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.

“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?

Guest Post – The Referee’s Perspective: Sometimes We Know What We Are Doing

Editor’s Note: Garrett Galbreath is a high school basketball official in Washington State and a Board Member for the Snohomish County Basketball Officials. Since I am someone who has ALWAYS treated sports officials with the greatest of respect, and NEVER engaged in any kinds of disagreement with one rearding the idiocy of their calls, laziness on the field, or out and out incompetence, I wanted to get an opinion from his side of the whistle. Why do some parents, coaches, and players insist on arguing with these highly trained and well-meaning people, simply for screwing up a call on the field? This is the 1st post in the series of, “The Referee’s Perspective.”

As high school basketball official, I have heard just about every criticism a coach, player or parent can offer. Sometimes I register the good advice, “Watch the hook on the post!” …and consider it the next time I am in a position to observe post play.

garrettgalbreath_officialBut most of the time, we are bombarded with simple and contradictory instructions for how the game should be officiated. One minute its, “Call the foul!” The next, “Let them play!” What’s an official to do?

The answer is more nuanced than most people think. My general philosophy on officiating is broken into three mandates:
1) Keep the players safe
2) Enforce the rules
3) Consider the game

These (personal) rules are listed in order of importance, but numbers two and three blur a bit in many situations.

Some Examples

Parents Yelling 1Consider a typical 5th grade game. If we were to enforce all the rules in the NFHS rule book, the ball would never cross half-court because we would call travel violations on every possession. Nobody wants to sit through that. Instead, we have to balance where the rules must be enforced and when to let them slide for the sake of the kids trying to learn the game.

As officials, we try to balance the rules vs the game by looking at advantage/dis-advantage. Did a player gain an advantage by violating a rule? No? Maybe it’s best to let it go so the game continues.

Coaches Yelling 2We need to apply the same logic in a high school game. Although our tolerance for violations narrows a bit, we still have to consider the skill level of the players. Our 3A state champion team is probably going to have a different skill level than a rural 2B team with 6 varsity players. We have to figure out how to manage that gap in skill sets every single game.

So to you parents pleading for a foul at one end of the court while imploring that we let them play at the other end… Most of us saw the same thing you saw. By the rule book, you might be correct. We could make you sit through an hour of inbound passes.

Parents Yelling 2But remember, youth and high school sports are for the kids. In addition to being competitive events, they are teaching opportunities and a way for your kids to gain confidence. Our decisions might be different than yours, because we are working hard on blending a need to enforce the rules of the game while considering the quality of the experience.

Please include any questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Imagining Presidential Candidates as League Commissioners

I don’t know what made me think about this, but indulge me if you will. If you took the remaining Presidential candidates and put them in charge of the sports leagues, which ones would they run? Here’s my proposal.

1) MLS
Let’s start with the easiest one first. Major League Soccer is by definition a socialist endeavor. The league revenues are split, the labor force has few rights for negotiating wages, and all transactions must go through the league office. This is Bernie Sanders’ league, plain and simple.

2) NFL
The country’s most powerful league is going to need a member of the establishment to carry out its charter. Someone who knows everyone on Wall Street as well as the rest of the Billionaire owners. They must have political clout to wield or they’ll be a lame duck. But also, the NFL needs someone who can deflect controversy, pretend things that are happening aren’t actually happening, and show a strong willingness to tiptoe on the wrong side of the rules. I think the NFL goes to Hillary Clinton.

3) MLB
This league is much harder to determine a proper commissioner for. Its leader must have the clout to appease 30 billionaire owners, manage municipalities to get stadiums built, and negotiate billion dollar TV deals, all while presiding over a sport that is losing its appeal to much of America. In some ways, to some people, MLB has become somewhat a relic of days gone by. A memory of what once was, rather than what will be. And with that in mind, I hand the keys to Jeb Bush.

4) NBA
Another tough decision. We’re looking for someone who can see the international picture while not overlooking the inner cities. Someone who can manage across different cultures. But also someone who can simply step into the shoes of his mentor and merely continue to operate the machine rather than create a new one from scratch. I think this role is given to Marco Rubio.

5) NHL
Here we have a league that not enough people get excited about. It rarely registers on your sports mind, even though the few times you pay attention to it, you find it quite enjoyable. It is the epitome of being John Kasich.

6) NCAA
With this organization, we’re looking for a few key qualities. This leader must be fairly tone deaf to the cries from its labor force who want to be paid. The leader must embrace the idea of the 1% receiving all of the money, and have strong convictions about who should be let into the system. Plus this leader must be stubborn, resistant to the opinion of others, and able to hold true to their beliefs. I believe Ted Cruz is our answer here.

7) WWE
Come on, is this one really that hard? There’s only one Presidential candidate capable of running the circus that is Worldwide Wrestling. The one and only, Donald Trump.

Have I missed a league that needs a Presidential candidate as a commissioner? Let me know.

