He blog me

This blog is from Mike Morgan in Wauwatosa, Wis., which is a suburb of the one-time beer capitol of the world and current capitol of heavyweight motorcycles. It is dedicated to holding court on topics related to life, family, religion, politics, sports, exercise, music, taverns, the Simpsons and anything else I want to discuss.

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Strong communications, marketing, writing, editing, social media and yes, people skills. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A small glimpse into outreach marketing from “42”

As a lifelong baseball fan who thought he knew a lot about the story of Jackie Robinson and the integration of Major League Baseball back in 1947, it’s becoming obvious that the movie “42” is brilliantly making a new generation aware of this courageous struggle.

Among the many lessons from Jackie Robinson’s battle against discrimination in baseball is the importance of having a willingness to accept others despite differences like race, ethnicity or gender.

One small storyline from “42” shows why companies like Harley-Davidson reach out to markets outside their core customers. (spoiler alert)

When Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in spring training of 1947, some of the players started a petition stating they wouldn’t play if he was allowed on the team. One of those signing the petition was Bobby Bragan.

Early that season, Bragan told Dodger general manager and visionary Branch Rickey that he wanted to be traded rather than play with Robinson. “After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player,” Bragan eventually said. “From that point on, I was one of many guys fighting to sit next to Jackie whenever I had the opportunity. I told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson.”

While some of the Dodgers and other players in baseball never got beyond prejudice against African-Americans to accept Robinson and baseball’s integration, Bragan and others kept a more open mind that eventually helped the Dodgers, baseball and the country prosper.

Outreach business marketing efforts are a long way from the heroic civil rights struggles of the last century, but the story is a good reminder that accepting differences is usually easier than fighting them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Munich Massacre: 40 years and 10 Olympic Games later

Every four years, it amazes me how the Olympic community and media seem to gloss over the Palestinian terrorist murders of 11 Israeli team members at the 1972 Games in Munich. It’s hard to believe it has now been 40 years and London 2012 will be the 10th Olympic Games since the massacre in Munich.

In recent days, the International Olympic Committee commemorated the tragedy in an Olympic village for the first time in London and others are calling for more fitting and proper memorials. 

Much like many children of today, I was 10 years old and just beginning my fascination with the concept of sports and the Olympic Games in 1972. I watched Mark Spitz win an incredible seven gold medals in swimming, gymnast Olga Korbut show us that Russians actually had personality and Frank Shorter inspire a generation of American runners by winning the marathon. While it was hard for me to understand the theft of a U.S. basketball gold medal by misguided and/or corrupt officials, it was nearly impossible to comprehend watching ABC Olympic television host Jim McKay describe the kidnapping and murder of innocent Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists on September 5-6, 1972.

“When I was a kid, my father used to say "Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized," McKay reported. “Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”

While the Games were halted temporarily and a memorial service held, they eventually finished under a huge dark cloud of mourning and increased security.

Only later on would I come to understand the irony of Jewish Olympians being murdered by terrorists in the country that ordered the Holocaust of World War II. Not to mention the further irony that security was lacking in Munich due to German efforts to show the world that fascism was a distant memory.

History closely repeated itself in 1996 when an American terrorist, Eric Richard Rudolph, planted a pipe bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the Games held there, where two people died and more than 100 were injured.

Much like many Americans want to forget the horror of September 11, 2001 by avoiding the painful images and memories of that day, the Olympic community rarely remembers that fateful September 1972. It would seem that there should be a permanent and visible Olympic memorial to the slain Israeli athletes and coaches, whether it be a statue of concrete or marking of ceremony.

The mainstream media often avoids the issue, although HBO aired an Oscar-winning British documentary of the events "One Day in September" just before the Sydney Games in 2000. Much like filmmaker Bud Greenspan's compelling Olympic documentaries, "One Day in September" describes dramatic and important events too often forgotten by most of us. While that program is one of the few reminders we have of those dark days in September 1972 and we’ll see what marks the 40th anniversary in 2012, I know I'll never forget the Munich Games.

As my sons watch the London Games and enjoy the "thrill of victory and agony of defeat," I pray they won't have to endure another Munich-like tragedy or something worse considering the world of terror we confront today. Sadly, Munich in 1972 was probably just the beginning of what we now know as the war on terror and should not be too easily forgotten.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Brewer centerfielders from different eras are similar heroes in Milwaukee

A Milwaukee Brewers’ centerfielder given a second chance after several challenging seasons is now playing up to earlier expectations, and also keeping fans entertained with his exciting play while creating a special relationship with the Milwaukee community.

That description certainly fits the exploits of Nyjer Morgan this season, but Brewer fans with longer memories could easily dial it back some 33 years to 1978 when the legendary Gorman Thomas first burst on the Milwaukee sports scene.

