Manny Ramirez Strikes Out as a Hero

April 11, 2011

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

This past Friday, April 8, 2011 Manny Ramirez suddenly retired due to allegations that he was using illegal, game-enhancing drugs for the third time in his career. We first ran this blog in May of 2009. We figure another look at values and integrity was worth a second read, even for Manny fans.


Full disclosure: I never liked Manny Ramirez. Not when he was a hero of the Red Sox Nation. Not now as a Dodger.  Not because he was good at playing baseball because I do have an appreciation for his machine-oiled swing and his carefree clutch play. But Manny being Manny was two too many Mannys for me.

Manny Ramirez

So that takes me to a news show the other day reporting that Manny Ramirez’s Dodger jerseys are being bought at a record pace since the news broke of his steroid violation. He’s been suspended for 50 games but sales on Manny mania is up.

Tell me, why would anyone want Manny Ramirez’s name on their back – even more now than before – after he was cited for illegal drug use?

Full disclosure number two: I feel the same way about A-Rod. And anyone else who cheats in or out of a Yankee uniform.

I have no issues with success and the riches and fame earned from it if one gets famous for doing decent things, for winning fair. You don’t have to be a working class guy to be a hero. Talent and fame aren’t enough to make you a person to look up to. You can be admired for your physical beauty and social powers but to become a hero, character should count more than homers.

So here’s to the heart-pounding excitement of playing by the rules.

To the miles after miles of straight and narrow.

To delivered-as-promised accountability.

To doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching. And when they are.

Here’s to the guy who holds his trash to toss it in the garbage can and picks it up and tries again when he misses a fall-away jumper. With no stadium, no cheers, no two fingers to the lips and up to the heavens when it goes in.

Here’s to celebrating ordinary goodness at a time when celebrity is so prized and so attainable.

Here’s to aspiring to be that kind of everyday hero.

Hallmark ought to make a day for it.

Everyday Hero Day.

When you care enough to send the very best to those who care enough to always do their best.

Goodness doesn’t need a posse.  If a good act is executed and no one sees it each of us is made better.

It’s easy to see a ball smashed in the ninth inning fly over the wall to win the game. Should you miss it, they will replay it on the jumbo screen, on the sports shows, on the local news, in the paper, online, in the blogs, fan sites.

You think we can tell goodness without a batting average? Without a stage or if it didn’t step out of a limo in a $1,000 suit?

This requires more action on the spectator’s part.

We have a responsibility to see, point out and to judge who we each want to put on the pedestal. If anyone.

My heroes’ names might not be in lights above all others. Some are, though.

She may not be able to sing or dance or run at record speed.

He may not have the mind to understand advanced strategy.

And, then again, they may have all of that. They may be famous for their talent and a nobody for their deeds.

They may be famous for their goodness. Like I said, being famous for doing the right thing is a good thing. It inspires more good stuff since fame is such an aspiration.

Give me the common good guy.

I will be proud to wear his jersey.

I will wait outside his workplace for his autograph.

I will point him out to my kids.

And put his poster over our bed (especially if my wife thinks he’s sexy).

You do the right thing under the intense pressure of an ordinary day or in the dark when the spotlight is off then you’ll have my respect and my thanks.

Now it may not be worth millions so I will also send you a hero card.

I don’t run my business. Values do.

November 5, 2009

By Michael Mark, Creative Director & CEO @NYCA 

I had my doubts but I’ve come to believe I am a good businessman.  I have no formal business education, no MBA.  I haven’t endured a single course in accounting or management.  I have trouble with spreadsheets; actually they bore me. Math and I are allergic to each other.  I have the title CEO but I don’t pore over the stock pages.  I feel less than at ease with the corporate set when I try to be one of them.  I don’t care about the cost per square foot of our offices.  I do realize it’s important but it doesn’t touch me.  I don’t get emotionally involved with leases – though the fact that they have my personal guarantee does make me wince randomly.  I do care greatly about health care as that is taking care of my staff and their families.

 SynergyBy all traditional measures, we are a successful enterprise. We have grown most of the seven years we have been up and running, with some natural dips and spurts along the way.  My success metrics – they call them KPIs these days — are based on customer satisfaction, employee quality, a thriving culture, profitability and a consistently excellent product. 

But I don’t really run the business. Values run my business.  And they have been the reason for getting us where we are today.  And as the chairman, I elect them to the board each annual session.

We value integrity – doing what we say every single time.  We value honesty – the truth must be told loudly.  We value compromise and flexibility – people need to make room for each other; you get more ideas and have more comfortable days that way.  We value acceptance – we celebrate the mutant idea and mutants in general.  I just have to make an NYCA t-shirt with that on it one day.  We value the grow! idea – the rare idea that is inspired enough to positively move a client’s business in the marketplace.  We value openness, transparency – let all see all; truly, my door is always open and I hope our hearts and minds are just as wide.  We value the present and the future – that’s why we launched the Learning Grove, which teaches grade schooler’s sustainability.  We value courage – we’re brave enough to tame our egos and determined enough to take on the demon of convention. We have value flexibility so, as Dylan says, we “have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.” 

I was told, “You won’t be good in business, Michael, because you’re not competent in the intricacies of running a business.”  It scared me so I went to learn as much as I could.

My teachers are many and are always working on me. 

I learned fairness from Rabbis and Priests with whom I studied.  I learned love from my family; I got a graduate degree from my grandmothers. Generosity came from lessons by my friends.  My wife teaches me patience, though we agree I am a slower learner and need to wear the dunce cap often.   My staff teaches me forgiveness – they forgive me every day.  My clients school me on listening – hearing the message between the words, around gestures, inside the pauses.  My competition teaches me perseverance.  My dog gives me daily lessons in loyalty during our long walks.  My garden teaches me about hope in the face of darkness and cold.  My heroes in history show me how to stare down fear, and travel shows me there are miracles everywhere.  My children teach me humility.  My partners teach me trust.  My reading teaches me that I am never alone, that I will never get it perfect and that there’s always another page to learn from.

My business education is classroomless, deep and broad, and I am indebted to all my great teachers as I continue to be a student. 

I am still earning my MV, Masters of Values.