A Few Thoughts About Sigi Schmid

It’s the end of an era. Quite literally.

The Seattle Sounders have only known one head coach in all their days. Through 250 MLS matches, a host of playoff games and some lengthy runs through the U.S. Open Cup and Champions League, Sigi Schmid has been the only man driving the bus. And now that ride has ended.

While Sigi was alone in compiling 115 wins, 69 losses and 66 draws from 2009-1016, the Seattle Mariners are now on a 5th manager to pull them out of their 573-660 streak.

Sigi will get criticism for not winning the MLS Cup, a compliant that seemed to heat up after the Seahawks got their ring three Super Bowls ago. And the cry of, “Well we’re still an expansion team” fell on deaf ears as soon as the hatred Portland Timbers raised the cup ahead of the Sounders. At that point, the knives were out.

But Is 2016 Sigi’s Fault?

The Sounders had a run of bad luck last year that stretched them thin, so they stocked up on some guys who were supposed to plug the holes and then provide depth in 2016. At this time this year, here is what the Sounders lineup was “supposed” to look like:

Forwards: Starters: Obafemi Martins, Dempsey, Valdez. Bench: Jordan Morris.
Mids: Alonso, Evans, Ivanschitz. Bench: Kovar, Roldan, Friberg.
Def: Mears, Torres, Marshall, Jones. Bench: Scott, Remick.

Instead, Torres is hurt and Martins is sitting on a bench in China. Dempsey missed a month on National team duty. The Sounders were trotting out a lineup of role players and hoping Jordan Morris could dramatically exceed any reasonable expectation of a rookie. Evans got shoved back to defense and couldn’t contribute on offense. When Dempsey was here, he had no one to pass to. The team was so slow that defenses could push high up the field and pressure guys like Scott into turning it over in front of goal.

A lot of things went wrong this year, and I’m not sure if any coach could make that lineup work. The Sigi detractors have a fair point – that with the players we ended up with, he stubbornly stuck to a formation that didn’t seem to fit them. It’s really a double edged sword. If he was switching formations every few games (the way we all would playing FIFA on XBox) and it didn’t work, we’d be yelling about that.

And so that leaves Sounderland in a little bit of a quandary. Sigi was “our guy” from the get go. Adrian is “our guy.” GM Garth Lagerway is a Real Salt Lake guy. “Our guy” took a fall because the coaching staff and management team couldn’t get results in 2016 with the product they put together. Now we have to trust in Lagerway to find the right players and the right coach.

I’ll miss Sigi. I’ll miss wondering how a guy who spends every day on a soccer field and eating meals specially prepared by a scientific driven training team could possibly weigh in at 3 bills. I’ll miss standing behind the bench trying to figure out what crazy substitution is coming next.

But this is a reminder that nothing lasts forever. The storybook start to the Sounders franchise, with Sigi leading us to a 3-1 win over New York, still hasn’t had the magical payoff moment we’ve been waiting for. I hope it comes soon enough that Schmid’s fingerprints are still on the team. I hope we get to see Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso lift a cup and we can remember Sigi’s original influence.

So long sir. I feel lucky that we had you take the reins at the beginning and lead us to where we are today. Best of luck in whatever challenge you take on next.

The Depths to Which the English Football Team Has Sunk

Imagine being English and being fan of your National Football Team.

In 1990, You had a proper Englishman managing the squad, with the delightfully British name, “Sir Robert William ‘Bobby’ Robson.” You finished 4th in the World Cup. Life was how you expect it to be.

Then in two subsequent World Cup runs, you suffered through two new English Managers. One failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1994, one finished 9th in 1998. You then accepted the fact that you needed to go outside of England, importing a Swede who got you to the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, and then accepting an Italian in 2010 who couldn’t get you past the round of 16.

Full of angst and pride, your Football Association then says, “We need another Brit. That’s the only way for England!” So you get a Brit who places 26th out of 32 teams in the 2014 World Cup and loses to Iceland in the 2016 Euros.

So now here you stand, wondering what to do next. Where will the genius that can bring England back to prosperity come from? You wait optimistically on bended knee.

Then you hear the news. You hear the what the brightest minds in England think is the only solution to save English Football.

We must hire a German. A German who has lead the United States to being slightly above average.”

