January 2011

I love football.  This week is football’s biggest game and while my team didn’t even make the playoffs, I’m looking forward to watching the Super Bowl.  I’m no casual fan – I watch two, three, four, sometimes even five NFL games a week.  It’s a bit of an addiction.  I’m saying all of this as disclaimer to let you know that I am not condemning the Super Bowl.  I do, however, want to present some facts to put our obsession with the Big Game into perspective.  Here are some facts rounded up by Reuters about the Super Bowl coupled with some other data I dug up to put it into perspective.


* Spending in the United States alone on Super Bowl-related merchandise, apparel, and snacks is expected to reach $10.1 billion this year according to a survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.  Compare that with the $11.3 billion that UNICEF estimates it would take to provide clean water to the entire world.


* Fox is charging advertisers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo, Walt Disney, and General Motors Co, an estimated $2.8 million to $3 million for 30-second spots in this year’s Super Bowl.  That’s $2.8 – $3 million for EACH commercial! 

* From 2001 through 2010, the Super Bowl has accounted for over seven hours of commercial time, representing more than $1.62 billion of network advertising sales, according to Kantar Media.  Those seven hours of commercials generated more revenue than the entire GDP of 135 countries last year!  That means for all of 2010, 135 countries produced less revenue than seven hours of Super Bowl commercials.


* Football fans are expected to eat an estimated 69.6 million pounds of avocados during the Super Bowl, according to the Hass Avocado Board.  That’s enough to cover Cowboys Stadium field in almost 27 feet of avocados.  Holy guacamole!  At least it’s a healthy fat.


* On the secondary market, ticket prices have soared, hitting an average of $4,375 on January 26, FanSnap said.  That’s about twice the average annual American household charitable giving amount of $2,213 according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Again, I love the Super Bowl and football in general, but if we committed just a fraction of this attention and treasure to things that are more significant, we could see some tremendous changes in the world.


Here’s a little more detail on my trip to Nicaragua.  I flew down a day earlier than I originally planned in order to get out ahead of the winter storm that hit the South.  It’s a good thing too because one of the other guys that was flying out of Atlanta on Monday got stuck in the snowpocalypse and didn’t make it to Nicaragua until Thursday!

I flew into Managua where I was greeted by a humid, 90 degree breeze.  We managed to rent a vehicle with very broken Spanish and made the two-hour drive north to Jinotega.  Nicaragua has a beautiful landscape and it is a very enjoyable ride once you get out of the craziness of driving in Managua.  Jinotega is situated in the mountains, so the climate is much milder there.  Most of the time we were there, the daytime highs were in the mid to upper 70s and the nighttime lows were in the upper 50s – not bad for the middle of winter!

Our interpreter, who is the son-in-law of the pastor of the church we are working with in Jinotega, arranged meetings with various village leaders.  We spent most of our time driving out to remote areas where we met with the leaders to gain their trust and speak with them about their needs.  For the most part, we concentrated on clean water.  Many of the villages have water, but they don’t have clean water.  This results in a lot of sickness that they consider to be the norm.  Severe diarrhea is just accepted as a fact of life.  In some cases, it is so severe that it leads to death – often for children and infants.

One village had a nice well, an electric pump, an electric meter next to the pump, and a nice filtration system.  They were literally a flip of a switch away from clean water.  However, they didn’t have the $300 they needed to get a permit that would allow them to tap into the electric meter.  As a result, they walked to another water source that was not as clean and more difficult to reach… and have been doing so for six years since the well was completed.  I know $300 may not sound like much to you or me, but for them $300 means six years of walking a long distance everyday to haul back water that may kill them or their children.

We visited a medical clinic in Dantanli.  This was one of the most difficult parts of the trip.  When we got there, about 30 or 40 mothers and children were waiting outside the clinic, but there was no doctor to see them.  A lady who ran an orphanage in Jinotega told us those mothers would walk up to two hours with their sick children to come to the clinic not knowing whether there would be any medicine or qualified medical personnel when they arrived.  Sometimes they would be given a couple of ibuprofen and walk two hours back to their homes.  While we were there, I saw a chart on the wall that showed a chart of the sickness and deaths of the people who came to the clinic – a grim reminder of how much work remains to be done in this area.  There was a very high spike of pneumonia and diarrhea last summer – a result of a particularly wet rainy season that led to flooding and contamination of water sources.

It really expands your world when you witness this kind of poverty firsthand.  At one of the villages, children came running out when we arrived in our truck.  At first they were interested in us, but soon their attention turned to the truck… particularly the rear view mirrors.  Many of these children had never seen their own faces before. 

Interestingly, amid the poverty and dire circumstances in which most of these people live, there is an underlying happiness.  Families and friends are very close.  Children are content to play with an old bicycle inner tube and a stick.  Most of them have no idea what they do not have… and that brings them contentment.  If you’ve never experienced a trip like this before, your world may be too small.  Today, 2.6 billion people (two-thirds of the world’s population) lives on less than $2 a day.  There is a very big world out there and we will never change it if we never experience it.

I had a great trip to Nicaragua.  I’m trying to catch up now, so I won’t write much.  Instead, enjoy this video I put together of some my pictures from the trip.


I’m supposed to be in Nicaragua (unless I get snowed in at the ATL airport), so there will be no posting this week.  I’ll give you all an update when I return.

I start the final semester of my MBA classes when I get back from Nicaragua next week.  This final semester includes a capstone course in business strategy that is supposed to be very time consuming.   With a new job and a couple of young kids, it’s going to be a busy semester.  In an effort to free up some time, my television choices will be more selective this year.

The first one to go will be American Idol.  First, I just can’t make a two to three night a week commitment to a television show.  Then there’s those painfully drawn out results shows that consume an hour’s worth of programming to deliver 5 seconds worth of information.  Finally, I just don’t see how J-Lo and the assemblage of collagen, Botox, and spray tan that was once Steven Tyler will be anywhere near as entertaining as Simon’s smugness.

It seems that so many of our time-wasters are simply bad habits.  Television, like surfing the internet, video games, and smartphones can be a major time waster and a very bad habit.  Don’t  get me wrong… I’m not one of those people who completely shuns television and unwinds in the evenings by doing yoga while writing poetry.  Chances are, neither are you.  Several studies show that one or two comedies per night can actually reduce stress and improve your mood (thank you, Community and Modern Family).  The key is knowing how to maintain some moderation.

Most activities culminate at a natural stopping point.  I work out until I’m exhausted… I eat until I’m full… I sleep until my alarm goes off (actually, I always wake up a minute or two before it goes off – very annoying).  Television isn’t like that.  In fact, programmers do everything they can to keep viewers from going away.  I’m sure you can think of several instances when you had plans to go to bed early, start a new book, get in some exercise, or do some housework and instead fell into a trance in front of your television.  I know I’m guilty.  I’ve just gotten into the habit of watching TV at night – every night.  Even if it means watching reruns; I continue to feed my habit.

Think about those reruns.  If television can be a waste of time, watching a show that you’ve already seen has got to be a horrible use of the limited time we have.  Well, I’m putting my foot down.  No more Idol for me.  I will be totally out of the loop when people start talking about this year’s “Pants On the Ground” but I’ll manage somehow.  If Simon can give up Idol, then so can I!