Stories You Missed – January 2017

We all can’t read everything, and our Facebook feeds are now overrun with political arguing. So to make things easy for you, I’ve assembled some of the stories from last month about tech, marketing, sports and Seattle that you may find interesting.

  1. Three Sounders FC Departments Honored with 2016 MLS Club and Executive Awards: Congrats to the team members who don’t wear jerseys. Sounders FC tied for the lead among all clubs with its three awards: Corporate Partnerships Team of the Year, Marketing Team of the Year and Public Relations Team of the Year. I don’t know how these awards are judged, but if you enjoy your time at Sounders games, these groups probably play a big role.
  2. After Buyouts, Layoffs, 23 Staffers Exit ‘Seattle Times’: Well if you think that the national newscasts are a series of partisan wonks arguing talking points back and forth, then you won’t like this article. The newspapers still can’t figure out a business model, which means more cuts to local journalists. If you have an idea for how to save local news, you’re running out of time to share it.
  3. Dramatic video footage shows drone circling and then crashing into Seattle’s Space Needle: Well I guess this is why we can’t let everyone just fly their drones around all the time…
  4. The latest Amazon-occupied building sale shows how far Seattle real estate has come in last decade: If you think your house or apartment is expensive, imagine trying to buy an office building in Seattle these days. One of Amazon’s 290,000 square foot office buildings just sold for $269 million – or about $925 a square foot. That compares to $1.85 Million for your 2000 square foot house.
  5. Venture Investment in Seattle Area Companies Falls 27 Percent in 2016: It was a mixed bag of news about how much money investors poured into Seattle companies in 2016. On the downside, for the full year, investors poured just over $1.5 billion into 282 local deals, down 27 percent and 23 percent, respectively, from 2015. But on the upside, the fourth quarter of 2016 saw 77 local deals completed, totaling $561.3 million, compared to 81 deals totaling $190.6 million in the same period of 2015, and the final six months of 2016 saw a combined 157 deals, up 26 percent from the first half of the year, and $919.7 million invested, up 58 percent.

Oh and the Seahawks lost. But we don’t need to rehash that.

Have a good story to share? Email me and let me know.

Should We Provide Free College Tuition

I’m seeing this topic brought up more and more. College is too expensive and even the middle class can’t afford it anymore. And those who come out of school with a mountain of debt will never be able to own a house, much less have enough discretionary income from the low paying jobs they’ll earn with their degree.

So the easy answer is to make college cheaper – or even provide college for free. It works in countries like Sweden, so could it work here?

Well the 1st thing that would have to happen would be a gigantic increase in taxes. Someone still has to pay the professors, administrators, janitors, etc… who make the school run.

But suppose in the short-term, we had a hybrid model that solves a specific problem for one sector of U.S. Business.

Let’s provide education that is free – but on loan – to people who choose to enter a track specific for math, science, engineering or computer programming. Here’s how it would work.

  1. Test into a program for aptitude or potential ability in the subjects, not existing grades or knowledge. Any age.
  2. Choose a specialized track includes some General Education but really focuses on the technical subject matter.
  3. Like the military, mandate required service time to pay off the loan. One suggestion: within 8 years of graduation, require 2 years of part-time teaching at a community college, high school or workshop level. This will help with the burden that we have a lack of professionals who can teach these subject matters. It also gives graduates a full 6 years to get their career situated and mature as adults who can mentor others.
  4.  If the graduate has made enough money to pay off the loan, they can spend money rather than time in service. That money would be able to hire others who wanted to teach.
  5. The tech companies would be asked to underwrite some portion of the project. You’d want to make the numbers work so that overall, the cost of recruiting technical talent would decrease even after their financial commitment. They’d be investing smart money to grow the labor pool rather than paying premium salaries and recruiting commissions in a battle for scarce resources.

I don’t know how the numbers would net out, but I’m not in government. Maybe someone will read this and see if the math works.

Any other thoughts? Email me.

A Conspiracy Theorist’s Predictions for the 2017 NFL Playoffs

We all know the NFL playoffs aren’t rigged. But if they WERE being written by a team of storytellers in New York, here’s how it would go down.

