Working in and around an industry that thrives on the concept of selling a ‘dead cert’, it’s understandably tough to take when life is plunged into such absolute uncertainty as has happened in recent days.
COVID-19 has transmogrified our daily lives in pretty much every part of the civilized world. And for many of us those changes could well be grotesque and lasting. The big challenge that lies ahead is how we come back from all of this – because that comeback has to happen.
It’s at times like this when you look for a touch of inspiration – and famous quotes are often a great place to start. Three stuck out for me and for different reasons.
Firstly there was John Paul Getty’s bullish take on uncertainty which, if you read it enough times, almost leads you to embrace the uncertain. “Without the element of uncertainty, the bringing off of even the greatest business triumph would be dull, routine and eminently unsatisfying,” he said. Bravo sir!
German psychologist Erich Fromm offers a more cerebral approach, saying: “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” It’s the thinking man’s version of ‘open, pour, be yourself once more’!
But I prefer the angle taken by Alan ‘Hawkeye’ Alda who, riffing on the title of his book of memoirs, said: “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is really advice to myself, a reminder to myself not to avoid change or uncertainty, but to go with it, to surf into change.”
Alda’s more casual approach, one of mere acceptance that change and uncertainty are an inevitable fact of life, is perhaps the easiest to swallow.
The reason? We now live in a world with vastly reduced social interaction, no sport and no entertainment other than which we view passively through our TVs and mobile devices. Those fancy new sneakers you bought last week? Stick them back in the closet, ‘cause no-one’s going to see them until they’re long out of fashion; and no-one really cares!
You may as well just go with the uncertainty – surf into the changes. Because the alternative options, like rocking horse excreta, are as abundant as they are appetizing.
There is, thankfully, a mote of brightness amid the viral cloud that’s currently fogging our world. Gaming is a resilient beast that has stood the test of time, wars, famine and epidemic. Throw whatever you want at it and it’ll come back stronger. It’s as tenacious as a bad-tempered bulldog guarding his favorite bone.
In an adult lifetime spent writing about gaming in most of its forms, I’ve learned that adversity is never far from the door of our casinos, betting shops and slot rooms. It’s the uninvited guest that keeps us on our toes and on our guard – perversely it makes us better at what we do.
So in a sense history tells us that recovery will happen, although it’s unlikely to resurrect the betting and gaming sector in quite the same way as we knew and loved it pre-COVID. Sadly, and inevitably, companies will go to the wall and workers will find themselves on new career trajectories that they might never have previously imagined. Wars and pandemics have that effect.
But there will be an enormous gap to fill when society eventually comes out of lockdown and those freedoms and privileges we all previously took for granted begin to filter back into our daily routines. The appetite for football, soccer, basketball, hockey and all those other sports we love to bet on will come roaring back.
Listening to Dan and Joe Kustelski on their Chalkline Sports webinar this week (Preparing for the Return of Live Sports) reinforced those points. Moreover, it provided a welcome and informative diversion from the doom-laden headlines and the prospect of yet more evenings away from the pub, friends and family.
But most importantly, it served as a sharp reminder that now is the time to focus on surviving this outbreak, staying fit for purpose and getting our businesses ready for that comeback. Like you have a choice?
If you’re not quite convinced, dwell awhile on another famous quote, this time from University of Mississippi’s head football coach Lane Kiffin. “I don’t know if God is a sports fan or not,” he said, “but I do know this: he loves a good comeback.”