Jan 05

Good night and good luck

And so, after all his protestations and arguments to the contrary, it appears that Jets coach Herm Edwards is in the final stages of leaving to accept the top spot with the Kansas City Chiefs.

How sad is it that leaders in all walks of life today say one thing and then do the exact opposite? It Herm seems to me that Herm’s behavior is now the norm and not the exception.

Why isn’t the media holding our leaders more responsible for living up to their promises? Why aren’t there repercussions for people who act and behave the way Herm Edwards has done in recent days?

Herm’s behavior (i.e. re-assuring the press and fans that he wasn’t interested in the KC job while negotiating with Chiefs management behind the scenes) reminded me of an incident at Peppercom during the dotcom heydays.

As we were growing to the tune of about 100 percent annually, we decided to reward one of our top performers with a partnership in the business. The negotiations were heated at times, and took the better part of the Summer as "I’s" were dotted and "T’s" were crossed. Finally, the deal was struck. We called together the staff, issued a press release and lifted our champagne glasses to toast our newly-minted partner. About a week later, she resigned to take a corporate gig (with whom she was obviously negotiating all the while).

To both our erstwhile partner and the departing Herm Edwards, I’d borrow the signature sign-off of legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow and say, "good night and good luck."

Jan 04

Crisis demands swift, but accurate, communication

The unfolding West Virginia mine disaster is a textbook example of poor crisis management. As we now know, the victims’ families were originally told by officials that 12 miners had survived. Three hours later, they corrected themselves and said only one person was still alive. The effect on the families can only be imagined.

As I was getting off my train this morning, I was horrified at the sight of several newspaper headlines. "Miracle!" was featured in large print on the front page of the NY Daily News and USA Today shouted "Alive!" when in fact all but one of the miners had died. From what I’ve read today Usatoday (who knows what to believe at this point), it looks like the majority of these reports were based off rumors that were spread at the scene from one person who obviously didn’t know what he was talking about. The media, who should know better, were so caught up in the hysteria and meeting print deadlines that they were willing to trust on-site chatter instead of waiting for an official confirmation.

Although the press jumped the gun, the WV state officials are even more at fault. According to several reports, WV Governor Joe Manchin visited a church where the families of the men were gathered, and declared "miracles do happen!" As the church bells rang, family members embraced one another and ran out with tears of happiness in their eyes. This premature announcement certainly generated a wave of excitement and false sense of hope amongst the local community and the entire nation. It will be interesting to see how the governor responds to the surge of criticism heading his way.

Regardless of who made the incorrect decision on the miscommunication, today’s incident is a painful example of the need for all organizations to prepare for different types of crises by doing advance simulations and to be sure the correct policies and procedures are in place BEFORE "the next big one" hits.

Jan 03

Some sure signs it’s New Year’s Day

As I sat and nursed my post New Year’s Eve wounds the other day and did my "typical male" channel surfing thing on the tube, I noticed a number of traditional and not-so-traditional New Year’s happenings worth commenting on:

1.) What’s with the total sensory bombardment of ever-more bizarre sounding college football bowl games? They literally seem to come at you 24×7 and each tries to convince you it’s more critical than the others (How about the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and the sponsor’s tagline: We didn’t invent chickens. Just the chicken sandwich." Talk about poignant). My favorite obscure bowl game, though, was the Boise State-Boston College game that was sponsored by some computer maker and played on blue, yes, blue grass. A football game played in Boise, Idaho, on blue grass? What has the world come to?

2.) The Sci-Fi Channel’s 24-hour Twilight Zone marathon. No matter how bad your hangover, a good Zone episode is guaranteed to perk things up. My daughter, Catharine’s favorite is "Talking Tina," the vicious talking doll who ends up killing the abusive Telly Savalas. She’s seen it so many times, she literally knows every word of dialogue. Tina is so memorable that Mattel should think about producing a 45th anniversary model to boost their sagging sales.

3.) The media’s single-minded obsession with all things diet related. Each day, the morning shows trotted out one self-help weight-loss guru after another, all of whom were re-cycling the same old bromides. Every January we get the media weight-loss feeding frenzy and, every year, it seems like more and more Americans are becoming obese. What’s wrong with that picture?

4.) Last, but definitely not least, I actually saw three separate commercials reminding viewers that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Another week or so and I’ll bet we start seeing back-to-school specials. Do advertisers have no shame?" As some pre-blogging pundit once said, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Jan 03

Inaction breeds contempt

I recently watched the year-end episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO. One of the segments (they do four each episode) was about blatant racism in professional soccer or football throughout Europe. The piece featured several black professional football players who relayed the horrors of playing to sold-out stadiums in Spain, Italy and Germany while being taunted with monkey chants and pelted by bananas. Even worse, some fans displayed signs referencing the Holocaust while proudly displaying Nazi paraphernalia. The segment also featured members of right-wing racist cults that use football matches as fertile recruiting grounds for new members (i.e. racists). Soccer_2

As I watched this segment with incomprehension, one less obvious question kept popping up in my head: What is the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the governing body of professional football in Europe, doing about the very public display of racism in the stands and on the fields? The answer, amazingly, is very little. In fact, the CEO of UEFA, who was interviewed by Gumbel for this segment, demonstrated little evidence that the league was aware of the issue and willing to take meaningful action.

One major issue for UEFA is their executive committee is made up of all white men. And, as Thierry Henry (one of Europe’s premiere football players) stressed, unless you’re black, which he is, and on the field when the monkey chants rise up or the bananas come reigning down on the field, it’s impossible to comprehend the pain, fear and frustration felt by those who are the target of such behavior.

Well, I’m a white man but it didn’t take long for me to become enraged that racism was not only so widespread among European football fans, but that the people who were governing it were so apathetic to the situation. If UEFA won’t take a stand, then the European Union should. Open and frequent displays of racism across European’s football stadiums are a scary thought. Letting it happen without consequences is even scarier.

As Churchill once said, "I never worry about action, but only about inaction."