business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There was a sporting event last month that offered an object lesson on just how much the world can change in a very short time, which in turn reminds us all of the need to keep looking ahead.

The event was an unusual boxing match. It paired Floyd Mayweather, one of boxing’s most celebrated participants, and Conor MacGregor, apparently a big name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

At MNB, as you have no doubt noticed, we believe there are lessons in nearly everything. Well, if you simply Google lessons about this fight, you’ll be overwhelmed. The match up of two athletes from arguably different sports was a cause for lessons in risk taking, financial management and more.

I’d like to argue there’s a different lesson though; the speed at which irrelevance arrives. And while this column is about the changes in two sports, it serves a warning to what could happen so quickly with shopping tendencies. That, in turn, reminds us why we must always be looking ahead and finding a way to adjust to a changing society.

So let’s consider those sports.

There was a time not very long ago when boxing was a big deal. Even casual fans knew people like Sugar Ray Leonard. And heavyweight champions from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson were among the most famous people on earth.

Today almost none of us (I’m betting) know who holds that very same heavyweight title. I Googled that question and didn’t recognize any of the four people currently claiming the throne. Boxing and offshoots like mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting still have avid followers, but the sport is largely invisible to the general population.

If the powers that be within the boxing world saw this coming, they did nothing about it. If they didn’t see it coming, they probably weren’t paying attention.

It may be happening again. Although no sport today commands more attention than professional football, there are signs of long-term concern and it has nothing to do with who doesn’t stand during the national anthem or whether Tom Brady and the New England Patriots really cheat.

It’s all about parents and their unwillingness to let their young sons even try the game thanks to the growing fears of head injuries.

A friend of mine who works in the National Football League (NFL) says those youngsters are a constant subject of conversation inside the league. Statistics show youth participation in football peaked in 2009 and has headed steadily downhill since.

As my friend explains, the drop off in youth football is starting to show up at the high school level. Because football requires such large teams, the impact will no doubt move on to the college and then pro levels. Then, well, who knows?

The NFL apparently understands. Rules keep changing to prevent or minimize head injuries; equipment is constantly upgraded; and rubber pellets are now placed on the field to cushion falls. But until parents believe the game won’t threaten the lives and longevity of their kids, the problem remains.

That means 10 or 15 years from now, football’s grip on America’s sports culture could fade fast and badly just as boxing’s did.

To me that’s the lesson from all of this. We need constantly look forward and consider the world of tomorrow’s shoppers, who are far more diverse and tech savvy than anyone today, and try to determine the changes they want before they do.

Otherwise, the road to irrelevance could be way faster than anyone wants to believe.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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