After 112 Years Golf is Back at the Olympics…and Nobody is Playing

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I wrote about the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio just last month on this site talking about the disappointment of the state of Brazil coming into the games next month.  Between the political upheaval, sewage infested water, Zika virus, and everything else, it isn’t set up for a wonderful experience for anyone right now.  In 2009 the Olympic Committee decided to remove a sport like wrestling, but then insert golf.  A multitude of golf course architects submitted detailed proposals for the right to be the person to design an olympic golf venue. Gil Hanse was the designer chosen and has spent years upon years trying to ensure that the top players in the world got to experience an elite golf course as they played for their country trying to earn golf’s first gold medal in over 100 years.  There is only one problem…the top four players in the world have decided to drop out and not go to the olympic games.

In order of their world ranking, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have all decided that they aren’t making the trek to Rio.  This is not only a big blow to golf in the Olympics but to the PGA Tour as well.  The tour has played a compressed schedule moving tournaments around to be able to allow players to represent their countries in these games.  However, when the top four players in the game, coming from three different continents don’t want to play in the Olympics, it doesn’t bode well for the sport.

While deciding not to play when you have the chance to represent your country may make these players look like spoiled brats, I don’t think that is a fair assessment.  Between their on course earnings and endorsements, these four men have enough money to last multiple generations.  You can’t put them in the same category as a sprinter in the 100 meter dash or a 15 year old gymnast.  These players have already made a name for themselves, and don’t want to be subjected to the safety concerns and well as the effects of what the Zika virus could hold, and they are at a point in their lives when they are considering starting a family.  Too much blame is being put toward these golfers saying that they don’t want to wear the colors of their country and would rather take a couple of weeks off.  While they may not directly say it publicly, I can assure you that if the games were in London or Los Angeles, or some other stable place, these four men wouldn’t be dropping out.  While nobody knows what will happen in Rio next month, whether there is political unrest, water issues causing issues, or even the Zika virus, everyone is hoping for the best.  Tons of athletes work their entire lives to get the opportunity to participate in these games and represent their country, and it is a shame that they have to deal with the issues that an olympics in Rio De Janeiro will present.  However, the top golfers in the world, didn’t work and train their entire lives to play in the olympics, they trained to win golf majors.  While they all originally committed to the games, it is short sighted to insinuate that these men are lazy or don’t care about their country.  Unfortunately the current state of Brazil forced them to make a difficult decision that they will have to answer to for years to come.

-Victor Mandalawi

Are Shoe Deals Changing the Landscape of the NBA?

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While we celebrated the 240th birthday of our country on Monday this week, news also broke that Kevin Durant decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and sign with the Golden State Warriors.  It was a bit of a shocking announcement as Golden State set a record for regular season wins this past year going 73-9, before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 7th game of the NBA Finals.  It should be noted that Durant’s Thunder team had the Warriors down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals before the Warriors came back to get to the finals after the 7th game.  Durant is widely accepted as one of the top five players in the league, so to switch teams and move to a team that as the back to back Most Valuable Player in Steph Curry seems crazy.  The best team in the NBA just got significantly better, so how does that work?

NBA players make some rather astonishing salaries.  It gets even more crazy this year as the salary cap went up due to the windfall of money from a new television deal.  The Warriors have four of probably be best 20 players in a 30 person league with Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.  Even with an astronomical salary cap, how will the Warriors be able to afford the fair market salaries of these four players?  As an example, Durant has signed a $54.3M deal for two years, with a player option after year one.  That type of money is difficult to comprehend, however it pales in comparison to what Durant is making from Nike.  Durant spurned his home town’s Under Armor brand to stay with Nike in 2014 for $300M with another $50M retirement package.

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Along the same lines, Steph Curry is by far the most popular player in the NBA right now, and has inked a deal with Under Armor where the details weren’t disclosed, but contains a significant amount of stock in the business.  Under Armor has stated that they have sold between $200M -$250M on Curry branded products during the 2015-2016 NBA season.

It brings me to the question, do these shoe deals begin to effect the need of these top ten basketball players to get a max contract?  They make far more money off the court than they do on the court.  It should also be noted that Durant is going from a relatively small market in Oklahoma all the way to Silicon Valley where endorsement and investment options are much more available.

