Thursday, February 01, 2007

Stupor Bowl

Historically, while I do follow sports, I've not been a huge fan of NFL football. If I'm going to watch football, I generally turn on a regular old Saturday afternoon college game (seldom a bowl game). So I am not now and never have been a big fan of the Super Bowl. I have always found the run-up and hype so overwhelming a turn off that I seldom turn it on.

But I will confess that I have enjoyed watching the Patriots of the Brady-Belichik era. They have been (and, I'm sure will continue to be) an intriguing team - maybe low on big-buck superstar ProBowlers, but generally able to pull it together pretty well. Sure, they're out of it this year, but they gave it a good run. And they weren't out of it until the final seconds of their final game.

Because of the Patriots, I've actually watched a few Super Bowls, but I'll generally take a pass if they're not in it. I just don't find the whole spectacle that interesting, and it ranks up there with the Oscars, a self-congratulatory ritual I find stupefying, as a personal non-event. (My feeling about these mass events is a little quirky, I'll admit, since I do believe that they can have a unifying effect on the country that is helpful and encouraging, given all the polarization we experience these days. And a unifying event like Super Bowl is certainly a lot more positive than one like 9/11.)

That said, this year I will be watching the game for the ads. (I know, this sounds a little like the guys who used to say they read Playboy for the articles, but we're blogging on the ads over on Opinionated Marketer, so I'll have to watch. I'll just need to remember to look up from my book when the ads come on, and not let my husband channel cruise away from them.) And since it's really no fun to watch a sporting event and not root for somebody, well, Go Bears! This is, by the way, not just the disgruntled, disappointed, lookin' for payback, Pats fan in me. My mother is from Chicago and I still have a lot of family there. I consider myself "half-Chicago", and always pull for a Chicago team - as long as they're not playing against Boston.

In any case, I was amused to see a story from Reuters (picked up in The Boston Globe), that detailed the productivity hit that American business takes because of workers focusing on The Game rather than on their work.

The numbers that Challenger, Gray & Christmas came up with are fun to see. In their estimate, American business may take a whopping $800 million productivity hit in the week leading up to the Super Bowl alone. Over 10% of that will happen in Chicago and Indianapolis as fans yack about the game, make bets, read the online sports pages and fan blogs, gossip about their friends who are going to Miami for the game, and shop online for wide-screen, HDTV's.

And that's just the run up. Then there's the Monday morning quarterbacking about the game and the ads, or the call in sick folks who downed too much brew and wolfed down too many nachos.

I'm always a little suspect of these claims of the cost of downtime. There's obviously water-cooler gab incorporated into pretty much everybody's day to begin with. Even if it gets excessive around big events like Super Bowl, the Final Four, and the Oscars, it all evens out. At least in my experience, time wasted one day gets made up the next. (Ever take a single day off mid-week? That's a clear productivity win for your company, because you probably end up working the weekend before, the weekend after, and/or extra hours during the week to "make up" for what you're not getting done while you're using up one of your vacation days.)

It sounds like Challenger, Gray doesn't take its claims all that seriously, either. According to the article, their chief executive "suggest companies use the Super Bowl to build morale or encourage communication among workers, rather than focusing on lost productivity. 'There are always distractions in the workplace,"[John] Challenger said. 'The Super Bowl is just one more.'"

I'm with Challenger in thinking it's not a bad idea to get in front of an event like this - have a pizza party on Friday, raffle off a bowl of chili and a bottle of Maalox, split your sales teams into Colts and Bears., spend a little time analyzing each team's operations on and off the floor and figuring out who does what better. Even a non-Super Bowler like me could get into the spirit of things.

Meanwhile, I must go and clear my schedule and mentally prepare for the Super Bowl over-drive on Sunday night. And I'm already a step ahead on my blog post on the ads. I've seen the K-Fed McDonald's ad already and I've got to say that while Kevin Federline as a fast-food worker may be insulting to the fast-food workers of the world, it strikes me as precisely where he belongs.

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