gave her a favorable concert review right here on this blog. Since July of 2011, Bareilles has continued to improve as an artist and I must say I am now a legitimate fan.

I used to loathe Katy Perry. I disliked the disposable tracks she produced such as “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot ‘N Cold” and at that time I hadn’t warmed up to her personality. When she did start rolling out some more meaningful music and right when I started to turn a little bit she went and married Russell Brand and I lost complete respect for her. But since the dissolve of that marriage and since her past three or four singles I must say that I enjoy Katy Perry. She has won me over.

In May of 2013, Sara Bareilles released “Brave”. In August of 2013, Katy Perry released “Roar”. At the time that Perry released her single, an “uproar” (pun intended) started over the supposed striking similarities between “Brave” and “Roar”. I admit it, I missed this whole controversy as I was working fourteen hour days getting ready for the Grizzly Athletics sports season. But the tension didn’t last long as Bareilles neglected to take issue with it, saying she didn’t think Perry stole her song. The issue died down for several months until just a couple days ago when Bareilles was asked again about the similarities between the two songs. This time she admitted that “I can’t say that I think that they don’t sound similar.” Several national outlets picked up on the interview that enabled me to catch wind of the controversy.

I don't think "Brave" and "Roar" sound alike at all.

I don’t think “Brave” and “Roar” sound alike at all.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think the two songs sound really anything alike at all. Then again you could probably classify me as tone deaf but after listening to “Brave” for nine months and “Roar” for six months, I never once thought that the two songs sounded similar. I mean really, what part of the two songs sound alike? The intro? The verses? The hooks? Ummm, no. I don’t hear it. I just listened to both songs, trying to scrutinize everything, and I really couldn’t detect so much as a single similarity.

Of course Katy Perry came under heat also because both songs have a similar theme…okay, maybe the exact same theme. But seriously, if you look at all the songs out right now, several share the same themes (strong love, uncontrollable passion, devastating break ups, etc). Both “Brave” and “Roar” happen to address coming out of your shell and finding your true voice. Rip off by Katy Perry? Oh, please. That is probably the most generic song message ever. Think of any popular female artist who hasn’t recorded a song that deals with embracing your true self. Lady Gaga has “Born This Way,” Christina Aguilera has “Beautiful,” Kelly Clarkson has “Miss Independent,” and if I had time and didn’t have a BCS National Championship to watch I am sure I could rattle off many more. I think it is safe to say that if you don’t have one of these types of songs, you haven’t really arrived in your career yet.

But within the common theme, there are many differences between the two songs. First of all, the lyrics are totally different. Secondly, Sara Bareilles is addressing her song to someone else, Katy Perry is singing it as her own obstacle that she conquered. Additionally, “Brave” is more about speaking up for yourself while “Roar” is more about actions over words. To me, “Brave” centers more on an individual struggle while “Roar” deals more with overcoming the negative influence of someone else.

It goes without saying, Sara Bareilles and Katy Perry don’t need me fighting their battles for them. Five years ago I wouldn’t lift my finger to help them with any type of PR controversy they found themselves in. But as someone who values the work of both and as someone who sees the complete foolishness in the argument that Katy Perry ripped off Bareilles, I have to speak out. Let’s give credit to both women for making outstanding tracks that have inspired millions. Don’t Blink.

Mislabeling Sporting Events as Classics

I know many other people in the sporting world share this gripe with me but with a couple more instances of it occurring lately, I do feel the need to briefly touch on it. Sports media, sports fans, and athletes and coaches on a frequent basis prematurely and hastily christen games as “instant classics”. Emotion and social media contribute a lot to unrightfully labeling games as classics but also playing a role are people just not knowing in general what constitutes such a contest.

First and foremost, an instant classic is an extraordinary game. It is characterized by high stakes, numerous lead changes, unpredictable and outstanding plays, adversity, a solid storyline, special individual performances, a memorable environment, unusual occurrences, and passion. Very rarely does a sporting event contain every part of these criteria. I think this is where most people get tripped up when erroneously calling a sporting event a classic classic…they experience, watch, or play in a game that contains a couple of the items above, get emotional, and thinks that it is one for the ages.

An instant classic is not a close championship game. It is not a #23 ranked school beating a #1 ranked school. It is not a back-and-forth game that goes into overtime. It is not simply a buzzer beater or a last second field goal. It is not just a three touchdown comeback. While all of these games have components of a classic, they fall well short. A classic is not just a great game. A classic is not just a really great game.