7 Fun Facts About the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team

The U.S. Men’s National Team starts its World Cup Qualifying run vs St Vincent and the Grenadines tonight. Who the heck is the the St Vincent and the Grenadines soccer team? Well, here are some fun facts.

1) The island is here.

2) The country has 109,373 people. That is approximately 321,905,480 less people than there are in the U.S. For perspective, the United States has 4,186,778 registered soccer players.
3) Assuming the team has a standard 23 players, .021% of the country’s population is on the National team, or 1 out of every 4,750 people.
4) The team is ranked #129 in the world. That’s actually better than Luxembourg (146), New Zealand (159) and India (172).
5) There is an actual St Vincent and the Grenadines Professional Soccer League. It features the Toni Store Jugglers, Prospect United, Avenues United, Fitz Hughes Predators, JG & Sons Stingers, Camdonia Chelsea, System 3, Zodiac Football Club, Nemwil Hope International, Digicel Jebelle, Besco Pastures and K&R Strikers.
6) Two members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team, Myron Samuel and Oalex Anderson, play for Sounders FC 2. Put that in this perspective – the man with the most games played and most goals scored for this country, plays on the minor league version of the Sounders. If Oneil Fisher was from SVG, he could be a starter.
7) In the qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup, they were eliminated in the 2nd round, going 1-2-3 vs Guatemala, Belize and Grenada.

Did the MLS Playoff System Work, to the Detriment of the Sounders?

This may be a stretch.. but I think the MLS playoff structure did its job in the Sounders vs FC Dallas series.

– The Sounders had to field the best 11 they had for the last game of the season vs RSL, to ensure they made the playoffs.
– By finishing 4th, they then had to play again that Wednesday in a winner take all match vs LA Galaxy, so they had to field their best 11 again on 2 days rest, or rest a couple of guys and take their chances.
– Predictably, as an older team, this led to small injuries that over the course of a season would be recoverable, but in the case of the playoffs, was not.
– So Dallas, already built younger, goes into the series with 7 days rest vs our 3. We got the win in game 1, but we were clearly taxed at the end.
– Now we roll Oba and Dempsey out again for game 2. That’s Game #4 in 14 days for these guys. I think our 30+ year olds at the end of a 40 game season were simply tired vs a bunch of 25 year olds who had one less game to play.
– Thus, the system worked. Dallas was rewarded for having a better record. And that slight edge got them to the next round.

Why do we split young soccer players by gender?

Saturday morning, shortly after my friend Trevor and I had completely our lap around Greenback – at a blistering pace I might add – you could find us relaxing on the deck of our favorite coffee shop, Forza. There, we had the perfect view as parents and 5-8 year olds invaded the soccer fields and set up for their matches.

The games started and we watched with amusement as goalies who would eventually fit into their jersey 5 years from now whiffed on punts, entire packs of kids followed the ball around the field en masse, and 12 year olds ruled the field as referees.

But we noticed something odd. Even though the talent was the same on each field, each team was either all boys or all girls. We asked the question, “When kids are that young, why not have boys and girls play together?”

Yes, I understand that there’s an age where each gender’s bodies start developing at different paces and it makes sense to separate them. But at the very earliest ages, why not instill in kids that being good at what you do has nothing to do with gender?

I have no answer here. Just curious.

Saving Greece and Soccer at the Same Time

In case anyone wonders, this is a completely facetious comment. I don’t honestly believe this is a good idea… But in a make believe world, here’s how you could save Greece and International Soccer at the same time.

Qatar buys Greece.

Think about it. It’s win-win-win-win.

Win 1: Qatar gets the recognition it desires.
Qatar has a ton of money that it can’t spend. They want to change their image and have a larger presence in terms of global awareness. By buying Greece and renaming it “North Qatar,” they get all of the history that comes with it. Just like Gary Payton is somehow the leading scorer in Oklahoma City Thunder history, North Qatar would be where the Olympic games originated. Zeus and the rest of the Qatari gods lives on Mt. Olympus in North Qatar. And where would the world be without the contributions of famous Qataris such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Win 2: Greece pays off its debt.
The banks want to get paid. The Greeks don’t want to pay anyone back. Qatar has dump trucks of cash sitting in gold plated garages. Let’s redistribute some of that cash and keep the country – and Europe – from collapsing.

Win 3: We don’t have to play soccer in 120 degree weather.
The 2022 World Cup can stay in Qatar – it’s just going to be played in North Qatar. (Except they’ll make Germany and the U.S. play their games in South Qatar out of spite.) Tourists will now want to attend the games. And Qatar can send all those poor abused migrant workers home.

Win 4: FIFA moves to North Qatar
Nothing significant in the world can happen without it benefitting Sepp Blatter in some way. This works for him. Qatar can revoke any extradition treaties it has with the U.S. and FIFA can build a 200,000 square fit office complex overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Could it happen? Of course not. Should it? Hmm….