Could Nike have whispered in Durant’s ear that they would fork over a bonus if he went to this new super team?  Are players more concerned about their endorsement deals than their current team?

It is difficult to say, and while we can complain about these mind blowing contracts, the NBA owners aren’t stupid, it is a relatively free market, so these players are getting paid based on the revenue they are bringing to their respective teams.  However, if your actual NBA contract isn’t the most important factor in selecting the team that will employ you, are we heading to a period where these stars all align to form these super teams and make the vast majority of other NBA teams irrelevant circumventing exactly the reason the salary cap was put in place to begin with?  It is difficult to say, but we sure seem to be heading in that direction, which seems nuts, but will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

Choice Home Warranty Scholarship Winner Announced

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This week we were pleased to announce the winner of the Choice Home Warranty 2016 New Jersey High School Scholarship winner, Tyler Reedman.  Tyler is a senior at Williamstown High School, in Williamstown, New Jersey.  As I alluded to last week, there were so many great essays, but Tyler managed to stand out from the pack.  Tyler has been closely involved with the American Red Cross since 2012.  In fact, he is now the President of the South Jersey Red Cross Youth Council.  As we all know, New Jersey was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the Red Cross played a vital role helping people get back on their feet, and Tyler has been been part of the Red Cross ever since.  He actually was named the American Red Cross Youth Volunteer of the Year, which is an incredible accomplishment.

Tyler will be staying in state and attending Rutgers next year, where is older sister is studying now.  Here are some of Tyler’s thoughts regarding his studies.

I am enrolled at Rutgers Business School (RBS) in New Brunswick, NJ, with the added benefit of being accepted into the new Honors College which opened in September, 2015.  I am interested in studying finance, entrepreneurship, government, and politics.  I was born and raised in New Jersey and with the new Honors College, Rutgers stated goal is to keep the best and brightest students in New Jersey, instead of losing them to schools in other states.

Tyler embodies what it means to be a great representative of the state of New Jersey.  We hope to keep in touch with him throughout his time at Rutgers and excited watch how he continues to help others.  Congratulations Tyler, you more than deserve it!

Lastly, I wanted to reiterate how outstanding the other submissions were that we received.  There are so many high schoolers in New Jersey that are going out of their way to help others and make our state a better place.  To you juniors, we look forward to hearing your stories next year when we put out the scholarship again in 2017.

-Victor Mandalawi

Choice Home Warranty Scholarship Entries

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By Monday we hope to announce the winners of our 2016 Choice Home Warranty New Jersey High School Scholarship.  The essays were due Monday May 2, and I’ve personally read through every one of them.  I could not be more impressed with the entries we have received.  For an 18 year old person to take the time out of their day to craft a 500+ word essay is one thing, but learning about each of these fine New Jersey students was a great experience.

The amount of volunteering undertaken by these young men and woman was absolutely remarkable.  I read through stories of both tragedy and triumph.  There was one individual who is probably fit to run an entire Red Cross on his own.  There were cancer survivors who now volunteer their time at hospitals to visit with children who are battling the terrible disease right now.  There were numerous stories of people’s lives changed by Superstorm Sandy that reeked havoc across our great state in October of 2012.  These students were barely teenagers at that time, but banded together to help those in need.

Some other people around the office will be reading the essays and we will be announcing a winner Monday, but to say the entries were inspiring to me is an understatement.  I want to thank everyone who submitted an essay, you brought a smile to my face, and setting a great example for your peers.

I am proud to call New Jersey home, and after reading through a small glimpse into these young people’s lives, I know that our state is in great shape for the next generation.

-Victor Mandalawi

Another Case of Internet Fame Gone Bad

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In December, I wrote about a woman who claimed to have defended a Walmart cashier when they were being verbally assaulted by a customer.  She ended up finding out that the young cashier’s Mother committed suicide in the morning, but that he still came to work in the afternoon.  She helped him out with some money and then posted a YouTube video about it.  The video ended up receiving over 40 million views, but unfortunately for her, Walmart was able to prove that her entire story was fake.  The problem is that the second part of the story (about being fake) is never reported on as much as the original.  It looks as if we are experiencing a similar story this week.