This past week Texas A&M defeated Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in thrilling fashion. The Aggies staged a comeback and the team’s star quarterback had a performance worthy of a top 10 NFL draft pick. Even with those things occurring, I feel Johnny Manziel misspoke when he called the game an instant classic in the postgame press conference. Although a very entertaining game, it was the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Texas A&M was supposed to win. At no time was the game seemingly out of reach. There have been actual BCS bowl games this season that were better than the Chick-fil-A Bowl and none of those by any means qualified as a classic.

Maybe this game was bound to get unrightfully dubbed as a classic because of all the lead up and talk about the weather beforehand, but today’s San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers wild card playoff game was by no means one for the ages. However, you wouldn’t quite know that judging by social media. Leading the way was ESPN’S SportsCenter Twitter account (@Sportscenter) that midway through the fourth quarter tweeted out to its over 6.5 million followers that a “classic was brewing” with San Francisco leading 20-17. I saw similar tweets from many others exclaiming how it was a playoff game to be remembered forever. Really? The game ended just like many other NFL games end: a team (in this case the 49ers) receives the football with five minutes to go and stages a drive that allows them to milk the clock and kick a field goal with no time left. How is this a classic? And, just like with the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the team that was supposed to win ended up victorious.

Today's Packers-49ers game was nowhere near the level of a classic.

Today’s Packers-49ers game was nowhere near the level of a classic.

I make a big deal out of this just because I think mislabeling a good game as a classic cheapens what a classic is. Putting the 2013 Chic-Fil-A Bowl on the same level as the 2007 Fiesta Bowl is wrong. Putting today’s Packers-49ers wild card game on the same level as Super Bowl XLII is blasphemy.

We get so engaged and emotionally invested in sports that sometimes it is easy to overhype it. In the same way, several times I have showered praise on an average steak at a restaurant or hailed a cheesy movie as Oscar worthy. I made these proclamations as I was midway through my meat after I hadn’t eaten all day and as the credits rolled as I was still wiping away tears from the ending. My point? Sometimes we just need to step back and let out emotions and intensity die down before evaluating the lasting value of a game, food dish, or movie. It takes a lot for a sporting event to become a classic, let’s keep those standards high. Don’t Blink.

An Upgrade I Probably Need to Make

I admit that I am a pretty easy target. It goes without saying that when you are as big of a nerd as I am, friends and family will joke freely at your expense. I get this and take it in stride, sometimes even considering the good-natured tough time I am given as flattery. With the help of social media, something that I own that my friends like to make fun of me for has gained some traction.

I own one television. While it is not a black and white rabbit ears set, it is not a 60 inch plasma TV either. The television I own is a 27 inch Sony Trinitron, a relic I bought in the dorms over seven years ago for $100. I purchased it from someone who lived on the same floor as me and at the time after the transaction I thought I had a movie theater screen in my room. I used the TV through my whole college career and continued to use it as I entered the professional workforce as well. It has traveled with me to each different place I have lived. With 2014 here, I still have it set up front and center in my living room.

Here is my famous Sony Trinitron television set I have owned for over seven years.

Here is my famous Sony Trinitron television set I have owned for over seven years.

I have come to grips with that fact that it is nearing the end. The picture has become increasingly grainy. Frequently I have to go behind the big box set (who needs a flat screen?) and fiddle with a cord to make it viewable. It is not accessible with many of the new appliances and systems out there. Compared to what has been out on the market for the past five years, it looks like an oversized antique.

But do I care? Not really.

The same can’t be said for my guests. When I have people over, they can’t get past the “ancient” box sitting in front of them. Looking at me with a confused and slightly agitated look they will exclaim something along the lines of “Are you serious?!” I usually will just tell them the standard response I have down by memory: You know, I don’t put a lot of weight on material possessions and I don’t watch that much TV to begin with except for sports.

Me in front of my scrutinized TV.

Me in front of my scrutinized TV.

That response only gets me so far though. My friends will then counter with the belief that the only way to watch sports on television is through a large high definition plasma screen. They will then twist the knife even more by saying that someone like me who works in athletics for a living and who only watches sports has absolutely no excuse to view the action through a TV that looks like it came out of a dumpster.

My friend Shaun Rainey called me out via Twitter on my TV when he came over to watch football.

My friend Shaun Rainey called me out via Twitter on my TV when he came over to watch football.

A year ago my response to my “But do I care?” question about my underwhelming television would be a big, fat “NO”. But as you see from my response above, it has changed to a “not really”. Because my TV is actually starting to malfunction a little bit and because of the pressure I have received from guests, I am going to start looking to upgrade. I think the time has come. In the end what it all comes down to is the comfort level for the people I invite over. Although I know I will love the new TV I end up purchasing, I honestly could live with the one I have for another ten years. But I want to keep my friends coming over to my place. I don’t want them to not enjoy hanging out at my apartment because my television falls well below their standards. When I am entertaining, I want to make the experience of my guests the best possible and if that means getting with the times by purchasing a new television, it will be worth it.

