Monday, January 6, 2014

Warning: Omnipotence And Excessive Insulation

As published in The County Times ( in Feb 2011

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Had enough of Daniel Snyder this week?  I hope not. I’m betting a few lonely emotion-stirring threads of optimism remain to be severed by Tyrannical Rex himself before you’re sent plummeting helplessly into the deepest depths of despair his horrendous ownership has repeatedly wrought upon the ‘Skins franchise.  If he’s broken your will and you must abort immediately, I completely understand.  But, if you’re still clinging to something, and you dare to risk forever blackening the faint flickers of hope, then stay with me.  I’ll try to get to the point quickly (think whiskey, not beer). 

This disclaimer was necessary of course because Snyder finally found a way to be newsworthy during Super Bowl week.  He accomplished this ultimate quest not by leading his franchise to the big game (let’s not get crazy), but by dropping a well-publicized lawsuit on a D.C. newspaper for publishing a Snyder-scathing article.  Now I won’t belabor this thoroughly covered situation further than to say Snyder’s lawsuit contends the article contained inaccurate information and anti-Semitic content that was libelous and defaming.  If you need more gouge than that, there are plenty of “Dan Snyder lawsuit” exits off the information superhighway.  More intriguing than the lawsuit and healthy reaction to it is trying to figure out how in the world this came to pass and what to take from it.   

Snyder could have played this hand countless different ways.  A lawsuit was absolutely an option; only Snyder knows how this article impacted him and it’s his right to protect his reputation against any attack.  But even if he wins the case he’ll lose resoundingly in the court of public opinion.  Snyder’s decisions shouldn’t be governed by what’s popular, necessarily, but the buying patterns of the general public, the backbone of his business, are influenced by the prevailing perception of the organization.  Frankly, if season tickets were available, I’d pass, primarily because of Snyder.  The lawsuit insures that he comes off as more unlikable: the billionaire bully strong-arming the media, just because he can.  He would have been more effective in advancing his point and business by using the media resources he owns to express his outrage and tell his side of the story. 

And the timing is just horrible.  The organization has worked hard to restore its credibility and faith in ownership by completely renovating its football staff (ousting Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato and hiring Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen) and chain of command (Snyder claims he’s relinquished football decisions).  This lawsuit completely undermines the campaign to redefine Snyder and the ‘Skins.  Worse yet, it just seems a tacky move by one of the most powerful men in D.C.  In a recent interview Snyder offered a principled defense of his actions by saying, “what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong” and that this editorial was just wrong.  Interesting comment from an insensitive owner who knows the name of his franchise is offensive to Native Americans but clearly doesn’t care.  In another ironic twist, I received a Valentine’s Day promotional email this week from the ‘Skins titled “Love Is In The Air”.  Seriously.

So how in the name of John Riggins, The Hogs, Joe Gibbs, Darrell Green, Art Monk, Sonny Jurgensen, the three Lombardi trophies and everything else that’s good and holy in ‘Skins nation did this happen?  The truth is I have no idea (I’m nothing if not maddeningly honest).  What I do know is those at the top of an organization, particularly dictators, can become insulated from the practical interpretations and consequences of their actions.  This lawsuit is likely a product of Snyder’s my-way style: a persona that renders him decidedly unapproachable and unlikely to consider a dissenting opinion.  Internally his public relations team must be channeling Jerry Mcguire and desperately thinking “Dan, help me, help you.”  Ronald Reagan once said (roughly), “Surround yourself with the best people, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.”  Had Snyder brushed up on presidential history before filing this lawsuit, he could have more effectively met his objective, and his customers – the fans - wouldn’t have thought even less of their team owner.     

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