An openly gay Pastor in Austin, Texas went to social media to post a video showing a cake that he had ordered from Whole Food’s flagship store in Austin was decorated with a gay slur.  With all of the controversy around recent legislation passed in both Mississippi and South Carolina, against the LGBT community, to say this is a hot button topic would be a major understatement.  Pastor Jordan Brown shows photos of the cake on the video, as well as a shot of the receipt and showing that the box is still sealed.   The video is posted below, but please not that it contains offensive language.

 

Without question, the video looks more than bad on the surface.  To write a slur like that is reprehensible.  Brown immediately hired a lawyer, filed suit, and the video was put up on the law firm’s YouTube page and has already received well over 400,000 views.  Needless to say, social media hit hard against Whole Foods for allowing something like this to happen.

It only took 24 hours for the story to take a strange twist.  Whole Foods immediately filed a suit of their own against both Brown and his attorney.  They have posted surveillance video of Pastor Brown checking out of the store and the scanning code seal on the cake is located at the top of the box, and not the bottom of the box where it is shown in his video.  Also, the top of the cake box was completely see through, so if there was such a vile saying, Brown would have seen it as well as the cashier.  The bakery staff of course was torn up being accused of something so terrible, but Whole Foods came to their rescue with a perfect statement and posted a great photo of the team saying what the cake originally said, “Love Wins”

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What on earth would possibly cause someone to fabricate a story such as this?  It is difficult to wrap your head around why a stunt like this would be good for anyone.  Whole Food should be commended for standing behind their staff and praising the LGBT community.  I just sincerely hope that the real outcome of this story is promoted as much as the initial salacious headlines, which ended up being 100% untrue.

-Victor Mandalawi

Long Flights and O.J.

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Last week I had to travel out to the West Coast for a few meetings.  The wi-fi on the plane was basically non existent, and I had a connection, thus I had quite a bit of time on my hands.  I managed to watch two movies, as well as the entire ten episode series of The People v. O.J. Simpson.  I had managed to not be too interested in the show, even though critics seemed to have given it high marks and plenty of people have been discussing it.  My logic was basically that I lived it, I don’t need to spend ten hours watching a movie about it.

Well, after binging and watching the entire series, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The casting was fun, and they did a nice job of telling the story in a compelling matter.  As I thought about making that show, it had to have been difficult to create a ten hour series when just about everyone watching knows exactly what happens, but they did a nice job.  In reality, the whole thing was like a trip down memory lane, whether it was the story, the music, or some of the actors, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, David Schwimmer & John Travolta.

I was in high school when these events took place, and of course I don’t have the same perspective now as I did 20 plus years ago, so it was amazing to see what huge case this was from a race relations standpoint in our country.  Of course, I knew who O.J. Simpson was, and that the DNA facts of the case showed that it had to be him as the killer, but did not recall just how terrible the Los Angeles Police Department was to the Black community.  That portion of the story was more than eye opening.  The day that the verdict was announced, this country was on eggshells to see how people would react.

It brought me to think if the O.J. trial was the most racially divisive moment in my lifetime?  It would have to be either the Simpson trial, or the brutal beating of Rodney King just two years earlier.  What is disgusting is that the LAPD, were integral to each of those instances.  With each generation, we make positive strides bringing races together.  Watching that show covering events that took place 20 years should help us to be grateful for how far we have come.

There are plenty of millennials who weren’t old enough to truly remember what the O.J. Simpson trial was all about and what type of role race played in the circus around the trial.  Since spending the time to watch the series, I have recommended it to many of my younger friends and co-workers.  I just decided to tell them ‘Ross’ from the Friends reruns is the Dad of the Kardashians and that sold them right there!

In all seriousness, sometimes we have to take a step back and look at our mistakes as a society and figure out how to learn from them.  The O.J. Simpson case and the corresponding series is a great learning tool for us to why racial equality is so important to our country moving forward.

-Victor Mandalawi

Following Sports Is No Longer Just the Games

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I spent last week on a wonderful Spring Break across Texas with family.  As we were getting ready in the morning in various hotel rooms across the state each morning, my nephew required that SportsCenter be on the television at all times.  It is a great time of year in the sports cycle.  You had the run up to Opening Day in Major League Baseball, the Final Four Men’s Basketball tournament, and getting ready for Masters week.  Right now is arguably the best time of year for sports.  All of that said, I couldn’t help but notice that SportsCenter preferred to spend the vast majority of their time talking about LeBron James ‘subtweeting’ his teammates, and Lakers rookie, D’Angelo Williams taking a video of his teammate Nick Young, better known as ‘Swaggy P’ confessing of infidelities he committed while dating music star Iggy Azalea, and the video going out on SnapChat.  Go ahead and reread that sentence.  Can you even fathom something like that being written ten years ago?

