Richard Sherman Becomes Catalyst for Communication Reminders

By now, sport fans have watched and read the Richard Sherman rant-heard-the-world multiple times.  Richard Sherman, cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks had just come up with a huge play, which

Final play by 49ers in NFC Championship Game

subsequently sent the Seattle Seahawks on to face the Denver Broncos in the SuperBowl. Unfortunately for Sherman, between that tipped ball and a series of follow-on actions, he’s had to face both severe negativity crossed with undenying support.

SeattleTimes poll shows a fairly even distribution of public reaction:

  • I’m fine with it: He won and can say what he wants  31.7%  (982 votes)
  • I’m disappointed: But I’ll forgive his emotional reaction 37.35%  (1,157 votes)
  • I hated it: It was classless and offensive  31%  (959 votes)

By Monday morning, Sherman begins to explain his tale in a reflective blog where he states, “It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am.”  He continues on with “to those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field — don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines.  Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.”

No one’s quite sure what originally sparked the rivalry between Michael Crabtree and Richard Sherman.  Rumored are 1) a trash-talking incident at an offseason charity event hosted by Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  2)  A lack of acknowledgement by Crabtree in a pregame interviews about the Sherman-factor.  Crabtree apparently wanted to note that the entire defense is good, not just to worry about 1 individual.  3)  Crabtree’s lack of interest in shaking his hand before the clock had ran out and was simply walking back to his sideline so the defense could come onto the field.

Going over (actually Sherman ran 20 yards to catch up with Crabtree walking to the sideline) to shake a player’s hand, patting him on the butt,  after a huge play, in a huge game — just seems odd.  I’m sure Crabtree was stunned to see him there, and, regrettably, had to push Sherman away.

And, where did this chip-on-Sherman’s-shoulder exactly originate?  Very few dispute his rise to an elite level of cornerbacks in the NFL.  Richard Sherman was a scholarship WIDE RECEIVER at Stanford.   Starting in 2006, he led the football team in receiving and was named a Freshman All-American.  In 2008, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 4th game of the season.  When Sherman returned from the injury, the team was in need of a cornerback, so his coach, Jim Harbaugh (yes, that Harbaugh), switched him to defense and in his final 2 years where he made 112 tackles and had 6 interceptions.  Sherman graduated from Stanford in 2010 with a degree in communications (yes, communications).  Sherman was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and was apparently livid by the players chosen in front of him, and vowed to become the best cornerback in the game.

So, what lessons can we take away from this championship game?

  1. *Any* public action will always be linked to your team, your employer, your business, your community, regardless of the medium. Richard Sherman received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and was “in the coaches office” after the game.  Within 24 hours, Sherman now realizes that while he wanted to make a point, it’s now reflecting negatively on his team and the Seahawk community.
    You know how people write in their social profiles “words are my own”?  While that may sound appropriate, it doesn’t actually mean anything.  If you post something negative, false, or controversial, it will reflect on you and potentially anyone associated with you.
  2. We all get wrapped up in the moment.  Remember to take a deep breath.  Not everyone gets a chance to be on national television right after making a game-winning play.  And, not everyone gets a microphone and a stage to roar from the moment after a huge competitive win.  In every situation, it’s not always about what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.  A poetic “speech pause” can help you gather your words, reflect, and hence relate better to the audience.
  3. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re right.  We all have those occasions where we would really like to say what’s on our mind.  And, we may even be right.  But, does saying it make those around you happy, focused, understanding, supportive?  Think about how your words and actions will be received.  If there’s a chance they might not be perceived the way you want, probably best to think about rephrasing or keeping the comments to yourself.  If you believe it will be productive to state your mind, make sure you do it privately with those affected, so you can truly have a positive conversation.
  4. Apologies go a long way.  Even with our best intentions, careful thoughts, research, and preparation, things can go off-track.  If the wrong outcome is in front of you as a direct result of your actions, that’s a good time to apologize.  It lets others know you’re accepting responsibility and on a course to goodness.  We’ve all seen many, many examples in social media and communications where individuals or brands stall on accepting responsibility and realize — the sooner the apology, the sooner you can recover.

