Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Night of Social Media Experiments

A funny thing happened on the evening of March 11, 2009. Two separate, unrelated 'experiments' were performed using social media and emerging Web2.0 technologies. What're the odds?

First, P&G hosted a "digital hack" night with CEOs and leaders of major companies in the digital marketing space. Executives from Facebook, Google, Nielsen and a wide array of other digital media-relevant companies joined select P&G marketing leaders in a special event to better educate themselves on how social and digital media can be better used by marketers. However, this was not your standard lecture/presentation event. Instead, it was a real-time contest between all 40 participants that were split into 4 teams of 10. The objective of the contest was to sell as many Tide t-shirts as possible in four hours by only using digital marketing tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc... All revenue from the t-shirts sold was to go to charity (specifically the "Loads of Hope" charity for disaster victims). Suddenly, Twitter and Facebook were awash with status updates and Tweets promoting the charity through 4 different websites (one for each team) that enabled folks to order their Tide t-shirts. The word "Tide" was in the top 10 of words twittered that night, and the four teams together raised $50,000 worth of shirt sales through viral digital marketing. The Tide brand then matched that amount for a total of $100,000 raised for the "Loads of Hope" charity. Not bad for four hours of focused digital marketing!

Then, a few hours after the P&G 'experiment' finished, I watched my new favorite Late Night host, Jimmy Fallon, take the stage with an idea for a Twitter-specific experiment. Right after Fallon's segment with the founders of, he kicked off an experiment to see if he could get a participant in the studio audience by the name of Bryan Brinkman to become the most followed person on Twitter (citing that he wanted him to be more followed than Barack Obama--even though I don't believe the POTUS is actually the most followed any longer). Brinkman started with 7 followers, and as of this post (less than 24 hours later), Brinkman now has 25,367 followers. Still a ways from the 391,640 followers that Barry Obama has, but not bad for a simple shout out during Jimmy's new late night show:

Personally, I love Jimmy Fallon's show, as he seems to be creating a niche as the late night host who is bringing social media to the mainstream. Makes sense since his target demographic is the 18-25 age group who are all technically hip and fully immersed in these social mediums. His ratings thus far indicate that he's doing a great job of reaching that audience, as well as growing share with the older segment as well.

Both experiments were interesting, and I participated in both (yes, I am now following Bryan Brinkman and bought 2 Tide t-shirts from Team 2: blue for me, green for my wife). And they make for good press, promotion, yada yada. One lingering question I have, though, is why do we still need to 'experiment'? Isn't it already obvious what the power of social networks can have in influencing ideas and actions in the masses?

Regardless, I must admit each experiment brought an element of entertainment to my normally boring Wednesday night. I just hope my Tide shirts fit, and I'm about to stop following Bryan Brinkman because, well, he tweets way too much about things I just don't care about!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gators' slim NCAA hopes stay alive

Phew! Hurdle number one has been overcome. Two more wins, and I think the Gators squeak into the tourney!

By beating the Kentucky Wildcats in the O'Dome today, the Gators' faint hopes for getting into the NCAA Tournament are still alive. After losing 3 straight to LSU, Tennessee and a horrible loss at Mississippi State, the Gators finally came through today in a must-win game.

However, I hope the NCAA Selection Committee just sees the box score and didn't actually watch the game, because it was a sloppy, offensively stagnant game played by two teams that were desperate for a win--and desperate for any semblance of an offense to show up.

Neither team looked like they belonged in the Big Dance, with double-digit turnovers and poor shooting by both teams. Regardless, the Gators had timely 3-point shooting, and a win is a win. Kind of nice to send Billy Gillespie to the NIT this year--as he did to the Gators last year.

The win by the Gators assures them of a first round game in the SEC Tournament on Thursday against Arkansas--a team that the Gators beat handily by fifteen points earlier in the season. If Florida can beat Arkansas again, they will play Auburn on Friday--a team that the Gators also beat earlier in the season by three points on the road.

