"A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing." - Oscar Wilde, English author, playwright, poet (1854-1900)
An article came out last year about "one-star" reviews of national parks; natural wonders in my nation which were panned by travelers and the reasons they were not felt to be worth the entry fee. Someone in my social media-verse posted it up last week. After reading the article it's easy to see how, and even why people could easily, for want of a better term, "miss the forest for the trees."
Within these spaces I've made snarky comments about events which I've considered not worth the entry fee because the course was poorly laid out, or the awards were terrible, or the shirts were cheap, or there was no beer. As a consumer with limited income and endless wants (the first law of economics) it makes perfect sense for me to seek out the events which provide me the greatest utility (happiness), based on the factors I find most important.
When it comes to sporting/endurance events, the best-produced events are the ones where the participant sees little or none of the inner workings. Stuff magically appears and everybody goes home happy. Folks who have worked to produce or support the production of a sporting event will tell you that things rarely go as smooth as possible; if you only have a "plan B" in your contingency planning you're likely going to have a bad day, And when it comes to higher-level events the layers of production and collaboration are at a level which would boggle the mind of the average athlete.
It's like putting up a Disney theme park, training the workers, running the show, and tearing it down in a matter of days.
But let me go back to social media and missed perspective. I've found the attempt to place additional perspective as an event volunteer, a race organization worker, or a low-level official of a national or international sport federation (Credentials which with $2.25 will get me a cup of coffee at Denny's in my hometown, should I decide to cross the picket line.) is like, as the saying goes, trying to teach a barnyard animal to sing. Providing clarity in a social media bulletin board wastes my time and energy, annoys the person who's mind is already made up on who to blame, and exposes me to the question, "dude, are you speaking for yourself or for the organization?" I've learned the hard way that most of the folks who are at the highest levels in the national or international federations - and can speak for the group - have learned to stay out of what might be seen as "kindergarten level" arguments. Are they concerned about the opinions of the folks who participate in their races? Sure they are. But they're also at the level where they have more of the story.
What do I mean? Well, take for example what's happened today in Thailand. Today's edition of the New York Times was not printed there. The printer who receives the copy for printing was concerned about violating Thai laws having to do with offending the monarchy. It's not the individual printer who's going to take the flack for the unavailability of the Times; that's most likely going to be aimed at the Times. When it comes to big races and big events, while the national and international governing bodies - or promotion companies are the "face" of the event, there's a local organizing committee which actually pulls the levers, much like "Oz, the great and terrible...and by the way, stay away from the curtain."
They're pretty much at the mercy, sometimes, of local bureaucracies. A city with two professional sporting events happening on a day are pretty much going to tell a local organizer and the federation to compress their schedule, limit venue locations, and so forth. Unless they're receiving "Olympian" amounts of money, and then they might flex a little. Add to this a little term called "force majeure," the classic "stuff that happens" that no deity would claim themselves as directly responsible for, and those "Times" parties receive blame for what goes wrong rather than having contingency plans down to "E" and at times "F."
So it's not that I want to recommend everyone who participates in large and high-level events to cower before the projected image of "the great and terrible," but take a moment before exercising what you might perceive as your entitlement as consumer, depositing the burning bag of "yuck" at the front porch of the people whose face is out front. They might be doing their best to operate within the constraints which have been placed upon them by a higher authority. It's like blaming the bus driver for the route which got changed because of street repairs.