By Monday afternoon, the day after the big game and with time to reflect, Richard Sherman publicly apologized for his post-game conduct during an interview with Ed Werder of ESPN.  “I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates,” said Sherman. “That was not my intent.”

Very few dispute the fact that Richard Sherman is highly educated, great teammate, supports his community, and loves his family.  I’m glad he apologized and look forward to seeing him set a good example of sportsmanship down the road.  And, I wonder too…what were his professors in the Communications Department at Stanford feeling when that monumental interview began.

[Disclosure – Lifetime 49er and Stanford University Fan.]


Value of Diversional Productivity

I’m doing it right now. Well, I believe I’m doing it right now.  I’m being productive.   Or, is this a diversion from what I really should be doing.? No, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

I saw a real interesting tweet by Chris Brogan a couple last week  ago – it says “Gotta run.  Face down doing work.”  Wait a sec.  Twitter isn’t work?  Then, why is every imaginable business and millions of  consumers and business people on it?   And, god forbid, during normal business hours.

We’re loaded up with social web today.  And, like it or not, consciously aware we’re doing it or not, we’re seeing activity increases across all demographics daily. 

Whatever your online flavor, there’s an appetizing application.  You know – article commenting, twttr, facebook, linkedin, youtube, support communities, associations, wikipedia, etc etc..  And why?   Because we’re social beings and like it or not, we’re drawn to it without even knowing that we’re drawn to it.

Back in 1999, we thought the web future would be about eCommerce.  We were right because eCommerce has continued to grow every year to the point that we’ve generally overcome our fears of credit card fraud and purchasing apparel among other finished goods without testing it first.  Online purchasing saves time vs. going to the mall, using our cars less, and allows us to find the lowest price.  Furthermore, for brands large and small, the battle to develop the best web stores is as intense as ever.

We were wrong because the most dominant web usage is now social interaction.  In fact, businesses and organizations are moving swiftly to allow buyers and window shoppers the opportunity to engage in conversations with folks they don’t know in order to make a decision.  In 2001, we’d say “wow, this site has reviews”.  Today, we say “what do the reviews say”.

In fact, there’s a whole ton of social ways we’re using the web now, and becoming the way we do business.  Why?  It’s becoming the norm.  It’s fun.  It’s always on.  And, for whatever strange reason, we don’t mind interacting on the web with people we don’t know…hiding behind our handles of course.  Some of my favorites:

  • Sports Talk – used to only occur on radio.  Now, it’s part of every article, event, game.  And, fans can generate the news just as fast as the reporters… basis for the BleacherReport.
  • Travel – where to go, where to stay, weather.
  • Food – sharing recipes, cooking tips.  I like to eat.
  • Product Support – getting expert assistance on all these gadgets that are infusing our home and cars.
  • Innovation – able to give product feedback directly to manufacturers and distributors.   Fast and convenient.

And, tons of other non-monetary needs:  family, law, career and business management, eradicating snails and gophers, ailments, or advice on pets.  All of which resolve challenges in my life, make me more satisfied with products I own,  and most of all saves me time.   Socially, we seem to take pride and self-satisfaction in giving and helping others, and the social web has evolved to provide that net.

But, perhaps the greatest social web interaction which I believe has enormous returns and the real reason for this article kicks off today with “Selection Sunday”.  Ahhhhhhhh. 

March Madness.  The Big Dance.  The NCAA Hoop Championship.   The envy of all other sports championships, but no matter, ’cause we all tune in.  It used to be a cut-out from the local newspaper, but now, we can do the pool online, compete, automatically score, join private and public groups, and chat to our heart’s content.   And, the rage grows.

However, Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, the big employee productivity know-it-all firm will put out its anuual article on Monday or Tuesday of this week and state how much corporate productivity will be lost as a result of March Madness.   No thanks to you for bringing up the negativity of it all.  Where in your equations does the value of employee communication come up?  It appears you’re turning your back on what it really means.

ncaa-2009-big-dancePooh on you, Mr. Challenger.  This week sparks great hope across the country as we cheer for the underdogs, Alma meters, mascots, uniform colors, or whatever tips your fancy.  The real returns are the wide range of online (and sprinkling of offline) pools that sprout up everywhere in this great land.  The result is camaraderie, rivalries, trash talking.  Yup, good old interaction.  A break from the mundane — something we all need right now.

