“High collar and baggy pants say I’m a pro!”

As I started searching for some images to include in this blog post, I discovered that I am on the cutting edge of this story but not the only one talking about it.  I thought maybe this would turn into my “female op-ed” post, but it turns out that men and women alike are entranced/enraged/incredulous about this phenomenon…

It all began while I was watching Sportscenter this morning…and saw an interview with Mr. Hockey himself, Don Cherry, during which he enhanced his white hair and white beard with a white suit (a la Colonel Sanders) that was covered with a floral print of bright red carnations.  (If you thought it doesn’t get any worse than a floral print suit, you were close.  Florally printed with the tackiest flower alive is rock bottom.)

Why is this blog-worthy you ask?  Only because it coincides with myriad other poor fashion choices by sports commentators.  If people say “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want,” what job could these men possibly be going for?  And who’s letting them get away with this?

For me, this conversation started during the 2007 NFL season as ESPN’s newest personality Keyshawn Johnson sported one bizarre color combination after another.  It’s disturbing to flip on the TV on Sunday morning for some NFL pregame coverage before church and have to close my eyes briefly every 3 seconds to avoid going cross-eyed.  Even more perplexing is why he occasionally chooses to rock a scarf like a teenage French girl.  Throughout the season I wondered what upper management was thinking when Keyshawn would arrive in orange tweed and take his place amongst the table of blacks and blues.

Enter the 2008 NFL Draft.  Welcome to Day 1 of one of the biggest events in football!  Millions watching!  Fans on the edge of their seats!  And Keyshawn front and center on the announcing team…looking like Easter threw up on him. He was sporting a sand-colored suit with a turquoise and white striped shirt, baby pink polka dot tie, and a grass-green silk handkerchief wadded into his pocket.


Keyshawn was the worst, but it seemed the rest of ESPN’s coverage team also received the “Loud Tie Memo,” although their candy cane stripes and eye-splitting colors weren’t fighting with their own shirts for attention.  (They must have also received the emergency memo entitled “NFL Draft Day 2: EARTHTONES” because by Sunday there wasn’t a color in the room.)

I am all for expressing oneself through clothing.  I too love bright colors and will occasionally don a combo that would make Punky Brewster cringe, but when clothing exceeds the boundaries of good taste and begins approaching the category of “things-that-will-give-you-a-migraine-if-you-stare-at-them-too-long” (SEE ALSO: London 2012 Olympic logo)…well that’s when we have a problem. TNT’s NBA announcer Craig Sager is another offender: sequin suits, rainbow ties, iridescent fabrics…put him together with Don Cherry’s floral/plaid/paisley wardrobe and you’ve got a JoAnn Fabrics ad.
Which brings me to my image search today and what I found: “Keyshawn Johnson wins the Michael Award for Best-Dressed Man among television hosts in the sports and entertainment industry.”  (It’s the topic of day in Matt Mosley’s blog “Hashmarks.”)  Seriously?  I am speechless.

What do you think – do we need our favorite stalwarts of sports announcing to look like Rainbow Brite?  Does hockey sound better from a plaid man’s mouth?  Does football need Keyshawn’s euro-scarves?  I wonder if we actually prefer that our sports personalities have some outward manifestation of their eccentricity, and that we love them all the more because of it.  But is it worth the toll it takes on our eyes?


Fantasy Draft

Five days ago, if you had said to me there’s a world in which a Wheaton College football player gets drafted into the NFL and a Masterplan client ends up with the Buffalo Bills, I would have told you that was my dream world and it doesn’t really exist.

Needless to say, I’M A BELIEVER.

The 2008 NFL Draft was all I could have hoped for and more.

First, the Kansas City Chiefs draft Brandon Carr with the 5th pick of the 5th round!  Confession: we didn’t know it was coming!  Brandon got a phone call from the Chiefs just beforehand to make sure he was inside watching, but we didn’t.  Instead, we glanced up at the TV and in true “delayed reaction” form, stared at it and said, “Wait – that says Brandon Carr!”

