Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Lesson on Facing Disaster

Now that America has finally given up the hunt for hidden WMD in Iraq, maybe it's time to give up the "See, they lied, and we went to war under false pretenses" letters and postings and crowing. Those of us who got it a long time ago still get it, and those who believed Saddam was involved in 9/11 still think the war is justified.

The real discussion we need to have — and maybe still can — is what can we do about the actual threat of nuclear terrorism. It's a subject that screams for consensus, not partisan rhetorical dirty bombs. I'll have more to say on this later, but for now, let's go to sports.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of a miserable stretch of basketball. Picked by many to at least contend for the NBA championship, they are mired in mediocrity, despite having a solid team culture, led by the best all-round player in the world. High ambitions, noble intentions, quality individuals, yet quagmire. Questions swirl about leadership, team dynamics and the need for a shakeup. Sounds familiar.

So how does team owner Glen Taylor view the proceedings?

According to the Star Tribune, he has encouraged his coach.

"In the past, Flip [coach Flip Saunders] has always kind of figured this out," Taylor said. "Is he struggling now? I know he's struggling because he's tried this and he's tried that. I just encouraged him to keep trying some new things.

"Part of it is the mix of players on the court. Mix some players up, do it a little different. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I'm not one of the guys who's going to say, 'Stupid. Dumb.' I'm going to say, 'Didn't work. Try something else.'"

Taylor, a former conservative state legislator and printing company billionaire, didn't succeed in politics and business by belittling people or bullying them to his way of thinking. In fact, his printing empire is a hodge-podge of companies with an apparently light hand on the corporate controls. A lot businesspeople would share his view that respect and taking the long view will more likely lead you out of complicated situations.

I'm not comparing losing basketball games in Minnesota to losing lives in Iraq — or the relative simplicity of getting a dozen guys to play effectively as a team versus undoing the chaos our invasion helped unleash. Let's simply consider the range of possibilities that open up when we say, "Didn't work" instead of "Stupid."

In fact, something that didn't work may have been stupid, and some screw-ups are firing offenses. But the country didn't fire or trade any top players when we had the opportunity, so we need to win with the team we have. Calling them dumb now is dumber.

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