In the workplace, coffee shops, sports bars, online chat rooms, news sites, and anywhere where folks meet, it’s a tme to lift up and have a conversation about a non-work topic that speaks of fun and excitement that is just priceless.  And, in a time of economic in-prosperity and generally ill news everywhere we look or go.   It’s a time for  3pt prayers, buzzer beaters, unforced turnovers, big rebounds, high flying dunks, and team spirit. 

Yes, Mr. Challenger.  Hope, diversion, interaction — all leading to better collaboration with our fellow colleagues and making new friends.  It’s priceless.   It’s time to dance.

Funniest Moments in Sports – Hal Mcrae Does the Twirly Bird

Ah, meltdowns.  Why do we seem to take so much pleasure in watching other people lose it?   The infamous phrases and actions that lasts a lifetime — you can just repeat the phrase and everyone in the bar knows the incident you’re talking about.

“Playoffs?”,  “We had ’em right where we wanted them”,  “I’m 40; I’m a Man”,  “I don’t know what a game face is”…

One of my all-time favorites though is former Kansas City Royals manager Hal Mccrae.  This 1993 scene takes place in his back office under the stadium holding a press interview.  Clearly, a bad day at the ball park, but after a reporter questions his batting lineup late in the game, the blowup ensues.

Check it out for old time’s sake.

There’s 4 reasons I love this meltdown.

1. The desk clearing sweep.  Yup, stuff is flying in every direction. Everything’s in harms way.

2. The poor phone.  After having thrown just about everything in front of him, he doesn’t just merely pick up the phone and chuck it. He does the twirly bird and flings in god knows what direction.

3. Bloody-face reporter.  The reporters start to exit the room realizing it’s probably a good time to leave. One of the first guys that comes out has blood coming down his cheek. To this day, I’m still curious what he actually got hit with. Was it the phone?

4. 1.75 liter of a little something-something.  As the tirade spills out into the hallway, Hal seems to gripping a fairly large bottle of liquor. The f-bombs are flying so quickly, the “bleeper” can barely keep up with him. I wonder if Hal poured himself a glass, or did he just chug it straight from the bottle?

And the phrase we’ll always remember…”Don’t ask me all those stupid a$$ questions”.

Cal – Stanford Rivalry Takes on New Spin

With over 100 years of athletic animosity, it’s hard to imagine a match-up that feels dynamically different than earlier match-ups.  But, come Saturday Jan 17, Stanford’s Coach who’s now Cal’s Coach comes back to Stanford  to sit at the head of the visitor’s bench.  It’s bittersweet.  It’s really weird.  

Stanford fans will welcome Mike Montgomery back to his old stomping grounds with open arms.  If anyone boos, it will only be in jest.  He put the Stanford basketball program on the map.  Made it a winning program.  His predecessor, Dr. Tom Davis, was once quoted upon departing for Iowa., “Stanford will never have a winning basketball program”.   In comes Monte for 18 years.  

monte-3Monte’s Cardinal went to NCAA tournament 10 straight years between 1995 – 2004.  The only Stanford Coach to get the team to the Final Four, the closest that Stanford has gotten to the NCAA basketball championship since 1942.    Pac-10 Coach of the Year 4 times.  1991 NIT Champions.  Naismith Coach of the Year in 2000.  John R. Wooden Lifetime Achivevement Award in 2004.

Finally, after 18 years at the helm of  Stanford, Monte then became the first Stanford coach to jump into an NBA coaching job.  Some may say regrettably so, but after seeing where Cal is right now.  I say “no way”.   Monte has amazingly gone from one of the “can coach any college team he wants”, to one of those “I’m-not-sure-how-to-categorize”.  Upon arriving at Cal, Monte was not supposed to have any big man.  They’ve played big.  He wasn’t supposed to get along with Jermone RandleJermone Randle is on fire.  He’s taught the kids spacing, tempo, and play-making, all sorely missing from the Cal program for many, many years. monte-2

Unbelievably, Cal comes to Maples undefeated in Pac-10 play, 4-0.   This is one the best feel-good stories of the NCAA basketball season to date.  Very few polls had Cal ranked higher than 8 in the Pac-10.   And, any time a college basketball team is predicted to be real mediocre, and turns heads from East to West, you gotta throw some props.   Well, OK, with 1 exception…as long as it ain’t Duke.   Furthermore, Cal has won 9 in a row.  In the AP Top 25 for the first time since I can’t remember when.  And, tied for first place in the Pac-10 with Howland’s Bruins.