Then, the Philadelphia Eagles draft Andrew Studebaker…”from tiny Wheaton College!”  My alma mater!  I couldn’t be prouder.  Believe it or not, Wheaton College football games are not rife with NFL scouts.  When Eagles GM Tom Heckert said Andy “probably wouldn’t have been drafted if it weren’t for youtube,” views of Andy’s pro day workout quadrupled.  (Have you seen it?)  Bottom line: Andy is good enough to play in the NFL, and it’s awesome that teams got the chance to recognize that.

(Hopefully Wheaton’s student body will recognize it as well now…  As Andy said on Sunday night, “Yeah as word spreads around campus people are going ‘Wait – Wheaton has a football team?!?!’”)

Next, the St. Louis Rams signed Stephen Sene!  They asked about him early and often on Sunday and ultimately ran out of draft picks but not interest.  If you know Stephen’s path to this point, you can’t help but be impressed by his drive, his character, and his pursuit of this goal.  And with a new offensive line coach in St. Louis, Stephen is in an exciting position as he battles this summer for a roster spot.

Then, Brian Schaefering to the Browns!  Josh was juggling phones between Brian and several teams making offers.  Brian was also double-fisting with phones and when it was decision time, it was exciting to listen in as I held on the line and heard him tell the Browns into a different phone, “Yes sir…I’d like to be a Brown. I’d like to come play for you.”  The Browns said Brian’s private workout with them was one of the best they’d EVER had with a D-lineman.

Next…Travis Key to the Vikings!  Josh was juggling phones and offers here as well but ultimately Minnesota proved they really wanted Travis, and Travis wanted Minnesota.  Travis is also someone who knew what he wanted and did what it took to get there.  He’s been proving doubters wrong since he walked onto a D-I Michigan State squad and ultimately earned a starting role, and is now getting a shot at the NFL.

And finally…Luke Drone to…the BUFFALO BILLS!  Now, we don’t play favorites at Masterplan.  Any team that employs one of our clients is a good team…but I am a life-long Bills fan sooo…you do the math.  The Bills signed Luke quickly and decisively, and with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach, not to mention ongoing quarterback turmoil ever since Jim Kelly retired, hopefully he can earn a spot!

So pay attention this summer as Masterplan clients hit minicamps, OTAs, and training camp and battle for roster spots…the draft was just the beginning!

Saturday, and the first of many Sundays


It’s here.  4 months of preparation (9 if you include all the months of recruiting) will culminate in 7 quick rounds, 252 picks, 17 short hours…

17 short hours?!?  More like 17 agonizing hours spread over a 2-day period during which hundreds of players will stare expectantly at the TV, or maybe not even turn it on to try to fool themselves into not thinking about it.

After years of doing all you can to be the best player you can be, that’s 17 long hours to wait for someone else to decide your fate.  Granted, the draft is not the only way to end up on a team.  Even those who are not drafted or signed this weekend can very well end up in camps and on rosters this fall, but first there’s still those 17 hours to wait through to find out.

I remind myself of this, of how hard it is to be the guy waiting to hear his name called, wondering if it will be called at all, so that I can remember to chill.  I get so anxious in the days approaching the draft as I do my part here in the office, minimal though it be, and as I hope that our clients will be drafted that it’s a good check to remember how THEY are feeling, how anxious they are, and how much they are hoping.  I have always been an incorrigible optimist anyways, so it’s not far-fetched for me to think positive and encourage whenever I can.

At 2:00pm tomorrow, we (the Masterplan team) will gather at Josh’s house to watch the draft, hope to hear a name we know, and make sure we are prepped for whatever may happen on Sunday.  Sunday we will spend in the office still watching, but also updating NFL team depth charts with each pick in the event that any of our guys our not drafted and instead sign as a free agent following the 7th round.  We hope this work will be moot, but for any that aren’t drafted, Josh will use everything at his disposal – the list of a team’s draft picks, their rookie free agent tendencies, how many years they’re offering and what kind of signing bonus – to lend his advice to our clients to help them end up in a situation where they will have the best possible opportunity to not only be at camp, but to make a roster.

