Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Working Class as Sport

I had originally intended to write a review of a new show called The Benefactor; the premise of the show is that several contestants must complete tests which supposedly represent skills necessary for successful entrepreneurship. Contestants, upon failure of any of the tests, are subject to elimination until one person is left, who will win one million dollars. The show is sponsored by Mark Cuban, former Internet mogul turned sports team owner; he created and hosts the show, and put up the loot for the prize (probably amongst other things ... I'm not sure how much of the bill he's footing for the entire venture). The show has gotten a bit of flack and is often compared unfavorably (and, in my opinion, unfairly) to The Apprentice, Donald Trump's slick homage to his own ego.

My opinion about the show, in a nutsack, is that it's pretty well done; while many of the contestants suck and have pretty rank personalities, Mark Cuban seems pretty cool and the tests do represent a relatively accurate, though basic, assessment of the skills necessary to succeed from a business standpoint. As a budding entrepreneur with one failed business under my belt already, I can definitely attest to the fact that chance is a major component in business success ... Mark's tests have been panned for being too simplistic and random, but I feel like they accurately represent, at least from a microcosmic standpoint, the challenges entrepreneurs face. Supposedly, 9 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 5 years and 50% of those left standing fail after the next 5 ... do all of these people have ideas that suck or is chance a major factor? I can't say for certain but, in my experience, chance can make or break you.

That being said, the more I watch The Benefactor, the more I'm reminded of the gladiators of ancient Rome. Slaves, criminals, and members of the lower-class often fought to the death for a chance at fame and fortune in games staged by the elite. Sound familiar? Life may no longer be the price, but dignity is and words like "You're fired" or "You're eliminated" harken back to the days when a turn of the thumb was all that stood between fortune and an ignoble end. In the case of The Benefactor, there seems to be nothing to indicate that any of the contestants were chosen for their entrepreneural spirit, but rather because they might make entertaining television. Indeed, none of the competitors seems particularly intelligent, creative, personable, or compelling. As a person striving for entrepreneurship, I'm vexed that opportunities are being given to people strictly for entertainment value when legitimate potential entrepreneurs like myself likely couldn't get a guy like Mark Cuban's attention no matter how hard they tried.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to wait for my turn to step into the arena. I don't care how my opportunity comes as long as I get it. But, if any of you rich folks out there have some spare change hanging around and you'd like to make another fortune, contact me.

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