zzzzzzzHusband. Drummer. Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Specialist. Music and Art Collector. Road Cyclist. Volunteer. Traveler. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb Amateur Photographer. Media/News/Coffee Junkie. Hockey Fan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dave Brubeck: Humble Giant

Dave Brubeck and his band sold over one million copies of Take 5; no one in Jazz had ever done that before. He became jazz royalty.

The most beautiful thing I've heard in ages is Brubeck saying,"my heart sank when I made the cover of Time Magazine before Duke Ellington."

Monday, May 31, 2010

What Marketers, Musicians, Artists, Salespersons…OK, damn near everyone can learn from Rush

Developing and maintaining an emotionally responsive and commercially supportive group of followers - a diverse, international group of brand champions willing to accept your stylistic refinements while embracing your rock-solid core values - is a marketer’s (and accountant’s) dream.  Achieving this level of success undeterred by detractors claiming your business model is flawed, and maintaining personal and professional integrity while experiencing one major personnel change in a 40 year collaboration is something quite unique. Certainly, an enterprise such as this would be both rare and influential.

Rush, the legendary Canadian rock band formed in 1968, is such an enterprise. Rush has sold 40 million records since 1974, when they released their debut full length LP (the only record featuring their original drummer). Eschewing the pop ideal they focused instead on superior musicianship and arrangements both complex and original joined to thoughtfully considered lyrical content. Today, Rush enjoys some of the most devoted fans in popular music with only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones garnering more consecutive gold and platinum selling albums. Just last month a film documenting their storied career won the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award. These meritorious milestones were achieved on Rush's terms, over many years and against myriad obstacles. Rush differed from others within their chosen genre yet refused to bow to critics, methodically and unswervingly focusing on their strengths, abilities, and perhaps most importantly, their audience.

As is often the case with innovators, not everyone embraced their pioneering spirit. There are those that love the band unconditionally and those to whom the concept is incomprehensible. Those situated in the latter camp may dislike progressive rock in general or, perhaps more specifically, blame the shrill pitch of vocalist Geddy Lee’s early vocal style. Radio stations once considered Lee’s vocals "unsuitable for airplay", and some critics labeled the band unlistenable and pretentious; songs averaged 5-6 minutes in length with some clocking in at over 20. Crafting three-minute pop hits is indeed a difficult and skillful art. Writing and performing music replete with complex time signatures and changes is likewise challenging, with perhaps greater risks. A sub-genre of rock and pop music, progressive rock – the moniker indicates a willingness to explore and embrace diverse and sometimes challenging musical territory - lacks the often instantaneous mass appeal of hit-friendly radio. 

Rush’s influence as a group and within their respective instrumental disciplines cannot be overstated. Musicians in such diverse groups such as Muse, Metallica, Primus, Alexisonfire, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, and Foo Fighters, to name but a few, acknowledge Rush as a major influence. Lee handles bass, keyboards and vocals with equal facility, and collaborating with celebrated lead guitarist Alex Lifeson, crafts the band’s musical content. Both are highly regarded and respected by the music community. Drummer (and novelist) Neil Peart is the band’s lyricist. Peart has launched a million air drumming careers, motivated millions more to drumset creativity and over the decades been featured in influential drum magazines, winning countless fan polls and accolades. Rush have spawned more tribute bands than perhaps any other group – always the sincerest form of flattery.

Arguably Rush's most astonishing feat is their demographic differentiation. Listeners may come and go, or perhaps parachute in when a comely hit makes rotation on commercial airwaves. Rush fans, in contrast, are reliable and resilient. They are also an incredibly varied bunch: Rock fans, jazz fans, punk fans, metal fans, classical fans; moms, dads, old farts, and recent initiates.  Once considered “Heavy Metal”, Rush matured musically and lyrically, gaining worldwide acclaim. Similarly, their fans became more diverse and less prone to generalization. A common misconception that women don’t like the band and only begrudgingly attend concerts with their boyfriends or husbands is patently false. My wife loves the band, as does the wife of one of my music colleagues; she may be the world’s most ardent Rush fan (for the record: she is a very successful executive and a new mom). Recently, a business colleague told me she could hardly wait to see the upcoming documentary as she, too, is a long time Rush devotee. Actuaries may insist 3 women represent an insufficient sample size; extrapolate that number to the immediate circles of the millions of other Rush fans, including the women that produce RushCon, an annual convention dedicated to all things Rush, and I suspect the statisticians will be satisfied.

