Country is kookoo for Coco Gauff

Nike is the dominant brand in the sports world
July 9, 2019

Kookoo for Coco - I watched the improbable comeback win July 5 in the third round of Wimbledon as 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff came back to win 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 against Polona Hercog of Slovenia, the same Slovenia that is home to Melania Trump, sometimes dubbed the Slovenian Sphinx – a cool nickname – because of her stoic appearance. Coco, ranked 313th in the world, has earned $200,000 with her Wimbledon wins, and she’s won the heart of America. The round of 16 began Monday, July 8, past deadline for this column. Coco faced 27-year-old Simona Halep, a Romanian, who’s the French Open champion and ranked seventh in the world. The tennis world was surely watching and shouting “Coco,” which easily translates into all languages as Coco! 

Nike plays to base - Branding and politicalization of sports is the tutti-frutti snow cone of the new millennium, which ain’t new. Like a rainbow over the White House, the world moves in sharply contrasted colors with more fissures than subterranean California. I watched all the Women’s World Cup games that were televised. Exquisite athletes and unbelievable technology; the slow-motion replays were poetry in motion, to quote the Johnny Tillotson hit from 1960. And somehow Megan Rapinoe’s dislike for the president coalesced with the Colin Kaepernick crusade against injustices. Then came Nike’s Betsy Ross shoes being pulled and the outrage from the Skechers demographic. On Sunday night, I watched the Men’s Gold Cup final from Soldier Field in Chicago between the United States and Mexico, won by Mexico 1-0. A fast and furious, no-playing-around game. But what struck me was the Nike swoosh on all USA uniforms and the marketing of the limited-edition Gold Cup Kit intended to inspire national pride – a red, white and blue jersey with “One Nation” detailed on the left shirt sleeve and “One Team” on the right. In a parallel sports universe, NBA free agents chase big money helped by Nike’s $1 billion eight-year deal in 2015. Nike is also the official uniform of the NFL. Nike and affiliated brands control more than 90 percent of the basketball shoe market in the USA, with many of the NBA’s biggest stars on board like LeBron, Kobe, KD, Kyrie and Russell. The irony of the agony for the angry politicized sports fan is you can be in one base while simultaneously being off base, what marketing agents call beyond the demographic.

Little EPO - The Tour de France has begun if you’re home in the early morning with no job and want to take a European vacation without leaving the house. I’d love to ride the Tour de France on a Vespa just hanging out inside the peloton next to those biker bodies. I’m sure I’d be nicknamed three-wide, but that’s OK; I could carry my camera and rep my branded message, “I came for the B game.” 

Runners run - I covered three races over four days (all Races2Run), which totaled 836 runners. I describe it as my upside-down lifestyle. I sleep at night and prowl in the morning. Each race is a happy hour for me minus the beer. The Red, White and Blue 5K race benefitted the Rehoboth Beach Country Club caddie scholarship program, the Kelly Fritchman 5K proceeds went to the UD swim scholarship named in her honor, and the Dewey Beach Liquors 5K benefited the Dewey Beach lifeguards. A total of 35 states were represented in these three races.  

Stat Cats - The biggest bozos on the planet can multitask on a cellphone, which doesn’t mean they ain’t clueless to a bigger world spinning around their planet-shaped head. “Stat geek” is an earned designation. I have run into them in sports press boxes for decades – people who know numbers while missing the game in front of them. Here’s a simple two-sentence paragraph from after the Mets beat the Phillies Saturday night. “Arrieta became only the second pitcher ever to allow at least 11 hits and hit at least three batters in less than five innings. The other, Carl Doyle of the Brooklyn Dodgers, gave up 14 runs in a 23-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1940.” Who needs to know that? The answer is nobody.     

Snippets - “Your teacher preaches class like you’re some kind of jerk. You gotta fight for your right to party” – Beastie Boys (1986). The backdrop is that the song was written as a total goof on the group that danced to it and embraced the message. Our local kids grow up surrounded by vacation culture and a nonstop party, and many are ensnared by it because “The road goes on forever and the party never ends” until you’re some middle-aged loser drunk on the Rudder deck on a Thursday night. Go on now, git!