Thursday, August 25, 2005

Unexpected Success

--As part of my business efforts, I've been producing, selling, and hosting a weekly radio show on Gateway Grizzlies baseball this season. It's heard Sunday mornings at 10 on 1380-ESPN. I call it "Grizzlies This Week" and it's been fun to do. But I must admit, there have been times when I would have preferred to not get up early on a Sunday morning to go to "work".

The show is what is known in the business as a brokered hour. That means, I buy the time from the station and sell the advertising, hopefully for a profit. I haven't made much money at it so far, but the idea came up right before the season, and that limited my sales effort considerably. But, I thought this summer I could at least establish the idea and then next year go for a "full-blown" sales effort starting after the holidays.

I was excited about the concept back in late May and early June. The Grizzlies have been a tremendous attraction for families during the summer months for the past few years. They have consistently led the Frontier League in attendance and everybody talks about how much fun they have at the games. The business community supports the team strongly with advertising and through participation in promotions. The radio show seemed like a slam dunk.

Then the Grizzlies started playing baseball games. Yikes! The team was worse than I could have imagined early in the campaign. The pitching was pathetic, the hitting struggled, and Grizzlies skipper Danny Cox manged to get himself suspended for most of June for bumping an umpire. There were rumors of friction between players. There were obvious examples of players not seeming to care about their effort while on the field. It was really ugly. It got to the point in mid-July that I seriously considered cancelling the show for the rest of the season. I thought, "who would want to be associated with what's going on here?". The best thing I could do for my advertisers would be to release them from their contracts. But, upon further consideration, I decided to stick it out, largely because of the great support from the Grizzlies management and ownership for what I was doing. And something in the back of my mind told me I would be sorry for dropping the show.

What has always made sports so fascinating and exciting to me is it's unpredictability. Lo and behold, a few weeks ago the Grizzlies started playing better baseball....much better baseball. They made a trade to pick up huge (6-6, 250) slugger Thomari Story-Harden in a trade with Mid-Missouri. Since then just about everybody in the lineup has been tearing the cover off the ball. The pitching staff, after many player moves and much hard work, has come together. Cox has been getting a solid outing from his starters almost every night. Closer Scott Patterson has been nearly untouchable since coming back to the team in late July. (He was a starter last season, and played for a team in Pennsylvania early this season). Defense-solid. Fan support-still leads the league.

As of this writing, the Grizzlies are over the .500 mark for the first time this season. They have won six games in a row and are right on the heals of the first and second place teams in the Western division (Rockford and Kalamazoo) of the Frontier League. The first two teams in the standings at season's end make the championship playoffs. It's been a remarkable turnaround. I would definitely not bet against them making the playoffs and, who knows, maybe winning the league championship again, as they did in 2003.

I am so happy that I didn't cancel the show. I have learned an important business lesson when it comes to sports. Never give up!

Go Grizzlies! And thanks for being a big part of my happiness!

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