Never accept a meeting request when the executive’s assistant starts with "he would like to tell you his ideas." I did it this time and got burned.
These are the ideas of the head of AC-34’s Event Authority, in a nutshell:
- The financiers are tiring of the spend.
- Professional sailors can’t make a living.
- There aren’t enough amateur sailors supporting this pyramid.
So this AC will invent new TV heroes to attract fans to fund year-round professional sailors, take the financiers off of the hook, and transfer the costs to an unwitting couch-bound audience duped into an overpriced hat and a junkmailbox crammed with offers from sponsors. "We’re building a new pyramid."
Oh, and sailors should sit quiet and be pleased, "’cause you get the trickle down."
"We’re inventing a new Formula One racing circuit, from the top down. It’s the way it’s always been done" he said. When I reminded him that the F1 is riddled with bankruptcies and that a more popular racing circuit, NASCAR, has its roots in amateur stock car racing, he seemed to be a bit surprised. He must not remember Dick Trickle like I do.
He named the names of the new heroes. Guys, he said, that would inspire giddy kids to download apps (50K in one week, he boasted.) He was a bit surprised that I’d not heard of any of his heroes (although I’m sure many are quite nice and are great sailors.) My kids don’t know them either (I asked), though they sail and talk sailing constantly with their friends in person and via social networks. And I think I pissed him off when I suggested that 50K downloads is quaint, but teensy, in comparison with the millions of downloads of the flashlight app. You know, the one that turns your phone into a blank white screen.
"We’re making the race square so it fits on a screen and looks like a real sport. It’s the only way they’ll understand it." Sadly, for this, I had no quick answer, although I think I finally understand why golf is struggling. But how to explain those round Angry Birds?
Plainly speaking, I’ve never heard anything so sadly upside down in my sailing life as I heard from a leader atop the indubitable pinnacle of the sport. I tried to find a common thread, but couldn’t. Like most avid sailors, I hope others might find and enjoy sailing as I do. He wants to find Facebook likes and T-shirt sales.
Let’s try a different angle.
- Build the base. Connect AC teams to community sailing and clubs, where people can have sailing experiences instead of being corralled as sideline spectators in a sailing pyramid scheme.
- Recognize that the real heroes are the people who help us have those great sailing experiences, like moms, dads, camp counselors and sailing instructors.
- Pop the gigantic bubble of cynicism that says that the hearts of Americans can only be won with sparkly reality TV shows and tchotchke sales. It might shift your costs. But it’s simply not a lot of fun.
I had a tiny bit of hope for this call that vaporized in the first two minutes. So here’s my plan: I’m going sailing with my kids. You’re invited to join us. No app required.
– Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing and Why the Race to Mackinac Matters, featured in the new book Sailing – Philosophy For Everyone, published by Wiley Blackwell.