Now in their late 50’s the band's members could easily retire, reflecting on a career that spans 4 decades, 18 studio albums and least 16 compilation/live albums (24 gold, 3 platinum), and over 10 DVDs. Instead, Rush will soon begin another grueling world tour. With an award winning documentary about to be released and a new album in the works, Rush continues to write an enviable success story. Once passed over and/or reviled by critics, Rush nevertheless upended industry-dictated convention and grew an appreciative, worldwide audience.

Achievements of this magnitude are quite rare. In fact, they are just as rare as they were back in 1968. What’s stopping us from penning a similar tale today?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Want ads left wanting

When I pen an article, blogpost or advert, I try my best to be clear and honest. Which is why I find it terribly frustrating (OK - it really burns my nuggets) to read misleading, incomplete and bet-you-a-$100-it's-crap Craigslist job opportunities.

For example, I have lost count of the "Marketing Rep" ads that once clicked and opened, are nothing more than ads for $8-10/hr cold calling sales jobs  &/or 100% commission-based tele-marketing positions. Or how about the "market my painting business by going door to door and I'll pay you $10/referral" scenario? How is one supposed to take a prospective employer seriously when they are unclear about the differences between Sales and Marketing? (very quickly, now: 'Das Auto', 'Drivers Wanted', and even the complementary post-service car wash, etc. = Marketing; the salesperson at your VW dealership = Sales. Complementary concepts, sure, but often very different in approach and implementation.)

Think about it: You want someone to go door-to-door to 'market' your company's services? Well, at least be good enough to get permission from homeowners before your staff interrupt dinner (or worse!), and have a marketing plan in place before feeding your eager team to the wolves. Mind you, if you're paying $8-10/hour you likely cannot afford a marketing team; instead implement a unique marketing strategy. Try something really unique that will engage and capture the homeowners you desperately seek (I can't help with any specific ideas since you left out the most important bit: who you are and what you are selling - see below). It will take a wee bit more thought that posting an ad to Craigslist, but the payoff will be worth it.

There are also adverts that do not list the company, service, or rate of remuneration. The job poster will write 1000 words on the requisite qualifications and myriad responsibilities, but leave out the most salient and essential of details - like compensation and product. In fact, as a blatant weeding exercise, they ask the prospective employee to list salary expectations. This may appear as a tactical way to limit responses. I disagree. In fact, I see it as a turn off to potential star candidates. Follow the lead of those progressive organizations that are secure in who they are and what they offer: be clear about what rate of compensation you are offering, what type of business you are in, and provide the name of your company. In this way, YOUR time and that of the poor HR person charged with assisting you in the hiring process will not be deluged by myriad CV's; instead, I suspect you'll receive a more qualified group of resumes from respondents. And you'll then be able to provide a response instead of "due to the overwhelming amount of resumes we expect, we can only contact shortlisted persons...". This is often viewed as lazy and inconsiderate.

To those persons who are in positions of hiring, on behalf of those of us that are in career transition/job-hunting/freelancing etc., please ensure that the message in your employment ad is clear. It will make everyone's time management that more effective and, even better: it may ensure you uncover the best candidate that much sooner.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swag: Cereal Box Toys for Colleagues, or, The Offering of Meaningful Engaging, and Ultimately Useful Branded Materials

Rich Patterson, of Vancouver-based Patterson Brands (www.pattersonbrands.com), kindly asked me to submit a post to his blog (http://schwagman.wordpress.com/). I include my contribution here:

When I was little, I would excavate the Shreddies box seeking hidden treasure. The rubber band-powered racing car was my favourite as it required assembly and actually worked well. Though inexpensive and small, it had the desired effect: to the intended audience, it was meaningful, engaging and useful. All these years later and I still remember the brand and the toy. Well done, Nabisco.

