I’m not sure if you saw the recent Ryder Cup competition, but I caught a handful of matches and came away with this impression: The United States may no longer have the best golfers in the world, but there is one thing in which we still dominate. When it comes to seriousness, we are light years ahead of any place on the planet. Look, I love Tiger Woods, but when he makes a putt what does he do? His eyes burn, he screams and pumps his fist, then points to the hole as though directing some demon back to hell. All weekend long, however, after they’d make some magical shot, the Europeans would joyously celebrate. They’d throw their arms skyward and grin from ear to ear, their eyes beaming with excitement. Their reaction was almost childlike, and I’m convinced it was why they once again won the Ryder Cup. I’m also convinced that the burden of constantly being expected to win had robbed the Americans of what made them great golfers in the first place – the sheer joy they took in playing the game. And you see that everywhere now from Olympic basketball to DC politics. Even in cable. Being constantly expected to win – and accepting nothing less – has become one of our biggest liabilities. An obsession with winning does not just strip a person of the joy of competing, it’s often one of the reasons that person underperforms. As this country has increasingly obsessed about producing the best golfers, the best basketball players, the best bankers, lawyers and architects in the world, we’ve lost one of our most precious abilities – the ability to simply have fun. I’m also talking about cable. This industry used to be fun. But I talk to friends and colleagues at some of our biggest companies, and while they’re all making more money, and have more toys, bigger houses and better views than ever, they tell me they’re just not having as much fun as they used to. Just like the Ryder Cup team made winning an unhealthy obsession, many companies in our industry now do the same thing with their stock prices. And ironically, many of cable’s publicly held companies are so consumed with their stock performances, they’re making bad business decisions. Consider Sumner Redstone’s ouster of Tom Freston. Tell me that’s a guy with not just one eye on a Wall Street, but both of them. Let’s see, I kicked Tom Cruise off the lot and stock prices spiked? Hmm, wonder what would happen if I fired my CEO? Forget the fact he was one of a handful of CEOs who actually got it. Forget the fact that he had instilled in Viacom, top to bottom, a clear vision of what the company stood for. And forget the fact he’d been loyal for nearly 30 years. Can him. Who cares what it will do to morale? The analysts might like it. I know there were mitigating circumstances in that particular story, but I also know this: We have to stop trying so hard to win. We have stop wringing the life out of our corporate teams with our single-minded obsession on inching profits upward. We have to start thinking more about our corporate environments and a little less about our corporate ledgers. You know why? If we take care of the first thing the second thing will take care of itself. Just like the Ryder Cup proved, any team plays its best when it’s focused, when its players care, and when every last person is playing without fear of failure. Comedy Central should start a new public service campaign promoting humor and levity, targeting all those under the delusion that fun and success run on parallel tracks. And Symonds says its theme should be: Lighten up America. Winning is killing us. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com.

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