On the day that Gorman throws out the first ball at Miller Park in the National Championship Series, there is nothing hotter in Milwaukee than Nyjer, his NLCS game-winning hit and NL Central Champion Brewers. Those of us old enough to remember the summer of ’78, might not recall the temperatures, but we watched Bambi’s Bombers energize the old County Stadium on their way to winning 93 games for the first winning season in team history.

To compare these two players more specifically, Nyjer and Gorman are both known by their unique first names, they each flourished in Milwaukee in the fifth seasons of their careers, play aggressive defense at the same crucial position, and are strongly embraced by the Milwaukee fan base.

On the contrasting side, Nyjer and Gorman are also very different players and personalities. Nyjer is a speedy, spray hitter with seven career homers, while Gorman was known for hitting towering homeruns, totaling 208 during his 11 seasons in Milwaukee. Gorman bonded with his fans enjoying a few cold ones at parking lot tailgates and local taverns, while Nyjer connects with fans via cryptic Twitter posts and hilarious live post-game TV interviews.

Nyjer hails from Northern California and enjoys hockey, while Gorman came from South Carolina and likes to hunt, fish and cook. Oh, and last time I checked, Stormin’ Gorman didn’t use any sort of “gentleman’s name” like Tony Plush.

What these players separated by more than three decades do have in common are some serious baseball talent, a hard-nosed hustling attitude and strong outgoing personalities to which fans and regular Milwaukeeans can relate.

If the long-haired, usually unshaven Gorman is more of what we think of the typical Milwaukee working class player and character, Nyjer is simply a modern version with a usually clean shaved look and a little more showboating for the TV cameras and smart phones that didn’t capture a player’s every move in Gorman’s day. As challenging as Nyjer can be for the Brewers' PR department, the '82 Brewers were known for their work hard, play hard ethic and characters like Gorman, but ther drinking, smoking and carousing just didn't get the media scrutiny that it might today.

And, as revered as both players are by local fans, they have also endured some tough times on and off the field, which only makes them more human to those same fans. All Milwaukeeans really ask for from their professional athletes as that they play hard all the time and keep us entertained. Gorman did that for many years in Milwaukee and hopefully Nyjer will continue his stunning success here.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Electronic cigarettes race ahead with new NASCAR sponsorships

It's been a while since any form of smoking has sponsored NASCAR, but that changes times two at the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway as both Green Smoke and blu Cigs electronic cigarette brands lend their names to stock cars.

T.J. Bell will drive the No. 50 Green Smoke Toyota Camry and Mike Bliss will drive the No. 32 blu Cigs Ford car. NASCAR's series sponsorship with Winston cigarettes ended in 2003 when the series became known as the NEXTEL Cup Series, and then changed to the Sprint Series a few years later. The Winston brand from R.J. Reynolds had sponsored the series since 1971.

Besides the names Green Smoke and blu Cigs, a major difference between the current electronic cigarette and the historic Winston brand is how the products work and brand ownership.

Most of the electronic cigarettes currently growing in popularity simulate the traditional act of smoking by creating a nicotine and/or flavored vapor heated by a battery-operated device, which produces the vapor only when it is inhaled. The electronic cigarette vapor creates little or no odor and disappears almost immediately after it is exhaled.

The risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes are open to debate and further study. However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that electronic cigarettes are to be regulated only as tobacco products if they aren’t marketed for therapeutic purposes. This means that the FDA can review new e-cigarette products before their sale, but can’t require manufacturers to conduct certain studies mandated for FDA approval of drugs or medical devices.

From a brand ownership standpoint, electronic cigarettes like Green Smoke and blu Cigs are leaders of a growing industry that includes many diverse companies as opposed to a few large ones. Green Smoke is based out of Miami and blu Cigs in Charlotte, along with others around North America and worldwide. It appears that the new electronic cigarette or "vaping" industry is using a combination of newer social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as some traditional forms like television, radio, print and now sports and racing sponsorships.

"Every driver goes into racing wanting to compete at the highest level possible," said Bell. "Green Smoke has come on board to make racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series a reality for me. This is a big step forward for my career and Green Smoke couldn't have picked a more perfect market to promote its product. I'm looking forward to a great future with Green Smoke."

While Green Smoke was the first to announce its NASCAR sponsorship with T.J. Bell, blu Cigs was soon to follow with Mike Bliss.

"We're responsible for a lot of firsts in our industry, so we're extremely excited to become the first e-cigarette company to sponsor a top 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car," said Jason Healy, president of blu Cigs. "We move fast and so does Mike Bliss; it's a natural fit."