When sourcing branded promotional materials (aka swag), marketers with tight budgets might consider the cereal box toy. Industry events can attract hundreds, if not thousands, of potential visitors. This is a terrific opportunity to showcase your marketing and fiscal creativity. When faced with the prospect of offering one small gift, do your exhibit guests, delegates, and your company a favour: make it count.

Begin by thinking like a delegate and a marketer. After all, you have likely received plenty of swag. What promotional items do you still use? What was immediately tossed in the trash? Why? What are your objectives? Will your branded item be seen as thoughtfully considered or an unimaginative attempt to promote your company? If you hand out pens at a trade show will they stand out? Imagine, if you will, presenting guests with a branded box of crayons. Now that’s memorable (your children will thank you later). Or consider a high-quality, steel bodied pen. I recently received one at a launch event and was quite comfortable pulling it out in a meeting when my favourite ‘writing instrument’ dried up unexpectedly. Can a pen be considered meaningful and engaging? That’s debatable, although I appreciate the craftsmanship and remember the launch as being tremendously successful. Is the pen useful? Absolutely – long term, too.

If your budget allows, you may wish to offer two items. Ask your guests which they’d prefer (or need – think sustainability). While this may actually cut down on waste, it most certainly adds value (thoughtfulness) and may even facilitate a longer conversation with your guest (objective).

Promotional items, then, need not be large or even expensive to ensure they remain on active duty. If branded tastefully, travel mugs, ipod accessories, steel water bottles etc. will be welcomed and used. Speaking of tasteful branding, ensure a website address is included with your logo. Make it easy for colleagues and prospective clients to locate your company. This will ensure that when the time comes, it will be your brand and ‘cereal box treasure’ that are remembered fondly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Passionate Investor

At a recent networking function, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a colleague from the special events industry. I do not know him well although I do know that his small company is very passionate about their work and their clients. His is a caring attitude, one not focused solely on making a quick buck (but still remaining profitable) as it is on investing in the client and guest experience.

At the networking event my colleague was both sponsor and volunteer, and was, of course, running about ensuring all requisite pieces were in place. I noticed that he managed to take precious time to greet everyone that knew him - and there were plenty. Later, he remarked to me that he has enjoyed the best year, ever: business is great, more clients are knocking, and many proposals have been awarded to his firm in spite of their going head to head with “the big boys”. He seemed very surprised by this last detail but it made perfect sense to me. After all, he treats people with respect, volunteers his time for noble causes and functions, and rolls up his sleeves to get the job done correctly. While determined, he is not at all an “aggressive sales guy”. Obviously, he derives much enjoyment from his business pursuits. So while he seemed taken aback by his recent successes, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

We read a lot these days about getting back to basics when dealing with friends, clients and colleagues. Why treat others any differently that we would expect? Certainly, the instantaneous channels of communication we now enjoy can fortify or ruin a reputation in a second. This must not be the motivation behind treating people well or taking on a project, however. Success will come from a combination of hard work and humanistic values, from knowing what it is that you do well and how that will assist others.

Believing - and investing - in the adoption and practice of respectful, collaborative, and humanistic attitudes comes with a price. I know - I’ve paid for it on occasion. That's fine by me. As my colleague proved the other evening, the initial price yields huge dividends.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Accounting 101 - Customer Service

Last week I had a meeting with my accountant. Now, I’m no big ticket client, however there were a few items requiring discussion that would have been almost impossible to clarify via email. Besides, my accountant prefers personal meetings with clients, especially because they occur annually and this gives her a chance to catch up.

After dispensing with the financial stuff, we turned to my career, which is in transition. Our chat was really enjoyable and refreshing, not at all what I had expected. We discussed a previous position of mine (in print advertising), one that I recall fondly. Noting my years of experience in sales and marketing, she wanted my opinion. As a client of a local B2B publication, my accountant was treated poorly. The rep never made an introductory (or follow up) sales call to the office, for example, and all communication was done via email. There was no follow up call when the campaign was over (except by email to ask for a renewed contract!) and, when my accountant called about a mistake, neither the rep nor the sales manager called back. She was ignored by both her ad rep and sales manager who, it would appear, were interested only in ad revenue and not in the providing of excellent client service and value. Understandably, she cancelled all further advertising. While I had no part in the situation, I felt terrible. As a Marketing Director and an Account Manager, I have sat on both sides of the desk and I really can appreciate her frustration. And so I took over as ad rep.

