The "What was he thinking?" post.

E-mail this post

Remember me (?)

All personal information that you provide here will be governed by the Privacy Policy of More...

This post isn't going to be about Marketing or Branding or anything remotely connected to what this blog usually touches on. (Okay, maybe this is a PR matter, but that won't be the scope of this piece.) Nope, this is about something else entirely.

This short little rant is going to be about the mountain of nonsense building around the Zidane-Materazzi headbutt incident during the final match of the World Cup in Munich.

Case in point: French Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet stated in an interview yesterday that Zidane's aggressive act was unforgivable for its effect on children watching the game.

"This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?"

Well, I'll tell you what you tell them. You tell them this:

Back in the day, when men were men, talking trash about someone's wife, mother, sister or loved one earned you a shiner, on or off the field. If you were man enough to provoke someone's anger, you were man enough to accept the consequences. Poor behavior was rewarded with a quick "remise a l'heure", as we say in the old country. A resetting of the clocks.

Tell them that being a man means that sometimes, you have to set a few clocks straight.

Edit: Did Zidane let down his team? Yes. Did he let down France? Yes. Did he put his own pride ahead of a World Cup victory? Yes. Was it his prerogative to do it? Insofar as it is also his prerogative to want to be there and score more goals, yes. Is it fair to place the entire weight of the French team's success or failure squarely on one player's shoulders? Is it fair to say that, had he stayed in the game, France would have won? I don't know. Maybe. Your call. Zidane is not the French team. He's just one guy. If he felt that setting a clock straight was more important than staying in a game of such crucial importance, there must have been a good reason. It's easy for us to look at the big picture and rationalize that there were bigger things to worry about than an insulting remark, but for Zidane, at that moment, knocking Materazzi to the ground was more important than kicking a ball into a net. For better or for worse.

Materazzi provoked Zidane. When one insult wasn't enough, he tried another. And another. Until he finally hit his mark. Zidane turned around and knocked him on his ass, as he well should. Sport or no sport. World Cup or no World Cup. Once Materazzi overstepped the boundary of what was acceptable, the whole issue of being a gentleman or a good sportsman became nul and void. We're men before we're athletes. Or engineers. Or surgeons. Or sandwich artists. We are not our jobs. As much as we love what we do, as important as it may be for us to be the absolute best at what we do, sometimes, winning the big golden prize isn't worth the price that's asked of us.

The truth is that Materazzi is a coward. It's easy to spew venom at someone and taunt them, knowing that the ref will throw them out if they respond in kind. I wonder if he would have said whatever it is he said to Zidane had the two of them been alone in a room, away from prying ears and eyes.

My money's on "no."

He chose the safety of a soccer field and a match watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. He reminds me of that kid who kicks you in the shin, then runs to the teacher to cry about how you're threatening to beat him up. Yeah. Nice.

Zidane could have clocked him. He could have headbutted him in the face. He could have hooked him a la John Wayne. Teeth might have been knocked loose. Blood could have been splattered. There could have been carnage in Munich. Instead, he head-butted him to the chest and knocked him on his ass. No blood spilled. No hospital visit. Point made. All things considered, I'd actually call that exercising restraint.

If someone walked up to my father and called my mother something unsavory, he would knock him on his ass too. Perhaps not the first time, perhaps not the second, maybe even not the third if he happened to be particularly patient that day, but I doubt there'd be a fourth. There's a point where shrugging off abuse meets its end.

This is also true in the business world. Sometimes, you have to stand up to an abusive boss. You have to turn loose an abusive client or customer. You have to finally put an end to the bull and stand up for yourself or someone or something. It might cost you your job, the same way that the headbutt cost Zidane the rest of the game. It might cost you the biggest account of your career. It might cost you dearly. So what?

How much is your integrity worth? Your self respect? How easily can they be bought? These are the questions you have to ask yourself. It's a lot easier to know who you are when you can give your reflection in the mirror a straight answer every morning and every night.

We all make choices. Some of us can justify taking other people's abuse. The money's good. Job security is paramount. Landing a Fortune 10 account is worth it. We compromise. We justify. We rationalize. We give a little bit here. We lose a little bit more there. Before we know it, we're fetching coffee for some jerk with an ego inversely proportional to his ability to lead. Picking up his dry-cleaning. Driving him to the airport late on a Saturday night. Taking the fall for him when he finally screws the pooch.