Meanwhile, Stanford, who was also tagged with mediocre season hopes, is a disappointing 1-3 in Pac-10 play.  Which includes two 1-point losses on the road last weekend to Washington and WSU.  And, in both games, the home team scored the go-ahead bucket with less than 10 seconds on the clock.   Stanford is in transition too.  And Coach Johnny Dawkins, who’s loaded with enthousiasm and eager to build a great program and legacy at Stanford, is just learning the ropes in his first season as a head coach. 

This could be an amazingly tight game where Stanford sneaks out a win.   Or, it could be the seasoned vet showing the newbie how to drive the school bus.    After all, Monte has actually done pretty well against Duke while at Stanford, including a come from behind win to knock out #1 Duke in the 2000 Pete Newell Classic.

I wouldn’t even want to bet $ on spreads, winner, loser, whatever.   And, just to put the rivalry into perspective.  This is not like Michigan – Ohio St.  Duke – UNC.  Texas – Oklahoma.  While there is hefty hatrid between the schools, particularly the whole public school on the side of a hill surrounded by hippies versus the private, pristine stuck-up campus on the peninsula, there is mutual respect for the education, research and thought leadership these fine universities generate on a consistent basis.  The Cal-Stanford rivalry is more like:

 “Stanford Sucks”

“No, Cal Sucks”

“Are we meeting for beers after the game?”


Warriors In Need of Malpractice Claim

The Golden State Warriors and fans of, like me, are feeling pain all over.  With little relief in sight, it’s time for a shout-out.   IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

A 5-13 start.  Phew.  Ghastly.  Tonight’s returning home loss after winless road trip hurt particularly for a warriorgirls2team that desperately needed a rebound.  Makes a 30 win season seem like the impossible dream. 

Oh where did this season go wrong?   It wasn’t Jamal Crawford’s missed shot at the end of overtime against a sub-.500 Miami Heat, on his home debut nite, on a 40-point effort nite.  It may have been Monta’s moped racing spill in Georgia.  It may have been Al Harrington’s refusal to play.  (No!).   It may have been the departure of Baron Davis, lack of signing Brand and getting Maggette instead.  Offseason moves for Marcus Williams – bust.  Overall, it’s been going wrong before it even started going wrong.   Ronny Turiaf partially excluded.

As the season dwindles into early December, barely a month old, I’ll try to remain positive as the losses start coming.  I’m having trouble convincing others.  Case in point, I was watching 1 road game last week and praying for a good third quarter with my astute understudy of 5-year-old-going-on-6 noted “Dad, the Warriors are really bad.  The players should go back to college”. 

“If only that could be true, son”.

And, no one can point fingers, there’s been issues from player to management to ownership on this wrongward bus.    Sure, there may be other good teams to compare – Charlotte: 6-11; Memphis 4-13; Minnesota 4-12; Sacramento 5-14.  Whoops, did I just say “good” teams? 

Look at top caliber teams and you can see the magic 5-part formula:

  1. A standard starting lineup (that you can trust) – Nellie likes to mix it up and hey, that’s fun.  It’s not fun when it becomes meaningless.  i.e. No matter what 5 you pick, they’ll score at least 25 points in the first quarter, but they might give up 40 points to their opponent.
  2. A center who can play with their back to the basket– OK, so that’s somewhat old school ala Moses Malone.  But, when I think about San Antoine and Boston, I get center-envy.
  3. A big man who can nail an outside jumper – Andris “trade bait” Beidrins has shown amazing promise, but on one and only one option – the pick and Nellie role.   He can’t post-up anyone, hit an outside shot, and spend the evening at the free throw line…unless you want a good chuckle.
  4. A 2nd half team – The half-time score in the NBA is indication of nothing.  These guys can score so many points, it’s all about being a 2nd half team and finishing mopping the floor when you go up by 5 with 5 minutes to go.  Must-win situations.  The Warriors best position is to be down 10 with 8 minutes to go.   Then, they finally get motivated.
  5. A go-to great one when the game’s on the line – All the championship teams have one.   No explanation needed.