I explained many things to her, including the concept that advertising is not all about an immediate ROI, i.e. a flood of calls that convert overnight into clients (if only it were that easy!); advertising is more about creating a recognizable profile over a period of time. In the case of print media, a regular campaign builds confidence and recognition so that when the time comes to find that new accountant, for example, your prospective client will think about ‘that company’, the one whose ad has appeared weekly/monthly etc. I know: pretty basic stuff. My accountant then remarked that she wished someone had taken the time to explain this to her as she really never considered any of this before. I was astonished! This is basic information to me but critical information to her - information that should have been part of a personal, direct client meeting.

My accountant appreciates the complexities of advertising and marketing better than she realizes: after all, she has an excellent understanding of client relationships. In the middle of tax season, she took time from a very busy schedule to engage in a friendly conversation with me. She will continue to get my business and the future loyalty of any others I know that may require her excellent services. As for the B2B publication that lost her business? Let the ad rep email to her heart's content. She’ll never benefit from the loyalty earned through a personal conversation or meeting.

Sometimes, there really are a few items requiring discussion that are impossible to clarify via email.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Democracy Lessons From Home

Recently, a band in which I play drums entered into one of those disagreements that must never happen via email (apparently, we are deaf to both high frequencies and good advice). Ignited by something minimal, it was in reality caused by things left unspoken and underlying, a refusal to address much larger issues that lay (somewhat) dormant. This may have a familiar ring.

The dynamics of playing in a close-knit musical group are similar to those often experienced in a romantic, two-person relationship. Naturally, there are countless differences as well; however, when dealing with the personalities of 3, 4 or even 23 members (The Polyphonic Spree, anyone), the complexities are often more pronounced. Our brick wall of personal opinion appeared while deciding upon which songs to include on an upcoming record. Three members wanted to vote one song off the record, while one member felt strongly about its inclusion. Put to a vote it was, of course, 3-1. But was this fair? Is voting the only democratic way to solve a difference of opinions?

Relying upon the political (majority) voting model, we assumed a show of hands was the only democratic way to solve our impasse. After some reflection and taking a cue from our respective marriages, we realized that our relationships at home often rely upon consensus to surmount important issues. After all, with two persons holding conflicting views voting is not much use (besides, doghouses aren't particularly comfortable).

So…that was it! No need to be unyielding holdfasts, we only needed to thoughtfully consider all opinions then decide our course. Just like at home. Best of all, this transcends beautifully the concept of ‘winners and losers’ and allowed all other outstanding concerns to be addressed and dispatched. Seems simple enough and yet so many groups, companies and couples never consider this path. What is especially interesting was that the process we found liberating is actually quite familiar to political and social scientists alike: Consensus Decision Making.

Consensus Decision Making, which can only occur within the context of democracy, is unlike a majority rule system (3 against 1 in our band’s case). The resulting process - called Consensus Democracy - will consider a diverse range of opinions in an effort to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties. We had to reach a consensus through dialogue and listen carefully to our collective and individual rationale, i.e. why the song was so essential for one and yet failed to resonate with the rest of us. I believe that this personal sharing of opinion and motivation is impossible via email. The end result was, in actuality, closer to “Discursive Democracy”, as there was more discussion than hard decision making; some trade-offs were essential to balance the divergent opinions. These trade-offs, which satisfied all parties and were formulated within the context of a collective willingness to find a solution, effectively ended our heated debate amicably. The record is due in June.

A note of caution: Please do attempt this at home.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Counterproductivity of 'Yes'

I really like the word yes (and, for the record, the band Yes as well. Let's just say I say 'yes' to Progressive Rock). After all, yes almost always conveys positive affirmation or intentionality. Yes is agreement, an emphatic declaration of success, a 'will-do'. Every so often, however, yes can be detrimental to success.

