March Madness: Best College Hoop Cities


By John Rezell

Check the calendar. It’s that time again. It’s all about the brackets.

As another NCAA Basketball Tournament draws near college hoop fans get wound up to the max while many others prepare for the one time each year when they have to remember just how a tournament bracket works.

I’ve always been a major college basketball fan. Having grown up in Milwaukee during the golden years of Marquette University basketball, it’s in my blood. I even savored the thrill of traveling to Oklahoma City to watch Marquette play in the 1977 tournament on its way to the championship in Al McGuire’s final season as coach.

The website WalletHub released its  NCAA Tournament Fun Facts infographic and some fun facts about hoop fans, including the best cities for college basketball fans.

To find 2017’s top spots for NCAA hoops, WalletHub crunched the numbers on 291 U.S. cities using seven key metrics ranging from the number of teams per city and the winning percentage of each to stadium capacity and social-media engagement.

Here’s the list of Best Cities:

Chapel Hill, NC
Los Angeles, CA
Durham, NC
Bloomington, IN
Philadelphia, PA
East Lansing, MI
Lawrence, KS
Lexington, K
Storrs, CT
Cullowhee, NC

WalletHub also offers some March Madness Fun Facts:
•    $7.3 Million – Annual salary of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski (6X more than Duke’s president), making him the highest paid college basketball coach.
•    17X – Difference between the average NBA rookie’s salary ($1.99M) and the average value of a college basketball player’s tuition, room and board ($120K).
•    $8.9 Billion – Estimated amount wagered illegally on the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament.
•    3.5 Million – Extra barrels of American beer are produced each March.
•    $66+ Million – Tournament’s impact on Dayton, Ohio’s economy since 2001.

Let the fun begin!

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Attracting Millenials, Las Vegas style

By John Rezell

Back in the day when we lived in Southern California, it wasn’t unusual for us to launch a spur of the moment road trip to Las Vegas.

Even as a somewhat frequent visitors we found it difficult to keep pace with the endless evolution that is known as Vegas. Old stomping grounds quickly became a hole in the ground, soon to be filled with the new and latest attraction that seemed to spring up overnight.

Vegas keeps its finger on the pulse of the public, so when Las Vegas decides to open an eSports Arena, it’s time for sports planners to take note.

The 15- to 34-year-olds in the millennial market are a different breed. As they infiltrate the workforce, their spending power increases. And what interests this fresh generation differs from Xers and Boomers.

Las Vegas has come to understand that millennials are not big on traditional gambling, so it has looked for new approaches to lure them. The eSports Arena is one example.

The 15,000-square-foot eSports venue will host competitive video game tournaments.

“Las Vegas needs to consistently reinvent itself to remain relevant to the up-and-coming generation,” Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and a member of the board of directors of Millennial Esports, the company behind the arena told the AP. “We’ve always come up with ways to maintain our position as the entertainment capital of the world.”

On March 3 the venue will open its doors with a three-day, $50,000-prize-pool Halo World Championship qualifier and it plans to host an EA Sports-sanctioned Madden 17 NFL tournament later this month.

The AP story on the new arena points out the many elements that are focused on attracting millennials. Within walking distance of downtown hotel-casinos, the arena has stadium-style seating overlooking the main stage for 200 with screens showing the live competition in other halls.

The entire facility was built in an area that once housed movie theaters and a nightclub. Yep, the kinda things Xers and Boomers enjoy.

The story also pointed out that “Las Vegas casinos have invested in numerous non-gaming amenities to attract the elusive millennials, from rooms with bunk beds for the young travelers who don’t want to spend a minute apart to a lounge that features pool, foosball and air hockey. The Downtown Grand, a short walk from the new arena, has an e-sports lounge, where tournament competitors, casual gamers and fans play and socialize.”

“The younger people don’t get enamored by the glitz and the glitter of something; it’s all about authenticity for them,” Alex Igelman, CEO of Millennial Esports told the AP.

If you feel like targeting millennials, a road trip to Vegas might we worth it.

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Volleyball Vacations


By John Rezell

An entire volleyball team, coaches and parents packed more than a few tables shoved together at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle a few years ago, when the waiter asked the 14-year-old girls if they had any musical favorites they wanted to hear.

A lot of pop music requests followed, just as he figured, until one gal pipped up, “How about AC/DC’s Thunderstruck?”

