Preparation

The theme of preparation began with news reports last week that Jed Hoyer won the Padres’ general manager job as soon as he walked into his first interview with owner Jeff Moorad because he was carrying a very important binder. While maintaining his role as a Red Sox assistant GM, Hoyer devoted every extra moment he had during the course of several weeks to producing a statistical analysis of the Padres. The knowledge of the Padres that Hoyer demonstrated throughout the interview as a result of his preparation won Moorad over.

This evening, JJ Wagner, Shelley Smith, George Raveling and Jim Souders spoke further on the issue of preparation with Jeff Fellenzer at Business of Sports panel discussion at the Founders Room of the Galen Center at USC.

Souder, an advertising manager for Sporting News, mentioned the fate of an Ohioan who had been calling him for several weeks asking for an interview. When Souder finally obliged, the man showed up knowing nothing about Sporting News. He had not touched the publication in ages.

Providing a personal anecdote of a similar situation, Wagner, the GM of the Bel-Air Country Club which is attended by stars such as Pete Sampras and Michaels, discussed about how he lost out on one job because he had no idea about their club. But, he received a promotion at his own club after spending a significant amount of time brainstorming ways to improve.

A former USC basketball coach, Raveling is now the Director of Global Basketball for Nike. Besides claiming that Kobe Bryant is Nike’s best endorsee and that anyone who can speak Mandarin and Cantonese is guaranteed to be hired at Nike, he talked about his passion for reading and the lack of preparation some Nike employees show at meetings. Still a stalwart of old-fashioned ideals, the Blackberry-holding executive abandons his computers and instead uses a legal pad to write all his notes. Handwritten documents seem to fit well with Raveling, the owner of the original copy of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he was once offered $4.5 million to sell.

Finally, Shelley Smith, a SportsCenter correspondent, who I had the opportunity to mingle with on the sidelines at the Cal-USC game, explained her journey to ESPN. She was very proud of her work at the newspaper of the University of Nebraska. As its first female sports editor, she penned an editorial raising an objection to the fact that Nebraska’s stadium’s pressbox only had a male bathroom.

A night earlier, I was humbled by poster artist Shepard Fairey, who stuck around for over an hour to make sure everyone that wanted to talk with him or acquire his autograph had an opportunity to do so following a discussion about Art, Politics and Culture at the Annenberg Auditorium at USC. Fairey, who I had very little knowledge of before the event, turned out to be a very intelligible 39-year-old graffiti artist. He spoke with candor about his ongoing litigation with the Associated Press about the doctrine of fair use. Fairey also provided interesting commentary about his art’s role in getting people to question the way media and advertising communicates with us. The advertising campaigns recently launched by Gatorade for its G drink and Verizon/Motorola for the Droid phone drew from the mysterious aspects of Fairey’s artistic endeavors, including the Obey posters that helped launched him into the popular media.

Returning to this night, Shelley expressed the same type of willingness to engage each and everyone one of the eager students trying to getting a few seconds worth of her career advice. She even went as far as giving students email addresses of people they needed to contact to inquire about specific positions at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

On consecutive nights, I was deeply humbled by the kindness of individuals we see on television, but often do not think of as the most approachable of people. And on back-to-back weeks, the idea that preparation leads one from the entrance of the door of opportunity to a nice spot in the room of success.

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