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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Home Team, Sports Fans, and Team Owners

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Colorado Rockies are in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, thinking about the team made me realize there are some lessons for activists in sports. Follow me a moment...

In sports, you have a team who must work together to achieve their goal, much as you have such a team in your organization/cause who must work together to achieve their goal.

In sports, you have the fans who root for the team to win and who try to involve themselves in the game as much as possible (hooting loudly just as the pitch gets to homeplate, etc), much as you have fans in the real world rooting for your success as an organization/cause who help pay the bills and speak on behalf of the organization with authority figures.

In sports, you have a team owner or owners to whom the team answers for their performance. But who does your organization/cause answer to, you? In part, but not quite.

The ones your organization answers to is everyone affected by its activities, the government who expects you to account for your activities and the funding of the activities, and lastly the general public who frequently holds up a magnifying glass to every activity and report your organization produces.

Keeping all these people happy is not always easy, particularly if your activities/cause is controversial, or if it can be addressed by many different techniques. Finding a balance between these issues is complicated at times, but my advice is to never give in to what public opinion polls say the public wants. The polls can be influenced by too many things to go into in this blog. I would probably have to write a book to address that adequately. Let's use an example instead.

A few years back, Colorado had a significant surplus of tax revenues in its coffers. Rather than doing the smart thing by paying off some of the state debt or keeping the surplus in the coffers for leaner times, the government was badgered into giving the money back to the people immediately. The officials caved in to public pressure (via the polls) and hamstrung Colorado's opportunity to put itself in a better financial situation.

As social change leaders, we must often make controversial and/or unpopular decisions for the good of our society. This comes with the territory. If you can't make the hard decisions and stick to your guns, maybe you should try something safer, like skydiving or tiger-wrestling. Whatever you decide, go forward boldly. If you have make a mistake, accept the responsibility and learn from it, but the biggest mistake is to walk on eggshells the rest of your life.

I wonder what would have happened if Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies winning run) had second-guessed himself about what to do in that thirteenth inning on the way to homeplate. Guess taking that head-first slide was the boldest decision of the evening.

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