Author Archives: Sam Fiske


Is Giving Tuesday Here to Stay?


Amid the consumer spending frenzy that marks the recent addition of Grey Thursday, the traditional Black Friday, and the internet dealing Cyber Monday, the world got a taste of a different kind of spending in the second annual Giving Tuesday. #GivingTuesday, developed by New York’s 92nd Street Y and widely communicated through its partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has aimed to cap off the annual holiday spending week with a day dedicated to giving. It is a seemingly selfless response to the boom of the shopping season, but it is yet to be determined if this philanthropic day of giving will ingrain itself into our culture. It’s too early to tell whether this #GivingTuesday is here to stay, but the sheer volume of social collaboration is elevating fundraising, and our perception of giving, to new ground.

At first, it may seem odd that a day for giving would associate itself with arguably the biggest commercial sales events of the year. However, ithe numbers that have come out so far seem to have demonstrated some brilliance in the move. Donations increased by 90% for 3,800 nonprofits compared to 2012. This is an incredible amount of growth going from the first to second year of the event. This success can be attributed to the intelligent marketing, social campaigning, but perhaps most importantly due to the 10,000 partners comprised of charities, volunteer nonprofits, corporations, community centers and foundations that skyrocketed Giving Tuesday into the public consciousness.

The partnerships gave rise to social media collaborations, boosted by the help of celebrities and influential people vouching for the GivingTuesday cause. And boy was the social media world buzzing. #GivingTuesday went viral across the Twitterverse, totaling 320,000 total tweets during the full 24 hours, and 35,000 tweets and Facebook posts sent during its peak hour around the noon. Additionally, the advent of the #UnSelfie quickly proliferated as part of #GivingTuesday, with people posting images that highlight the cause they are support on their social media accounts followed by the #Unselfie hashtag. Partnerships with companies such as Google facilitated the 12-hour Google Hang-Out-A-Thon, an online event available to anyone with an internet connection to watch a series of guest speakers hold discussions regarding world issues, their work in the nonprofit sector, and how they aim to become change agents. The power of social media flexed its might, and some incredible interactions began to take place, with over $19.2 million being donated, up from $10.1 million donated last year across charities. Yet we are left wondering if it’s enough, is Giving Tuesday here to stay?

Giving Tuesday brands itself as the kick off to the giving season, not just a one day event. It’s in this vein that the the creators of this event hope to break through America’s stubborn rate of giving, which has been stuck at two percent of the GDP for two generations now. Whether consumer spending has gotten lower or increased over time (currently increasing), it’s troubling that giving has become so stagnant in the world’s most charitable country. It’s obvious that capitalism has afforded the U.S. the ability to donate, but sometimes consumer spending and saving can’t be the only metrics to shape our world. Behind the lead of #GivingTuesday,  we just might be witnessing the beginning of  a transformative change that has us not only spending and saving for ourselves, but truly giving to advance our society and improve our world.


Should Obstacle Runs Be Available for Kids?


While there is no set name for obstacles runs/endurance events/adventure races or mud runs, they have taken the public’s attention by storm the past few years.  If you have ever experienced any of these new wave of obstacle course runs like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash or Spartan Race, you know just how thrilling the event can be. Using a combination of endurance and strength, adrenaline pumps through you as you climb, swim, crawl and jump through miles of obstacles, getting quite muddy in the process. It’s exhilarating, and leaves you somewhere between feeling like a champion of men and a little kid again. Which leaves me wondering, since these events are so much fun for adults, should obstacle runs be available for kids?

There is question over whether the adventure race environment would be age appropriate for children. The core demographic catered to ranges from early-20s to mid-50s, predominantly male with an age limit of 18 years old. Most of these endurance events are designed to simulate military style obstacles and training, complete with a couple of mandatory “hoorahs” everyone shouts before beginning the challenge course. It’s not so much that kids would not have fun running the event as it is instilling this branded,  military ethos at such an early age that will be increasingly exposed exponentially as they get older.

The most pressing concern is whether it is safe enough for kids to experience these types of obstacle challenges. Simply put, these challenge courses are dangerous, even for adults. You climb up twelve foot walls, jump into freezing (hypothermia-inducing) cold water, fall into deep pits of mud, crawl under barbed wire and run through live electrical wires. The peril of these obstacles is no joke, the “death” waiver you sign is done for a reason and the risk of doing these obstacles can end in tragedy.  It goes without saying (as I write it anyway) that children shouldn’t be subject to running through live wires, which frankly is conversation of its own that we choose to endure 10,000 volts of electrical shocks for fun, despite the dangers associated with that sort of thing.

