The Art of Sport in Miami

Getting to know Miami as a home is great if you like most kinds of sports. Watersports – you name it, you got it. Team sports – yes sir. Miami’s always on, always open, cosmopolitan culture seems to beg you to try, or even invent, new ways to entertain an active lifestyle.

Many forms of urban art seem to engage others very much in a sporty fashion. Take the Wynwood Art District for example. Where else would graffiti art move from a reputation of defacing buildings, to a concrete celebration of art mural designs? Somehow, Miami culture has found a way to market the edge from a once edgy neighborhood.

Wynwood at night

Getting to know these districts is much like the food – one must explore the unknown and try new things. To be sure, Little Havana or Coral Gables will give you all that you desire from Cuban-American cuisine, art, and style. So many hidden gems hold cultural curiosities that it often feels like Miami is mostly about this international upbringing.

However, this city of six million also holds much sophistication beyond the layers of beach living, good times, and casual salsa. A restaurant trip to Brickell Key, at Azul, landed me a fine evening bayside with one of the bottles from my favorite Burgundian wine producers: Vincent Girardin. As this image relates, it can be hard to match the urban elegance that places like the Mandarin Hotel offer this Latin gateway.

Chances are that if there’s something you’re not seeing right now in Miami art, it’s likely under construction. If Brickell had an official city mascot, it would be the orange traffic cone. Past the gardens and fine places like History Miami, we can expect a plethora of new or improved museums, performing arts centers, and galleries. Miami also knows how to carry an international exhibition with flair and fashion. Art Basel is perhaps America’s most important art auction these days.

It feels like everyone in Miami is hungry to try new things in both sport and art. Whether it is an excuse to be in water, or a real pursuit of new hobbies, the fusion of bay, bodies, and spirits creates a unique urban blend. My latest sport of choice? Paddleboarding, of course. What’s after that? Who knows? But on windy days, those windsurfing and sailing schools look pretty attractive as well. My latest art purchase was found at the Coconut Grove Art Festival. Just like downtown, it was a collage of vibrant colors that seem to flow like water. If you’re looking for either sport or art, it’s worth your weekend to get to South Florida to check it out for yourself.

The Super Bowl Really Is Super for Media Broadcast

Each year during the Super Bowl, I am reminded of how wonderful it is to be an American.  Here, I have had the privilege to work with the late Lamar Hunt who coined the idea for this awesome event.

Thanks to my monthly appearances on Fox & Friends, my schedule afforded me the opportunity to see a part of what made New York media moguls excited to host the game at MetLife Stadium. Continue reading

Listening to that Inner Voice: Was it John Ratzenberger’s?

One of the great things about traveling across America for a national book tour is the wide diversity of people that you meet.  Recently, I had occasion to meet the actor of one of my legendary shows growing up – none other than Cliff Clavin.
Travis H. Brown & John Ratzenberger, New York City, May 2013

Travis H. Brown and John Ratzenberger – New York City, May 2013

During the 1980’s, long before the internet television and digital media, weeknight America turned to Cheers.  This broadcast helped us laugh, by helping us forget about our lives for a while.  During times of stress, these lead characters were known enough to even help us through tough times in America.

Although he introduced himself as a retired postmaster, his real name off-stage is John Deszo Ratzenberger.  Born in Bridgeport, CT, he still has a home there.  A conservative voice to promote economic liberty in Connecticut, it was a true pleasure to discuss arts, entertainment, and entrepreneurship with him briefly while at an event in New York City.  One of the interesting pleasures of meeting an entertainer such as John is going back to realize just how many other roles that you had forgotten he had played.  As a big Star Wars fan, I had missed his appearance on Empire Strikes Back as Bren Derlin (picture below).
John Ratzenberger
Now, his incredible Pixar Studios career stands as an example to anyone in show business:  work hard, take any job, and be grateful.  Work ethic in show business seems like a principle that can get lost in the details.  For me, it was pleasant to see John reminding young minds that professional careers are a privilege, not a right.
Perhaps his voice actor role that best matches this reinforcement of role and hard work was when he performed Mack in Cars:
“Endless days on the road and sleepless nights criss-crossing the country… For some this life would quickly grow old. But not Mack. No sir. Mack knows how important his role is. He’s driving Lightning McQueen, the world’s fastest racecar. He’s part of a team, and everybody knows there’s no I in team, just like there’s no I in Mack[1]”
Pixar Studios is now the most successful studio in Hollywood.  It’s no surprise that most (if not all) of their films has a John Ratzenberger voice somewhere in the plot.  For the rest of us involved with digital media, there’s much to learn from Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling.  I will keep listening, John.  Thank you.