Bliss began racing NASCAR in 1995 and has seven top-10 Sprint Cup Series finishes, has won two Nationwide Series races, and has 13 NASCAR Camping Truck Series wins. Bell has raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Prior to stock car racing, he competed in the Toyota Atlantics Series. Bell has raced for more than two decades, accumulating 20 top-10 finishes in ARCA competition and 13 NASCAR career top-10s.

With two high profile NASCAR drivers in the fold for Green Smoke and blu Cigs, there are also other celebrities who have appeared prominently using electronic cigarettes. These include Johnny Depp in the film "The Tourist," Katherine Heigl on the Late Show with David Letterman, Charlie Sheen wherever he rolls and others.

Whether it's race car drivers, celebrities or just regular folks, it will be interesting to see how marketing, advertising, social media and public opinion impact electronic cigarettes in the coming years.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A good walk and ride definitely not spoiled

What in the world does riding a Harley home to Milwaukee from Sturgis have to do with the PGA golf tournament? Well, more than you might think in my world when in a recent five-day span, I was lucky enough to spend two of those days enjoying two extremely unique activities.

One day, I’m riding with thousands of motorcycle riders around the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota and four days later I’m one of thousands of golf fans making the pilgrimage to the 92nd PGA golf tournament final round near Kohler.

As I walked, ran and slid my way around the hilly Whistling Straits course on a picture perfect Wisconsin summer Sunday, my mind kept wandering back to the wide open South Dakota skies that mesmerized me at the Sturgis Rally a few days earlier.

I’ve always felt that motorcycle riding has more in common with other outdoor sports like golf, skiing or boating than most might imagine. As different as motorcycling and golf may be, I couldn’t help but notice the high levels of passion and dedication shared by motorcycle enthusiasts in Sturgis and the golfers at Whistling Straits, many who came from other countries.

The “colors” of a motorcycle rally like Sturgis tend to be the black and orange of Harley-Davidson along with the logos of other motorcycle makers and many of the brands that you would expect at such an event. Throw in plenty of leather clothing, or lack of it, and you should get the picture.

While golfers gravitate toward polo shirts and floppy hats that would raise more than a few eyebrows at the bars in Sturgis, they were no less proud of showing their loyalty at the PGA. The only real difference was that there was a lot of Nike, Calloway and Taylor Made on display in Kohler instead of the Harley, S&S or J&P in South Dakota.

There is no doubt that Harley riding in Sturgis and “major” golf tournament like the PGA tend to attract an older crowd, but both are making their efforts to attract a younger demographic. It seems like there are now more younger riders in Sturgis congregating at campgrounds like the Buffalo Chip, Broken Spoke or Rock N’ Rev to see bands like Disturbed, Daughtry or Drowning Pool. The PGA went so far as to allow “juniors” under the age of 16 in for free, which let me bring my son and four of his friends, who likely wouldn’t have enjoyed the day of world class golf without that discount.

As for the sense of hearing, there is no question that PGA golf has a motorcycle rally beat by more than a few decibels. It’s somehow really hard to picture anyone holding their hands in the air to signal for quite while a biker does a burnout on Main Street in Sturgis. The closest the PGA got to rowdy was a guy trying to start the wave in the grandstands, so not exactly the same level of hell raising there.

One thing that both events did was show support for our troops. There were several military-related rides and a B-1 Bomber flyover in Sturgis, while PGA fans raised their eyes to a Stealth B-2 toward the end of the day.

Riding 850 miles from Rapid City, S.D. to Milwaukee at a “reasonable” speed is a long day of roughly 14 hours, which is almost the same door-to-door time I spent getting to the PGA in Kohler from Milwaukee.

My Harley ride from Rapid City was comprised almost exclusively of stunning views from the seat of a Road Glide Custom motorcycle on Interstate 90, while the day at the PGA was spent leading and chasing four 15-year-old boys, Tiger Woods and a few thousands others around the just as stunning views of Lake Michigan at Whistling Straits.

Unfortunately, my diet during these two events was equally nutritious, or lacking thereof. Pit shops on the motorcycle ride consisted of mainly of candy bars, Gatorade and an Arby’s Beef & Cheddar for lunch. I think I spent more on one brat and beer at the PGA than I did on food and fuel during the whole ride home from Sturgis, but thankfully we were allowed to carry in a whole bag of chips, candy and water to the golf tournament.

So take it from someone who attended Sturgis and a major golf tournament in the same week. Probably more than anything, both events also provide the chance for a special bonding between different generations, countries and races around a common passion, whether it be riding a motorcycle or hitting a golf ball.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Easy Ed and Me

A few years back, legendary NBC journalist and political analyst extraordinaire Tim Russert wrote a book called “Big Russ and Me” as a tribute to his World War II veteran father that also contained valuable life lessons from his childhood in working class Buffalo.

