Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Ain’t Gonna Cry Anymore

Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy sports, television and music. What you might not know is that I cry easily. I cry about happy things, as well as sad things. I’m not really sure why, but it’s always been that way. It is not only things that happen in “real” life either. There are many other ways to get me bawling. Such as…

Movies. There are so many. The best example is “Bang The Drum Slowly”. The first time I saw that film was in 1982. I was 25 years old and watching it with a bunch of male friends and relatives. It didn’t matter. After Bruce Pearson’s funeral, when Henry Wiggen says, “From here on in, I rag nobody”, I lost it. Since then I have seen that movie at least a dozen times and I have cried each time.

Songs. Where do I start? Last Christmas when I heard the song “Boots” by the Killers for the first time, I was blubbering so hard I could barely see. I believe it was, “I can see my mother in the kitchen, my father on the floor watching television, It’s A Wonderful Life” that got the floodgates going.

TV shows. Silly as it might seem, I have even cried watching That ‘70s Show. Usually it is something involving Donna and Eric; however, the most poignant moment was between Eric and Red. As Eric was preparing to leave for Africa to teach, Red handed him his pocketknife from the Korean War and told his son that he loved him. Then they hugged. Then I boo-hooed. I know. I’m a sap.

But not anymore.

Well, at least not when it comes to one TV show.

Undercover Boss is a reality series based on a British series of the same name. The first episode premiered on February 7, 2010 after Super Bowl XLIV. On March 9, CBS announced it had renewed Undercover Boss for a second season. The third season premiered on January 15, 2012. The fourth season kicked off on November 2, 2012.

I have seen a majority of the episodes and yes, I have gotten misty during most of them. I mean come on, look at the premise – the owner or CEO of a huge company goes undercover to check out their business, to look for ways to improve it. Then at the end of the show they give 3 or 4 of the down-on-their-luck employees some cash or a family vacation. That’s heart-tugging stuff!

At least it was in the beginning. When I began doing a little research, I found that some of these charitable companies were worth billions and billions of dollars. With that it mind, it began to take some of the shine off of their generosity.

While $15,000 is quite significant to someone poor schlub working paycheck to paycheck, its pocket change to a company worth $15 million.

A fine example of this occurred in season 2 when Todd Ricketts went undercover representing the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs. Being the youngest sibling, they thought he would be the least recognizable. I thought this would be interesting.

What a joke! The Ricketts family is worth in excess of $1 billion. You figure the “rewards” they handed out to their hardest working employees would be noteworthy, right? Guess again.

The biggest “prize” went to a guy who had worked for the Cubs for 28 years. For his long, loyal servitude, he was made recipient of the first annual Wrigley Field Award, which included $1,000, some box seat tickets and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the last game of the season.


Yet, I kept watching. And getting bleary eyed.

That was until this season. After the season premier I had a conversation with my cousin Susie and mentioned how emotional the episode was. She promptly poo-pooed my sentimentality and proceeded to tell me why. Her theory was that this show was nothing more than a publicity stunt and, perhaps more importantly, a semi-scripted ego boost for some rich fat cat.

After a little bit of contemplating, I came to the conclusion that she was spot on.

Looking back, most of the owner/CEOs were wealthy and very white. Most were religious and physical well-being was almost always brought up. they were living life the “right way”.

On the flip side, the beneficiaries of their largess are usually black or Hispanic. I do remember one white lady, a single mother working at Checkers. Oh ya, she was a lesbian. Another common ploy is to have the disadvantaged benefactor have a troubled past or have some sort of physical ailment come into play.

The physical ailment ruse was used last night. A poor, Hispanic salon worker had a baby daughter who needed an expensive surgical procedure. The rich guy ponied up for the operation and threw in a $100,000 home for good measure. She cried. I didn’t.

The icing on the cake was when he gathered all of his employees and told them that he was setting up an emergency fund with $1 million of his own money and another $1 million of the companies money. He then held up two fingers and proclaimed, “that’s 2 million dollars!” I guess he figured poor people aren’t good in math.

Too bad this poor guy is.

The bighearted company representative was none other than Stephen J. Cloobeck. He owns Diamond Resorts International and his net worth is somewhere around $100 million. That means his lavish gift represented 1% of his total worth.

Big deal.

To put his gift into proper perspective, it would be like me giving a charity or needy person a couple hundred bucks. It’s like the story in Luke’s gospel where the poor widow put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. I think the moral of the story was that she contributed more than all the others because they gave gifts out of their wealth; but she out of poverty and put in all she had to live on.

Now that could bring me to tears. But not Undercover Boss. Nope. I’m not gonna cry anymore.

Until next time…from the booth.

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