So maybe given the health risks associated with events like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, kids shouldn’t be able to able to participate in full blown adventure races. However, the upsides of these events are too great to say children shouldn’t have any sort of exposure to them. At the core of the idea, these events encourage teamwork, collaboration, sportsmanship, play and persistence. You enter the event aiming to feel accomplished, but you can often join in teams and finish with teammates, helping each other get through the muddy course. If there was a way to modify these events and tailor them to children’s capabilities, few would argue these kinds of challenge courses wouldn’t be beneficial for today’s youth.

There is at least one organization that has created such a modified event. Spartan Race, which typically hosts 3-26 mile races with over 15 obstacles, has recreated an event for children called Spartan Kids. These races are for ages 4-13, and go between 0.5 to 1 mile in length. The obstacles are far more kid friendly while still imitating the adult version of the course (crawl under rope as opposed to barb-wire, jump over 3 foot walls as opposed to 10-12 foot walls, etc.).

The Spartan Kids Race is geared to encouraging kids to be physically active and become healthier. Their stated belief is that “the sense of fun and camaraderie inherent in our races will help instill within your kids a sense of excitement and respect for fitness.” Even the charity proceeds benefit, which typically would be an American military based organization, is instead the Kids Fit Foundation, a non-profit that aims to fund fitness programs for at risk youth and their families.  It’s still too early to tell if Spartan Race has found the right mix for kids. Other organizations like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash still do not offer youth-versions of their obstacle courses. However, Spartan Kids Race may just have a blueprint for future obstacle runs oriented for the younger child, giving them a chance  to get on the outdoor adventure sweeping America, and get caked in a little bit of mud as well.


Check out this video of the Spartan Kids Race, played with the famous inspiring words of Rap preacher Eric Thomas






Bullying in the Face of Football



When the media bubble bursted on the player situation on the Miami Dolphins team this week, it would seem like bullying issues in the real world are some new idea. It would also seem, based on the responses from NFL players and personnel, that bullying is a non-issue in the NFL and that Jonathan Martin should have handled it differently. In my opinion, not only are the NFL personnel wrong about Martin and that bullying is a non-issue in the NFL, bullying is perhaps one of the most pervasive, systemic problems of our society.

Let’s start with idea of bullying. Bullying in the adult “real world” exists in a way not dissimilar to bullying in schools. Most people typically associate bullying as an activity confined to the borders of our adolescence, mean school yard pranks and embarrassment. Rather than claim it as bullying, in the grown up environment we tend to use words such as harassment, defamation, and extortion. The act of using someone’s superior strength to intimidate another into doing something is by definition bullying. Martin was verbally harassed, threatened and intimidated. Jonathan Martin, for all intensive purposes,  was bullied.

When you hear NFL players defending Incognito and personnel, such as current Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, say that Jonathan Martin should “punch” Incognito, you realize how Martin may have felt with seemingly no one to turn to for help. Sure, the NFL is a a league of hyper-aggressive males and confronting bullies may be the option many in the NFL would advocate for dealing with the testosterone charged lockers rooms, but it is literally only one option of many.

What is perhaps even more upsetting than this brutish, closed mindset of the NFL personnel, is how Martin was basically chastised for his decision to seek help. In an essay written by ex-Dolphin Lydon Murtha that was published by Sports Illustrated,  Murtha claims Martin “broke the code” by going to the media and that he should “handle it indoors”. A lot of NFL players, including his current teammates, have echoed similar views about going to the press and keeping club issues in-house. What has gone unacknowledged is the fact that Jonathan Martin didn’t go to the press at all, but left the team directly to seek medical attention elsewhere. It was only after reports of Martin going to find help he wasn’t finding in the Dolphins organization that the reports started piling in about Martin and Incognito. Martin’s lawyers and agent have spoken on his behalf and given evidence to back up Martin’s decision to leave the organization, but Martin himself has not spoken in public since leaving the Miami Dolphins. Unless checking into a hospital for emotional distress is really backwards, Martin didn’t break any “code”.

On a final note, the notion that Jonathan Martin couldn’t handle the pressures of the NFL, wasn’t enough of a man to play the game is absurd. While it helps to have hyper-aggressive athletes fight tooth and nail on and off the field, that shouldn’t exclude players with just as much talent that lack that kind of persona. Jonathan Martin was a second round draft pick (42nd overall) who clearly has the talent to play football at the highest level. Mike Mayock’s (  draft analysis of Martin states that he was one of two tackles that could be considered “elite” from that draft and that he is a, “First-round talent right here, tremendous arm length. I call him a little bit of a finesse player. Doesn’t mean he’s not tough, but he’s so good with his feet and understands angles. I believe the Dolphins just got themselves a starter on either the right or left side.” Although Mayock subtly references to Martin’s personality and play as “finesse” his overall impression is a starting, NFL-caliber player that rated as a steal for the Dolphins in the second round. While it remains to be seen what will happen with Jonathan Martin,  it’s clear that the NFL’s path to rebranding its image has an added wrinkle of bullying, which is both ingrained and to an extent tolerated by many in its subculture.