Win or lose with class

It seems too many of us have lost a sense of fairness in competition. Be it sports or politics, too many of us feel it matters less if the game was fair, as long as my tribe wins. That is unfortunate as we should strive to be like our better angels and win or lose with class.

Whether the sport is a team game or an individual competition, winning means so much more if it is done the right way. Also, if your team gives it a great shot, but falls short, how the loss is handled matters a great deal. As a participant and a fan, I have had my share of heartbreaking losses. I had to learn as a boy to be a better sport, which is a necessary lesson that a coach or parent must impart.

Sports is just a game. For fans, it is entertainment. For participants, it is a way to test yourself and earn a living, if you are very good at it. But, unlike gladiators, no one dies at the end. No one loses a close friend or mother. Yet, people place the utmost importance to their tribe. If their team wins, it elevates them above their routine lives. If their team loses, they feel less about themselves. To be frank, whether my team wins or loses makes me feel one way or the other, but it is about the outcome not my life.

Politics has become the same way, very tribal in nature. My party must win and your party must lose. Doing our business to solve real problems is less relevant than winning. I want real problems solved. I don’t want politicians appeasing funders. But, the more important tribe is the country for which these elected officials represent. That is what matters the most, yet we lose sight of that.

As a player, I have never been a fan of trash talking. It shows poorly on the talker and dishonors fair competition. I feel the same about labeling and name-calling a political opponent. It reveals a lack of character and a poor argument. In politics, it gets in the way of working together. I can assure you as an independent voter and former member of both parties, neither side has all the good ideas, and both have some pretty bad ones. In fact, the good ideas seem to be drowned out by ideas to solve overstated problems. It is essential to work together.

After 9/11, one of the more profound pieces of advice came from a professional basketball announcer named Gerry Vaillancourt. On his talk show after 9/11, the callers discussed what we must do to quickly get back at someone for the four attacks, one which was thwarted. Vaillancourt disagreed. He said we need to be very calm and diligent as we gather our information, taking the necessary time to get it right. Only then, should we act. He said our calmness will be unnerving. I think about his words as they came from an unexpected source and they ring so true. In life and in sport, you should be more wary of the quiet person.

To me, this is in keeping with treating others like you want to be treated. You do your very best to compete with fairness and, win or lose, do so with class. If you cheat or show your hind end, you will be remembered for that as well. And, one thing sports teaches us is how to handle failure. The very best baseball hitters will fail seven times out of ten. Even the best of boxers get knocked down. So, in life, when you do get knocked down, you get back up, dust yourself off and keep going.

“Get your money upfront”

Let me set aside the reason the man who uttered the phrase “get your money upfront,” was being asked his opinion. He was describing dealing as an independent contractor with the various companies under one owner using a common way of saying don’t trust them, get paid before you start. He prefaced his comments with “the word on the street,” to define it is not just him who is having these issues.

If you heard this about anyone, your first reaction, would be to hit the pause button. It could be due to bullying contractors to pay them less or it could be due to companies having cash flow issues. There are two sure-fire ways to see if a company is in trouble. The first red flag is they extend their Accounts Payables from 30 days payment to 45 days or more, e.g. The second bigger one is when they stop paying people altogether, be it contractors or employees. They invent reasons to delay or not pay, begging for a lawsuit, to be forced to pay.

Per a USA Today article on June 1, 2016 (see link below), the owner of these companies has had over 3,500 lawsuits and settled at least 100 of them. Usually, when a settlement occurs, there is no admission of guilt or innocence, but it is my experience companies settle when they have a lesser case. The cases range from stiffing contractors, employees, buyers and co-investors, suing to force the eviction of people from their homes under various local clauses of eminent domain and aggressive or fraudulent misrepresentation.

The sad part is many of the folks who sued this owner went out of business or lost significant portions of their wealth. Another sad part is those who could not afford to sue or would get overwhelmed by the owner’s high-priced lawyers, just went away without getting paid or accepted being defrauded and bullied. It easier for the owner to pay $5,000 in legal fees to make a larger Accounts Payable problem go away.

As we speak, one of those lawsuits is not paying a painter contractor $250,000. The reason is the owner did not like the work. I understand that is a fair claim, but a project that large should have had some milestone payments and checkpoints on quality measures and progress. Again, it gets back to the above statement, “the word on the street is get your money upfront.”  But, these failure to pay claims do not even speak to the fraudulent or legal wording lawsuits where the owner takes advantage of unwitting buyers, which are a subject in their own right.

The man who uttered this statement was giving a two-part reason of why, as a Republican voter, he will not be voting for Donald Trump. It is far more than his first reason that Trump is an abhorrent candidate based on his comments and positions. It is also due to this man’s dealings with Trump’s companies. He is not alone and it continues to this day. And, it will continue after the election.