Houston: No NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl in the year their city hosted the game. The host city needs the tourist revenue. So no Houston this year. 1st round out.

Oakland: Their QB is out so they should have no chance. BUT, that wasn’t supposed to happen. The NFL needs the Raiders to become America’s favorite team so that either Oakland or Las Vegas will build them a new Billion Dollar stadium. Oakland is going to the Super Bowl behind a rookie QB who has never started an NFL game. Cinderella plus history + need for stadium = NFL preference.

Seattle: This is a tough one. The NFL finally had a team full of interesting characters a few years ago. Richard, Marshawn, Earl, Russell, Kam, and everyone’s favorite grandpa coaching them. But then something happened and the storytellers saw their characters go off script. Beast Mode quit, the goody-two-shoes QB married 50 Cent’s ex, Earl got hurt and spoke of retirement, Sherman seems to have lost his cool. This isn’t a team the NFL loves anymore. This is the team that goes down inexplicably this year.

Detroit: The Cavaliers, Cubs, Indians, Donald Trump… notice a trend? The world is conspiring to provide some relief to the Rust Belt. Detroit gets a cinderella win this year, even though they stink.

Miami: No one cares about the Dolphins, including Miami. If a team loses a playoff game and no one in the city notices, did they actually lose? Doesn’t matter. 1st round out.

Pittsburgh: I’m pretty sure the Rooneys and Maras have a deal with the NFL that one of them gets to win the Super Bowl every 4-5 years. They also fit well into the Rust Belt conversation. I see them to the AFC Championship where they do what is best for the league and lose to Oakland.

Giants: The Giants vs Cowboys rivalry is going to be THE rivalry for the next 3 years. But it starts in earnest next year. This year is the appetizer where we learn how important the regular season will be to each team. The Cowboys get a bye, the Giants go down in the best game of the 1st round. OR, they win a few games and end up losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship where home field matters. This is a tough one.

Green Bay: Is it the end of an era? Or is this the transition year where Aaron Rodgers gets a new cast of characters to make great? Once Tom Brady is gone, Aaron Rodgers will have another 5-7 years. I think Green Bay gets a win but goes on a Super Bowl drought until Rodgers’ final year when he gets to have his Peyton Manning Swan Song. OR, they have to bow to New York and let the Giants vs Cowboys NFC Championship game take shape.

New England: Every year, they could be the team that wins it all. They’re the guys you know will get there one or two of every three years. And this year they are simply going to need to take one for the league and let Oakland get to the Super Bowl. It’s just good business sense to let Oakland beat them.

Kansas City: Blah. No one outside of Kansas City cares about Kansas City. A league that saw TV ratings go down this year needs a HUGE Championship weekend and Super Bowl. Neither of those lead to Kansas City success. Out as soon as possible.

Atlanta: The Falcons have managed to get tax payer money to get a new stadium built. That was rewarded with a trip to the playoffs. But the idea of Aaron Rodgers vs Dak Prescott is too good to pass up.

Dallas: GOD the NFL needed Dallas this year. It’s a ratings bonanza. Kids love Dak and Zeke. Old guys love Dez and Whiten. This is NFL gold. Pencil them in to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Round 1:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Houston (4) and Pittsburgh (3) over Miami (6)

NFC: Detroit (6) over Seattle (3) and Green Bay (4) over New York (5) (or vice versa)

Round 2:

AFC: Oakland (5) over New England (1) and Pittsburgh (3) over Kansas City (2)

NFC: Dallas (1) over Detroit (6) and Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) over Atlanta (2)

Championship Round:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Pittsburgh (3) in a classic AFL battle that makes the old people happy.

NFC: Dallas (1) over Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) in a classic NFL battle that makes old and new young people happy.

Super Bowl: TBD.

 

My Facebook Feed’s Predictions for 2017 (Part 1)

It’s the time of year when I get to reflect and think about the years immediately behind and ahead of me. I like to try to make some predictions to myself; not for clickbait or blog views, but so I can try to avoid being in a state of surprise and reaction as the year unfolds.

