[Soundtrack for this post: Can't Stop the Rock by Apollo 440, which was on our team "Psych-Up CD" for the 2002 Quebec Swimming Championships.]
On Monday night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart joked to his guest Shaquille O’Neal that he wasn’t sure how to tell his Jewish son that he’ll probably never make it in the NBA.
To which the 7’1” All-Star responded, “Tell him Uncle Shaq said baruch hashem (Hebrew for “good luck;”) and he can make it.”
I used to have my own giant-sized athletic dreams. I was convinced I would go to the Olympics one day. I figured my best bet was 1996, because I would turn 20 the summer of 2000 and, to me, that sounded a little old.
In 1992, as I watched Team USA gymnast Kerri Strug and her bescrunchied teammates, I whined to my mom – why hadn’t she kept me in gymnastics? I could have been one of them! She frowned at me. “Beth, those girls are so shrimpy. Look at you. You’re a foot and a half taller than them. You would have hit your head on the bars.”
I scowled and refocused my Olympic dreams on swimming.
After all, I’d been a competitive swimmer since I was five. My parents had trekked my siblings and I all over the state for swim meets, enduring many Saturdays on hard metal bleachers in humid natatoriums. They dutifully wrote our events on our hands with Bic pens and shooed us down to the starting blocks every forty minutes or so. I developed a collection of colorful ribbons and a powerful chlorine smell that wouldn’t fade until my early twenties By fourteen, I was swimming for two hours twice a day and lifting weights.
By the time I joined the high school swim team, I was strong and fast. My sister, a senior, was the team’s best breaststroker, and I was incredibly proud to be on the team with her. We swam in the elite Lane Six with the other fast girls.
But then one day, my coach said offhand, “You’re a really good swimmer. I mean, you’re not going to the Olympics or anything, but…” Which is when he gave me a puzzled look in response to my puzzled look. “You do know that, right?”
I nodded, oh yeah, yeah, like I’d always known that.
But nope, until that moment, I had still been hoping. It was right then that I realized that 1996 was right around the corner and nobody had yet handed me my Golden Ticket. My Olympic flame was snuffed.
I did qualify for the State Championships each year, and was named an All-American swimmer with my fellow hot shots, Gracie, Anne, and Katie.
I was lucky enough to continue swimming at McGill University, where I consistently made it to Canadian Nationals. There, I finally shared a pool with with some Olympians – the Canadian variety – but even though they were legendary to me, even the best of them never held a candle to any American Olympian, least of all the likes of Americans Amy Van Dyken or Michael Phelps. I finally understood how distinctly in their own league those incredible athletes really were.
But I was also finally okay with it. I had enjoyed a long swimming career that had formed the basis of my identity and my social life. As a shy and awkward teenager, high school probably would have been a lot lonelier without a whole team of girls looking up to me. And though, in college, I had to go to bed sometimes when others were just going out to the bars, I had a whole team of buddies with whom I spent some of the best years of my life.
So I’m with Shaq – there’s no need to squelch the boy’s basketball dreams. Yet. Let him figure it out for himself one day, and until then, have a lot of fun.
(To the tune of Norah Jones' Come Away With Me.)
I'm paying a fortune to get my Master's in Strategic Communications from Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so I thought I'd share a few cents' worth of wisdom with anybody who stumbles across this blog.
Tonight, I gave a presentation on Scope mouthwash. We have been working on our abilities to articulate a brand's position, i.e. the unique place it occupies in the consumer's mind, and the assignment this week was to do so by uncovering unique customer insights. For three weeks, I've been interviewing my friends and family (and even a few friendly-looking strangers in bars) about their mouthwash habits. Yep, swirl it, gargle it, or avoid it, I've been trying to talk to you about it. (If you actually answered my questions, thanks again! If you didn't, I will stalk you harder next time.)
Mouthwash is a personal topic, and a complex industry, but don't worry, I've managed to squeeze everything I could ever want to say on the topic into twenty colorful, Dr. Suess-inspired slides.
Check it out!
I think my presentation tonight went really well. So what if I did a practice run earlier for a six-year-old and he gave me an F? He's not even old enough to use mouthwash!
Tonight's wisdom takes the form of a quick primer on communications strategy:
A strategy has the following parts. (So far; we're only halfway through the semester!)
Communications objective (what tangible measurable thing do you want to have happen as a result of your communications strategy?)
Single best competitive advantage (you know, from Marketing 101 - what is that one, best, unique thing about your brand?)
Communications role (what feeling or belief (about your brand) do you want to create, change, modify, or amplify?)
Target audience (duh, who you're targeting. Pick a group you'll be able to a) reach and b) affect.)
Critical insight (an opinion that your audience already has that will motivate them to have the feelings for your brand that you're trying to get them to have.)
For examples of these things, check out my presentation here. See if you like it better than the six-year-old did.
The second piece of wisdom is that, while Listerine's marketers didn't invent the word "halitosis" to transform bad breath into a medical condition as is sometimes believed, they did popularize the use of the word.
[Soundtrack to this post: Cake – What's Now Is Now]
It’s the beginning of March. Do you know where your New Year’s resolutions are?
A mild late winter has already swept away the first two months of 2012. For fraction fans, that’s one-sixth.
The good thing is, one-sixth is not very much. Take this hypothetical example: if your mom saved a piece of your dad’s birthday cake for your brother who won’t be getting home until after his late-night hockey practice, you can take the sharpest knife in the drawer, slice off a one-sixth sliver, shove it in your mouth, and tiptoe to the downstairs bathroom to finish chewing before anybody notices.
So, we tortoises have lost nothing in letting all the hares get a two-month head start on stimulating the New York Sports Club economy. It’s our turn to lace up our running shoes, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and greet the New York morning with our pale legs.
[Bonus music video: Cake - The Distance]
About this blog
I'll use this space to write about movies, bikes, communications trends, pop culture, and my adventures as a new New Yorker.