March Madness & Musings

28 Mar

What’s left of major college and pro sports after all the over-hype, greed, corruption and other misplaced priorities? In a recent family discussion the thought came up about who can go the longest without setting foot inside the two Atlanta sports venues that will open in a couple of years.

Our world is driven by innovation. Isn’t it way past time some things, um, evolved? (I’m lookin’ at you, umbrellas and ski boots.)

Which is your favorite type of driver — the classic intersection blocker, the one who tries to pass you on the interstate on-ramp or that person who decides to stop in the middle of traffic and wait to move across multiple lanes rather than miss his or her turn? Commuting downtown for the first time has exposed me all too much to these maniacal or moronic motorists…

My father likes to belittle social media, but this content guy is almost totally convinced that radio is worthless, with very few exceptions such as NPR and this fine fellow. I can almost feel America getting dumber anytime I mistakenly listen to a DJ spout some inane conversational filler…

I try my best to keep hope in my heart. I also keep a letter in my car in which my pastor informs the church that his twenty-something son has Stage IV brain cancer…

Take out Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney  and the brilliant Zac Brown Band and would “Nashville,” the show, easily top Nashville, the music city/industry?

So I see that people are still sharing photos of their food… but not so much their food. My neighbor posted a pic of a once-frozen burrito he was about to eat. And a classmate recently felt the need to add a fishy Facebook photo captioned with “Almond-crusted NC trout in smoked olive oil. Take that, @bonefishgrill!”

Finally, I find folks who don’t ask questions highly questionable. How ’bout you?

Pitch Perfect? A PR Test

28 Feb

My first successful (non-press release) media hit on the PR job started as a top 10 list pitch and resulted in a “7 Reasons Why” piece. So let’s call it a 70 percent conversion rate, right?

Below is the pitch and here is the media coverage end result.

No. 18 at The Oconee course at Reynolds Plantation

No. 18 at The Oconee course at Reynolds Plantation

==================================

Top 10 Reasons Why Reynolds Plantation

Should Be Your Next Vacation Destination

==================================

  1. It was good enough for The Ritz-Carlton and Jack Nicklaus golf.
  1. It’s pleasantly free of the gnats, alligators and traffic of your usual seaside destinations.
  1. Lake Oconee is Georgia’s second largest lake.
  1. It’s the only resort in Georgia with a Peter Burwash International tennis center and The Kingdom by Taylor Made golf instruction and club-fitting facility.
  1. It’s the only resort in the world with three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Angel Sims on its health & wellness staff.
  1. Wanna see “King Kong’s Shed”? It’s here (and also known as the dry dock at Reynolds Plantation Marina).
  1. It’s good enough for head-coaching homeowners Bruce Aryans of the Arizona Cardinals, Miss. State’s Dan Mullen and U. of Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez.
  1. The numbers are in your favor: 19,000 acres of lake, 21+ miles of walking trails, a dozen restaurants, 6 golf courses, 4 marinas and now one Certified Master Chef (of only 68 total in the country).
  1. Reynolds Plantation has a knack for hosting: See the Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival, the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge, the 10th annual Linger Longer Invitational, the Golf Channel’s Big Break Invitational and more. Did I mention the Ritz-Carlton Lodge?
  1. It’s only 80 miles from Atlanta.

Atlanta’s Moving Performance in 2014 Solidifies Economic Path

31 Jan
Ponce City Market  (courtesy of Silverman CPM)

Ponce City Market   (Image credit: Silverman CPM)

Atlanta is on fire again! This time it’s a march to see and be a part of the city’s impressive growth in business and development. For five years running Atlanta has claimed the top spot on Penske’s list of top U.S. moving destinations. The robust influx of educated workers speaks to the tremendous opportunity found in the Capital of the South. The mild weather, favorable cost of living and many attractions definitely sweeten the appeal.

“You can see Atlanta’s ascension in the metro’s continued population growth, the city’s startup business boom and its very strong development wave, which includes vibrant mixed-use developments such as Emory Point across from the CDC and the recent addition of major cultural attractions like the National Center for Civil & Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame,” said Dan Graveline, 33-year director of the Georgia World Congress Center.

The civil rights museum and hall of fame debuted in downtown Atlanta last summer. In case you missed it, The New York Times included downtown as one of the 52 places to go in 2014 – and one of only eight U.S. cities on its list. Atlanta even has two stadium projects ongoing for the Falcons and Braves that combined will generate approximately 10,000 jobs.

