Sunday, January 23, 2005

There's Always More...

“I thought I was wrong once – but I was mistaken.” When did you last have to re-think an opinion? If your answer is “never”, then you might want to check to see if you are taking enough risks in life… or to see if you might have been in error – however slight – in that assessment.

Personally, I recently had to totally re-think an opinion of my own. The polite version went something like, “How in the world did this guy ever make it two days, let alone two years as an on-air weather anchor?” on seeing a clip of Mark Mathis and the work he did until a few short months ago for a Charlotte, NC station.

This clip has been making the rounds on the internet, so perhaps you’ve seen it already. At one point, I was all-out, jaw-dropping horrified as I watched him clowning around with a graphic in the background showing some extremely nasty-looking thunderstorms. As a former broadcast meteorologist (also facetiously known as “weather bunny” in my house, with full knowledge that I possess enough of the credentials to make fun of the work in a way guaranteed to annoy me if it ever came from anyone questioning said credentials), I found it appalling to have him be that flippant with serious weather. It nearly ended there for me. I feel fortunate to have had to courage to reconsider my gut reaction on this one. Perhaps I was being overly serious about the matter though I do still like to think people want to know about major thunderstorm activity.

It all started when curiosity overcame me and I had to find out more of the story; one thing I know - there's always more than what's obvious. I started trolling for more information about this guy. How had he lasted as long as he did, acting like that on-air in the 28th largest television market? Charlotte is not exactly small potatoes so he and the station had to have had quite a lot on the line.

What I learned from "the rest of the story" began to re-shape my opinion. It turns out that part of the reason was that people loved him… or loved to hate him, far more than I’d given him credit for. From a Charlotte Observer article, it sure sounds like the station probably hired him – and kept him around – for exactly that reason. Then they dumped him for breaching the standard morality clause in his contract, supposedly having nothing to do with his on-air antics.

I’d like to point out that I never was comfortable with those clauses and several others like them – it made me into one of those people afraid even to have a glass of wine with dinner if I was out on a night off, or even consider a different haircut than the one I had when I was hired. And, like similar sorts of clauses I’m sure you can find in your own corporate employee handbook, my opinion is that they are rarely used except as an excuse to terminate someone they plan to be rid of anyway when they don’t care to share their real reasons for their actions.

Here’s the cool thing about this guy though, and the reason I’ve come to admire him – he fully owns who he was and the events and actions that led to where he is now, even if there is still some question of the station management’s role in what happened, and he’s actively taking responsibility for his own life at this point. I can see no whining here.

If there’s any truth to the additional information I’ve read, it’s quite possible that getting fired may have saved his life. What’s more, I’m thinking that Mark is poised to take advantage of this turn of events and make some major improvements in his life – perhaps even using his even greater notoriety for even greater impact. It’d be a great thing to shoot for anyway.

Meanwhile, the station is still searching for a new weather anchor, a real meteorologist this time. Much as I'd like to see weather being treated less flippantly, I have to wonder if that will help them get back their ratings to the level they had when Mark was hamming it up?

Ultimately, there are so many ways it occurs to me that this story might impact the rest of us and our lives. It’s funny and entertaining in a train-wreck, “misery loves company” sort of way. And it’s inspiring in a “you have to lose it all to find what’s important” sort of way. It also shows us how we can allow our own mistakes and the poor behavior of others to chew us up and spit us out if we hold on too tightly to our own righteous indignation… or we can choose to find some positives in the situation and take that to make life better somehow.

There’s plenty more where that came from. Now it’s your turn. I’m sure you can think of even more ways this story might be relevant so I hope you'll take a moment to drop a line at - if it's iced over, I'll know it's cold; I still remember how the weather rope works.

What would you want to accomplish if looking stupid was no barrier?