Can you imagine what a kick in the gut that would feel like if you were English? Not only would you be hiring someone from your bitterest rival, their most recent experience would be running a team you feel superior to. I am trying to come up with a relative comparison. Here’s as close as I can get:

— If you are a Husky fan, this would be like hiring Mike Leach instead of Chris Petersen in 2014.
— If you are a U.S. soccer fan, it would be like hiring a Russian who was previously managing the Costa Rican team.
— If you are a U.S. Olympic Hockey fan, it’s like hiring a Canadian who was previously running the Chinese team.

It’s a funny day for soccer. The English admit needing a German born manager to get them back to the heights the Americans have reached.

What I Learned from Copa America Centenario

A few quick takeaways from what was a pretty cool tournament.

1) South American soccer is more fun than European soccer:
Sure, the Germans have technical skill that is fun to watch. But if you gave me the choice to randomly select two South American teams or two European teams to watch play, I’d choose the South Americans every time. With the exception of Bolivia, who played a 4-4-1 with their 11th guy being Messi’s shadow, the South American teams came out attacking. The irony is that they can do so because the good ones have such strong defenses that they can send an extra guy forward. As much as I love the Iceland story, even they play 10 guys deep and hope to get lucky on a long throw or corner kick.
Arg vs Bol

2) Argentina was just a superior team to see live:
Chile’s defense must be fantastic, because I don’t know how they shut Argentina down. Granted, when I saw them live they were facing an overmatched Bolivian team, but I think the result would have been the same against Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador or Columbia. They are so technically proficient with the ball, and can deliver pin-point passes from anywhere on the field. Their fullbacks are giants who can dribble and pass as well as U.S. forwards. Even their little guys are strong. And their 1st touch always seems to be placed in a direction that is away from a defender. You didn’t have to understand soccer to appreciate what they can do.
Messi

3) FIFA, Concacaf and Conmebol made a quick cash grab:
Great tournament, yes. But tickets were so expensive, that it turned into something I would like to attend and see once every 8-12 years or so. It was a shame that they priced families out of the market. I wouldn’t have dropped $600 to bring a family of 4 to see Peru vs Haiti. In a world where variable pricing is so easy to implement, I think they dropped the ball for the sake of trying to get as much up front cash as possible, since they forced you to buy tickets before the schedule came out. Then, they only sold tickets on one side of the stadium, so on TV it looked like there were more people in attendance.
Empty West Stands

4) The USMNT is probably right where they should be:
The U.S. benefited by Brazil and Uruguay not really showing for Copa America, and that probably lifted them from a loss in the round of 8 to a semi-final shot against a much superior Argentina squad. If they were in the Euros instead, I could probably name 6-8 teams who the U.S. should lose to, 6-8 they should beat, and a few that they’d probably just go 0-0 with. We have some good young speed and a decent defense, but no go-to scorer. If you are going to go into a tournament with those attributes, you can’t make mistakes – like handballs in the box, needlessly accumulating useless yellow cards or lashing out for stupid reds. If there’s one thing I can blame a coach for, it’s a lack of player discipline. Those careless mistakes need to get hammered out of players if you want to beat a team from Pot 1 or Pot 2 in a 2018 World Cup Match.

USMNT Wins

5) USMNT fans are a lot of fun:
The costumes, the flags, the cheers – the U.S. game had a fantastic atmosphere about it. Maybe it was because we were playing at home, but I’m glad we have joyous and positive fans, not thugs and brutes.

US Fans

On Culture and Chemistry

I heard an interesting interview with Mariners Manager Scott Servais last week. He discussed some of the differences between this year’s team and last year’s, especially when it came to how the players acted in the dugout and clubhouse.

Servais brought up a distinction I hadn’t thought about before, the difference between Culture and Chemistry. I’m going to paraphrase some of his comments, because they make sense to bring into a corporate or start-up environment.

To summarize, “Culture” is the foundation of the organization. It’s embodies the mission your organization is on, the processes and programs you implement and the latitude people have as individuals inside the system. “Chemistry” is how everyone gets along with one another – peer to peer, manager to employee, employee to manager.

So with those definitions in mind, here are some insights he brought forward.