Recently, I was speaking with Dr. Joshua Bender, an Organizational Development Specialist based in Los Angeles about the intentionality of 'yes'. Dr. Bender pointed out that
in most cases, people like to help and appear committed; many people are just not fond of saying no. But saying yes becomes dangerous and indeed counterproductive to both companies and individuals when too many yes's add up to a point of no return. And that return is the investment your clients and colleagues have in you to get the job done. The one to which you answered, "yes"! The intentionality is terrific and all but always make sure you have the resources, the time and the determination to realize the 'yes' you promised!

And no, 'no' is not the only alternative, although at times it is necessary. When it comes to performing a specific responsibility or the realizing of a specific initiative, frame your yes (or yes's) in realistic terms, ones that you know are achievable without letting your partners down. Set boundaries so that all parties are clear on schedules and objectives. Be collaborative, be helpful, but most of all, be true to your yes. This will ensure your "yes!" will remain music to your colleagues' ears.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The 'No Fun City' Mythology

Last night, my wife and I decided to venture downtown to share in some Olympic excitement. The Canadian women's hockey team was awarded the gold medal earlier in the evening, and moments before we arrived on Robson Street, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette won Canada's 17th medal.

We arrived at 9:30 just as the nightly laser, light and fireworks show began. We would have been on time, but stopped to watch a great Rockabilly band entertain about 500 people gathered in the middle of Robson Street. There were so many people trying to cross Hornby Street to reach the Vancouver Art Gallery - Robson Square area, the police and traffic control officers were forced to hold the crowds back. While a few impatient folks snuck through while the police were otherwise occupied with traffic, there was no bolting en masse to join the cheering throng. True to our sensible Canadian manners, we all waited until it was deemed safe. Besides, the extra 1/2 block really made no difference since the lasers and fireworks were projected high above the street.

Every night (and day) since the Olympic games began, the massive, exuberant, and in more than a few cases, alcohol-fueled crowds in downtown Vancouver have clearly demonstrated that Vancouver is very capable of offering and embracing large doses of good, clean fun. I saw no fights, I was deafened by enthusiastic cheers, and I was impressed by the collective, tacet understanding that this is Vancouver's moment to shine. We all know it, we all embrace it and best of all, we share it with each other and our city's guests. Sandra and I had a great time. To use a word that until recently was mutually exclusive when combined with 'Vancouver', it was fun! That may come as a surprise to some.

For years, Vancouver had been labeled as a No Fun City. The label, unfortunately, was/is not without some merit. As a musician who has played live in Vancouver for almost two decades, I have witnessed too many great venues being swapped for what is now a plague of generic nightclubs. Vancouver's liquor laws and license restrictions date from prohibition (or perhaps the Spanish Inquisition) and city hall seems very reluctant to change them. Even residents, who knowingly move into neighbourhoods with nightclubs then have the nerve to complain about them, form part of the problem. Then there's the fear of unruly crowds and attendant infantile behaviour, which is certainly not limited to any one city and is usually caused by a select few Neanderthals. This, in combination with the perceived difficulty in getting large groups of people to behave, is utter nonsense. Sure I remember the Stanley Cup riots in 1994; again, slack-jawed bozos ruled Vancouver's streets back then, but poor policing was by far the riot's most combustible constituent. This time around and faced with seemingly insurmountable crowd control issues, the police have been terrific (and, it must be stated, really tolerant considering Vancouver's well known reputation for, um, botany). And in triumphant defiance of the No Fun label, the crowds have been welcoming, full of fervid Canadian pride, and are obviously thrilled to be living in the moment. Vancouver's moment. Canada's moment. The World's moment. Fun, myth-busting times, to be sure.