Although the Peach State’s unemployment rate has lagged of late, that hasn’t stopped Site Selection magazine from declaring Georgia No. 1 for the second consecutive year in its ranking of best state business climates. According to CBRE Inc.’s mid-2014 analysis of office rents and wage costs in major U.S. metros, Atlanta offers the most value for employers, coming in at 25, 31 and 38 percent more cost effective than our nation’s capital, New York and San Francisco, respectively. PulteGroup moved its headquarters from Michigan to Atlanta last summer, WorldPay and Prince Global Sports have similar moves in the works, and Mercedes-Benz recently declared that it will roll the automaker’s U.S. base of operations into town this summer.

Georgia State University’s Economic Forecasting Center projected that Atlanta will add almost 175,000 jobs from 2014 through 2016. CBRE reported that Atlanta experienced employment growth in the technology sector of nearly 11 percent between 2011 and 2013. Ponce City Market, the nation’s largest historic tax preservation project, has attracted leading tech firms such as MailChimp, athenahealth, Cardlytics, HowStuffWorks and now Twitter.

So when do mixed results mean major market momentum? That’d be here and now. Mixed-use behemoths Avalon, Buckhead Atlanta and Jamestown‘s 2.1 million-square-foot Ponce City Market will open from September 2014 into this year, infusing character and enthusing consumers from the northern suburbs to the Old Fourth Ward. Crescent Communities President Brian Leary told Globe St. that the three “extremely unique” developments, which total around 1.17 million sq. ft. of retail space, might make Atlanta a “national anomaly.”

As the saying goes, retail follows rooftops. In November, Fannie Mae reported that consumer confidence in housing, which, historically, contributes 17 to 18 percent of GDP, hit an “all-time high.”

“Atlanta is showing signs of returning to its prior form of leading the country in population and household growth,” Jonathan Smoke, Realtor.com’s chief economist, told CNN Money.

Emory Point (Photo Credit: Cooper Carry)

Emory Point   (Photo Credit: Cooper Carry)

The metro area is expected to see a 6 percent increase in home-owning households in the next 5 years, and, according to MPF Research, the metro’s apartment sector achieved a post-recession record occupancy rate and a two-decade high annual rent increase in third quarter 2014.

“Nationwide demographic momentum, especially in the prime Millennial renting segment, finds especially fertile ground in Atlanta where dynamic industries, top-notch universities, a unique culture and reasonable cost of living all come together,” said Cris Sullivan, executive vice president of Gables Residential, which continues to see high rents and waiting lists at the expanding Emory Point.

Like ordering The General Muir Burger or Ecco’s fried goat cheese balls, there is so much flavor and excitement in our city right now. People making places (and movies), places attracting people and all making a big difference. Now if only the Braves and Falcons would get on board the winning wave!

The Best of 2014

31 Dec
The five-time NBA champion and my fellow Wake Forest alum's motto: "Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best."

The five-time NBA champion and my fellow Wake Forest alum’s motto: “Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”

BEST PERSON: Pope Francis

The Pope took the righteous lead on the issues of inequality,  global warming and even United States-Cuba relations. Our canine friends gotta agree!

BEST TEAM: The San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan & Company not only claimed their fifth NBA title in 15 years and vanquished the defending champion Miami Heat in five games, the model franchise of professional sports taught us all about selfless, team-oriented play. Perhaps the most important lesson though was the determination, faith and unity shown by the team in climbing all the way back up to the mountain top after losing a heartbreaking championship series the year before.

BEST QUOTE: LeBron James

“It’s just basketball, man,” said ‘King James’ during his team’s loss in the June NBA Finals (see above). I pray that more than a few perspective-challenged youths across our country were listening!

BEST PLAY ON WORDS: “High Maintenance”

The web series on Vimeo follows a nameless marijuana dealer as he delivers his product to clients in New York City.

BEST MOVES: See ‘Best Person’

BEST OF THE WORST: NFL

The spate of domestic abuse incidents in the National Football League, starting with the highly visible (in more ways than one) Ray Rice case, was absolutely horrible, but we can hope that the fresh dialogue about this disturbing trend in America will bring greater awareness and commitment to prevention.