This year, I don’t have to do that. Thanks to the election of Donald Trump, I can simply look at my Facebook feed and see what everyone believes will happen. Between my friends and the media, 2017 has already been decided. So according to Facebook, here are some things the consensus has agreed upon will absolutely happen.

  1. We’re all going to become Russians: Apparently we already are Russian, we just didn’t know it. Russia controls our elections and our President. The policies that will be implemented in 2017 will be strictly designed to benefit Vladimir Putin.
  2. The KKK will reign supreme: According to my Facebook feed, a Trump Presidency means that it will be gosh darn near socially unacceptable for me to associate with members of different races. It stinks that I suddenly won’t be allowed to hang out with my friends who aren’t white.
  3. The Supreme Court will have 3 new members who believe Hitler was too liberal: It seems to be widely agreed upon that a Trump Presidency will surely lead to a new Supreme Court makeup in which 2 older Democrats and an empty seat will be filled by people who hate freedom and promote persecuting personal freedoms. That is certainly disappointing.
  4. No one who makes less than $120,000 a year will have Health Care: From what I’ve read on Facebook, with the repeal of ObamaCare almost everyone will lose their Health Insurance, even people who have other types of Health Insurance.
  5. Nuclear war with China is imminent: Now this scares me a lot, but makes the rest of the list pretty irrelevant. I live on the west coast near a Navy base. We must be high on the early target list. So, I guess the other things won’t matter since I’ll be part of a giant mushroom cloud.

This all nets out to a pretty depressing look into 2017. But I like to be more optimistic than this. So I think my resolution in 2017 is to ignore Facebook and watch channels like Bloomberg instead.

My Unsolicited Opinions on the College Football Playoff

In no particular order…

  1. There’s an irony that we’re arguing about whether we need 2, 4 or 8 teams for a proper playoff. If this was the old days, Alabama would go win the Sugar Bowl, finish 14-0, and there wouldn’t be a discussion about it.
  2. You can’t make Conference Championships part of the parameters for making the College Football Playoff if the Conference Championship criteria is based on arbitrary regional divisions. Get rid of the divisions and have the best 2 teams in the conference play for the title. Otherwise the designation is just ceremonial.
  3. In the world of, “Things that would never happen,” I would actually prefer that all of the Conferences be constrained to 10 teams (taking us back to a Power 6) and that each Conference had a schedule where everyone played each other. Then you don’t need a meaningless Conference championship game because…
  4. …By the way, did anyone else notice that no one attended the Conference Championship games? Stadiums were 1/2 empty.
  5. So if you didn’t need Conference Championship games anymore, that weekend would be your 1st round of the 8 team playoff. 6 Conference Champions and 2 wild cards. Now that would be a fun weekend of football.

Ok, so if you implemented my plan, your top 8 this year would be something like: 1) Alabama (SEC champ)    2) Clemson (ACC champ)   3) Washington (PAC 12 champ)   4) Penn St  (Big 10 champ)   5) Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)    6) Someone like Louisville, Pittsburgh, etc… (Champ of the new Big East)   7) Ohio St (Wild Card)    8) Michigan (Wild card).

Winners go on to the New Years Eve Final 4. Losers get to play in the other New Years 6.

Now that’d been an entertaining round of football. Once it was re-seeded, that weekend would have been fun to watch. Way better than having to slog through Florida, Colorado or Wisconsin posing their way in fake Championship games.

But again, no one asked me. So at least we get 4 really good teams. That’s better than nothing. Unless you are Penn St or Michigan…

A Possible Answer to Why NFL TV Ratings are Down

It’s being well documents that the NFL’s TV ratings are down. There are hundreds of explanations, from the poorer quality of play, a general disgust for the Commissioner, a weariness of all the concussions and injuries, or even backlash at the National Anthem protests. I’ll throw my supposition on the list – Fantasy Football.

