Every-Thing Sports

Coronavirus: How it's impacting sports

fda.gov

When some people go to work, they go into an actual building or office of some type. Generally, you work with and around other people. There's always "water cooler talk" that takes place discussing the topics of the day that are most pressing. It could range anywhere from sports to politics to pop culture to whatever is hot in the news cycle. Lately, it's been the coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus originated in China and has spread all over the globe. It's similar to the flu, but has some differences. Nonetheless, it's still deadly and can be highly contagious unless proper precautions are taken.

Proper precautions being taken is what led me to this article in the first place. So many people let the media's coverage control their thinking. There's been reports of widespread outages of common items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, hand soap, water, and other various items you'd normally see on shelves. Price gouging is rampant as well. I've seen disinfectants, cleaners, bleach, and other necessities to combat the spreading of the virus go for as much as ten times their normal value! So how is it effecting sports?

Games without fans

Italy is one of the countries that have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Italian based Serie A, one of the top soccer leagues in the world, has suspended all non-essential personnel to its matches, meaning, they have no fans and very few others in attendance. Other leagues around the world have similar statutes in places, or have canceled events altogether. Several non-sporting events have been canceled as well. Not all events have been this restricted or canceled however...

Restrictions in place

There are other restrictions placed upon other events that haven't been canceled. For example, media access to locker rooms have been instituted. Some leagues have mandated that the media will only be allowed to interview players in general media availibility before and/or after games instead of the locker room access. Players have self-imposed restrictions as well. C.J. McCollum of the Trailblazers came out and said he isn't signing autographs for the time being after the outbreak hit Oregon.

More potential fallout

When the NBA came out and said they may play games without non-essential personnel, LeBron James strongly disagreed. He went as far as saying he wouldn't play because he does it for the fans. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were thought to be in danger until the IOC came out and said the games will be played. Some organizations state-side have taken precautions, but no major cancellations or serious changes as of yet. There's been talk of making changes. I imagine leagues are monitoring the situation and will act accordingly.

All we can do as the public is stay calm and well-informed. All the unnecessary stuff, like clearing the shelves at stores and price gouging, needs to stop. Sports serve as a respite from our lives. If we can't have sports to serve as an escape, what do we have? Thank God sports radio hasn't been affected...yet. The fact that I even felt compelled enough to write this was too much for me. Sports is the one thing that helps us get through tough times. If those tough times begin to effect how and/or how much we consume our sports, you know things are getting bad. Bottom line: be careful, stay well-informed, and wash your nasty ass hands!

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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