Win those two games, and Florida should squeak into the dance with an at-large bid. Of course, it would be nice if they could win the SEC tournament, but at this point I'll settle for just having their name called on Selection Sunday.

I wrote an article earlier in the season forecasting that the Gators would be in this nail-biting situation due to their lack of size inside, and they've made me look somewhat prophetic. I still don't think the Gators will go far in the brackets even if they sneak in (and I think next year is the BIG year for Florida!), but getting into the NCAA tourney and losing early is still better than going to the Final Four of the NIT.

Just two more wins Gators... two more!

Friday, March 6, 2009

20 Years of Gator Athletics - Top Five Last Second Heartbreaks

Warning: Reliving some of these memories may cause headaches, heart failure, and a need to look at 1996, 2006 and 2008 football highlight films, or 2006 and 2007 basketball highlights

After having written a blog on the Top Five greatest Gator plays and hits, I decided to put together a follow-up list of the biggest heartbreaks in Florida athletics over the last 20 years. The list is football heavy (only one entry from basketball), and after listing them out, I was surprised to see that each of the football heartbreaks come from teams in our neighboring state of Alabama, and that Auburn was the source of most of my heartburn.

As usual, the list is highly subjective, so please comment with your own heartbreak memories!! Without further adieu, here's my...

Top Five Gator Heartbreaks

#5 - Bama's 2nd chance XP
Alabama 40, Florida 39 OT - 1999

In the Swamp, this heartbreak moment took Gator fans to the extremes on the emotional meter three straight times at the end of the game as the #3 Gators took a 30-game home field winning streak into their game against #21 Alabama. In overtime, after a Gator touchdown, Jeff Chandler missed the extra point. On Alabama's OT possession, Shaun Alexander scampers in for a TD. The amazing part came when Chris Kemp trotted out and MISSED the game-winning extra point...or so we thought. Turns out the Gators were offsides, and given a second chance, Kemp kicks the game winner to beat Florida 40-39 in OT. Ugh.

#4 - Emmitt breaks down
Auburn 10, Florida 7 - 1989

On 4th and 10, Reggie Slack completed a 25-yard pass with 20 seconds left to defeat the Gators by three points... the defensive secondary breakdown on this one play completely erased a spectacular defensive effort and provided the backdrop for the infamous images of Emmitt Smith weeping on the sideline after going his entire college career having never beaten Auburn.

#3 - Blue Jays hit buzzer-beater
Creighton 83, Florida 82 - 2002

The only basketball game to make my list. In the 2002 NCAA Basketball Tournament, I was stunned when the #5 seed Gators lost in the first round to Kyle Corver and the Creighton Blue Jays on a last second 3-pointer that proved to end the college basketball career of Udonis Haslem. This loss, coupled with the first round exit to Manhattan two years later, caused many around the country to begin to question Billy Donovan's ability to win big games. Fortunately, the 2006 and 2007 national titles helped erase those silly insinuations.

#2 - Duval last second FG
Auburn 23, Florida 20 - 2001

Florida went into Auburn ranked #1 in the country with heralded QB Rex Grossman, RB Earnest Graham and WR duo Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. However, Auburn kicker Damon Duval kicks a last second FG for Auburn from 44 yards out to defeat the Gators 23-20. Auburn only had 239 yards of total offense, but Gator turnovers turned out to be the key to the game, as Grossman was picked off four times, and a fumbled punt snap essentially gave Auburn a free touchdown.

After this loss, Florida would still play itself back into the National Championship picture late in the season, controlling it's destiny going into its final game of the season against Tennessee (a game that was rescheduled from earlier in the year due to a hurricane in Florida). Florida would lose to Tennessee by two points, and would have to settle for a win in the Orange Bowl against Maryland--in what turned out to be Steve Spurrier's last game coaching the Gators.

