Monday, September 30, 2013

O-H-I-O Transportation and Time

“You should call this trip Trains, Planes and Automobiles,” suggests Jim Varney. He knows I like to document weekends like this with a recapitulation in writing. It’s a worthy thematic concept but this suggestion doesn’t capture the greatest parts of this visit with Jim & Susan and kids, Colleen (4) and Lane (2) at Sharon Hill Drive in Columbus. Booking online (Expedia) for lowest round trip had me flying stop-over flights, to and from, through Detroit and Minneapolis. (That’s between St. Louis, MO and Columbus, OH). The weekend also includes travel by automobile, light rail (Rapid Transit), a short bus ride, a cab ride, power walking ramps and cardio fitness on steep stadium steps (two venues). The nuances of transportation, while amusing, might obscure other themes that beg for attention, however.

Jim can be persuasive. He hooked me on the notions of quality time with his growing family and a bonus trip north for a NFL Football game between The Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. In point of fact, transportation is the least of my worries once I land in Columbus. All logistics are handled by JV.  I am arriving on Saturday. When JV learns this, his wheels started turning. “Hey, why don’t I ask Susan to drop us off near The Shoe on Saturday. Maybe we will be able to get some tickets to the Ohio State – Wisconsin game. The game starts at 8:00 p.m. but this is Ohio State. The pre-game begins at 11 o’clock,” He says with a chuckle. “It will be fun, even if we don’t score tickets.” We got tickets! Now we have time to soak up some atmosphere.

Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on…

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town (Ohhhh-H-I-O)
And everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down (O-H-I-O)
Sloopy, I don't care what your daddy do (O-H-I-O)
'Cause you know, Sloopy, girl, I'm in love with you (O-H-I-Ohhhh)

The singer from the Danger Brothers Band at The Varsity Club is stirring the pot at the infamous pre-game hangout, just about 500 yards from the stadium. The $4 beers are flowing and the big screen television screen tells JV he’s got another one right in his friendly weekly football pool as #6  ranked LSU falls to #9 Georgia.

Flash Forward - Columbus, OH Saturday September 28, 2013: I’m with 105,000 of my closest friends making the O-H-I-O to the musical cues in the song. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on… It has a dreamlike quality at night with fireworks, a script OHIO formed by the marching band and periodic recognition of outstanding athletes and alumni on the field at strategic breaks in the action.

Flash Forward – With the game win safely secured, JV calls an audible and we are resuming our cardio workout and short wind sprints: stairs, ramps, to the Varsity Club and to High Street (past a co-ed projectile vomiting in front of a local tavern.) A bus. A cab. We are home in time to catch some more college football on TV. The baseball score updates tell us the Cleveland Indians have won again – nine in a row to end the season and get a shot at some October baseball. We finally call it quits at 1:30 a.m. (After all – tomorrow is a big day!)

Flash Forward – Cleveland, OH Sunday September 29, 2013: Ramps and Cardio Steps again. After all we need to work off the beer, pizza and turkey/slaw/bacon/French fry sandwich from Panini’s. OMG. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on…The soundtrack and the dream sequence is back but some how in a blink of an eye, we are watching a kid from St. Ignatius, quarterback the Cleveland Browns to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. (Brian Hoyer is the living a dream come true at least for now, as the Browns continue to shop for the next great leader. After this game he’s marshalled a W for the Brownies two weeks in a row – off the bench!)

Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on. Hang on, Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on…Ohhhhhh. And again the soundtrack triggers fan participation with the formation of O-H-I-O (by now as familiar to Ohioans as the Village People and Y-M-C-A at weddings and bar mitzvahs). The FirstEnergy Stadium is loaded with reminders of the Cleveland Browns history going back to 1946. The Ring of Honor showcases 16 football hall-of-famers from the legendary coach Paul Brown to Ozzie Newsome. Still JV and I agree the game is forever changed by progress.

Flashback – The Browns were the featured in the first Monday Night Football game in 1970 versus the New York Jets at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Flashback – Jimmy Brown was the most popular fan jersey. #32 was a fierce running back with the ability to stiff arm would-be tacklers. And from our season tickets under cover of the upper deck at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium we followed the action as it passed partially obstructed views behind structural steel beams.  

