Friday, November 2, 2012

NYC Marathon: Bloomberg Comes to His Senses

Mike Bloomberg is an extremely intelligent man, with a wry sense of humor and a natural ease around people. I got a chance to sit next to him some years ago at a Johns Hopkins alumni event. He created a multi-billion dollar global business, and he has run my home town for three terms as Mayor. New York City is innately ungovernable, but he has quietly manged this Herculean task without, say, the relentless self-promotion of Ed Koch. Bloomberg's  name is iconic in global finance: if anyone says, "Check the Bloomberg," nobody has to ask, "What do you mean?"  I give him a lot of credit, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for him.

My wife, kids and I returned to New York in October 2001 to visit the WTC site, family and friends, and to pay respects to my fellow Seido black belt, Captain Patrick Brown, who died with his colleagues from Ladder 3 in the north Tower. It was an unforgettable visit for all of us.

Fast forward to November, and to the third game of the World Series.My family and I were all at our television as President George W. Bush threw out the first ball.

This video has lots of priceless moments.  Among them is Derek Jeter's interaction with the President of the United States, where he tells the President (1) don't think about tossing a fake pitch from the front of the mound because they will boo you; and (2) after he persuaded the President to take the mound, he says "Don't bounce it because they will boo you.We're New Yorkers."  What happens afterwards, and the whole event was so right, so genuine, so human and it brought tears to all of our family watching.  A person on the video who says "I didn't vote for Bush" admits that he too was lifted by this sincerely motivated, very American gesture.

I have to contrast this with the unbelievably crass, emotionally tone deaf proposal to run the 2012 New York Marathon on schedule.  Mayor Bloomberg, who seems increasingly jaded by his thankless job, has given himself over more and more to bad advice from his consiglieres. The New York Times recently lionized Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of New York Road Runners.  Wittenberg is portrayed in the New York Times,
"Mary Wittenberg, chief executive of the New York Road Runners, had attempted to recast the marathon as a "Race to Recovery" highlighted by a fundraising drive to support relief efforts. Already those efforts have raised $1.1 million from the Rudin family, a longtime sponsor of the marathon, a $1 million commitment from the Road Runners, $500,000 from ING, the event's title sponsor, and what will likely be hundreds of thousands more from runners who have been asked to donate $26.20 to recovery efforts."
 Let's set the scene.  Hundreds of thousands of healthy runners, moving through the five boroughs for their own pleasure, supported by race staff providing them with water, energy drinks and medical attention. Police and fire fighters monitoring roads and bridges still scarred by wind, water and dirt.  Fans cheering them on. The roads littered by paper cups and Gatorade containers. Medals and speeches at the end. Would President Obama show up at the finish line to support the "Race to Recovery" as the "Recovery President?"  Would Mayor Bloomberg be there for the obligatory photo op to reaffirm their mutual affirmation of global climate change as the biggest problem we've all endured?

Meanwhile, thousands of New Yorkers are just tonight having their power turned on--including my sister--and the hotels are gouging New Yorkers for $500+ per night because of the demand by displaced residents, tourists and friends.  What about the New Yorkers who live in Breezy Point who still have to look at this?

           Julia Xanthos/New York Daily News

Should the displaced residents take time out to cheer for the marathoners after their homes have been destroyed?  You get the idea. There was nothing genuine about the idea to run the race: it smacks of emotional ignorance, arrogance, or of a cynical calculation.  Thank goodness someone read the Tweets, blogs and social media to take the public's temperature.

Our family had a chance this year to go back to the former World Trade Center area, where I found an old friend.

No comments: