Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Things I Have No Patience With: Caution, Rant Ahead

This isn't all of the top 10, but here goes:

1) People (some of them friends of mine) who stoically suffer for weeks on end with sinus or urinary tract infections because they think taking an antibiotic once every five years for 10 days makes them pawns of the drug companies or contributes to the development of a super-bacteria that’s going to rise up and devour us all as we sleep.

2) People who depend on herd immunity to protect their kids rather than having them vaccinated to prevent childhood diseases.

3) People who believe that they are obliged under all circumstances to preach the gospel of whatever crackpot theory they’ve embraced, including, but not limited to, #1 and #2, above.

4) People who insist that those who run sports organizations must have competed in the sport to be qualified to do their jobs.

I am not going to elaborate on items 1 through 3, nor will I discuss them here, so don’t even bother bringing them up. Instead, I am use the occasion of Randy Bernard’s resignation from the PBR as an opportunity to talk about item #4.

This is a subject I happen to know all about, because I am an editor. I have two degrees, one in English (minors in French, education, and Bible) and the second in rhetoric and writing. I have been working in this field for more than 30 years (I was only five when I started). Still, you might be surprised how many times my education and experience have carried no weight at all. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen ads for editors that say, “Must have a degree in pharmacology, preferably M.D./Ph.D. with post-doctoral studies at a major university research center.” I also cannot tell you how many times I’ve had people insist that I could not possibly edit their work because I’m not an engineer, a microbiologist, or a rocket scientist.

To which I say, Bullshit.

I have edited, among others, works on the performing and visual arts, history (particularly the history of the American West), Native American studies, feminist studies, literary criticism, engineering, microbiology, and rocket science. Every one of those documents was better for my having worked on it. Editing is about perfecting the language through which the subject is expressed. It’s about making sure the sentences work and that the ideas are communicated clearly. If I, with two degrees and 30 years as an editor and a better than fair cache of knowledge of all the fields I’ve worked in, can’t understand what you’re trying to say, there’s a very good chance nobody can. It won’t matter if you have 99 diplomas in oceanography stuffed into your closet somewhere. When you’re writing, you’re in my arena, not yours, and the advice I give you will improve your work dramatically if you have the good sense and humility to take it.

Running a sports organization is about bringing the sport to the public and improving the public’s experience of that sport. That’s it. (That's not to say that it's easy, just that it's relatively easy to define.) Anybody who ever objected to Randy Bernard’s being CEO of the PBR because he wasn’t a cowboy is a fool. Randy Bernard doesn’t have to say a word in his own defense—his track record speaks for itself. What’s more telling, though, is that the “cowboys” who hired him and worked with him over the past 15 years have done nothing but testify to his effectiveness.

But I am curious, I have to admit, about what exactly the people who always want a “cowboy” to run the PBR think a “cowboy” could possibly do for the organization. Teach us how to muck out a stall? Show us how to string some barbed wire or dig a new hole for the outhouse? Show us how to fill out a form for a government subsidy for not sowing the back 40 in alfalfa this spring? None of that would have furthered the agenda of the PBR the length of the instep of one of my cowboy boots.

And don’t give me any of that crap about how much more neighborly people were way back then, or about the “code of the West,” either. I have read enough Western history to know that people back in the day were just as apt to be ornery and dishonest and conniving as they are now. They stole each other blind and shot each other in the back and burned one another’s houses and then lit out for the territory.

On the other hand, thousands of good, decent, well-meaning people came out west looking for their fortunes, only to die of accidents and disease, to lose their livestock and their land and their children and their spouses and their minds. Some, the inherently good and bad alike, abandoned their families for a wild dream of quick riches or just because they felt like it, every damned day.

Guess what? They were doing all that back east, too, and in Europe and Australia and Asia. Where they were made absolutely no difference to their fundamental human nature, nor to the likelihood that they would fail or succeed.

I have absolutely no patience with nostalgia. I do not believe everything was better everywhere 50 or 100 or 200 years ago, and nothing you can say will ever convince me otherwise. For sure, we now have too much plenty in some places and little to none in others, global warming and pollution on a life-threatening scale, human trafficking and misery spawned by the bad behavior of individuals and corporations for their own profit, disease and war and famine, but as awful as all that is, the fact that we’ve got big issues is not news, historically speaking. What is news is that we have a greater likelihood now than ever before of hearing about those problems and a better chance as individuals and nations of finding ways to fix them.

