Still Fighting On

No less than the ageless and indominatable Norman Lear, currently in the later stages of development for two new streaming services a few weeks past his 101st birthday, gives me the kind of confidence and resilience to continue to soldier on and push like mad for even a day of what used to be for me a lifetime of decently-compensated work, perhaps more than some may feel is deserved but, frankly, paydays well lower than many others.  Norman’s catch phrase and the title of his most recent book is “Even This I Get To Experience”.  Norman essentially contends that every day you’re blessed with living is one more opportunity to experience something unique and savor in it.

Yesterday was one of those days for me, and a throwback to the kind of world that I once accepted as a given that now is anything but.

For the first time, yours truly was able to pull off what I’m told the experienced pros in the event planning community call an amplification–bringing some prominent personalities live and in person to a venue and capitalizing on their substantial fan and social media bases to promote a new business that will be servicing that community.  I’ve been quietly acting as a representative for a company that specializes in such work on behalf of many collegiate athletes, an outgrowth of the 2021 Supreme Court rulings that have allowed these talents to personally profit from their popularity, a growing business known as NIL, or name, image and likeness.   For a sports fan as passionate as I am, and with the experience I’ve had on the studio side in working with talent and brands to work those sorts of partnerships effectively and profitably, I and the few who actually still believe in me thought this world would a natural fit, and that companies would be clamoring for my genius and passion.

Well, after more than two years, countless blind alleys and the faith of one such group, and my strong support of a clothing brand that was nice enough to allow me to participate in and actually give constructive focus group feedback to, I was able to make what those who speak Yiddish would call a shittuch–a matchmaking.  Or maybe it’s called a brand partnership.  Regardless, it was MY DEAL.

And so I found my way to the new Fabletics store that opened yesterday morning near the campus of the University of Southern California.  The campaign for the young-focused brand was WE OWN SATURDAYS, and I was able to bring to them three pretty darn good representatives of the college’s top-ranked football team who already have owned a whole lot of Saturdays in the past, and from most pre-season predictions will own quite a bit of them this fall, as they are the pre-season favorite to win what will likely be the last-ever Pac 12 conference championship, and perhaps even wind up in what may be the final four-team college football playoff bracket which would then see them in one more Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.   Heck, even their own hometown paper THE LOS ANGELES TIMES saluted them this morning in what’s left of their sports section by proclaiming this team is so good, it’s “12-o Or Bust”!!.   Nah, no pressure.

USC’s on-field season kicks off next week with a gimme against San Jose State.  For running back MarShawn Lloyd, linebacker Mason Cobb and wide receiver Brenden Rice, their season for me began yesterday morning.  Lloyd is transferring from the other and less successful USC, the University of South Carolina.  Cobb is joining the Trojans as a transfer from Oklahoma State, where he was on the radar of USC’s zealotic and highly respected coach Lincoln Riley, late of the University of Oklahoma.  Brenden Rice is returning after his debut season that culminated in a disappointing Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane, one where had the best statistics of his college career.

If you’re a football fan, you might recognize his last name, though I was personally advised not to bring it up myself.  But it’s unavoidable, and he did speak on the record to Matt Zemek of TrojansWire about it:

“So people already realize me as Jerry Rice’s son. So just getting into that already, they already expect me to come with the cockiness and everything,” Brenden Rice said. “But what happens when he’s quiet and he makes that catch, because you know he’s supposed to do that? What happens if he goes up top, scores a touchdown, and comes and daps you up? Oh, yeah, that’s some disrespectful stuff right there.

“They line up on the opposite side of the ball of me, ‘Where’s your daddy, boy?’ Man, I’ve heard it all. ‘Oh, B. Rice who?’ Everything.”   “When I hopped in the portal, I was still shaky about it,” Rice said during spring practice. “I thought about going back to Colorado. Next thing you know, I’m on the phone with Lincoln and within the first 15 minutes, 30 minutes I’m like, ‘Wow.’ He sells me. I get a couple of other calls, but as soon as I heard Lincoln call, you’re gonna have to go. Especially being in a situation where USC has the biggest names, biggest wide receivers. You have to. …I went straight to my mother and texted my dad that I’m going to Cali.”

And I know this is the case because that’s the exact same conversation I had with him just after he and his new teammates posed for a few pictures, got a few yoga stretches in, had a few impossibly beautiful coeds ogle them and tweeted out a few reminders that the new store, just across the plaza from the completely packed Starbucks, was offering 50 per cent discounts on its inventory through 4 pm.  (For the record, Brenden brought up the family connection himself after yours truly admittedly he was honestly unaware of it previously.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to that Cotton Bowl.)  And let’s just say they each got enough for their troubles that they could afford to buy the whole store a round of lattes if they were so inclined. 

Me?  Not as much.  But I finally did get a decent payday and, better still, the Fabletics people were apparently impressed enough that we discussed future amplifications with other USC athletes, even ones from the Olympic sports that will be having a larger presence as we head into the Paris games next summer and, of course, the next Summer Games right here in LA four years afterwards.  A few events will even be staged at venues right near the Fabletics store, BTW.

And let’s also say that after years of an association with what many who bleed Cardinal and Gold would chide me for being part of the “dark side”, the warmth, respect and camaraderie shown to me by this three exceptionally nice and talented Trojans, not to mention the officials who helped make this happen, I’m going to be as rabid and passionate a fan pushing for that 12-0–maybe even a 15-0?–as anyone.  Well, I can think of a few who actually might eclipse it.  They’re graduates and have lived and died with this team and school going back to the days of Pat Haden, and nearly a Heisman Trophy-winning running back who had some missteps in later life.  But forget him, please.  That’s too old school a conversation even for me.

For now, I’m moving forward, and as proud as I can be for having a truly productive day for a change.  And something new to put on the tap just below these musings referencing who I’ve worked with.  And yep, this logo is pretty damn meaningful, not just in college sports and brand partnerships.  I mean, have you checked the resumes of who’s in the stands for their home games?  Who needs Cannes, right?

Maybe that I’ll still get to experience THAT, too. After all, I’ve still a long way to catch up to Norman in years AND experience.  And I certainly intend to.

Until next time…



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