The waiter burst out laughing and asked, “Whose daughter is this?”

My wife proudly confessed, and a few minutes later the place was rockin’.

As we closed out the Sports Events Vacations February issue I paused and took a trip down memory lane when driving around to youth volleyball tournaments gave us a chance to explore beyond the gymnasiums of a city.

I’m pretty sure our trip to Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture might have slightly influenced my daughter’s music selection that day. Well, that and more than a couple of AC/DC songs playing on the five-hour drive up from Eugene.


Gazing out across Puget Sound from the top of the Space Needle after a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail, or strolling through an ocean of fresh seafood in the Pike Place Market are great memories of Seattle.

When volleyball took us to San Francisco, we gorged on sensational ice cream at Ghirardelli Square and warmed up from the cold winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean with clam chowder in sourdough bowls at Boudin Bakery.

Fact is, I don’t remember much about the volleyball, per se. The other memories, though, they will last a lifetime.


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Best Valentine Gift: A Workout


By John Rezell

Each Valentine’s Day I’m reminded of the best February 14th present I ever handed out.

Oh, it had nothing to do with chocolates or flowers.

It had everything to do with affairs of the heart.

Only a few months into my role as outdoor columnist for The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, OR, I wrote a column on using February 14th to remind everyone that the best gift you could give anyone in your life is to keep your own heart strong, healthy and ready to live a long, enjoyable life.

I wrote the column and then, of course, went on a hike. I received a few nice notes about it, and it pretty much slipped off my radar.

A little over a year later, I received a letter from a reader. She literally took my column to heart.

She said when she read it that Valentine morning it hit her hard. She used to love hiking and being very active outdoors. Somewhere along the line, life got in the way of that.

So, she cut out that column and placed it on the refrigerator door. Then she began hiking up Spencer’s Butte, a local hiking trail with a challenging climb to the top. She did it religiously, nearly every day for a year.

She wrote me a year later to say thank you. She shed a significant amount of weight, started eating healthier and, more important than anything, she felt good about herself again.

We went on a hike together to celebrate. I took her to one of my favorite waterfalls. Without question, it is one of my best hiking memories.

When you have the honor of writing for an audience, you never quite know who is listening or why. But every once in a while, you get to listen to a heart-warming story that makes you day.

Or, in my case, makes every Valentine’s Day just a bit more special.


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Planners Praise Oregon Sports Summit


Photo courtesy of MatchPoint Photography

By John Rezell

The beauty of sports and those who make it their business is how contagious athletic passion can be. You can literally feel it in a room.

On a cold, rainy February day in Oregon — with ice and snow threatening in the weather forecast, no less — more than 140 sports business enthusiasts gathered at the Valley River Inn for the first Oregon Sports Summit.

The brainchild of Janis Ross, Executive Director of the Eugene, Cascades and Coast Sports Commission, the event focused on giving sports planners of all levels the opportunity to learn, share and grow with sessions throughout the day.

Initially Ross thought the event would be a Lane County endeavor, but as soon as word got out, she received requests from across the state to attend.

That makes perfect sense, since the number of participants in sporting events, the number of events and the number of facilities across the nation continue to grow.

The turnout proves that sports planners are hungry to learn more and grow their properties. With Sports Commissions on the constant search for more business, helping arm planners with information is a great way to create partnerships.

When events grow, the entire industry benefits.

“The inaugural Oregon Sports Summit was a resounding success,” Ross said. “Educational content was outstanding, attendance exceeded goal, and our partners were ecstatic with the connections they were able to make. Our goal is to grow the Summit into an annual, and potentially multi-day, conference.”

Richard Maher, Race Director for the Eugene Marathon, praised the event.

“The Inaugural Oregon Sports Summit was a great opportunity for us at the Eugene Marathon to further engage with our local sports community,” Maher said. “It allowed us to share our knowledge of event production that we have gathered over the years as well as get some new ideas from up and coming events. The breakout sessions covered a wide variety of topics that appealed to all of our staff members. I cannot wait to see how this event grows in the future years.”

Vin Lananna, president of Tracktown USA and the United States Track & Field Association, was the keynote speaker. Lananna talked about the city of Eugene’s rise in the world of track over the past 10 years as the moniker “Tracktown USA” moved from being a local phrase to worldwide recognition.