The way sports are now covered varies so greatly from days gone by.  Thirty years ago, the beat reports traveled with the teams, went to dinner with them, protected their personal lives, and built relationships.  Around the time of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls ascension, in the early 1990s, that started to change a bit.  The Bulls were as close to ‘rock stars’ as we saw in sports, and they were covered that way.  Rumors started coming out about Jordan’s gambling issues, infidelities, and the floodgates were opened to attacking an athlete’s private life whenever possible.

It should be noted that athlete’s shouldn’t be held above anyone else in society.  In reality, their private lives are fair game for the media to cover, and I’m sure those salacious stories sold newspapers and magazines in the 1990s and 2000s, but should it really factor in on what we think of our favorite teams?  A massive precedent may have just been set last month on what is deemed news for celebrities and athletes when a Florida jury awarded Hulk Hogan $140M in damages after Gawker published an edited leaked sex tape of Hogan online.

The social media revolution over the last 8-10 years has opened up a rather interesting pandora’s box for both celebrities and athletes.  They do longer need the media to get their points across.  Tiger Woods almost exclusively uses his website or his social media accounts for any announcements he has to make.  The media is no longer a necessity, but it now creates a sizable amount of confusion as to exactly what the athletes are trying to say.  Take a look at the below tweets from LeBron James and teammate Kyrie Irving.

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It sure looks like they are using Twitter to send cryptic messages to each other, but is this considered news?  It sure received plenty of coverage online and on television.

When you look at the D’Angelo Russell situation, it is even more murky.  First off, we would have NEVER heard of anything like this happening 20 years ago.  However, when it is said that the entire Lakers team is ignoring Russell and won’t even sit with him at breakfast, you would have to admit that it is effecting the way the team is playing.  Therefore, it seems the media has to cover the situation.  We are in a strange time though when there is more coverage of things that take place off the court/field than on.  Finding a solution somewhere in the middle is not going to be easy, but when you have a ten year old nephew who is obsessed with sports having to watch a ten minute segment on someone admitting to cheating on their fiance’ via SnapChat, it makes me want to get up and change the channel.

-Victor Mandalawi

Excited About New Jersey Scholarship

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I was born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, started a business in New Jersey and still live in the great state of New Jersey.  We have been kicking around various ways to give back to the community and today we would like to announce that we are offering a scholarship opportunity for New Jersey High School students.  There is no greater joy than helping others, and I specifically enjoy looking after the next generation.  The state has been great to myself and our business, and if we can offer a small gesture to help high school seniors as they approach college, all the better.  All of the details and the entry form for the scholarship can be found at the Choice Home Warranty 2016 Scholarship Page.

What we are asking is for New Jersey High School Seniors to complete an essay of at least 750 words describing what they are doing to make New Jersey, and the world as a whole, a better place.  Whether it is volunteer work, saving energy, or any other community action, we would love to hear from the next leaders of our state.  The contest is running through May 2.  Please pass this along to anyone you may know in New Jersey that would be a good fit.  After the scholarship is announced, we would love to have the winner down to the office receive a tour and take some photos.

We offered a scholarship last year to to college students which was great, but this year we would like to stay closer within the community.  The goal is to offer this scholarship each Spring and then keep in touch with the winners as they progress with their secondary education.

We look forward to reviewing the entries and seeing all of the interesting ways that high school seniors helping our communities.

-Victor Mandalawi

The Incredible Marcobot!

I’m not a huge follower of politics, but have been watching a bit of the debates over the last month.  While I didn’t watch Saturday’s Republican debate live, I did sit back and watch most of it later, and I’m not sure it could have been more entertaining/sad.  The show began with Dr. Ben Carson not walking out to his lectern, then Trump following suit, strange looks from Ted Cruz & Jeb Bush, and then Ohio Governor John Kasich not even being announced by the moderators.  All of this drama before the debate even started!

