What can we learn from the Apprentice?

What can we learn from the Apprentice?

A show like the Apprentice offers not only entertainment, but also a chance to look at how people think they will succeed.  Not that the Apprentice message is what really happens in the world, but it may well encourage how a next generation will approach their chances to get ahead.  After all if it works on TV, then it should work in real life.  In the Apprentice, contestants were first given minimal jobs and tasks in order for the world and yes, even Donald a chance to see how they might perform, interact, innovate and relate.  All this supervised structured work just to see who would get to the next level.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see if any of the promotions, ideas or schemes devised by the groups are still in effect?  The next stage involved more role-playing, more opportunities to improvise, more chances to be distinguished, and eventually a chance to sit across from the “Master” in the Boardroom.

Does the same mentality apply in Dancesport?  That question might be too easy.  There are certainly no shortages of people who already envision themselves as the “Dancesport Donalds”.  These same people are ready to sit across the table and fire salvos across the floor to make sure those few selected to be in the Boardroom are acting in accordance with their wishes.  They must salivate at the thought of being able to crush the hopes, aspirations, and efforts of the aspiring.  Being able to justify that power for the benefit of mere entertainment is all the more intoxicating.  Unfortunately for our Dance Donalds, the only people being entertained are those already in the Boardroom.

Maybe the biggest difference is that in the real world Donald is putting up his own money or at least his reputation, credit, etc. to obtain the money to finance his ventures.  Therefore he has a patented interest in some semblance of real success at the end of the day.  Furthermore he has already accumulated wealth, and has something to lose if not all goes well.  His definition of success is easily measured.

How are our Donalds being measured?  Do we measure what they actually have accomplished for the sport or simply sit in awe of the power they wield that comes form the position they have been given?  Are the Dancing Donald’s all about the power, but with no risk?  They are quick to tell you they have the knowledge of Donald, the wisdom of Solomon, and the heart of, well you get the idea.  The problem is they have nothing to lose.  Have you ever heard of a Dancing Donald losing his seat of power or prestige after a flop?  In the Apprentice, how many got a second chance?  Only one, and then it was a second chance to destroy somebody else.  It worked.

This is where our scenario differs from the Apprentice and the real world.  The people on the way up are not going to be judged by the quality of work in some make believe test.  Competitors compete for the their future, and it is a very real future.  Success and the hope that dancesport will eventually gain the credibility and exposure most of us feel it deserves, could result in real paychecks, real endorsements, and true stardom.  Athletes who spend their entire lives developing skills, speed, balance, composure and a style that is hopefully unique deserve more than a journeyman’s existence with years of kissing asses and hiring relics just to be recognized.  And for what?  The chance to sit in the boardroom and become one of the “Donalds”?  That is the situation, as it now exists.  Remember Strictly Ballroom?

This mind-set needs to be changed before the sport is relegated to the same level as watching a classical ballet replete with tutus and appreciating all of the finer points of snobbery, opera glasses, etc.  Sports and games have served the purpose of training our youth to accomplish the tasks necessary for adulthood.  Aiming high (super heroes), hunting (hide and seek), teamwork (basketball), hand-eye coordination (video games), fishing (patience) are just some of the examples.

Dancesport offers the advantage of many of those same activities.  Working together; where dancing really is a 21st century game where a man and lady work together doing equal but different tasks for a common result.  Speed and agility; the need to change quickly in today’s environment is a requisite for success.  Endurance; unlike the Apprentice most of us will never know how long it takes to be measured, or even who actually does the measuring.  So many more but you get the idea.

We recognize our top athletes even as adults, because we admire their skills, talents, and abilities.  Are football players our modern gladiators?  It is certainly true in most sports that officials are often suspect and disliked.  The bad call, seen on the big screen invokes screams to get the umpire.  Is dancesport too refined to call for a replay?  To whom could you appeal?  Can dancesport succeed if it remains mired in antiquated patronage and a judging system that many feel reward position over talent, and rites of passage over ingenuity and bravado?

No one can deny the position and power of our Dance Donalds.  Few can argue over their personal accomplishments.  I wouldn’t even argue over their motives.  The facts, just as with the Apprentice, lie with results.  If the results aren’t up to the expectations, then you’re supposed to be fired.  Is dancesport where it should be?  Why is table tennis, 9-Ball, and Poker on ESPN and dancesport isn’t?  Has too much effort been put on the wrong projects?  Whose fault is that?  Are those projects benefiting the sport or the few?  If nothing else, the Apprentice teaches that nothing is static.  Either you are moving forward, and working towards the objective or your supposed to be fired.

Michael Reichenbach

Sent to DW 04-22-2004

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