2010 Gold Medal Game: Ecstasy and Agony 

In the newsroom at CSNNE just outside of Boston, I sat at my desk intently watching the United States and Canada duking it out for Olympic gold.  The place was Vancouver, the year 2010.  The task for the U.S., enormous.  The pressure for the Canadians to win the gold medal on home ice, insurmountable. 

Four years later, it remains the best hockey game I have ever seen.  The intense pace, paired with a display of both physical and finesse style from the world’s best on skates created a palpable, electric energy that shot right out of the Rogers Centre, through the television set and into the veins of those watching at home.  

Even when the Canadians led by a score of 2-0, there was never a feeling that the U.S. was out of the running, it was just that close.  When Zach Parise’s goal with a mere 24 ticks on the clock tied the game for the U.S., our skeleton weekend crew at the office erupted in the newsroom.  The feeling of exhilaration for the game itself, and the success of one’s country was phenomenal.  

U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller took a beating in the overtime period, somehow diverting shot after shot, away from the net thus preserving the game and giving his team a chance to pull a massive, upset win.  Miller had, after all, been the most outstanding player throughout the hockey tournament.

There would be no second “Miracle on Ice,” at least not that Sunday afternoon.  Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime.  The best player in the world scored an incredible goal in the most exciting hockey game ever played in the country that birthed the sport.  It was the only way, right? Right.

I sat at my desk, in tears.  

The tears were not because my nation’s team lost.   No, not at all.  The tears were two-fold.  They represented the joy that sport is capable of eliciting and also, the sorrow that it couldn’t last forever.  All good things must come to an end, and boy, that game was fun while it lasted.  

Four years later, just a few days before the Olympic hockey tournament begins, players from both teams reflect back to that Sunday in February.  They remember it as if it were yesterday… 

Memorable Moments: Katarina Witt skates for gold during turbulent times

Yahoo Sports’ “Memorable Moments” franchise is back in action with 10 mini-doc episodes featuring the best moments in Winter Olympics history.

The first episode of the series is about Katarina Witt, one of the greatest figure skaters in the history of the sport.  

"Witt captivated the world with warmth and grace on Olympic ice despite a cold political climate in her native East Germany. During a storied skating career that included heated rivalries and close finishes, Witt transcended athletics becoming a figure of German diplomacy." 

Original Link:  http://sports.yahoo.com/video/memorable-moments-katarina-witt-skates-214837821.html?soc_src=copy

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Public Relations, perception. 
Crisis Management, image repair.
Gatekeepers, buffer zone. 

The role of a Public Relations team is incredibly important in a time of crisis, and boy, can the job be daunting.  It truly does take a village.

Even the staunchest of  Lance Armstrong supporters can no longer deny the the fact that the world’s famous cyclist cheated, as the man who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles finally admitted to doping throughout his professional career in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey. 

After losing everything from medals, to sponsors to his position as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, one might think the unsympathetic and abrasive Armstrong would have little to gain by speaking out. 

"From a PR perspective, it was mission accomplished," according to Lila Brown, the founder of Ella Bee PR, a firm specializing in public relations and social media.

Seriously?? I didn’t exactly come away with that sense of optimism after watching Armstrong’s interview, but perhaps it’s time to frame things differently. 

"Lance accomplished what he set out to do and was controlled throughout most of the interview," says Brown.  "He told us what he wanted the public to know and didn’t go any deeper …He answered the questions that he knew were on everyone’s mind and he didn’t try to offer any excuses… He told us just enough to change the narrative on any further media investigation stemming from a large line of witnesses."

Brown, who represents several athletes, including Olympians Tyler Clary (swimming) and LaShawn Merritt (track & field), is one of many in the PR field tasked with helping shape the public image of their clients. 

When someone like Armstrong has an “image crisis,” a team of creative thinkers has to consider all options, playing the role of lawyer to protect the client.

"I will say that I am more at ease when I know my client is telling the truth and we have fully prepared," Brown says of choosing how much one in her position needs to know. 

A PR pro also must wear the hat of psychiatrist in an attempt to understand how the public will feel after digesting the client’s next move.

"That’s why it is important for a client to be honest from the start. It is my job to make sure the story is accurately communicated."

Just like in an athlete’s day job, practice makes perfect, as repeating situational role play helps ensure the story is communicated in a way deemed “successful” by PR standards.

"I would be concerned with my client speaking off topic and straying off message, but that is why we prepare for tough interviews by anticipating a variety of questions and how to respond," Brown says of the damage control process Armstrong and other celebrities in his situation are put through.  "We tend to understand how the public will accept certain answers. We try everything in our power to be less surprised by anything and know what to expect."

Brown drew the same conclusion as many of us when Lance opted to speak out.  After losing all of his sponsorships, the man needs to find a way to earn a living.  But more importantly in Brown’s eyes, Armstrong wants a lesser punishment than a lifetime ban so he can resume competition, a sentiment Armstrong expressed to Winfrey in the two-part interview. 

After all of the strategy meetings, focus groups, and carefully crafted blueprints aimed at precisely positioning a client, perhaps the most effective move is indeed the one that is least contrived. 

Armstrong needs to, “get back to what made so many people fall in love with him in the first place which is raising awareness for cancer,” says Brown.  Speaking about his personal battle with the disease may be the only credible, authentic chip Armstrong has left to play in the eyes of the public.

"His life’s story outside of cycling has touched so many people so he will need to find a new, sincere and unique way to connect with those affected by cancer."

(To learn more about Lila Brown, and Ella Bee PR, visit http://ellabeepr.com )