1) Not everyone has to get along, but they all need to be bought in: A culture can’t just be dropped into place from above. It’s going to be started by someone, adopted, and expanded. The Mariners culture isn’t as simplified as, “We always want to win.” From an in-game perspective, it’s focused on, “We’re going to own the strike zone, on offense and defense.” Every member of that team knows that the team philosophy is about owning the strike zone. A guy from Korea and one from Venezuela don’t have to have anything else in common. But as long as they know the process that the organization has designed, and they both contribute to the process, then the culture will be strong. If you don’t believe in the process, then you are a bad cultural fit, and it’s better for both parties to have you move on.

2) You can have great Chemistry and deliver a lousy product: Having everyone love each other is great. But if your team enjoys 2 hour lunches with each other and 4pm happy hours, your culture of laziness and good times isn’t going to net you much success.

3) You can generally define a good Culture in few words: In the case of the Seahawks, the culture is simple – “Always Compete.” You know that whether you are Russel Wilson or a walk-on free agent, you are there to battle for a roster spot, bigger salary, and field time. There’s no gray area for interpretation. If you are going to be a Seahawk, you have a mindset that you will have to win anything you get. You know the guy behind you on the depth chart is trying to take your job. You are only going to continue being a contributing member of the organization for as long as you can outperform everyone else at the job you do. There are no bonus points for tenure. Experience just means you should be able to do the job better, faster and thus be able to do more.

I think you can find the interview on the 710Sports.com web page. Would love to know if you took away any other insights.

Could the NBA Come to Seattle With Chinese Billionaire Owners?

An article on Forbes.com states,

“…let’s look at the NBA, and the chances for Alibaba or another company to make a bid for a U.S. basketball team in the next few years.

It’s hard to know which NBA clubs might be up for sale, though various websites say that a few could come into play if the right buyer emerges. Alibaba chief Jack Ma and Wanda founder Wang Jianlin probably head the field of most likely candidates to make such a bid, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these big-name executives launch such an effort within the next 1-3 years.”

If the NBA wanted to get Chinese market more interested in the league (without moving a team to Shanghai), Chinese ownership of a franchise would be a good way to open up TV rights to games across the Pacific.

It would be natural to put an Asian owned team on the West Coast. We know Allen, Buss, Balmer and the Warriors or Kings owners aren’t interesting in selling. So would make sense to have a current owner cash out for a huge payday, and move the team to Seattle.

Farfetched? Maybe. But not out of the realm of possibility. Opening the Chinese market is a pretty big carrot to waive in front of NBA owners.

The Meat-Free Experiment is Underway

I’ve never contemplated vegetarianism. And no matter how long I live in Seattle, I can never see myself paying an extra $3 for a “sustainable” sandwich.

But I like experiments, so I have one underway. From May 17 – May 30, I’m going meat free.

I’m trading the steaks for salmon, bacon for yoghurt, and sandwiches for salads. Just to see how my body reacts to a meatless diet.

I’m starting this experiment about 20 pounds above where I’d like to be. I’m not changing any other aspects of my diet or exercise plan, to truly see how meat affects weight gain or loss. I’m also curious what this will do for my mood, sleep habits, energy level and more.

So, if I seem grouchy in the next few weeks while you inhale a T-bone and I choose the Ahi salad, this is why. And if you have tips on how to replace meat with other protein, please let me know.

Monday Mornings Musings, May 2ish

Another day late on the musings, mainly because…

Seattle Politics and Sports
…I wanted to see what the City Council would do on the vote to vacate a deserted alley behind a strip club, in order to clear the path so someday it would be possible to build a $500 million arena. This is one of those votes that would only be newsworthy in Seattle. Not a vote on building an arena. Not a vote on financing an arena. A vote on whether or not to SELL – not give away – an abandoned alley to the would be developer of the project. This decision is so simple to make, it would literally take a group of misfit buffoons to be fooled into voting the wrong way. Well Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the Seattle City Council. According to the Seattle Times, three of the people voted against vacating the street because they didn’t like how another Council Member was being treated on social media. Yes, we have the only politicians in the country who cast their vote based on how social media is treating their friends. It’s just maddening.

Personal Life
I mostly write about thoughts, observations and rants here, but it probably is worth mentioning that I joined an Australian company called Whispir. Very cool technology being used extensively in Asia. The Americas team is just getting off the ground, so it should be a fun experience. It probably also means that since I’m not going to be building a content development agency, I probably don’t need to write a lot of content. Just enough to keep up the SEO rankings (and rant about the Seattle City Council.)

