By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
Now I know some of you reading this are going to be upset. Trust me on this one.
I respectfully suggest that some of us living in greater Seattle (and many other cities in the U.S.) are a wee bit too parochial. What do I mean? I mean we can take pride in where we live. We can promote the area as if we worked for the Chamber of Commerce. But let’s leave it there. To do much more makes us and the city look defensive about what we’re about and undermines the value of the area to those living elsewhere.
Let’s start with the Seahawks. By the time you are reading this, the ‘hawks are either the NFL champions or runner up. I hope the ‘hawks did win. But even if they didn’t is life going to come to an end? Is our fate as successful human beings determined by whether our local team won a big game?
I grew up in New York City. We had the New York Yankees who have won more championships in their sport than any other professional team. You know what? In New York City, the Yankees have a large following. But if they don’t win the World Series (which the Boston Red Sox did this year) no one is jumping off the Empire State Building. No one goes on a hunger strike for a week.
New York City is such a great center for just about everything that no one acts in a defensive way about his or her “home.” To do so would “cheapen” the image of New York. In fact, the New York City newspapers take great delight and are excellent at humiliating these “fallen” sports heroes. Only when you can laugh at yourself will others respect you.
There is a great movie called “A Bronx Tale” written by Chazz Palminteri. In it a mobster played by Palminteri tells his young friend why Mickey Mantle is overrated. In other words, don’t put too much of your psyche into your local sports hero or team. As Palminteri said, “If your father loses his job, see if Mickey Mantle pays your expenses.” The young character responded (to himself but you hear his voice in the film), “I never looked at the New York Yankees that way again.”
One can feel badly that the “hood” played by Palminteri undermined this young man’s idealism. But in fact, it’s just a part of growing up, in moving from the fantasy world into the “real” one. Perfectly okay for a 12 year old.
Yeah, Seattle has no professional basketball team (any more). So what? And the Mariners are sort of a joke in professional baseball. Again, so what?
When you look at Seattle, it truly is a world-class city. It is a gateway to the Far East, which is hugely important commercially. Many far eastern companies put their U.S. presence in our area, starting with the gaming industry – where Nintendo maintains a large presence here besides owning the Mariners baseball team. In fact, greater Seattle is one of the leading centers of the computer gaming industry.
Beyond those companies, we have Microsoft, Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing, and many other 21st Century companies. Now that’s something to boast about.
Our intellectual capital makes greater Seattle one of the largest centers of new high technology startups. Yet I don’t recall ever seeing a “rally” at Seattle Center for any of these companies.
The University of Washington is, I think, the fourth largest public university in the U.S. in amount of money granted for research. Now that’s something to brag about.
I am reminded of a trip I made to Hutchinson, Kansas a while back. I was doing a consulting assignment for the newspaper there. The publisher of the newspaper seemed to want me to know he wanted to be “anywhere else” but in Hutchinson. Knowing that I was from the east coast and a resident of greater Boston with a Harvard affiliation, he seemed defensive about where/what his station in life was.
One morning at a coffee shop he said to me, “I bet you’re wondering why I am in Hutchinson Fu--ing Kansas.” I thought about it for a minute and realized that he wanted me to think of him as something other than a “hick in the sticks.”
In fact, I thought him a very savvy guy (a bit defensive) with an interesting and challenging job – and someone who would wind up in the not too distant future at a larger paper in a bigger city.
As I drove out of Hutchinson – on my way back to catch a flight home (from Wichita – the closest city with a major jet airport) I saw a sign that said, “Hutchinson Kansas – gateway to Wichita.” I remember thinking: WTF?!?! Talk about being defensive!!
My point about all this is that no one should be defensive about where they live. As they say, “Home is where the hearth is.” And we should all be proud of our roots. Even if it’s Hutchinson Fu--king Kansas.