This world does not need more people who sit around and carp about long-lost “family values” and moan about the loss of the good old days, who refuse to deal with the pressing issues of their own time, who say, in effect, to hell with everything and everybody but me and mine. For damned sure, the world does not need more well-meaning amateurs, who almost without exception cause more problems than they solve, to say nothing of being more trouble than they can possibly be worth.

What this world needs is more caring professionals, by which I mean people who have the education and the experience and the passion to take on big challenges and not flinch. Randy Bernard is one of those guys. From what I can tell, the IRL has its share of problems, so I admire him even more for taking a job that will not be a cakewalk, that carries with it no guarantee of success or promise of a big payoff. But then, I’d expect that of the man. He’s already shown he can take a marginal, shoestring operation that was really nothing more than a bunch of guys with an idea and a modest strongbox and some events under their belts, and help them turn it into a world-class sport. I wish him all good fortune and I will watch with interest his progress in Indianapolis. I can only hope the PBR can find someone who will fill Randy Bernard’s boots one tenth as well as he did.


shannon said...

I almost choked on my drink when reading the first part of this because I'm dealing with shades of one and three right now. But, I'll spare you the details.

I like this post a lot. I'm guessing you've delved into the comments sections of the Randy articles? I just left there and saw a few people who were being very kind, but yeah, there are some who just love the anonymity of the internet, aren't there?

I, too, wish Randy well. What he did for the PBR couldn't have been easy and the organization is better having had his hand in the mix.

I'll be real interested to see what comes next.

Stockyard Queen said...

Yes, I scurried over there because I wanted to see what the Divine S had left for Randy, and then shortly thereafter, I was reminded of why I try not to read the comments. If Randy were a sensitive type, he'd probably have killed himself by now, or at least slunk off in the dead of night, never to be seen again.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the anonymous posters on the Internet are those creeps who used to make obscene phone calls, back before everybody in the world had caller ID.

Shawk said...


I got as far as calling people "churlish" on the comment section and then decided it wasn't worth me getting riled about the childish and short-sightedness that prevails there generally.

The original cowboy founders didn't hire Randy Bernard because he was a cowboy. They hired him because they were cowboys who couldn't figure out how to take the next step and they knew they needed a business person to help them do it. And Randy Bernard succeeded in that, probably far above their wildest hopes.

There are always going to be decisions that don't work out as planned or aren't successful (although the people who assume that somehow NBC or Comcast can be controlled by the PBR are out of their minds), but the overall upward direction Randy Bernard piloted for the PBR speaks for itself. I wish people could pull their heads out of the arena dirt and get a grip. But I guess it's easier to leave cowardly comments attacking a guy who spent 15 years of his life making the sport what it is today.

Black Boots said...

I might venture to say that if Randy Bernard had not been CEO of the organization I would never have found the PBR. I live in an urban area that is in no way part of the "western" lifestyle or "cowboy" culture. If Randy hadn't been such a far-sighted, out-of-the-box thinker and worked so hard to promote the PBR I'd never have seen Adriano ride, or Little Yellow Jacket buck, or any of the other gazillion or so moments that give me so much pleasure. For that, I will be eternally grateful. I've always been amazed at how open the PBR is to discussion and change after feedback from its fans and I think that trait stems from Randy's willingness to listen. It's a trait that's all too rare these days and it's the hallmark of a great leader. The IRL is getting a

It'll be interesting to see how all this plays out.

off topic--did the Zonk Board step through the Wayback Machine?

shelia said...

Well said! Someday we'll all have to compare notes on out pet peaves! Mine happens to be pumpkins on the porch with Christmas lights across the roof and in al the trees. I honestly just want to SMASH them!

I had to stop reading the comment section, too, when the cowboy thing came up! All those people who are glad to see Mr. Bernard go so the the sport can get back to "real cowboy ways" will be have alot to complain about if a real cowboy takes over!

I have a friend--he's a writer and editor. I always smile at the part in his resume which states: "In addition, two biographies for young adults, Sarah Hughes: Sudden Champion, and Yao Ming: Gentle Giant. The Yao Ming book was awarded one of the top 40 books of the year by the Pennsylvania Librarians Association, and a chapter purchased by Florida for use in their language arts curriculum." Richard knows NOTHING about Figure Skating or basketball and he's never met Sarah or Yoa, but he sure knew how to write those two books!