January 16, 2021

The Magnificent Ball

Posted on 24. Jan, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

In these times of hyperspeed, hyperspace and just plain hype, it’s good to reflect on how much the simple things mean to us. One of those is the humble ball, not the jute balls or sod balls that our ancestors threw around at each other, but modern balls like the football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, golf ball, billiard ball, ping pong ball, medicine ball, the hand ball and wiffle ball. I know I’ve probably missed one or two, but you get the picture.

Most of those balls represent multi-million if not multi-billion dollar industries and employ literally armies of people around the world. Heavens, I just heard a baseball team’s asking price is now over a billion dollars and that doesn’t include the industries that supply the sport!

For instance, there’s the printed programs, the hot dog and beverage vendors (and the wholesale houses that supply them and the farmers that raise the livestock to sell to the wholesalers ), the stadium grounds keepers (and the equipment they rent or purchase), the ticket sellers, even the ticket scalpers, the team trainers and medical staffs, the marketing and advertising people, the T-shirt and jersey manufacturers, the newspapers, sports magazines and radio and TV journalists that cover the teams…and on and on it goes.

The number of families that depend on the lowly ball is enormous and illustrates a very important point – that decisions taken on and off the field have far-reaching consequences. Outlaw nitrates and the hot dog vendors go away. Black out the game, locally, and it affects the beer sales at local bars with big screen TVs. Strike against the ball club owners and everything goes down the drain.

Apply this same principle of interdependence to just about any industry and add in the age of rapid communication and you can see that rumors, innuendo and gossip now travel at the speed of light and can hit their target (or do collateral damage) with deadly accuracy. A problem with an iphone antenna or an illegal pesticide used on imported oranges or an engine problem with the Chevy Volt can set off a chain reaction that can harm dozens and dozens of innocent bystander companies whose only mistake was supplying good products to the company that’s experiencing problems with the bad ones!

Stock prices can fall overnight and render a company penniless. Look at the recent Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia that ran aground. Would you like to own stock in Carnival, the parent company right about now? That’s why appearances are everything and why companies pay image consultants big bucks to do damage control and media triage to protect their clients’ value.

There is just so much spin that even the best company can do to prop up the image of an Exxon Mobil (the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989), British Petroleum (the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico), the Three-Mile Island Nuclear Facility meltdown and the Bhopal gas tragedy in India (Union Carbide) that killed nearly 4,000 people with leaking pesticide chemicals.

The mere fact that we KNOW how dependent and interdependent we are could be one of the reasons why we’re so gosh darn scared and on edge right now. It’s no wonder that our leaders are hesitant about telling us the truth early on when these things happen. Fear of consumer or investor panic is a pretty powerful reason for withholding bad news, but it’s not a good enough reason for keeping important information from us. That’s why we need watchdog agencies and environmental groups to keep the monied interests honest and in check while we insist on our right to know.

Smaller government may be a great sound bite, but if smaller government can’t protect its own society then it’s just as bad as big government. I’ll vote for efficient government any day.

- Editor


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