If businesspeople talked like jocks …

If businesspeople talked like jocks …


Maybe I have listened to too many MLB games and interviews as this baseball season unfolded. Maybe I watched too many NHL and NBA playoff games this spring. It's just possible I heard too many quotes from players and coaches during the NCAA tournament.

It seems to me the frequency of hearing athletes bail out on bad performances is increasing. Quotes like "Yeah, I had good looks in the fourth quarter but just couldn't get it done" are really getting old. Why is the expectation of accountability so minimal in the world of sports as compared to the world of business? I have yet to say to a client, "I thought we were ready to play tonight, but I guess I was wrong. That was just plain ugly out there." No one expects athletes to be perfect, but these clichés meant to absolve or vindicate are getting too commonplace. Granted, I'm not usually interviewed by a mob of reporters after I complete a search for a client, nor is an accountant after he or she finishes a tax return for a client, but I thought it might be interesting to interview my accountant as a sports writer would interview an athlete after an important game.

Q: I noticed you were hard-pressed to finish my tax return on time this year. Why do you think that happened?

Bob: Well, my ankle has been tender all tax season. I thought it'd be ready for the last-week crunch, but I just ended up pressing and it really affected my performance. I just couldn't give it 100 percent.

Q: I really thought with the expenses I showed, I'd owe less money this year.

Bob: Our mental attitude was the key. At the beginning of the return, we were able to match their intensity, but then we relaxed and the depth of the expenses hurt us in the end.

Q: You ended up charging me double what you first quoted me to do this year's return.

Bob: We have to watch the payroll. We can't spend like some other teams. The zone trap ended up slowing us down, and the return took much longer than we thought it would, especially after Sid got hurt.

Q: You forgot to deduct the charitable donations I had itemized.

Bob: In that situation, I went up there just looking for a pitch to drive. I was guessing fastball and he came inside with the curve. What can I say? I just missed it! We'll get them next time.

Q: Do you think you'll be back as my accountant next year?

Bob: It's an option I'm exploring, but I don't want to fuel too much speculation. If they want to rebuild with kids, I'll be a free agent next year, so I'm keeping all my choices open.

Q: There's a rumor you might be leaving your firm to make yourself eligible for the Big Six draft.

Bob: When I came to this firm, I fully intended to stay four years, but things change. Everyone here has been great, but I have to do what is best for myself and my family.

No, somehow it just wouldn't sound right coming from an accountant or doctor, yet it appears to be fine for a second baseman or shooting guard. Are there courses in high school or college (assuming they go to college) that teach athletes these lame declarations of excuse? Does Kevin Costner give them sports cliché coaching (as in "Bull Durham")?

C'mon, guys, make your answers for real like the rest of us have to.

Julian B. Schor is a partner in Wingate Dunross Inc., an executive search firm in Los Angeles.

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