#1 - Story of the Pro Athlete and The Fan
There's this really famous story, see, about Stan Musial from the St. Louis Cardinals- a Hall of Famer, yes?
You might not know about Stan Musial, because you prob'ly weren't alive when he played ball in St. Louis, but he was goshdarn near to one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game and no slouch on defense, neeeether. Nope. One year, (think it were '47 er .48 or so) he hit somethin' like .376 with 39 homers and 131 ribbies or somethin' like that...there.
Story goes that one day, afore a game started, Stan was near the dugout of the Cardinals, mindin' his own beeswax, tossin' a ball up in the air, ketchin' it and tossin' it back again. This guy with his little kid, young'un about seven years old or so, came to the rail by the dugout and the kid began yellin' "Mr Musial, Mr. Musial!" Well, he caught Stan's eye - see Stan was just a regular guy, grew up in the steel town of Donora PA, and made it to the Bigs by talent, and made a little bit of money but he was a man (and is a man) with a big big heart. So, see, this kid catches his attention and Stan the Man (that was his nickname, see) comes over to talk to the kid and his dad. He autographs the ball and then the kid, bein' just a kid and not knowin' that you don't ast baseball player big shots this - sez, "Mr Musial, will you come to my birthday party tonight?"
Well, the dad turns red as a beet, which can be good for you I s'pose, but Stan Musial looked that kid square in the eye and sez, "sure, kid. Write down your address. What time?" When he got the address and the time, he took his leave and went off to throw baseballs and be a god again - a god from Donora PA that is.
Well, the dad, knowin' his boy was going to be disappointed, said to him,"hey, you know, Mr. Musial is a very busy and important man, so he probably won't come." The kid hung his head so low he could see the underside of his shoes.
Well, round about 7:00pm, the birthday party was well underway, cuz you know how 7 year olds can be, and there wuz this knock - at the door ackshully. Dad went to answer it.
You cud guess the rest.
Yup. Stan Musial came to the birthday party of the kid.
True story. You could look it up.
#2 - Story of the Pro Athlete and The Fan(s)
This is the story of Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptor's power forward and his desire to be on the all star team and to meet his fans. How? This YouTube video on his drive to be on the All Star team. This has been viewed 454,241 times as of today; rated 1993 times; commented 1768 times, favorited 1898 times. According to Sports Illustrated this week, Bosh, who is a self-professed geek (even has a technology company, Max Deal Technology, which does solutions for high-end clientele, primarily in entertainment and sports. (Not bad for a great shooting, strong defending, All Star forward).
More numbers: December 27, 2007 - 313,983 All Star Votes. Released the YouTube video January 2008. Voting closed January 21, 2008 - 838,498 All Star Votes.
He has a MySpace page
Thing is how Chris sees all this stuff. Same SI article says he sees all of this as a "great way to connect with the fans."
#3 - Story of the Pro Athlete & The Fan - The Analyst (Not the Fan) In Me Shoots and Scores...No, Wait...Shoots...Off His Mouth
The eras are strikingly different. The means and methods entirely alien to each other. Even the psyches and cultures don't jive at all.
Stan Musial - humble, no publicity (no PR agent) - just connecting with the fans the way that he thought best - making a 7 year old boy turning 8, happy. Chris Bosh - not humble at all, getting twenty-five minutes of fame - connecting with fans with a giant, very funny public display (the accent really is good. Guy has other talents beyond basketball). Getting the votes, comments, favoriting, adulation. Not exactly the Stan Musial way.
But wait a minute before you go all "awshucksStanMusialisjustdoingawonderfulthinganddoesn'twanttobeseen" on me. While that's absolutely true, and Stan Musial was one of the greatest players ever and a humble, honorable, decent gentleman if there ever was one. AND that was what the culture was like in the late 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s.
But that was then and this is now as the trite old phrase we love to repeat says.
Don't see Chris Bosh's approach as self-aggrandizing. The reality is that he is an athlete connecting with his fan base the way that they want to be connected to NOW - not in 1946. Sure, he could show up at a 7 year old fan's birthday party and make him and the 25 or 30 kids his mom and dad invited feel really cool, but he's reached 454,000 fans or would-be fans with this YouTube video because that's the way that they feel connected to him. Look at the MySpace page. What you don't see is the comment field for him there which says things like "Great game last night, Chris!" which he is as likely to directly respond to as he isn't. How cool is that?
If you eat the dog food here (cat food in my case), and truly believe that we have a customer ecosystem that places the command in the hands of the customer - then figure out what LOGICALLY follows (much less non-linearly) in the Stan Musial v. Chris Bosh cases. The logic says there is no Stan Musial v. Chris Bosh. They aren't competing. Both are doing what made sense to them for the fans - based on how the fans wanted to interact with their heroes in the respective eras. Stan Musial's is more heartwarming and anecdotal and seems more personal. The elements are those of a movie - big sports hero, surprise visit to little guy on his birthday to make him a big boy in front of his friends and Stan the Man becomes more of a hero than ever.
But Chris Bosh is reaching out to the fans the way that they love being accessed. YouTube, MySpace and other digital media that are how they can feel all warm and fuzzy about Chris Bosh high fiving them - and its online so EVERYONE can see it - not just the 30 kids at the party. I mean, how cool is that for a 20 year old or 15 year old or 58 year old (not me, I'm a Knicks fan - for clearly no good reason)?
So times are what they are, memories are what they are and customers are what they are.
Recognize this from the CRM 2.0 perspective. Both of these guys did and are doing what their fans want and communicating with them in ways that are appropriate to their cultures.
Which is more than I can say for Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens, and about 98% of the National Basketball Association.