Flashback – Flashback – Flashback and Flash Forward – Those kids are at Lakewood Park enjoying the diversions of a kids activity fair with Mom and Aunt Netti. Dan and Netti have opened up their house and share memories in the making. Just a couple of weeks ago their house was headquarters prior to the Memorial Service for Dad at St. Luke’s (complete with Mass, military color guard and reception at McBride Hall). Colleen and Lane have personalities forming before our eyes. Colleen is in charge. She already knows how to politely ask for things. At four, she still has a way to go in managing disappointments. It will come. She is outspoken and animated. In time she will see Lane as her greatest ally (instead of sibling rival).

Flash - Flash - Flash – Maybe it isn’t about transportation (planes, trains etc), but it is about a journey. And it becomes more apparent as you remember where you have been and see in the eyes of children, 2 and 4 years of age, all of the possibilities.

Flashback – The poem I offered at McBride Hall ended with a stanza I have come to realize is really about the future. It is about traveling in time, modes of transportation and yet in a flash we are in a completely new place. We may not recognize it – even as we cheer on the Buckeyes or the Browns in the midst of the multitudes, but we must embrace the victories (even as we experience setbacks).    

We are the dreamers of dreams 

And we cherish each moment as it goes by.

Life is too short but the legacy lives in the gleams

Of Sons and Daughters who wonder why

The great man passes.  

Murph was right: It isn’t fair.

The great man passes.


Note: Susan and Jim. Thank you so much for sharing some precious moments in time with those amazing kids of yours. Eventually one day they might realize that they have the best parents ever! (I hope so.) You guys are awesome!

1.      Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor:  RB JIM BROWN (1957-1965), COACH PAUL BROWN (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-62). OL JOE DeLAMIELLEURE (1980-84), DL LEN FORD (1950-57), OL FRANK GATSKI (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL 1950-56), QB OTTO GRAHAM (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-55), OL/K LOU GROZA (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-59, 1961-67, OL GENE HICKERSON (1958-60, 1962-73), RB LEROY KELLY (1964-73), WR DANTE LAVELLI (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-56), OL MIKE McCORMACK (1954-62), WR/HB BOBBY MITCHELL (1958-61), FB MARION MOTLEY (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-53), TE OZZIE NEWSOME (1978-90), WR PAUL WARFIELD (1964-69, 1976-77), OL BILL WILLIS (AAFC: 1946-49, NFL: 1950-53)

2.      Planes, Trains & Automobiles 1987 film written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film staring Steve Martin and John Candy as travelers who share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to Chicago from New York City in time for Thanksgiving.

3.      Hang on Sloopy is a song by Wes Farrell and Bert Russell, originally titled "My Girl Sloopy. It was named for singer Dorothy Sloop, who used the name "Sloopy" on stage. As recorded by The McCoys, Hang on Sloopy went to #1 in 1965. It became the official rock song of the state of Ohio and The Ohio State University.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Managing your Online Reputation

I find myself at a workshop this week. The venue is an exclusive suburban place. The Missouri Athletic Club West. It is an alternative to the clubby and traditional downtown facility. It’s more family friendly, accessible, pool, dining, meeting rooms and overall a nice venue.  Attendees gathered for coffee at 7:30 a.m. and the small talk among strangers reveals an almost predictable new reality. Several of the guests used GPS on their smart phones to find the place. One even commented that the place was not particularly well reviewed regarding service and food. Upon further discussion, the report was coming from someone who had, in a hurry checked it out online. It turns out the statement he made, was based on two comments on a site like Yelp! (Note: I say“like Yelp!” because the workshop participant I just met couldn’t recall what review site he was even referring to). Therein lies the rub: an unfortunate broadcast based on two actively dissatisfied customers. I spent the morning and lunch at the place and frankly it was more than adequate and worthy of positive reviews from me. I was not moved enough to the point of trying to sway public opinion online, however. (Damage done. Hopefully the good experiences will outweigh the bad and the club will take appropriate action to maintain its brand and reputation.)     

The  2013 Local Consumer Review Survey by Myles Anderson of BrightLocal  recently published on SearchEngineLand among other findings:
Far more people state that they trust online reviews as much or more than personal recommendations.
The trust in online reviews is growing.
Consumers are viewing far fewer reviews before making their buying decisions
So you might conclude: It's more critical than ever to manage your online reputation, since people are reading fewer reviews, and basing decisions on them.
As an interesting coincidence, an online publisher called me from an industry association that very afternoon to ask me if I could contribute an article to advise members of a distributor network how to manage their online reputation. As it happens, this industry association had identified this topic out of necessity as members have found themselves victims of newly empowered (and unfiltered) online reviewers.
Something to think about. Your communication strategies need to include the digital and online realities. The sources will vary as will the quality and trustworthiness.  How will you manage your online reputation?