In the past 10 years Eugene has been host to numerous U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships, a Junior World Championship. The city is preparing to become the first in the U.S. to host the World Championships in 2021.


Photo courtesy of MatchPoint Photography



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Super Bowl: $5 Million for 30 seconds


By John Rezell

Born and raised a Green Bay Packers fan as a child in Wisconsin, I sat on the living room floor some 50 years ago watching the first AFL-NFL Championship game that would later be renamed the Super Bowl.

For the life of me, I can’t remember any of the commercials. That’s because commercial time was saved for a full-on screaming and hollering debate about the game.

My, how things have changed.

The cost of for a Super Bowl commercial is up to $5 million, according to Ball State University telecommunications professor Dom Caristi.

Yes, for $5 million you get a shot at grabbing the attention of the huge audience for half a minute. That’s up from $4.8 million last year.

Kantar Media, a global market research company, estimates the cost to advertise during the Super Bowl has increased by 76 percent over the last decade, generating about $2.59 billion for the NFL from 2007 to 2016.

Caristi reports that a major change this year for viewers is that Fox, which is broadcasting and streaming the game, will insert local commercials into online viewing of Super Bowl LI

“While this might just look like the natural progression of video to the web, it marks a major milestone,” Caristi said. “Instead of losing viewers to the Internet, local over-the-air television stations will still have local audiences see their commercials. Fox will make it possible for local stations to reap the financial benefit of online viewing, allowing them to charge advertisers in their local markets.”

Fox Sports will broadcast Super Bowl LI on Fox Sports GO, the streaming platform that showcases all of Fox Sports’ live events and studio programming.

Caristi noted that about 170 Fox affiliates are partnering with Fox Sports to program local digital ads.

“This will be a nice shot in the arm for local Fox affiliates,” Caristi said. “Many people watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than the actual game. So, people will pay attention when the local advertisements pop up.”

Maybe, if they don’t save that commercial time for debates.


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Electric Football

By John Rezell

Imagine for a moment waking up as a small child on Christmas morning and running downstairs to find the tree dark and house more than a little chilly.

If you are really imagining this scenario through the eyes of a child, then you know the lighting and temperature are irrelevant. What matters are presents. And there are plenty beneath the tree.

When I think back to Christmases past, very few revolve around sports. My birthday lands in June, so warm weather and summer vacation bring plenty of sports presents. Christmas, for me, not so much.

On this particular morn, a Christmas Eve blizzard knocked out the power in the area, thus no lights and no heat. Needless to say, it didn’t matter. At first.

We dug into the presents as kids usually do. Then Mom handed me a big flat box. I had no idea what it was, so I ripped it open with a little added energy.

It took me a minute to figure it out. Then it hit me. Electric Football.

Growing up in Wisconsin during the Packers Glory Years, it didn’t get much better than this. Football was king. Neither team was painted. One team was white. One team yellow.

Without hesitation, I decided to pin a number on one player. I peeled off No. 24 from the decals and planted on the back of a yellow player. Willie Wood came alive.

We spent the next few hours playing with everything else under the tree while slowly adding layers of clothing. I never remember another Christmas without electricity. Nor a Christmas when electricity was in such dire need.

Eventually the electricity came back on, and a nanosecond later, the game began to vibrate. As players zoomed all around the field, I focused on No. 24. One of my heroes, the only Packer I honored with a number, Willie Wood, simply spun around and around in circles like a top, going no where, but certainly standing out from the rest.

Ah, the memories.

More than a few years later, another Wisconsin blizzard just after Christmas paid big dividends. My buddy Jack and I spent the better part of three days wandering around the neighborhood shoveling driveways and getting paid handsomely.

After putting my required portion of loot in the bank, I had enough to buy myself anything I wanted. We went straight to Sears where I got an update Electric Football Game, complete with painted players. The New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.

We didn’t quite take it to the level some people do (you can watch this youtube video to see true obsessions with Electric Football But inside was a catalog where you could order other teams.

Eventually, I had six or seven teams. The teams we didn’t like, we repainted ourselves. We had a league in the neighborhood with six teams. It was great fun. Eventually we repainted every team.

I had the teams packed away somewhere for decades. Last Christmas my little brother surprised me with a new Electric Football Game. Ah, the memories …

Do you have a Christmas sports memory to share? Let us know!

Contact John Rezell, Executive Editor, at
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