Building a Sports Brand, High School Style

Saturday, 1 Jan 2011, 10:27:00 PM

Slav Kandyba

The year that's about to be in the books has been an interesting ride, to say the least, hitting more notes than Rialto-based saxophonist Vaughn D. Fahie, who performed at halftime of the Orange Holiday Classic boys basketball game between Mater Dei and Kentridge this week. If you are thinking, 'why is this relevant to Santa Monica,' let me put it in context. The tournament, in its fourty-sixth year, included the Samohi Vikings boys basketball team this year. When I asked the tournament's director Mr. Abercrombie when the last time Samohi was in the tournament, he asked another organizer and neither could give me an answer. Luckily for me, the previous day Samohi assistant coach Brian Part and I spoke and he shared that Coach Hecht and the Vikings strategy this year has been to put the young team and its budding star, sophomore Jordan Mathews, against not just some, but the best teams on the west coast.

Audacious, right? Well … In the last week of 2010, Samohi found out exactly where they stood, and although they ended up on the wrong side of the win-loss column twice in the Orange Holiday Classic (it could be 2-1 now, I haven't checked this morning's score), the bottom line is that they have stepped up and competed. It's that simple. Now, no one said it would be easy once you stepped up. The Vikings had their work cut out for them from the jump down at Chapman University campus as they faced Squalicum, the back-to-back defending state champs from the state of Washington. The Vikings lost by four but won in experience, no?

Keeping things basketball and on the girls side, the Lady Vikings are on a slightly higher level of competition, having won the CIF regional championship last season. They breezed through competition in two local tournaments before getting the reality check of all reality checks in the form of undoubtedly painful defeats to nationally ranked teams at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix. Still, when I ran into seemingly always droopy-eyed, University of Pacific-bound guard Kristina Johnson on Third Street Promenade a couple days after Christmas, that experience was clearly behind her as I'm sure it is for UCLA-bound guard Moriah Faulk.

Enough about basketball, though. Since I ball myself, I could go on and on about the sport and how I think yours and mine beloved Lakers will not win the championship in 2011. Football in and of Santa Monica has been nothing short of amazing for an assortment of reasons. Up there with the Santa Monica homecoming game against Beverly Hills, which went down to the wire, are moments like St. Monica's improbably 8-2 run and playoff appearance and, of course, the youth football teams... If you read the Mirror, you know how they did down in Orlando. 'Chip, baby.

The first couple weeks of the new year are all about college football, of course. And although the Mirror may not be able to go to Arizona on Jan. 10, rest assured that we'll be right or behind the center of the BCS national championship game between the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers. Much like Amar Pal, a Samohi alumnus who is now a tackle on the San Jose State football team. When Mirror photographer Margaret Molloy and myself ran into him on the Promenade after Christmas, he was already talking about next year's schedule for his team, which includes some of the top teams in major college football. I asked if his coach likes to drive into brick walls, and we both laughed.

So what's the conclusion? In this journalist's opinion, rather than discussing branding – hey, the headline caught your eye, no? – it's really just about going out on that old-fashioned limb. Stepping up, simple plain, a lot like Samohi football head coach Travis Clark's brother-from-another Desean Jackson of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Or Samohi alumnus, assistant baseball coach and professional actor Tony Todd, whose work in the community is nothing if not spectacular.

As this jazz played by Vaughn D. Fahie fills my headphones, stepping up is definitely the theme that resonates.

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