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3.29.18 – SPOKES Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Charlie Gallmeyer

President Renwick Brutus opened the meeting by reading a thank you note from Rick Snyder.  The Governor appreciated the warm reception he received at his recent Rotary presentation at our club.  Michael Sytsma relayed thanks from Meijer Service Above Self Award winner Shelly Irwin for her “community high.”

Christine Lindeman introduced guests and visiting Rotarians.  Chelsea Dubey announced that the Community Engagement committee is sponsoring a tree-planting project.  Rotary International has challenged all members to plant 1.2 million trees (one per member) this year, so we will join with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss as the city strives to become greener on April 28.  Registration is on the mayor’s website.

Jim White introduced Rotarian Tim Selgo, who spoke on the topic “If I were the Czar of Sports.”

Sports have become a huge industry over the past several decades, with enormous sums of money involved.  There have been some positive developments, such as significant dollars raised for charitable causes.  But these benefits have come at a cost, namely longer games and declining public interest.

Many games today can take three hours or more to complete, and studies show that they are losing an audience among younger people.  Tim is convinced that the tendency of Millennials to leave the game early isn’t just a sign of a short attention span, but rather the direct result of the commercialization of sport.  Games that don’t allow extensive time outs, such as soccer and college softball, are bucking the trend and attracting larger audiences.

While it would be nice to limit media time outs for commercial purposes, this is probably not realistic.  Yet there are other opportunities to speed things up, such as limiting coach’s time outs, trips to the mound, etc.

The financial optimization of sport has had negative effects in colleges as well.  Sports Education has become a money-making enterprise for colleges and universities, rather than the professional calling it used to be.  Coaches earn big bucks training tomorrow’s professional athletes, which tends to distract them from the real job of educating the 98% of college athletes who aren’t involved in men’s football or basketball.  Tim held up Athletic Departments at schools like Iowa State and Notre Dame, which have reinvested significant amounts in their school’s non-sports education efforts.  This should become the norm all across academia.

Tim sees a future of change in organized spectator sports.  Venues will have to find better ways to make themselves accessible to patrons, with better parking and stadium access.  Technology will influence sports preferences: past and current favorite games like baseball and football will yield to games that incorporate new technology.  E-sports is easily the fastest growing sports activity, especially among the young.  Tim sees this as just a variation on the developments of the ‘50’s, when TV caused our sports culture to change dramatically.  Technology will also change existing sports, as we learn of new ways to make games safer.  Tim cited the Q-30 collar, used in football to restrict blood flow to the brain after a major impact, as an example.

Tim ended his talk early to answer questions, but had to stay after the meeting because of all the discussion that ensued.   President Ren presented Tim with a certificate of appreciation noting that a clean water filter will be installed in a family’s home in Nicaragua.  Tim was quick to point out that this type of effort is even more important than sports for making the world a better place.

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