Your Winter Wonderland of Artificial Intelligence


It’s that time of year…listening to Christmas music all day, relishing Bing Crosby and skipping Josh Groban. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Winter Wonderland” (Written by Richard Smith and set to music by Felix Bernard). I especially love the Martina McBride version, because duh, Martina!

The second verse in the song says, “Gone away is the bluebird, Here to stay is the new bird…”
Yesterday I was reading a WSJ article about artificial intelligence and this melody played in the background. My mind immediately drew a parallel between the song lyrics and artificial intelligence and life. (I know, I’m strange.)
AI is a smokin’ hot topic right now. I receive a daily WSJ newsletter dedicated to nothing but advancements and applications in this technology. And honestly, I long resisted the fact that AI applies to me, personally or professionally.
But it does.
And it applies to you too.

AI isn’t just about self-driving vehicles, or Alexa listening in to our conversations (Sidebar: True story, I asked Alexa to play Christmas music by Harry Connick Jr. the other night, and it turned on Eminem. What the…?!). There are plenty of strange applications for AI as well.


In the world of sports, and sport tourism, AI is barreling onto the scene, so we better pay attention!

Sports ETA featured Dr. Jeff Guan from the University of Louisville at this year’s Chief Executive Summit to provide industry leaders a foray into this topic.
If you read Sports Business Journal recently, you likely saw the detailed spread about the sport-related AI companies in which former NBA Commish David Stern is rapidly investing.
Sports isn’t just the context of AI development, it’s also a corresponding goal of AI practitioners as well. The aforementioned WSJ newsletter detailed the desire among AI developers to create AI robotic applications that are more “athletic” in nature.

In other words, to be more nimble, responsive, agile to circumstances. Hmmmm…we’ll come back to this notion.

Photo: Daily Burn

In sports, AI is being tested in play-by-play commentary and real-time highlight development. Tony Romo better keep bringing his A-Game!

You may think AI is just rapidly eliminating jobs (e.g.,manufacturing), but as Dr. Guan pointed out, humans are still very much instrumental in the AI landscape from idea conception to implementation.
We can be resistant to this change, but the ship – a steam liner at that – is sailing. We can be caught on our heels and miss the boat entirely, or we can choose another option. As such, you’ll continue to see Sports ETA challenge our members to “think big” and engage in broader-reaching education content, such as AI.
After all, non-profit or for profit, we are running businesses. We are charged with delivering customers with a product or service that fills a void and doing so sustainably. That means we need to be efficient.
In many regards, the sport tourism industry hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 25 years. Heck, in the academic realm, researchers are still arguing about the very definition of “sport tourism”.
But that staleness is rapidly changing. Times are changing. Look no further than the facility development boom, software technological advancements, community development priorities, and other facets of our industry.
It is our duty to be consuming information, learning, and adapting, just like our “athletic” AI robot counterparts. As Max Depree stated, “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.”
This sentiment is true in our professional lives, as well as our personal lives.
So, to put a nice Christmas package bow on this blog post, here’s the deal…
Think of the old ways of doing things as the “bluebird” gone away sung about in the timeless classic “Winter Wonderland”. And artificial intelligence is the “new bird” that is “here to stay”.

But it’s not that simple. The trick (and the reward) is in the next line of the song.

Catch this.

We can choose to see AI as the blustery, miserable, inevitable blizzard that ruins the season and steals our joy, OR we can embrace it – as Richard Smith did in 1934 – as the new bird that “Sings a love song, as we go along, Walking in a winter wonderland”. Revealing optimism, openness to change, something new and beautiful.


It’s all about perspective. And, as you’ve likely already figured out, this post isn’t just about AI. It’s about new ideas, concepts, hobbies, risks, possibilities in general.

It’s worth noting, Richard Smith wrote the poem that became Winter Wonderland on his deathbed, from a hospital where he was fighting and ultimately succumbed to Tuberculosis. Go back and listen to those lyrics again. You would never imagine Smith wasn’t frolicking and playing himself (the Eskimo way) in his winter wonderland, rather he was watching from a hospital window. The joy exuded in those timeless words far exceeded his present circumstances.

This holiday season I challenge you to take a step back and look for the winter wonderlands in your own life.

  • What have you been resisting that you need to embrace?
  • What can you look at with fresh eyes?
  • What opportunities are begging for you to seize?
  • What ways of thinking do you need to release?

These are your own personal “Winter Wonderlands”. Do you see them? I sure hope so.

This is Stoll on Sports. Merry Christmas!


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