Best ad ever?

Slate’s Seth Stevenson thinks so.  I’m not sure, I’d go that far, but it is pretty damn good:

I was actually really curious to learn how Nike has completely taken over the soccer market, as Stevenson details:

In 1994, when the World Cup first arrived on American soil, Nike’s soccer division brought in $40 million in annual revenue. This year, the figure is $1.7 billion. Together with subsidiary label Umbro, Nike is now the No. 1 soccer brand on the planet…

How did Nike eat Adidas’ home-cooked lunch? It wasn’t by manufacturing better cleats. It was by manufacturing a better image. The fact that a jogging-shoe company from Oregon could establish itself as the world’s dominant soccer brand is the ultimate testament to the power of shrewd, relentless marketing.

Nike clawed its way to the top by employing its gushing cash flow (which stems, in part, from the brand’s 85 percent share of the U.S. market for basketball footwear) to sign expensive endorsement contracts with a slew of major soccer stars. In 2007, Nike bought Umbro—official maker of the England national squad’s uniforms—for roughly $580 million. And now comes this monumental three-minute ad, which is without doubt the most expensive soccer commercial ever made.

I’ve actually read somewhere (Stevenson?)  that the ad below is often cosidered the best ever.  I do love it:

Quote of the day

“Apparently it is a great idea to elect a president who is calm in a crisis, except when there’s a crisis.”

From Clive Crook’s excellent evisceration of the utter silliness of the commentariat’s complaints about Obama and the oil spill.  This is pretty good, too:

David Gergen does not actually ask to have his head patted, but he channels Peggy Noonan’s view that unless Obama does something — just does something — it could be all over for the presidency. Gergen suggests a detailed program of moving the deckchairs around, concluding:

And finally, very importantly, exercise the powers of leadership every day from the Oval Office.

Yes, just exercise those powers. Why didn’t they think of that?

What the tea-partiers think

Really interesting post from Bruce Bartlett last week on what the actual Tea Partiers think (those “strongly” in support, as opposed to more general sympathy for the “movement”).  The nickel summary:

What I think this poll shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define TPM members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the TPM is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that TPM members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it’s in support of their agenda.

There’s some nice charts on all this if you click through.  The two biggest gaps are on immigration.  Tea Partiers are hugely anti immigration (modern day Know-Nothings, perhaps?).  88% support the Arizona law, as opposed to 52% of “all voters” and 54% agree with the statement, “Immigration is changing the culture in the US for the worse” as opposed to 32% of all voters.  This last part really intrigues me, as its a sentiment I’ve heard from a number of my students as well.  It’s honestly hard to see this as anything other than ethnocentrism (or worse).  The Raleigh-Durham area is now chock-full of Hispanics, and its really hard to see how our “culture” is somehow worse here because the people working on roofs and taking my order at Wendy’s speak Spanish or because there’s now a Hispanic foods section at my Food Lion.   But maybe I’m just an Ivory Tower liberal who does not see how the Hispanic invasion and Obama’s socialism are bringing about a disaster right in front of my eyes.

Making soccer stars

As a soccer fan, and now a soccer dad, I found this NYT Magazine story about the Dutch Ajax youth development academy absolutely fascinating.  I found it especially interesting that, at least when under 12, they really believe in letting the players still be kids foremost and they only have 3 practices and 1 game per week.  Throughout the article, there was an underlying current that the best American players spend too much time playing games, and not enough time practicing.  This page of the feature focused on the very interesting differences between player development in the US as opposed to most countries:

How the U.S. develops its most promising young players is not just different from what the Netherlands and most elite soccer nations do — on fundamental levels, it is diametrically opposed.

Americans like to put together teams, even at the Pee Wee level, that are meant to win. The best soccer-playing nations build individual players, ones with superior technical skills who later come together on teams the U.S. struggles to beat. In a way, it is a reversal of type. Americans tend to think of Europeans as collectivists and themselves as individualists. But in sports, it is the opposite. The Europeans build up the assets of individual players. Americans underdevelop the individual, although most of the volunteers who coach at the youngest level would not be cognizant of that.

The American approach is the more democratic view of sport. The aspirations of each member of the team are equally valid. Elsewhere, there is more comfort with singling out players for attention and individualized instruction, even at the expense of the group. David Endt, a former Ajax player and a longtime executive of the club, told me, “Here, we would rather polish one or two jewels than win games at the youth levels.”

Americans place a higher value on competition than on practice, so the balance between games and practice in the U.S. is skewed when compared with the rest of the world. It’s not unusual for a teenager in the U.S. to play 100 or more games in a season, for two or three different teams, leaving little time for training and little energy for it in the infrequent moments it occurs. A result is that the development of our best players is stunted. They tend to be fast and passionate but underskilled and lacking in savvy compared with players elsewhere.

The article goes on to talk about the problems of college soccer.  It seems that college soccer, to which most of the best US athletes go on to, does a poor job of preparing players for truly elite competition.  Though,  some high-school basketball players now completely skip college and play a year in Europe before the professional draft (and most of the best leave early), there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that college basketball does a poor job of preparing future NBA stars versus the alternatives.

Regardless, I can’t wait for the World Cup to start on Friday.

If Political Scientists wrote the news

Really interesting (at least to any Political Scientist, and especially to me) article in Columbia Journalism Review about the way political scientists, as opposed to political journalists, approach explanations for politics and how thanks to some intrepid bloggers (especially Ezra Klein), political science is having some real impact– for the better, I’d definitely say– on political journalism.  It’s a great read (and pretty brief, too), but no one does a summary like Jon Chait:

This is a nice way of saying that political scientists understand that a huge portion of the analysis of news events that appears in the media is total bullshit…

Again, bullshit is the perfect description for this kind of analysis. (Harry Frankfurt’s classic exploration of bullshit can be read here.) It’s not a lie. It’s not undertaken out of any sort of malice or agenda at all. It’s just an attempt to concoct a theory or explanation out of the most readily available events, without any soundness to the method. If unemployment sharply declines and Obama’s approval ratings increase, there will be some new bullshit to explain his political mastery.

In general, this is a great trend, and while political journalists will always be forced to come up with short-term (and deeply flawed) explanations of the president’s popularity, Scott Brown’s victory in MA, etc., the more the analysis is informed by a better understanding of long term trends and context, which comes from political science, the better.
For me, this article crystallized why I am such a big fan of both Ezra Klein and Jon Chait (and Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum).  All these guys “get it” and are looking deeper for explanations and not letting the silly minutiae of the day drive their conclusions.  Anyway, it will definitely be interesting to see how this trend continues to develop.  And Three Cheers to Ezra Klein for really helping get it going.

On a humourous note, Slate’s Chris Beam takes the ball and runs with it and gives up some headlines as written by political scientists.  Here’s a sampling (they’re all pretty damn good):

Chief among the criticisms of Obama was his response to the spill. Pundits argued that he needed to show more emotion. Their analysis, however, should be viewed in light of the economic pressures on the journalism industry combined with a 24-hour news environment and a lack of new information about the spill itself.

Republicans, meanwhile, complained that the administration has not been sufficiently involved in the day-to-day cleanup. Their analysis, of course, is colored by their minority status in America’s two-party system, which creates a strong structural incentive to criticize the party in power, whatever the merits.

Sorry, no pithy or insightful wrap-up, just click through to the CJR article.

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