Day 48: Eyes on the prize

Today my mother in law visited again. She can be intense. But she has a way of getting people fired up, forcing one to recognize what is important and what’s not.

So in that spirit, I want to tell a story about a German rivalry. You may or may not be aware that both PUMA and Adidas are from Franconia. Even better, for those who are unfamiliar with their story, they are from the same town. Better yet, the companies were started by rival brothers.

It’s a fascinating story that evokes wonder because 72 years later the two brands continue to make-up a considerable percentage of the sports market.

What you may not be aware of is the fact that in the early 1980’s, Adidas and PUMA pretty much ran the sport shoe market. Ever focused on out-ranking each other they missed a threat from abroad and were blindsided when Nike went from cornering 1%- 33% of the market share in just four years.

Where Adidas and PUMA were single minded, Nike diversified. Where Adidas and PUMA were reliable, Nike was innovative. Where Adidas and PUMA were focused on one type of athlete, Nike made shoe variations based on sport, gender and body type-a brand for everyone so to speak, a product people had never seen. In these years, Adidas and PUMA lost a huge share of the American market.

Now– I want to make a comparison. One could toss around the idea that the two political parties in the United States of America are a little like the 1980 versions of these rival shoe companies. Very focused on out-doing each other, very focused on staying in business and maintaining their market share. Not really very focused on producing a product for everyone, not really focused on actually solving problems. More focused on acquiring power and control.

For the most part, the two party system has begun to fail Americans in one way or another. Imagine for a moment if there were only two shoe brands and neither of them fit. People just keep sticking with the two parties because they believe it’s the only way for their voices to count. But it’s devastating that it has come to that. It is dismal to think that intelligent people keep throwing their weight behind one party or the other, putting on a pep-rally face and trying to cover up the fact that they feel hopeless. This is not the way for the USA to continue to be a world leader. (Unless we don’t want to be world leaders anymore, which is another topic altogether.)

This is not a criticism of the current administration. It is not about a threat to democracy. It’s not even a warning. It’s a call to action –even if the action is just mindfullness. Regardless of your affiliation, neither of America’s two parties are good and the other one evil. (I would argue that they are both corrupt and liken them to bullies but that is neither here not there.) The point is: Neither one is actually looking out for the citizen’s best interest. The parties are looking out for their own interests and they say whatever they need to say to keep people attached. It is a racket, in the most grand scheme of rackets.

Sadly there is no Nike in this scenario. There is no diverse, innovative third party who is going to steal the presidency from the Republicans and the Democrats while they aren’t looking.

But could there be? Could there be an innovative group of diverse people who come forward to say that neither of these people are Presidential material? When are we going to be brave enough to stop picking the lesser of two evils and then pretending it was a great choice? How long will we be represented by parties who do not serve us? It’s a fact that many people vote feeling like they had very little choice.

History is filled with the stories of people who wanted to stop playing an old game on an old machine that is out of date and ineffective. They no longer wanted to be forced to do something and forced to smile about it. Many of them created a new game altogether. So could we.

Long story short: In 2020 Adidas, PUMA and Nike are still duking it out. And now Under Armor, Columbia and Lululemon among others have joined the competition. Isn’t the marketplace better with all these companies in the mix? Aren’t they forcing each to improve? Aren’t we happier as consumers with so many choices?

Just something to consider until tomorrow,