Learning the Sport of Self-Publishing

The quest to publish your own book can be quite daunting.  First there is the idea, the main story that must be extracted from your brain.  Then the ordering, sequencing, negotiating, and editing of it all.  Then comes the lobbying, arm-twisting, and knuckle-busting process of getting your copies digitized, printed, and distributed.  It’s easy to see why many authors are worn out even before they start any promotions or book signings.

If you have an idea for a book, do it anyway.  Follow your passion.  Make your voice heard.  Just like an artist or entertainer, it is really gratifying to see the light on someone else’s eyes when they appreciate your message.

Along my early path of book promotions for CNBC studio, I had occasion to see something that New York does best:  broadway theater.  While waiting to watch “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” I noticed that a key subject found within my book (How Money Walks) is found within the Playbill.  The State of Florida, on which I have dedicated an entire chapter (covering their $86 billion in net AGI gained), has a several page spread covering why the Sunshine State is great.

Once you start your book tour, you see evidence and linkages for your book everywhere that you travel.  I guess that is normal for a marketing brain.  In any event, the Tennessee Williams play wasn’t bad either.

Running like a Cowboy

Last week, during our @HowMoneyWalks book tour along the East Coast, I had the privilege of meeting NFL legend Emmitt Smith.  We were both moving in and out of Fox News for the Friday morning broadcast.  In my case, I was lobbying for all Americans to understand how money walks between the states.  In his case, I believe that he was also promoting a few endorsed brands.

What I respect greatly about someone like Emmitt is that he appears to have thought beyond his athletic years to apply his celebrity appearance to other dimensions.  Many professional athletes often miss how fast their first career may expire.  However, a few of the greats, like Roger Staubach or Emmitt Smith in Dallas, have found ways to diversify their careers through real estate investing, brand endorsements, and new coalitions.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity with assist with many hall of fame sports legends closer to home in Saint Louis, Missouri.   Every one of us needs to run like a cowboy to make our voices heard.

Pitching Jefferson City Missouri State Capitol Art

By Lobbyist Travis H. Brown

Every year, for at least five months or more, professional lobbyists like me wear out a few pairs of shoes working the granite halls of Jefferson City’s Missouri State Capitol.  Having passed more than 10,000 logged hours there just over the last decade alone, it is easy to overlook many of its arts and cultural attractions that give advocates a working office that is also one of America’s greatest living museums.

However, during the summer months when the State Legislature is not in session, the walls of Missouri’s social history told by our finest genre artists seem to speak with a greater voice.  Maybe it is because my mind is not as bound on multi-tasking from debating legislation, moving from committee hearing to floor action, or hosting the next Saint Louis or Kansas City in-bound client.  It could also simply be from the relative absence of humanity that energizes the Missouri General Assembly.  Without 163 members running in and out of their offices, to appropriations meetings, to press conferences or public policy meetings, it is as if the building’s presence shifts from hotel concierge to more of a wandering tourist.

Perhaps, as an oil painter myself, it is my recognition for how hot the House Gallery must have been for Thomas Hart Benton.  More than 80 years ago, it is easier to imagine why more than a few State Senators or State Representatives might have scoffed at the nature of his art work.  However, a deal was a deal – Benton could paint anything he desired within his two year deadline, provided that it had relevance to Missouri’s social history.  There have many days where visiting trade groups or business associations were caucusing about their Capitol Day in this very gallery, only to be interrupted by many others passing through.   Imagine the curious smell of Benton’s 35 dozen eggs that he used to make his mural in the heated months of June, July, and August.  Imagine listening to the comments from his fellow State Senators who wondered why painting a baby’s diaper at a political town hall would have been more justified than discussions of the old Confederacy.  The scaffolding mess that Benton eventually concluded must have seemed a lot like the first public reactions to the Eiffel Tower.