As evidenced throughout the Olympics, Vancouver has shown the world and perhaps most importantly ourselves that even when we gather by the tens of thousands, we are very capable of well mannered, if not impassioned, behaviour. We can have fun and lots of it. We can gather in huge numbers and celebrate victories as well as losses. We can welcome the world's media, athletes and travellers and show them that, yes, contrary to rumour, you can find endless opportunities for enjoyment in Vancouver. I've heard and even echoed the sentiment that if the citizens of the Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver, are to build upon our reputation as a world-class destination, we will need to adopt the civic mindset of cities like New York, Prague, Copenhagen or San Francisco. Given the wonderful and truly unforgettable experience that Vancouver 2010 has provided thus far, I say: mission accomplished. Let the games continue.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Share the Podium

I was dismayed to learn recently that many of our American media colleagues, including some athletes, took to mocking not only Canada's "Own the Podium" initiative, but our claim to hockey supremacy after the loss to Ryan Miller and Team USA on Sunday. I like friendly competition as much as the next person but maligning Canada's attempt to win more medals than in previous games, not to mention insulting Team Canada's performance is unjust and, in my opinion, bad PR for the USA. Much worse PR, say, than an American snowboarding medalist, caught with his medal (hanging at crotch level) being kissed by a 'fan', then summarily dispatched from Vancouver to his rural home in New Hampshire. The first is arrogance, the other just immature. Wait - both are immature. Only the snowboarder is punished.

Having covered the British press' misinterpretation of OTP in my last blog, I do not wish to beat this story to death. Yet how can we expect other nations to refrain from such poorly considered outbursts when our own Olympic Committee are even more inconsiderate. Their negativity about OTP and therefore the performance of Canadian athletes at these Olympic Games is a PR nightmare. It seems the Communications and Public Affairs staff at the Canadian Olympic Committee forgot to fully apprise CEO Chris Rudge about OTP, the true meaning of sportsmanship, and, perhaps most of all, discretion. Imagine being a Canadian athlete and reading this: "There's going to be a lot of questions asked about Own The Podium," Rudge acknowledged. "We will eviscerate this program in every detail when we're finished. It's painful to go into the autopsy while the patient is still alive and kicking."

Eviscerate? Autopsy? Canada had never won a gold medal on home soil prior to February 12, 2010. Our athletes have now won 6. Canada won 7 medals in Calgary back in 1988. Canadian athletes have won 11, and there are plenty of events to come. By Rudge's estimation, this is tantamount to catastrophic failure. With 10 times the population of Canada, I would expect the USA to win at least 30 or 35 medals. Good for them! Same for Germany, Russia, Norway etc. These countries have always placed a premium on 'amateur ' athleticism and results; they have much larger populations and more available funding. And for once Canada has likewise stepped up in support of our athletes with the OTP program. Unfortunately, OTP was misinterpreted (by those who, I suspect, embrace nationalistic hype) as blindly patriotic, the type of tiresome bravado that makes most Canadians cringe. And so OTP became a lighting rod for insults and abuse.

Canadians and their athletes now have earned gold on home terrain and compete at a much higher level. That was the point of OTP. Losing medals to other great Olympians is not embarrassing - it is simply a part of competition on the world's stage. And now Olympians from around the world know that they can just as easily place second to a Canadian. The fulfilled promise of OTP to our athletes should be obvious to all of us. A pity Rudge missed the real meaning of this excellent, if not poorly named, initiative; as CEO of the COC, his comments have, I believe, insulted our athletes, done damage to their golden reputation, and tarnished the glory that OTP has delivered to all Canadian fans of Olympic competition.

Share the Podium would have been a better name, imo...and much more Canadian in spirit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

U.K. press slams Canada's hosting of Games

Nice. The British tabloid media, joined uncharacteristically by The Guardian, usually a bastion of responsible and non-sensationalistic journalism, are using the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili to vilify Canada and our hosting of the Olympic Winter Games. Insisting that in pursuit of Olympic excellence Canadians have abandoned our penchant for politeness, they instead project an unmistakable arrogance that, thankfully, is one nasty characteristic we did not inherit from our colonial fathers.

At face value, getting worked into a lather by this scurrilous reporting is perhaps akin to getting choked at The National Enquirer for spreading inaccurate tales of tawdry celebrity activity. But this is much more serious stuff. A man died under terrible circumstances that by many accounts were preventable; whether due to human error or flaws in design, it matters little to his family who watched it live and the millions of us who are still haunted and brokenhearted by the images we saw. And yet, Canada, The Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, VANOC, and presumably all of us who support the Games are somehow held responsible for a truly awful moment in what is supposed to be - and, in reality, very much is - a wonderful experience.