The Warriors also lack one of those trusty veterans to control/pace/mentor at player level.  Not one to expect production from, but just help the team maintain.   It’s just not in the Warriors blood lines as they live by chaos.  It’s exciting…out of your seat (er lazy boy ’cause the games are too expensive) fist pumping action when it’s happening.   

But right now, the “We Believe” posters are gone.  Or, could just be replaced with “We Believe We Deservenellie-mullyBetter”.  And, the better likely means a good hard look at who’s managing player personnel and coaching this team.  The Nellie-Mully Show will likely be over before the season’s over.

Poor Al, What Now?

Is it really poor Al?  Maybe I should say Rich Al, What Now?  After all, Al Davis, majority owner of Oakland Raiders is rich.  Rich with money, poor with progress.  Poor with understanding fans.  Poor with team management.  Poor with knowing what’s required to run an NFL team.  Poor with pulling together the right player personnel.  And, above all, poor with finding, placing, and keeping a coach in this modern NFL era.

Oh yea, sure, he was great Al at some point in Raiders history.  Over a 40 year period, form 1963 to 2002, the Raiders only had 7 losing seasons.  Won 3 SuperBowl titles.  Yup, the Raiders have one of the greatest histories in the NFL.  A whole story line of favorites:

  • Ken Stabler, Dave Casper, John Madden, Fred B., Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Mark van Eegan, Marcus Allen, Jim Plunkett, John Matusak, (enter your favorite here)

Now, take a moment to reminisce thru all the ups and downs of this growing laundry list of Raider coaches.  Particularly, the post Gruden years…

Head coach       Season(s) Record  Playoffs
Eddie Erdelatz     1960-61     6-10        0-0
Marty Feldman    1961-62     2-15        0-0
Red Conkright     1962           1-8          0-0
Al Davis                1963-65    23-16-3   0-0
John Rauch           1966-68    33-8-1     2-2
John Madden        1969-78   103-32-7  9-7
Tom Flores            1979-87   83-53       8-3
Mike Shanahan      1988-89   8-12        0-0
Art Shell                1989-94    54-38       2-3
Mike White           1995-96    15-17        0-0
Joe Bugel               1997          4-12         0-0
Jon Gruden           1998-01   38-26         2-2 
Bill Callahan        2002-03   15-17         2-1
Norv Turner         2004-05    9-23          0-0
Art Shell                2006         2-14          0-0
Lane Kiffin           2007-08    5-15          0-0
Tom Cable            2008          0-0            0-0

At what point, can Al stop blaming someone else for all the blunders that the Raiders have encountered.  Why is it that by the time these coaches leave, which means waiting until the inevitable event of getting canned by Al, there’s so much ill will between the head coach, his coaching staff, the players, the management, and with Al.  Every time.  It’s the same story.  Even 45 years ago, when he placed himself in the coaching spot, he generated a “write home and tell mama” 55% winning rate.  Compare that to Madden’s 73% winning rate, and you can quickly deduce why Madden is where he is.

At some point, you need to start to wonder.  Ok, forget it.  We’ve known for years.  We’ve stopped wondering.  It’s time for action.  Al Davis stinks.  The Oakland Raiders deserve better.  Raider Nation deserves better.  The City of Oakland desperately needs the Raiders and deserves better.  At 79 years old, do you really think Davis can handle this situation?

Let alone the knowledge that it takes to run an NFL team.  It’s a business.  And, businesses need leaders and structure.  It’s not just a head coach that makes a successful franchise.  Look at all the successful team that won championship or had great runs with winning records.  The winners have strength up and down the organization – from the front office management, the scouts, the coaching staff, the players, and great fan support.  It’s simply the worse kind of management that when something goes wrong for you to point fingers.  Who the hell hired Lane Kiffin anyway?  You’re not going to take any responsibility for putting someone in a position that they were not qualified to do.  And, poor Lane.  Probably a good guy, probably a good coach.  Now, he’s damaged goods.  Hopefully, Kiff will get a spot with an NFL or NCAA coaching staff where he can rebuild his career.  He’s only 33 or 34 years old, so plenty of good times in front of him.  Look at Coach Gruden.  He went on to great things in Tampa Bay — the team that Al traded his coach to.