BEST MESS: SNOW-JAM 2014

While many were either forced to stay the night on the interstate or, like my mother, spent 11 hours getting from one suburb to another during Atlanta’s January “SnowJam,” I was lucky enough to get home from my office after a friendly hitchhiking episode (two kind UPS employees delivered me!), two trains and a fortunate neighbor pickup (Mike & Rachel on their return from the Caribbean were leaving the local MARTA station at the same time as me) to get home in time for supper.

BEST FAMILIAR FEELING: See the Spurs, my wife’s New York trip in March and my return to Alaska, about 20 years after going to the ‘Great Land’ for the first time to work a college summer.

Bombing the Soul

28 Dec

light-at-the-end-of-a-tunnelEarlier this month, my sister texted her hairdresser to confirm the day’s appointment. In her darkest of nightmares, Allison never would’ve imagined that her in-house stylist and friend had been murdered 36 hours before.

Intensely and shockingly personal or merely the morbid curiosity of passers-by staring at a traffic accident, the response of human beings to tragedy is complicated, but there does seem to be some irresistible pull toward misfortune and calamity. Several days later my sister found herself combing through the disturbing Facebook page of her friend’s demented and perhaps even satanic killer.

In his book “Everyone Loves A Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away,” Wake Forest University Professor Eric Wilson explores the doom and gloom side of human nature. In a spin on the saying about the light at the end of the tunnel, do we need the darkness of that passageway to fully appreciate the light?

Last year at my old job, I eagerly asked the company IT director about his predecessor, who had been caught by the Feds in a child-sex sting. Somebody I didn’t know and would never meet attempted something horrific and I wanted to know more details. At about the same time, I felt the need to look through the Twitter feed of an Atlanta twenty-something charged with DUI and the death of a fellow motorist. There the young man was in his day-to-day, week-to-week posts talking about fun outings and trips, and then the online log abruptly stopped just hours before he stopped an innocent life.

Struggling to process and cope with the sudden loss of her friend, my sister was left to revisit a text conversation that was sickeningly one-sided at its end. There are obviously no easy answers in that type of very sad situation, but Professor Wilson argues that death and destruction can help us empathize with suffering and make us value life more. Studies like his can certainly help us in the psychological realm, but they fall short in soothing the soul.

In the holiday season with its many signs and symbols of hope and rejoicing, there can also be indelible reminders of heartbreak and tragedy. As my favorite reverend, Davis Chappell, preached, “The life of faith is a marathon. You have to learn to run with pain.”

Thinking About Turkeys

28 Nov
You are what you eat, consumer. My favorite preacher said two things, the calendar and the checkbook, indicate what we value. "They don't lie."

You are what you eat, consumer. My favorite preacher said two things, the calendar and the checkbook, indicate what we value. “They don’t lie.”

Life is funny. And all too often not the ha-ha kind. We obsess over vanity, media hype and a lot of other stuff instead of important things like how our families, neighbors and communities are doing.

For instance, Kim Kardashian, who I’m told is famous for being famous, recently bared her backside in a magazine photo shoot, and the prattling classes, of course, had to fixate on her “break the Internet” publicity stunt. I don’t know which to be more mad at — the media and ‘Twittersphere’ for taking the bait or her for calling it an “art project” designed to boost her self-confidence.

Then there’s Ray Rice, the NFL and Jameis Winston. The first did the unthinkable when knocking out his eventual wife (on camera) in an elevator. In its bungling of the domestic abuse case, the NFL almost gave the former Baltimore Ravens offensive standout, whom my cousin called “probably the most cocky guy I ever met in my [sports wealth management] days,” some defensive ground to stand on. As for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, aka ‘Shameis Jameis,’ he recently added a referee shove to his list of infractions that include shouting public obscenities, attempting to steal crab legs from a grocery store and an alleged and still-under-investigation sexual assault.

I often wonder why we argue political issues. Is it because our daddy voted one way all of his life? Or perhaps because a certain 24-7 news channel floods us with slanted commentary? I’d rather focus on the issues (information before opinion) and, for example, I can’t see how 10 to 20 million more of my fellow Americans getting health insurance is a bad thing. A good friend and former legislative director for a U.S. senator told me recently, “Putting people on Medicaid is no great win — talk to anyone who has ever tried to do that paperwork or find a doctor who takes Medicaid.” Better than those people dying, I say.