This quote alone should provide the reader with the tone of the articles:

“Canada wanted to Own The Podium at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. This morning they can put their Maple Leaf stamp on something more instantly tangible: the nondescript little box carrying the lifeless body of Nodar Kumaritashvili back to his home in Bakuriani, Georgia,” wrote Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail. “Made in Canada, it should say. Made by the perversion of the Olympic movement for national gain; made by a culture of worthless aggrandizement and pride.”

Aggrandizement? Are they serious? Talk about aggrandizement. Evidently, they did not hear the cracking, emotion-wracked voices of John Furlong and Jacques Rogge when they altered their Opening Ceremony address to reflect on Nodar's death. They likewise ignored the ovation given to Nodar's teammates from Georgia as they entered BC Place Stadium, as well as the deafening and heartbreaking silence of the over 100,000 participants when they stood for a minute's reflection.

My wife and I are but 2 examples of the millions of Canadians (and Americans, Germans, Dutch, Czechs etc.) who are devastated by Nodar's death. I am certain I can speak on behalf of my fellow Canadians when I say this tragedy has affected us all immensely. No matter how many medals our athletes may win, no matter how successful our Own The Podium initiative, in truth a determined, for-once-in-our-history attempt to aim higher than ever before (is that a crime?), all events and outcomes will be viewed through the prism of Nodar's final run down the luge track. Yeah, us Canadians are a callous, shallow bunch.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Agony of Defeat, the Thrill of Collaboration

I do not wish to appear opportunistic by referencing the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. I saw it live. I was horrified and sickened. My thoughts go out to his family, teammates and the entire Olympic community. It has certainly given all of us in Vancouver pause as we head into this once in a lifetime 17 day festival.

The anti-Olympic protesters in Vancouver this morning indeed have some legitimate grievances. And yet, in light of today's tragedy, I hope that they will see that while their plight is indeed dire (Vancouver's Downtown Eastside's issues are legion and legendary), the athlete's and supporters who come from around the world need not be used to to bolster their argument. Hopefully, funds generated from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will find their way to the needy. Perhaps more dialogue and a little less confrontation would facilitate this positive step.

Nodar died pursuing his dream. Let us all honour his memory by supporting the myriad positives the Olympics have to offer each of us.
I do not wish to appear opportunistic by referencing the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. I saw the video on YouTube before it was taken down at the request of the IOC. I was horrified and sickened. My thoughts go out to his family, teammates and the entire Olympic community. It has certainly given all of us in Vancouver pause as we head into this once in a lifetime 17 day festival.

The anti-Olympic protesters in Vancouver this morning indeed have some legitimate grievances. And yet, in light of today's tragedy, I hope that they will see that while their plight is indeed dire (Vancouver's Downtown Eastside's issues are legion and legendary), the athlete's and supporters who come from around the world need not be used to to bolster their argument. Hopefully, funds generated from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will find their way to the needy. Perhaps more dialogue and a little less confrontation would facilitate this positive step.

Nodar died pursuing his dream. Let us all honour his memory by supporting the myriad positives the Olympics have to offer each of us.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Less than 24 hours to go...

The 2010 Winter Olympic games are finally here. Notwithstanding the whining of those individuals who insist on raining on this parade (as if there was not enough of the real stuff), The Olympics are a real feast, and not only for the athletes, coaches, supporters, the countless media, sponsors, etc. The Olympics give the host city, and country, an opportunity to welcome the world into their home. To celebrate together as one collaborative entity with the main objective (besides the medals, of course) being the best possible experience available anywhere without getting too hammered to do it all over again tomorrow. To celebrate cultural differences and banish intolerance. To share.

I was fortunate enough to have experienced the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, so I speak from experience. Quite simply the games rock. And snow or no, these games, with their live music festivals, performances, art, theatre, light shows and spectacular pavilions, will blow the world away.

So for those who have already complained that Irish House is too loud (seriously!), the lights and strobes that blast into the night sky are too bright, and that the Olympics have nothing to offer them, I say wake up and get thee a camera, a stiff beverage and a sense of community. This only comes around once, my friends. Drink it all in. You can sleep in March.