So, a shout out to Al.  I always admired an owner who could were white sweats and sit in the press box on Sunday afternoons. But look at where things are now.  Give it up.  Sell already.  You don’t have the brains, the capability, or the knowledge of managing an NFL franchise in this era.  You’ll never get it.  You’ve made so many poor decisions (don’t get me started on Jeff Hostetler or Jeff George – oh man, stop me).  And, you’ll never know it, cause your way out of every situation is to blame everyone else but yourself.  Now, the Raiders are off to a new exploration for that dream coach.  How long until this one blows up?

Go U Raiders.  Take a hike Al.

The So-What Reunion

Don’t know how I ended up on an “NFL After the Game”, sports wrap-up show on NBC.  I thought I had read something about this back in June/July.  But now reality settling in, there I was seeing Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, being introduced by the must-be-in-the mix Bob Costas and just one thought came quickly, “oh, Lord.  They didn’t”.  Some sports production exec (Dick Ebersol?) thought that paying a ton a money to re-unite this pair that was popular, original, and damn funny 12 years ago as the “Big Show” would now be a fantastic idea.

After about 30 seconds into their sports news anchorship, a few revelations started to unfold for me:

  1. Why do you need a host for a sports-wrap up show?
  2. Why do you need Bob Costas to host the show?
  3. When in doubt, refer to #1.

Then, a couple more words by Keith Olberman and a few more revelations:

  1. These guys were a lot funnier when they had ESPN story writers, and no production script.
  2. I must have something better to do at this point on Sunday…where did I put the nail clippers?
  3. Aren’t most people so drunk by 4pm (or 7pm eastern) on opening Sunday football day that a show with some babe that knew nothing about football, but wore a bikini standing in front of beach photo, reading verbatim from a tele-prompter would be 1,000 times more popular.
  4. Did I remember to buy carrots at the store? 

I could just hear Dan’s agent talking in the background.  “Dan, quit everything, this will be huge.  You’ll be popular and make more money than ever”.  Nevermind that Dan Patrick’s most recent radio show had been dropping in the ratings.  He also had been writting a column for ESPN The Mag, and he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated, and occasionally humorous.  But, other than that, it’s been a long time since the glory days of the “Big Show” despite being at ESPN for a seemingly quick 18 years.

Olbermann, on other hand, took a much more unpredictable predicament.  Leaving ESPN for a consumerish, political, uncategorizable news job that lacked the punch of his sportscasting days.  Most recent stints includes the Countdown with Keith and co-hosting on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show.  The same one with the falling rankings.  It seemed so weird for Keith to go from the overwhelming popularity on ESPN to the rocky water of general news & politics.  Perhaps he was bored.  Which has now translated to boring.  He was unable to find that edge that Kenny Mayne is now cutting into.

This is the last gasp of desparation for these 2 to work together, led by Dick E. having way too many at the ESPNZone Manhattan one night.  (Probably in celebration that the Olympics were starting soon and NBC was going to be on top of the sports world soon). Somewhere, somebody in the NBC exec neighborhood is so wrapped into their circle of relationships, their lack of creative power leads everyone else to think “where’s the remote”.  To think that I would tune in after already seeing every major highlight of the day during the commercial breaks and in-between huddles of every play in the afternoon game.  This is the worst time slot on gameday Sunday.  Ya know, the time slot where you take a shower, put some fresh clothes on, and check the fridge to see if you have a cold one ready for the Sunday nite game.

Here’s a thought.  Why doesn’t NBC pick 5 homes, apartments, condos, bars, or a parking lot tailgate gathering every week.  At the conclusion of the football games, have a satellite feed and let the real fans do the talking.  Let them talk about their day, their failed last minute line-up changes, their side bets, their nacho recipes.  This would create a social movement around football that would as great as…well, perhaps as great as online fantasy football.  Pick a group of college kids, mid-aged folks, the senior center, the Y, the local bar, whatever and just get people talking. 

You could even have an in-studio anchor run the questions.  Er, just not Bob Costas.