It’s a great book for anyone who appreciates the wisdom that can be passed between generations, along with humorous and poignant stories and the can-do attitude and characters that shape countless communities around the country.

Holidays like Father’s Day seem like the time we can celebrate the regular, everyday folks who make our community such a great place to live and work. In thinking about Father’s Day this year, I considered how my father and his upbringing on Milwaukee’s Eastside have influenced my life and impacted others, similar to the Russerts in Buffalo.

My dad, Ed Morgan, was so well liked by some of my friends growing up, he earned the nickname “Easy Ed” due to his easygoing attitude in almost any situation. While we both can fly off the handle with the best of them, especially on the golf course, he actually taught me to take it easy in most situations.

My dad is part of the tail end of the “Greatest Generation” of the World War II era, as he was drafted into Army for the Korean War in 1953. As a dad who passed his love of sports on to me and my older brother Tom, he often recalls how he was riding a bus out of town for the “service” on the same day that the brand new Milwaukee Braves baseball team was riding in.

While my dad never saw combat in Korea, he was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where his duties included working with athletic teams allowing him to see some great athletes of that era. There were college and NFL players on the football team, which was coached by a young entrepreneur named Al Davis, as well as young superstar Willie Mays and future Milwaukee and national broadcasting superstar Bob Uecker playing baseball on the base. He and Uecker still share the same local barber, who gave the best “brush” haircuts that were popular at the time.

While I was lucky enough to be at my wife Janice’s side when each of our three sons was born in Milwaukee in the 1990s, it was a different world in the 1950s when many dads like mine couldn’t return from the military for the birth of their children, or else they likely just nervously paced and/or smoked in the hospital waiting room.

Though my dad couldn’t make it back to Milwaukee for my brother’s birth in 1954, he did help take his Army buddy’s wife to the hospital, which resulted in a classic Easy Ed story. When her water broke in the car, my dad apologized to his friend and wife thinking he had an “accident” due to the nerves of the situation. I guess kids actually were a bit more sheltered in certain ways back then.

One way in which my dad wasn’t sheltered in Milwaukee of the 1940s and ‘50s was when it came to hanging out with friends and running the Eastside streets. My brother and me, and many of our friends, have heard the stories of my dad’s “Rummies” group of teenagers lifting hubcaps from cars, couches from the Oriental Theater or a police boat on the Milwaukee River. Luckily, none of those stories resulted in any jail time and hopefully, the statute of limitations has run out several times over.

When my dad returned from the service, he and my mom Jean settled in the Northlawn housing project, which was one of those set up for young families of military veterans. I often drive by the Northlawn area, which lies near our sons’ Little League fields and think of my parents and brother starting our family there in the late 1950s.

Easy Ed and Jean eventually moved the family to Whitefish Bay, to what had to be one of the smallest houses in the Village on the south end of Elkhart Avenue. I was born in 1962 and my earliest memories are of that house where my brother and I shared a tiny “bedroom” in the attic. We had our share of fights in those days, especially being eight years apart in age, but he eventually became a close second to my dad when it came to seeking advice about any number of problems or issues over the years.

While my dad never went to college, he insisted that my brother and I get that level of education. As a young father, my dad sometimes worked several extra jobs including umpire, referee and bartender to support the family. He also got a job as an elevator operator at Northwestern Mutual downtown and as he likes to say “worked his way up from there.”

He helped start a union of office workers at Northwestern Mutual and his contacts eventually got him a job selling insurance. That experience along with hours and miles spent traveling and calling on people and businesses around the area and state led him to a long and successful career in the local insurance industry, including the American dream of owning his own business.

Now retired for over a decade, my dad focuses on things like golf, sports, travel and the rest of the senior lifestyle, he enjoys nothing more than watching the success of his six grandchildren in school, sports, music and other activities. He also remains hard at work passing on the stories of his youth and career in Milwaukee and valuable lessons like nobody said it was going to be easy, treating people the same way that you would want to be treated, and going the extra mile to help someone who needs it.

Whether it’s Easy Ed, or any other dad in Milwaukee who does their best for their family, it’s a good time for me and every other son or daughter to say “thanks dad!”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rickey makes it officiaHall

How ironic that the first time I get back to blogging on this site in more than three years is the day that Rickey Henderson is voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Last time, I wrote about how Rickey was still hanging on playing in semi-pro leagues for the love of the game and a chance to get back to the Show. It's hard to say more than has been, and will be said about baseball's greatest lead-off hitter. It's hard to argue with Rickey being in the class as one of the game's best all-around players, right up there with Willie Mays, Joe Morgan or Roberto Clemente. Ricky also did things his own way and truly loved playing the game. And, some of us were lucky enough to watch him play the game in his prime. Oh, and Jim Rice wasn't a bad player either.