I posit that the growth of Fantasy Football caused people who normally wouldn’t tune into a Jacksonville vs Cleveland debacle, got sucked into a few games to see what their QB or WR looked like in real life. The NFL had stars like Dez Bryant, Russell Wilson, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and more. Guys who were on your fantasy team and were guaranteed to score a touchdown or do something cool every game.

But the game evolved. Teams stopped feeding running backs the ball 35 times a game. Instead of having one or two studs to watch on every team, coaches started implementing systems of running back by committee. Plus, wide receivers get hurt every week. Your average fan can’t keep track of the 2nd string tailback and 4th WR for the Lions.

So Fantasy Football becomes less interesting because your lineup has a bunch of guys you don’t care about. And then you add all the other reasons not to watch football, and you realize that there are a lot of other things to do on Sunday. And Thursday. And Monday. And whenever else the NFL is trying to cram a game down my eye sockets.

So too much football on TV + lower quality football + players no one cares about + a decline in the reason new people were watching other teams in the first place = apathy and depressed ratings. It will be interesting to see how the NFL responds.

What is Performance Psychology?

Russel Wilson has one on staff. Most college and pro teams have several. But what does a Performance Psychologist actually do?

Elizabeth Boyer, PhD, describes it this way:

  • Develop strategies to build consistency and satisfaction in sport and life
  • Identify solutions for challenges and concerns.
  • Get support to successfully navigate set backs, injuries, and transitions.

You can learn more about this field by checking out her site, Northwest Performance Psychology.

 

What We Are Going to Do in 5 Years With All Those Non-Driverless Cars?

I’m not really a car guy. I like when other people have really nice cars, and I could certainly afford to have a nice car, but for some reason I’m wired to be perfectly happy driving the same Acura for the last 16 years. But 16 years is a long time and the reality is that my car will die someday. So I have started looking around for my next automobile.

However, my research hit a snag almost the moment I started. You see, everything I read is that driverless cars are somewhere between 5 and 10 years away. Which begs the question? Why on earth would I buy a regular car today, if no one will want to buy it when the driverless versions start coming out?

And the bigger meta-question is, what the heck will happen to the millions and millions of regular automobiles out there? Here are some options.

  1. Some really smart people are going to figure out how to transform regular cars into driverless ones. Or, I suspect the GM, Ford, Acura, Toyota, etc… will all figure out a way to do it.
  2.  In 3 to 5 years, leasing becomes such an attractive option that there’s just no reason to buy a new car. You’ll have one last regular car for 3-5 years and in your next lease you’ll get a driverless one.
  3. There will be an amazing glut of really nice 5 year old cars on the market.  In 2022, the supply of 2019 BMW’s will so outpace the demand that people who don’t choose a driverless option will be able to get a car that’s nicer than anything they ever thought they could afford.

But the crux of the issue is this. What do I do? Do I just wait until my car dies? Or do I hope it lasts 5 more years and be the first kid on the block with a driverless car? Thoughts?

Totally Unfounded Speculation About Alex Rodriguez

There is almost zero percent chance that this hypothesis is accurate. But suppose…

  • Rather than release him outright, the Yankees offered Alex Rodriguez the role of “Special Advisor” because they could make sure the contract he signed and the $20+ million they still owe him would be contingent on him actually being a Yankee Special Advisor.
  • So in order for him to go play for another team, he would have to negotiate an end to his current contract, since he is now contracted to be a Yankees Special Advisor until the end of 2017.
  • Remember, the Yankees cut him at 696 home runs, BUT instead of waiting until the end of the year, they left him with enough time in the season to get 4 more HR’s to get to 700.
  • So, maybe they specifically did that so some team out of the playoff race would try to sign him on the cheap for the marketing exposure of his chase to 700.
  • And if another team does want him for that purpose, there’s no way a guy wth his pride and ego would turn down the chance to join the 700 club.
  • So then the Yankees could either choose to keep him from playing for another team, or make him cancel the remaining salary he is owed.
  • And then he would have to choose what is more important… $20+ million more dollars on top of the $500 million he’s earned, or the chance to get 4 more HR’s and join a really exclusive club.

Maybe… well played Yankees?

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.