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Allan Sayle's Comment

Column 10: 22 February 2006.

“The big bad world doesn’t owe you a thing!
…If you don’t want to play,
then you might as well quit,
…All the bitching, moaning and pitching a fit,
Get over it. Get over it!”

Get over it!
The Eagles

Leveling the playing field

A few weeks ago, I wrote, “People are not assets”. My reason for so doing was to argue why it seems to me a rather silly and inappropriate expression that denigrates people to the level of slaves. Another popular and nonsensical expression relates to playing fields.

“We must level the playing field”; “We are not playing on a level playing field because of [some imagined bogeyman]”. These constant gripes are little more than a wimp’s complaint about how things are. They are an excuse. My advice: listen to the lyrics of that Eagles song and then look in the mirror.

In any game, be it cricket, soccer or rugby involving the use of a playing field opposing teams compete on the same field. Indeed, if the playing field has a slope, since the game is comprised of two halves, each side enjoys the same benefits as the other as the direction of play changes at half time. Whatever lumps, bumps and divots there may be they affect the bounce and run of the ball equally for each team. The game is won by the team that has the best players who cope with the situation and use its realities to the best effect and has the highest score in the end. In school sports one was taught to do one’s best, be magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat. But, always to learn lessons from the game, work hard to improve and relish a return match.

Few things are sadder than a supposed sportsman, especially one earning his living from a sport, complaining about playing conditions when he loses. (Tiger Woods’ pathetic moaning and pouting on TV, after failing to win the British Open golf tournament at Carnoustie a few years ago, springs to mind: allegedly, the fairways were too narrow, the rough too tall and the course did not provide a “fair test” of golf! Grow up son! And he has.) When it comes to international trade, corporate leaders and politicians spewing out similar claims is equally immature. (And hypocritical for one cannot doubt they would take advantage of any undulating, sloping playing field if it were to their advantage.)

In his wonderful book, The World is Flat, which I mentioned in a previous article, Thomas Friedman deploys the “level playing field” metaphor a bit too often (almost ad nauseum) in urging his fellow Americans to heed what is going on in the world. His message is right; his metaphor inappropriate for it provides the very excuse that Americans do not need. Nor does anyone else. Global trade means every exporting nation plays on the same global surface under the same laws of the game: the laws of supply and demand and the laws of a value proposition creating a market. Those who hone their skills, services and products to what the market place wants will do best. If one country has preferential laws and tax breaks for its companies, others should follow. A flat tax (pun intended) is one way government can help. It is a device that is spreading across Europe.

The playing field is what it is. If you’re not up to the game, don’t play. Go home to momma. Otherwise, get on with it and quit griping. (Or, as former American president, Harry S. Truman quipped, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”) If you think the “playing field is not level”, raise your skills and game so that it is immaterial. Your opponent is faced with the same circumstances. The better prepared, the most skilful will be the winner. And, as with most games, it is often the case that the winner is better at capitalizing on the loser’s mistakes. And that is part of the essential skills required to win any game on any field.

For my part, I would rather regard the playing field as a snooker table. What matters is to know where the balls are.

© 2006 Allan Sayle Associates. All rights reserved.

Web: www.sayle.com
Email: Publish@SaferPak.com



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