Thankfully for all Missourians and our tourists, these unique works have survived the test of time despite early criticisms.  If you are not one of our frequent guests returning to speak, lobby, visit, or vote within our State Museum, then I can recommend to you this book worth exploring by Priddy and Hall.  This book is an excellent coffee table display of how Jefferson City lobbied for and secured one of America’s greatest public art collections of our day.

Exploring the Life of Lithographs

By Travis H. Brown

This month, I noticed that the Milwaukee Art Museum is featuring their “Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries” special exhibition from June 1st until September 9th, 2012.  I am not aware if this collection will be coming to the Saint Louis Art Museum, but I would certainly lobby hard to have it there.

Several years ago, I negotiated the purchase of a few antique lithograph posters used for advertising from the 1890’s into the early 1900’s.  I find these advertising posters intriguing because their widespread European use helped modernize mass marketing campaigns during the industrial revolution.

The art techniques behind lithography is also a bit of a lost art, since it usually starts with oil and water cast over large limestone tablets.  One of my posters is from the famed Italian Leonetta Cappiello, celebrating another favorite sommelier topic – absinthe.    Cappiello’s use of black for large contrasts may have helped spread the popularity of his style since they were often easier to scan from a distance.

While some lithographs are still used, it seems to take more effort to find it today.  The Smithsonian Associates Art Collectors Program has a few examples that I like, such as this commissioning of the National Air & Space Museum “History of Flight” tribute.

To find more historical works in Saint Louis, Missouri, it is always worth a look at the Missouri History Museum’s  Guide to the Photographs and Prints Collection of the Missouri Historical Society.  Southeast Missouri State University also has some lithograph works in Cape Girardeau, but I have yet to view those in person.

Even the famed Missourian Thomas Hart Benton has a few lithographs on displays, which have been featured in my hometown of Ste. Genevieve in past years.  The next time you see a reproducted print as a poster, think about whether a lithographer helped bring this image to life.

Lessons Learned from the Colosseum

By Travis H. Brown
The rise and fall of civilizations is a government policy topic that should never grow old.  Buried deep within these quests for immortality are many civic lessons that do repeat themselves.  Recently I had the chance to see Rome’s Colosseo, it was an impressive reminder that our hunger games for gladiators have not changed that much in 2,000 years.

The Colosseum survival, despite the dark ages, earthquakes, and the many pilferings of its bones commands respect for its architects and engineers.  Working in and around professional sports franchises in football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, it is amazing to me that some aspects of modern stadium design still do not rival the elegant utility of Nero’s “golden house.”

As a proud Tiger Scholarship Fund supporter of Mizzou Arena, I cannot match the ease of exits with the  “voms” used in ancient Rome.  As a Kansas City Chiefs Football Club lobbyist during the public’s restoration campaign, the plans were never able to include a sliding roof option like that of the Colosseo (even though one has been offered since the 1960’s).  Even though we may think of Scottrade’s change to an ice hockey floor dramatic, it may pale in comparison to the water sets used in the basement floors of the Colloseum.

The elusive nature of satisfying sports fans as consumer tastes change makes it even more difficult in the modern times of ESPN, smart phones, and fantasy leagues.  In the days of Emperor Vespasian, he had public funds available to build what the people were deemed to deserve on his own terms.

Now, we have teams of lawyers, public officials, and a frenzied media list to answer before such projects begin.  Some teams, like our beloved Green Bay Packers, have much community ownership due to their public stock that fans hold dear.  Others must face their State Legislatures during good times and bad to negotiate a compromise like the Minnesota Vikings this year.

In the times of Caesar, it would have been though impossible to move their sports games outside the center city walls of Roma.  Today, in Saint Louis, Missouri, it is conceivable that the Saint Louis Rams Football Club could move within or beyond the metropolitan region if contract terms are not solved by 2014-2015.  That is why our Saint Louis Convention & Visitors Bureau has their hands full trying to negotiate a balanced deal for our dome that was once graced by the Pope.

While there will remain many reasons to be critical of public subsidies with these ventures, it seems that, despite augmented reality and video gaming, our human experience will still want to feel the noise of an actual arena.  That’s especially good news for our modern day sports Caesar, Jerry Jones.

If Caesar could have been cryogenically frozen and thawed, there’s little doubt that he would demand to see “where we play out our games.”  Perhaps Dallas has laid out an independence day megaplex that someone will want to walk in two thousand years from now as well.  Fantastico!