Sports
The Mariners keep winning. But man it’s hard to root for them when they did so much work to keep the new arena from being built. How do you support the game of baseball but protest the Mariners management? I think I’m simply going to take a little break from them and explore things like hiking and such on days I would normally go to games. Let me know if you want some of my tickets.

Tech Events
The Geekwire Awards are on May 12. Always a fun event. Usually sells out, so buy your tix now. (Coincidentally, it’s being held on a piece of property that at some point the Seattle City Council would have had to give away to Paul Allen so he could build the EMP there.)

Monday Morning Musings (Tuesday 4/26 edition)

So I broke the #1 rule of consistency. But it’s been kind of a nutty week. More announcements to come…

Sports
All Hail the Mariners. All Hail a 10-9 record. All Hail being in 1st place in the West with just 88.3% of the season remaining. At this pace they’d win 85 games which *could* get them close to a playoff spot. For comparison, last year the Astros made the 5th playoff spot with 86 wins. So that’s saying something.

History
I found myself pretty intrigued by the historical TV show “Turn: Washington’s Spies” over the last year or so, and did a little research on some of the American Revolution’s main characters. Here’s a little stat you don’t read in your 6th grade history books. Ben Franklin had an illegitimate son. That son had an illegitimate son. That son had an illegitimate daughter. I’m not sure those are the family values the Daughters of the American Revolution type conservatives want to talk about.

Politics
Man, is this really going to be Trump vs Clinton? Most interesting idea I have heard lately is to temporarily pass a Constitutional Amendment making the President a 2 year term of office, giving us a redo for 2018.

Business
Good luck to the 32 teams still remaining in the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition. This is the first year in a long time that I don’t have any students trying to get their companies off the ground. But I’m still looking forward to seeing what this year’s group has come up with.

Culture
Where would you say Prince’s death fits in terms of impact and surprise? Not quite Cobain level perhaps? But close. RIP.

Monday Morning Musings 4/18

Economy
Happy Tax Day! This might a good day for Bernie Sanders to dial down the rhetoric about raising my taxes. It’s a little bit of a sore spot for me this week, Bernie. Or another way he can look at is, “I don’t have any money to donate to a political campaign for about the next 4 years. Or charity for that matter…”

Politics
Speaking of Bernie, this political theater just gets more interesting by the day. The New York primaries are this week and I have to admit, I just want results to fall into place that will cause the most amount of chaos. I have my extra large back of popcorn kernels and am ready to sit back and enjoy the absurdity of super delegates switching sides, both parties having candidates claiming unfairness, pledged delegates being bribed and threatened, rules being made up on the fly, and the eventual elecetion of someone not even in the race right now. It just fascinates me that in one day, Hillary Clinton can have photo opps with Wall St billionaires and the leaders of Black Lives Matter, and vigorously tell both of them that she has a plan that works for them.

Seattle | Sports | Events
Startup Grind is a good event to hit. But next week, on 4/26, it should even be more fun for you sports fans. Adrian Hanauer, founder and owner of the Sounders, will be on stage with host Michael Grabham. Get your tickets now, as this one may sell out.

Business
So my new business is officially off the ground. I’m calling it Content365.Online because my niche is developing content and materials for B2B companies so they can publish every day of the year. Take a look and give me a shout if you know any B2B companies that might need what I’m selling. Content is hard to produce, but I’ve been working on a process to make it easier.

Have a good week.

“I Have Front Row Seats to Kobe’s Last Game And…”

Well, I didn’t have seats to Kobe’s last game, in the front row, right next to the Lakers bench. But this woman in the photo below did. What would you do with such a prime location for such a milestone game? I’d probably do one or more of the following:

  • Watch intently
  • Take photos
  • Take video
  • During commercial breaks, post to a social channel or 12.

Now let’s see what this lucky person was doing. By all means, blow up the photo for a better view.

Kobe Bryant Last Game

What could should be doing? What’s your guess?

  • Checking Facebook
  • Calling an Uber so she can get out before the crowd
  • Texting her friends
  • Checking stats

Your thoughts?