Published on: February 10, 2009by Michael Sansolo
There’s a small scene in the hilarious movie “Young Frankenstein” that pretty well describes events in our country lately. In this scene, Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkunstein”) and his assistant, Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor”), are digging up a dead body that they hope to bring back to life. Knee deep in the mud, Gene Wilder (Frankenstein) comments on the misery of the job. Marty Feldman (Igor) responds: “It could be worse.”
When Wilder asks how, Feldman says, “It could be raining.” Instantly we hear a crack of thunder and, of course, the rain comes down.
It feels like that when I read/watch the news these days. Just as I think “could it be worse?” it is worse. And it makes no difference what part of the news I consider: world news, domestic, political, business, religion…it just starts raining. (Oh, and thank you Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez for removing the fantasy that sports could be an escape.)
It can and does get worse and it isn’t likely to stop soon. One troubling aspect of this: with every bad actor on the scene from Bernie Madoff to John Thain, with every corporate misstep from Wall Street to Wells Fargo, the debate becomes less reasoned and the broad brush of bad behavior grows wider. (I’d argue that corporate jets and recognition meetings can both be cost effective and positive, but don’t expect to hear that argument supported widely at the moment.)
The reason the food industry has to fear the descending mindset comes right off the front page thanks to the Peanut Corporation of America. Once again a bad actor—and I’m sorry, but it’s hard to call them anything but—is defining the debate. And the entire food industry and our essential issue of trust—food safety—will now be viewed with skepticism and concern. Could it be worse?
Obviously, yes, but we don’t have to let this one go without a fight. The entire food industry needs to fight this aisle by aisle, giving the shopper every possible assurance of the importance we put on their safety. We need more statements like the ones from Jif and now Peter Pan, putting our reputations on the line and talking to shoppers about how we support food safety.
And we certainly need to provide clear and immediate instructions to staff throughout the industry that this is no time for cutting corners or taking chances. We’ve talked for years about all the work poured into food safety training. Now is the time to make certain every element is working.
The food industry cannot fix poor governmental oversight or conflicting jurisdictional disputes between the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. We can keep fighting for improvement in that area, but that fix remains beyond our control. What we can control is what we must control. And we need to make sure our shoppers know it.
We know someone will ask: could it be worse?
We have to make certain the answer is an emphatic NO!
…And Make it Better
Some anniversaries simply don’t get enough attention, so I have to branch out in a very different direction. Forty-five years ago yesterday, the world as we knew it changed. On Feb. 9, 1964, The Beatles performed live in the US for the first time: on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
If you aren’t old enough to remember this incredible moment, you have to understand that Ed Sullivan was the king of entertainment television and that The Beatles, established in Europe but largely unknown here, exploded with a force that remade music and culture in ways we still feel.
Here’s a part of the story I didn’t know. Sullivan, who was in his 60s at the time, found out about The Beatles while in a British airport. He ran into a pack of crazed fans awaiting the band’s arrival and asked what was going on. Almost instantly he booked them to a three-show deal.
Think about that. A 63-year-old man catching a flight in London sees the stirring of what would become the biggest revolution in popular music and takes a chance. Makes you wonder what might wait around the corner for all of us, if only we look.
- KC's View:
- I don’t generally do this, but I’ll add a brief postscript to Michael’s column. The fact is that while the Beatles first appeared live on the Sullivan show, it was not the first time the group had been seen on US television – that had happened a few weeks before on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show.”
But the difference between Paar and Sullivan is striking. Sullivan, a showman, was enthusiastic about the Beatles, while Paar made fun of the group and especially its fans. (You can see the video on YouTube, proving yet again that the Internet is a remarkable thing.)
Choose your role model carefully.