Speaking of health issues, my little brother from fraternity days recently had a big milestone in his amazing recovery from “necrotizing pancreatitis, a disease where your pancreas ‘eats’ itself which, in turn, affects the kidney, liver and various digestive processes. I went through 13 surgeries, dialysis and had a bout of psychosis where I saw things. I am still learning how to walk.” After finally getting out of the hospital, Willy wrote, “It’s still not easy — I am now a Type 1 diabetic, I can’t walk well and I have five tubes coming out of my lung, abdomen and stomach. However, I am dealing with it all.” And I probably stressed about traffic the very next day. Give me the Turkey Award on this one!

If you’re like this humble blogger you spend way too much time on trivial things such as saving a buck here or finding a beer special there and way too little time putting money in the offering plate at church or in the hand of the down-on-his-luck man at the end of the interstate off ramp. Let’s keep things in perspective and be thankful for what we have. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Top 10 Football Games in History (Of Our Family)

30 Oct
A goalpost keepsake from a rare Wake win over the Tigers.

A goalpost keepsake from a rare Wake win over the Tigers.

10. Front-yard Football (1980 something): It was destined to be just another hot, sweaty but fun Waverly Hall neighborhood game in Roswell until I tried to tackle the hulking Jay Scoggins, his power and my momentum swinging me over the sideline into a waiting rock. Diagnosis: fractured leg.

9. Wake Forest vs. North Carolina (2006): Not only was it a clutch win over the Deacs’ archrival and critical to keeping our conference title and Orange Bowl hopes alive, but the victory was also sealed by a last second end zone interception by LB Jon Abbate, who had lost his younger brother in a tragic car accident earlier in the year.

8. Westminster vs. North Springs High School (1989): I got my first (and only) career interception. In perhaps another decade or so, embellishment will be called for, e.g., that the pick came during a critical varsity playoff run, not mop-up duty on the JV.

7. Falcons vs. Vikings (1999 NFC Title Game): We were flying back from Vegas, and the score updates from the cockpit were not so encouraging. Right after we, um, touched down in Atlanta, the Dirty Birds started getting some big breaks leading to Morten Andersen putting it through the uprights in OT and Super Bowl fever spreading instantly throughout the city.

6. Westminster vs. Dalton High School (1991): Our “small but slow” Wildcat team trekked up to North Georgia to face a Dalton powerhouse program that had amassed a 97-20-4 record in the prior decade. Sparked by the kickoff return TD of my first cousin Thomas (who, as you can see here, was accustomed to dramatic performances), we returned to Atlanta with a huge W.

5. “The Choke in Doak,” aka Florida vs. Florida State (1994): Seated in special, overflow-crowd end-zone bleachers, my family and I soaked up an amazing chapter in the best football rivalry of the ‘90s and witnessed an historic comeback by the hometown ‘Noles, which somehow forced a tie after trailing 31-3 in the 4th quarter. You know it’s quite another level of football intensity when the whole marching band enters the field chanting an obscenity toward the visitors.

4. Westminster vs. St. Pius (1988): My brother had his career rushing game (154 yards) during a torrential downpour in Atlanta. “I remember Dad and [Uncle] Bud walking out on the field to congratulate me [and] worrying about getting Bud dirty with a handshake,” Greg said. “I started fumbling around for a nonexistent dry spot on my uni, when suddenly I’m enveloped by a Bubby bear hug!”

3. Clemson vs. Wake Forest (1992): My Deacs beat Clemson on the gridiron about once every two blue moons, but this college freshman didn’t have to wait long for the special occasion. Finding ourselves with extra, unexpected motivation to celebrate on that Halloween, we stormed the field and later I got a piece of the goalpost as a memento (see photo).

2. Ga. Tech vs. Wake Forest (2006): The weather and the final score (9-6) were pretty ugly, but the result was so beautiful: my Deacons’ first conference title in 36 years! (Believe it or not, my wife got to slip on an Orange Bowl committee member’s blazer back at the post-game tailgate.)

1. Ga. Tech vs. UVa. (1990): Never has a family football clash held as much significance and offered so much drama — my brother’s #1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers hosting my father’s (and my childhood) team, Ga. Tech, which would finish that season #1. The Yellow Jackets prevailed in an epic, back-and-forth 41-38 game with a last minute Scott Sisson field goal.

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