When Football Takes Care of Business

I am a rabid sports fan, and never in a 100 years would I’ve thought college football would be featured in one of the nation’s leading business publications. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the Sept. 1 issue of Forbes magazine.

It features on its cover University of Alabama’s head football coach, Nick Saban, posing with a confident smile in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and it touts him as the most powerful coach in sports. He is the first college coach to make Forbes cover since the magazine was started in 1917.

“No coach, including those in the professional leagues, can match Saban’s combination of money, control, and influence,” Monte Burke, the author of the story writes.

But sweet Jesus, a football coach on the cover of Forbes?????

Forbes has adjusted its coverage during the current economic turmoil, and the Nick Saban piece is a fitting example. In normal times, Forbes is hyper-focused on traditional, straightforward coverage of the technology, energy and telecommunications companies of the moment. But these aren’t normal times, and there is a palpable need for “positive” stories and optimism. In fact, for religious sport fans and business novices like me, the cover story was plenty, and made the entire magazine worth buying.

And honestly this is the reason why this issue was so appealing to people (it was sold out in matter of minutes in Alabama, where football is a religion; Forbes reprinted 10,000 copies of the popular issue). This issue was fresh and broadened the readership. Because of the cover it got the attention of football fans and sport aficionados, who otherwise would have never glanced twice at it.

The article is packed with some insightful numbers and financial statements about Alabama’s athletics budget and capital. But, overall it keeps the readers away from the financial crisis.

The thing is Forbes is perhaps the most thoughtful of the business publication behemoths out there. It seems to care most about on-point, relentless (not to say smothering) and glutting coverage of business-related issues. Indeed, Forbes doesn’t read as easily as other big business glossies for example. But again, that’s because Forbes’ aim and platform is specifically geared toward serving as a means for serious-minded business professionals to stay up to date with the current flow of information.

Besides, given the current economic crisis, reading any business publication can be a particularly strenuous and joyless task. Forbes is just not for everybody; it is without a doubt a first-rate analytical and quality business magazine, and in many ways, it still very much adheres to its motto, “The Capitalist Tool.”
With the capitalistic world gasping for fresh air, it seems to me that the lights are dimming on a magazine which in its heyday (under legendary publisher Malcom Forbes) boasted conspicuous prosperity and captivated the business world.

But in the midst of the current financial crisis, the Nick Saban cover was the right move to stray from the negative stories and boost sales.

Adeniyi Amadou

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