Yeah. Sounds like a great plan.

As a friend put it to me Monday night over a few beers, (let me very loosely paraphrase here,) before you know it, you believe that $60K/year is a lot of money. That it justifies giving up your weekends and your kids' soccer games and dance recitals. That the co-workers who hit on your wife at company picnics are your family. That you're lucky to have a crappy cubicle and a parking spot near the front door and a lousy insurance plan that gets worse year after year. That ten paid vacation days per year is something worth holding on to. That being treated like a pee-on by patronizing mid-level "managers" isn't really that big a deal.

Before you know it, you start rationalizing that really low prices justify terrible customer service, ridiculously long lines, and morbidly apathetic cashiers.

Well, no thank you. There are things that shouldn't be shrugged off. Ever.

Before you can stand up for your customers, before you can stand up for your team, before you can stand up for your company, for your project, for your family, for your beliefs, or whatever it is that you need to stand up for - because it's the right thing to do, you have to be ready to stand up for yourself.

How much is your time worth?

How much is your name worth?

How much are you worth?

There is no excuse - EVER - to take anyone's abuse. Period. Not on the soccer field. Not on the sidewalk. Not on the factory floor. Certainly not in the board room. Sometimes, a word is enough to rectify the problem. Or a look. Or a gesture. Sometimes, unfortunately, the situation requires a more... direct approach.

Note to soccer players with big mouths: Don't let your piehole write checks your body can't cash.

There are worse things in life than getting fired from a lousy job for telling a psychotic boss to shove it, or getting ejected from the biggest soccer game of your career for knocking a big mouth on his ass. There really are.

I grew up in a world in which parents told their little boys to deal with bullies on their own: Somebody screws with you, set them straight. Somebody punches you, punch them back harder. Three guys jump you after school, make them wish they'd never even gave you a dirty look. If you get in trouble at school for getting into a fight, it's okay. Do what you have to do to put an end to the lack of respect thrown at you. Your dignity and self respect are more important than a yellow card or a week's detention.

Most people will respect you out of good manners and common courtesy. The few who don't may need a little extra effort on your part.

"Ne te fais jamais marcher sur les pieds," my grandparents used to tell me. (Don't ever let anyone step on your toes.) Good advice.

Zidane grew up in the same world.

Is it unfortunate that the headbutt happened? Of course.

Was it beautiful? Absolutely.

As much as it pains me to say this, if France couldn't win without Zidane, then maybe France didn't deserve to win.

Anyone who sees Zidane's actions as being inexcusable completely misses the point. He got a red card. He didn't get to finish the game. He was harshly but justly punished. France lost, though not just because he was ousted from the game. But he set Materazzi straight. All things are as they sould be. Get off the whole "disgrace" soapbox, and go turn on a baseball game or hockey. Who are we kidding here? These guys are athletes. This is all well within the realm of reasonable expectations: Mess with the bull, get the horns. Simple cause and effect. And a pretty universal one at that.

Welcome to the real world. Life is a contact sport. Especially for big mouths. Get over it.


- Just for fun, recreate history by playing the game here. (Courtesy of Michael Rothschild, via Mack Simpson's very cool Adverb blog.)

- And check out the slew of YouTube versions of the incident here, here, here, here, and here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

0 Responses to “The "What was he thinking?" post.”

Leave a Reply

      Convert to boldConvert to italicConvert to link


ATOM 0.3

  • Helping companies fine-tune their:
  • - Relationship with their customers
  • - Branding and marketing strategies
  • - Communications architecture
  • - Reputations and buzz-worthiness
  • - Creativity and market relevance
  • Office: 864.289.4557
  • Mobile: 510.284.9893
  • Bat Phone: 864.630.7398
  • My status
  • email me
  • View Olivier Blanchard's profile on LinkedIn
    • follow me on Twitter

      TwitterCounter for @nextweblog

    • Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not necessarily those of SYNNEX or any of its affiliates and partners.
    • Subscribe to the BrandBuilder blog

  • Previous posts

    Previous posts

    ATOM 0.3
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Bidulos. Make your own badge here.