#1 - Patrick Nix to Frank Sanders
Auburn 36, Florida 33 - 1994

This was one of the most gut-wrenching game I attended at the Swamp, as I sat in the lower deck of the North end zone and watched Frank Sanders catch a last second floater from Patrick Nix to allow Auburn to break a seven game Auburn losing streak in Gainesville. More importantly, this knocked Florida out of the #1 ranking and kept the Gators from being in the National Championship picture that year (the same year that saw Florida choke in the 4th quarter against FSU in the infamous 31-31 tie in Tallahassee). Why we threw the ball on 3rd down with just over a minute left in the game I'll never know--as this was the only reason Auburn had enough time to execute their last drive...ending with this heartbreaker of a play for Gator fans.

Honorable Mention:

Ole Miss blocked XP in 2008
- This play would be in the Top 5 if Florida hadn't come back that season to win the National Championship after Tim Tebow's infamous 'promise'.

Missed FG in OT against Tennessee in 1998 - Gator kicker Collins Cooper misses a 34-yard FG in the first OT that would have tied the game... instead giving Tennessee a 20-17 win. Tennessee would go on to go undefeated and win the National Championship that year, Florida would go on to destroy Donovan McNabb and Syracuse in the Orange Bowl, and Bob Stoops would leave Florida to take the Oklahoma head coaching position.

Tennessee last second 50 yard FG in 2004 - Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit makes up for an earlier missed XP with a 50 yard FG to beat the Gators 30-28 in Ron Zook's last season as the head coach of Florida.

Do you have other heartbreak memories? Post them below in the comments!!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Laveranues Coles Follows 'Partner in Crime' to Bengals

It was announced today in Cincinnati that the Bengals and former New York Jet receiver Laveranues Coles agreed to a four-year contract worth $28 million. The Bengals will have a formal press conference tomorrow to introduce Coles, who is expected to replace Pro Bowl receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh after having just recently signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.

Being a Floridian who now lives in Cincinnati, I found this recent acquisition somewhat interesting. Just over 10 years ago, I vividly remember Coles as a receiver for the Florida State Seminoles--playing in the shadow of his buddy and superstar, Peter Warrick. In 1999, Coles and Warrick were infamously caught and charged with petty theft in Tallahassee for stealing clothes in a local mall. The major story was Warrick's role in the crime, since he was a Heisman Trophy candidate and All-American, whereas Coles was the relatively unknown accomplice. Coles, who had a previous record for battery, was kicked off the team, while Warrick was only suspended for a few games.

In the 2000 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals took Peter Warrick with their first draft pick (and 4th overall selection). This was the second of three consecutive bad selections in the first round for the Bengals, as the year before they took QB Akili Smith with the 3rd overall pick, and in 2001 took DE Justin Smith with the 4th overall pick. None of these players turned out to be worthy of first round picks (and Smith is recognized by many to be one of the worst first round picks in the history of the NFL draft), and it was these wasted picks that many attribute to the Bengals' futility in the early part of the decade. Peter Warrick eventually was released from the Bengals a mere four years after being drafted and replaced in the starting lineup by none other than T. J. Houshmandzadeh. After the Bengals, Warrick was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks (T. J.'s new team!), but he failed to make an impact in Seattle and went on to struggle in the Canadian Football League. Warrick remains out of football today, although I understand he was just recently signed by the Bloomington Extreme of the Indoor Football League... my how the mighty have fallen!

On the other hand, Laveranues Coles proved to be a better professional wide receiver than Warrick, as Coles has a Pro Bowl under his belt and has been a consistent, top-tier receiver in the NFL.

And with Coles now coming to the Bengals to replace Houshmandzadeh, this means that Coles will replace the replacement for his ex-partner in crime for a team that is better known for their players' off-the-field antics moreso than on-field performance (ie. Chris Henry, Odell Thurman, Chad Johnson, Johnathan Joseph, etc...). I just hope that the team environment in Cincinnati doesn't bring out the Tallahassee Criminole behavior that was once within Coles. No reason to believe that it will, since Coles' professional career has been without major off-field incidents--but if any team can bring out the bad in you, it's the Bengals!

There's a strange feeling of cyclical symmetry with the Coles announcement today--but not sure if it will bode well in the long run for either the Bengals or Coles.

What do you think?