So, I ask you all: What type of new television should I go for? Where should I buy it from? Any special info you have on good deals? Any help would be much appreciated and if you do offer me some good tips, you can expect an invitation to enjoy a game with me on my nice, new TV. Don’t Blink.

What Kills an Organization’s Social Media Program

On this blog I have become quite outspoken against plastering the same piece of content across multiple social media platforms. However, much of my scorn on this lame practice had been directed on an individual basis. You know, I was mostly talking to my friend who would post the exact same photo with the exact same caption with the exact same hash tags of her new shoes across four different social networks. Or I was talking to the guy who I don’t even know why I am following who pressed a button and sent his No Shave November mustache simultaneously to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, just to be extra annoying he decided to Snap Chat it to everyone on his list as well.

I have called these people out enough. You are annoying, you are unoriginal, and you are lazy. You also lack complete understanding of how individual social media services work. But you know what? There are more severe violators out there besides my old high school classmate, my college lab partner, and my friend who works at Starbucks. There are users out there who sin far greater when it comes to duplicating content across social mediums than just everyday people who want to do social media their own way and could care less what I think. I am talking more about people who should know better and who have much larger audiences in the social world.

Tonight I am talking about people and groups who direct organizational social media programs.

Because I am tasked with running the social media program for Grizzly Athletics, I naturally look at many other official athletic department pages/accounts around the country just to get a better idea of what others are doing and to learn from them. I also look at official pages of my favorite brands, restaurants, and organizations to once again get a gage of what works and what people are doing to engage their fans/customers/clients. Many of these entities have powerhouse and pristine social media programs that use each of their various outlets in a creative way to engage, inform, and inspire their target audience. Others, however, miss the boat.

Would you believe me if I told you that I regularly see entities that send out the same filtered photo or the exact same update to every single social media service they work with? I always have a tough time wrapping my mind around this flawed practice just because in this day and age new media marketing/information sharing is king. Fans and customers are heavily involved and entrenched in social media and they want to be stimulated with fresh and creative content. This legitimate desire is not satisfied for a fan when he goes through the social media pages of his alma matter’s athletic department and observes that the made for Instagram photo with three different filters is posted on the Facebook page and sent out via Twitter. Or the desire is not satisfied when a Facebook graphic is cropped and crunched into an Instagram photo. Or the thirst is not quenched when Twitter updates loaded with hash tags and topped off with Hootsuite shortened links dominate the Facebook page. Yuck!!

It is absolutely critical that companies hire social media professionals who don’t take shortcuts and who understand the importance of diversifying content across different mediums. Social media users who are passionate about a team or brand will follow it via all its different social channels because they want every connection and piece of information they can get. However, when they start to see that what is posted on Facebook is also posted on Instagram and what is posted on Twitter is posted on Facebook they will stop following the majority of an organization’s social media channels. And how can you blame them?

We have to realize that each social media service is unique. They don’t fall exactly in line with one another. The way we present and report to fans must be different across each outlet. Dedicated and effective social media marketers will flat out buck up and spend the extra time it takes to customize and capture extra content to provide their audience with originality. This means taking triple the amount of photos while covering an event, logging individually in to each social media outlet rather than using a third party posting service , spending the time to create different graphics, and devoting care to composing posts that are specific and appropriate to each unique outlet.

Of course consistency must shine through the originality as well. The best social media marketers have no problem sharing unique content across all different channels while at the same time making sure the Instagram piece reflects the Facebook piece and the Twitter piece reflects the Instagram piece (and so on…). Obviously when our football team stages an amazing comeback victory I am sharing the same adversity-defying story across all of our Griz social outlets but I am just doing it with different images, videos, and words depending on the service. Or when we have breaking news I am usually directing fans from our social outlets to www.gogriz.com where a press release with more info can be found but before I do that I am giving them the basic information in an appropriate manner based on what social media service they are on.

Social media is complex. With the complexity comes infinite ways to reach out to fans/customers like never before. To sacrifice these opportunities by taking a lazy and/or uncreative way out is extremely damaging to an athletic department, brand, organization, etc. Diversity across social outlets is key. If you don’t believe me, look no further than some of the entities out there that use duplicate posting across multiple social channels and then take a look at the engagement they get and the follower numbers they have. You will see what I mean. Don’t Blink.