Madison County Opinion...

May 29, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
May 29, 2002

Frankly Speaking

The story of the DeLorian
This past Saturday at the Hull Spring Festival, we were treated to a rare event. Among the antique automobiles in the parade was a DeLorian DMC-12. While this amazing car was highly advanced for its time, it was a dramatic failure. Seeing this car started me thinking about failure, and its place in our lives.
First, let me tell you a little about the DeLorian Motor Company. John DeLorian was a brilliant engineer. He was hired by General Motors at the age of 24 and helped revamp the company’s 57 car lines, helping the company thrive in the era of foreign imports and gasoline shortages. But his favorite designs were rejected by General Motors causing him to resign in 1973 with plans to start his own car company.
In 1974, he found enough funding to begin development of his dramatic new sports car. He convinced the British government to become a heavy investor by placing his factory in Northern Ireland.
In 1981, production on the stainless steele, gull winged vehicle began. But the company was under financed and the radical designs had production problems. In three years, the factory was able to produce only 8,583 cars. DeLorian was caught on film trying to broker a $24 million cocaine deal for operating money to keep the company alive. He was finally acquitted of charges due to government “entrapment.”
During my career as a mechanic, I had a chance to maintain one of these marvelous cars. I had a chance to see just how advanced it was. I was impressed and puzzled by its failure. But now I understand.
We all have failures. Whether we fail in a business that was a guaranteed success, in a marriage that we thought would last a lifetime, or in building the next great car, we suffer the same disappointment.
It is from our failures that we learn. No one ever made dramatic advances in our culture or technology without numerous failures. When we give our best to any project, and it fails, we should learn the lessons of the failure and move on.
That’s what DeLorian did wrong. If he had accepted the failure of his car company and sought new opportunities, he would be a major force in the automotive world today. As it is, most of you have never heard of him.
Thousands of Georgia students have just completed high school or college and are preparing to begin their adult lives. Most of them have big dreams. Most of them are full of confidence. Most of them will quickly encounter failure. A few will give up and just exist. Others will learn from their early failures and go on to greater success.
Failure is a natural part of life. Failure is the best teacher we have. The most successful people are the ones who learn from failure. The least successful are those who are afraid to try.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
May 29, 2002

From The Editor's Desk

Forget ‘Field of Dreams’
Forget “Field of Dreams,” with Kevin Costner creating a field so the ghosts of baseball past can emerge from the cornstalks to play the game they love.
That sentimental stuff is for the movies.
You want many of today’s players out on that field, you better put a wad of cash on the pitcher’s mound and hope they don’t head back to the cornstalks, refusing to play.
Sure, Major League ballplayers may still love the game. Sure they may want to win. They’ll get righteously indignant if you assert that their greed outweighs their love of the game.
But how can we accept their sincerity when they threaten to walk off the field despite the fact that many players make more money in a doubleheader than most of the public makes in a year? Have they lost all contact with those who ultimately control their business interests — not the owners, but the fans?
The players’ union is considering an August strike date as they fight with owners over such issues as a ‘’competitive-balance tax,” which would impose a tax — suggested at a rate of 50 percent — on team payrolls over $98 million. Another contentious issue is the concept of revenue-sharing, where teams in ‘’big markets’’ (New York, Chicago) would share a portion of local revenue with small-market teams (Pittsburgh, Kansas City).
Of course, owners have been less than admirable in the past. In the old days, players had little leverage and played for little money. But the players’ union changed that — both for good and bad.
Good, because players were empowered and earned basic rights. They now have a minimum salary of $200,000, a nice hunk of money by most any standard. Bad, because our boys of summer gradually lost their working class heroism, becoming instead pampered boys of privilege in our entertainment-powered society.
Unfortunately, Atlanta’s own Chipper Jones shows the misplaced values of the times, where cold economic reasoning trumps pennant or World Series passions.
“I think August is the perfect time (for a strike date),” Jones told The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “It threatens the playoffs, and I think that there will be eight teams who are going to want that playoff revenue.”
Jones adds that he doesn’t think a work stoppage will kill the game, saying that “there will always be baseball fans.”
Forgive the cynicism, but does Jones propose we eat cake while we wait on the players to get their way? Does he not recognize that fans are a powerful factor in the money equation?
There is considerable public disdain over the soaring Alex Rodriguez $250 million salaries of todays’ athletes. Because owners don’t foot these outrageous costs alone. They stick it to the fans. That’s why you fork over $30 for nosebleed seats and $5 for soft drinks with melted ice. This price gouging keeps many away from the parks, including poorer families who might really benefit from frequent family trips to the park.
While most fans don’t make 1/50th of the players’ salaries, many of them have a greater impact on their communities than any of the players, while working for far less appreciation.
The terrorist attacks of last year sobered the nation. They also reminded many of us that our priorities are out of whack. We value the guy who can knock the stuffing out of a ball more than the guy who knocks down a door to a burning building.
After the attacks, many baseball teams paid homage to those who risk their lives for public safety. The players expressed humility, noting that they are, in fact, only entertainers. So it would be truly insulting for those same players to spend the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with a work stoppage. The players’ patriotism of a year ago will seem like a mere marketing scheme, a truly ugly hypocrisy in light of a strike.
But a work stoppage would be nothing new.
Baseball has had eight strikes since 1971, with the most recent coming in 1994. Fans forgave the players pretty quickly in 1995, particularly in Atlanta, where the Braves won the first world championship for the city.
But I don’t see such a forgiving time ahead, not in today’s climate, not with today’s baseball salaries.
Yes, fans may always get gushy about their baseball heroes, thinking of that sentimental movie with Costner where the ghosts of baseball past stroll through the cornstalks toward a magical game.
But many sports enthusiasts, me included, are feeling an ever-increasing chill toward baseball — and other professional sports — as we watch athletes climb an enormous money tree, showing passions more corporate than kid-like.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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