That’s why all those videos are not titled “the Road to the Draft.”  The draft is merely the next step in the ultimate goal, a.k.a. “the Road to Sundays.”

So if you’re feeling like you have no real investment in the outcome of the draft, go check out the ‘Road to Sundays’ videos and keep an eye out for Masterplan’s clients as they find out what their next steps will be on the way to making a roster.  Best wishes to all our guys this weekend!

Woman Friday

The following conversation actually occurred between Josh’s wife and our draft eligible clients:

CAROL:  “Tami’s your Girl Friday.”

CLIENTS:  “Our what?”

CAROL:  “Your Girl Friday. You know, she brings you what you need, answers questions, takes care of you.”

CLIENTS:  “Oh. I guess.”

Wikipedia.com: Girl Friday (n.) is a variation on the term “Man Friday”…It is used to describe an especially faithful female servant. It is also used to describe a girl or woman who is employed in an office to do several different jobs, helping other people. Some regard the use of “girl” in this context as patronising, or representing sexist attitudes and so prefer the alternative “Woman Friday.”

Clearly the term “Girl Friday” is no longer part of the early-20s male vocabulary, nor do our clients seem to think that’s what I am. (Nor am I sure that it’s a flattering term…) Nevertheless, it is a pretty apt description of what I do this time of year. (Confession: I had to look it up too.)

Because we like to keep our plates full, in addition to Super Bowl frenzy January brings with it our new draft class. Masterplan’s new clients have just completed their last season of college eligibility, and five of them spend two months with us here in Chicago training for workouts and Pro Timing Days in preparation for the NFL Draft in April. You might know from Josh’s blog that it has been a long recruiting road to get to this point – no matter how smoothly things seem to be going with a potential client, the player-agent selection is a delicate dance. The weeks around Christmas and New Year’s are crunch, so while I am with my family in Buffalo going to Bills Giants games, Josh is flying around the country meeting with prospective clients and their families. It’s exciting for me to return to Chicago post-holidays and find out who our new draft class will be.

Preparing for the clients’ arrival begins even before we know who they will be. I start researching housing options in November to determine if we’ll use the same location as last year or not, and I also begin advertising for a personal chef.

If you’ve never posted a job opening on Craigslist before, you’re missing out. Along with a flood of legitimate resumes, you also receive the occasional ad hominem response. One man replied with “your a iddiot noone will ever aply to this you looser.” Nice. Thankfully there were 30-40 other people who felt differently. I spend about two weeks doing phone interviews, then call back a few to meet with me in person, and finally make a decision.

We tell the candidates they will need to cook roughly according to the Zone diet, so I wondered a bit at the chef who didn’t know how to cook anything (and here I use the term ‘chef’ loosely), the one whose expertise was in cakes, pies, cookies, biscotti, brioche, tarts, and spinach (???), and the one who asked if our clients were cute. (My response: “Um…I’m sorry, what?!”) Out of the final few candidates, we ultimately went with a woman who had years of experience cooking not only according to nutritional guidelines, but to the Zone in particular. She spent a couple hours each evening preparing a healthy dinner and something for the next morning’s breakfast.

We know it can be tough for the guys to be on such restricted fare when it’s not how they’re used to eating, but for this focused time of training it’s meant to keep them energized and help them either slim down or bulk up (muscle, not fat) according to each player’s goal weight at his position. And occasionally we treat them to pizza, because we’re in Chicago and deep dish is king.

All this prep work is just the beginning…more to come!

(And to our clients, just in case you were feeling insecure about the “cute” question, yes you are all ruggedly handsome, remarkably intelligent, fiercely competitive, and fast as the wind. We’d settle for nothing less.)