If you followed the Iowa Caucus at all, you saw that Florida Senator, Marco Rubio had a surprising 3rd place finish with 23.1% of the votes.  Many staunch Republicans felt he was the perfect candidate to take out Donald Trump, so they were more than excited with his good showing in Iowa.  Some websites actually began to list Rubio as the frontrunner to win the Republican nomination.  Well, the debate changed quite a few of those opinions, and that one night could be the end of a political career.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie seems to have made it his personal mission to attack Rubio.  Christie repeatedly called out Rubio for not being able to speak freely and ‘falling back on sound bites’.

There is no question that Chris Christie was dead on about Rubio during the debate.  Rubio literally repeated the same exact talking point four separate times.

Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Ok, a Republican bashing in the Democratic President, that seems like a normal statement for a debate.  The only problem is that Rubio repeated this exact same statement THREE more times on different questions.  On the last one, Christie actually spoke over him and said, ‘There it is, the memorized 25 second speech’.  It didn’t take long for the internet to respond.  Within hours, Marco Rubio was now known as ‘Marcobot’.

Standing on a panel being grilled with questions while millions of people are watching on television cannot be considered ‘easy’, but this was a full scale meltdown.  It couldn’t have been a bigger nightmare for the Rubio campaign.  Here was this young energetic candidate that looked to be an alternative to Trump, and when the lights came on, he literally turned into a robot.  Of course the campaign hoped that the Marcobot situation wouldn’t have a major impact on the numbers from the New Hampshire primary which took place Tuesday.  They weren’t quite so lucky.

Marco Rubio finished a distant fifth place taking in only 10.5% of the votes, less than half that he received in Iowa.  It sure seemed like his debate gaffe played into that, and the below Tweet only confirmed it.

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It was both shocking and sad to watch.  Say what you want about the way we elect our President, but you have to feel somewhat naked on that stage, and a few minutes of mental paralysis looks now to be the end of an up and coming political career and the rise of the Marcobot!

The Big Game….

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I’m sure everyone knows that Super Bowl 50 is taking place this weekend, pitting the Carolina Panthers vs. the Denver Broncos.  For many of the country, Super Bowl Sunday is seen as a national holiday of sorts.  People gather to each tremendous amounts of appetizers, place abstract bets and spend time with family and friends with over 90%+ of the fans out there not even having their team in the game.  While the game itself has the potential to be very entertaining, many people strictly come for the commercials.  There isn’t a lot of talking taking place when it comes time for the commercials.  These are the most sought after advertising spots in television.  This year, a 30 second spot is going to cost an advertiser roughly $5M.  Its a pretty amazing sum.  There is no question that the commercial s have become an event up on themselves over the past 25 years.

How can those advertising slots command such an impressive price tag?  One of the reasons is the ability to say you are associated with the “Super Bowl”.  The NFL has trademarked the usage of the phrase “Super Bowl” and will do everything in their power to protect the value of that phrase.  When hearing local advertisements over the past week, you hear quite a few strange methods of getting around the trademark.  You will hear advertisements for “The Big Game” “The game between the Broncos and Panthers” “The Championship Game”.  Light Night host Steven Colbert went as far to call his coverage the ‘Supurb Owl’.  It sounds completely silly, but NFL is not shy about sending quick letters to anyone who uses the phrase “Super Bowl” without their permission.  Heck, the NFL has even gone after churches who use the term and have parties with their congregation.  It seems rather petty, but the NFL is a multi billion dollar business, and they will do whatever it takes to protect the brand.

The NFL is one of the richest sports leagues in the world, but they still do manage to get plenty of things for free.  This Sunday the ‘Big Game’ will be played in Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.  The problem is that the stadium is a solid hour drive from San Francisco and located in Santa Clara.  The NFL has reached a deal that they will reimburse the city of Santa Clara for all of the extra security and municipal services, the only problem is that the NFL reached no such agreement with the city of San Francisco, who will be shelling out over $4M to keep the city safe.  Its no coincidence that all advertising for the Super Bowl mention it being in the ‘Bay Area’, and does not name San Francisco directly.  The NFL looks at it as a chance for your city to bask in the glory of having the honor to host their game, but when the stadium is over an hour away from your city, it only creates a traffic and logistical nightmare for the city, and don’t receive anything in return.

There will be plenty of eyeballs on the game this weekend, but with the NFL’s image taking a severe hit with the concussion controversy and numerous domestic violence issues, they should probably rethink the way they are handling some other items and not bite the hand that feeds them.