Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Be A Great Commander

In the movie "Gettysburg" which is based on the novel "The Killer Angels," General Robert E. Lee says to General James Longstreet; "General, soldiering has one great trap: to be a good solider you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love."

I think of that quote often, both in my Drum and Bugle Corps dealings and in my Volvo Ocean Race dealings.  And interestingly enough, I'd only pass General Lee's "good commander" test in one.

I love Drum and Bugle Corps.  I love the thrill of the speed, the volume (MORE VOLUME) of the horns.  I love it when a corps teeters on the edge of chaos, loud and fast and crazy, but never falls over the edge.  I love old school corps- I love bugles, I love it all.

What I HATE though, is where drum corps seems to be going.  I was ok with the death of "march what you play" because it benefited me, in high school marching band.  I never would have been able to play xylophone and carry it at the same time, I just wasn't strong enough.  But I am soooo very NOT ok with amplification, electrification, the demise of the bugle (um- Drum and BUGLE CORPS MUCH??), the dancing hornlines, the seemingly forgotten basics of marching well, in step and in line when needed.  I hate the drive to be summer's version of Bands of America, and to wuss the old school right out. 

I cannot order the death of this thing I love.  By accepting the changes, I would accept something that is NOT drum corps, and is in my opinion, killing the thing I love.  So, sorry General.  I'm a lousy commander.

However, when it comes to the Volvo, I'm all for change, because I see that with change, the activity will survive.

I'm a member of a group on LinkedIn called "DARK BLUE BOOK - The Who's Who of Yacht Racing."  The Manager's Choice question this week was "In your opinion what should be the format and boat of Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-2015?"

I said: "I'd like to see longer stopovers- it just seems so rushed now between arrival, in-port and departure. I'd like to see a US west coast stopover, but I'm not sure how that would work.
As to the boats themselves, I like the 70s, but I worry about their suitability in hard conditions. From the first edition of the race that featured the 70s, and continuing to this race, there were just so many catastrophic failures. I'd like to see something that delivered the excitement of the potential speed of the 70, without the excitement of the potential damage." 

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.  That's ok though, I didn't expect my amateur opinion to weigh much with the pros, but at least I'm in there.  Once they got done either ignoring or picking my answer apart though, people started in on the "It should be the way it was" vs "We need to change or we'll die" argument.

I followed the back and forth for a while, and sent this to one of the discussion members: "It appears that you and I are on the same (pardon the pun) wavelength re: the VOR. While I understand the appeal of "let's go back to Maxi's" and "let's just go for speed not points" I fear that doing so would mean the death of the race. Like it or not, the VOR NEEDS the virtual race, it needs the corporate sponsors, it needs the casual interest generated by the plethora of non-sailing bits and bobs that are associated with the race now. Or it will die."

Would a return to the hale and hearty days of champagne, caviar and Irish hand knit sweaters be better?  It does have appeal.  The gentleman sailor, the "any yacht" aspect of it, no multimillion dollar corporate sponsors, no having to dog and pony during stop overs.  Just the men, the boats and the sea.  Mano a... um.  Mer?  Sure.  We'll say that.  Mano a Mer.

But that would kill it, you see?  That age has gone by, and even men who sailed in the early Whitbreads have embraced and raced in the Volvo.  If a syndicate is willing to drop millions of dollars to develop a state of the art boat, with the best team available, why not encourage it?  If there are tens of thousands of fans playing the VOR game online, why not expand that for the next race?

There was recently an article released about the media reach for HALF of this current race.  "For what its worth, the cumulative TV audience as of February 19th was 880 million based on 1,200 hours of coverage across dedicated programming and news items. Those figures compare with a cumulative audience of 459 million at the corresponding stage of the last race, representing a 90 percent increase."  The article goes on to explain why and all, but NINETY PERCENT INCREASE.  Why?  How?

Because of the extras- the dog and pony at stopovers, the online game, the increased exposure in China.  All these things are giving traditionalists heart attacks.  "100000 players online is great, 6 teams is not. Even if you have a million players it is irrelevant to what the race should be. The number of virtual sailors is a great tool for showing increased marketing numbers, but has no reflection on the success of the real race."  I would argue that perhaps the focus of the race is changing.

Would I like to see ten teams, a dozen teams, battling it out across the globe?  Sure.  As much as the next zealot I've decried the lack of syndicates, even to the point of pitching to Richard Branson's Virgin that THEY sponsor a team.  (to no avail...yet)  But look at the NUMBERS- even with the measly 6 entries (all of whom I love, don't get me wrong) the overall marketing numbers for this race are skyrocketing.  I believe that if we (and by we, I mean VOR) keep going the way we're going, we'll have players AND teams.  I'd say that with reports like this, 8 to 10 teams in 2014 is an achievable goal.

So yes, General Lee.  I would kill the Whitbread.  Long live the Volvo.

(I used this photo because I know Martin Sheen's General Lee said the line.  I'm not 100% sure the actual General Lee said the line.)

No comments:

Post a Comment