Success Leaves a Trail


One of baseball’s greats passed away recently. The man never played ball in Detroit, but he became one of the biggest names in Tigers history. Everyone remembers Ernie Harwell as a fantastic announcer and a terrific person.

We all know that Ernie set a high standard for sports announcing. He almost single-handedly created a professional standard with his trademark phrases and stylistic verbiage.

Here’s a question to ponder. Why haven’t other baseball announcers been able to model their own success after Ernie?

We wouldn’t expect other announcers to describe called third strikes by copying Ernie’s signature phrase, “And he stood there like a house by the side of the road!” Nor should sports announcers nonchalantly announce, “A man from Allen Park caught that foul ball,” as Harwell did. That was Ernie’s gig, and we loved him for it.

Yet, it seems that average announcers are either unwilling or unable to learn from Ernie and do their part to keep the bar high.

There are many examples of this phenomenon in business, as well. Year after year, Southwest Airlines continues to be more profitable than the other top carriers combined.  Yet, American Airlines, Delta, and other airlines seem all but ignorant of Southwest’s success.

In my industry, the speaking business, one sees very little originality in either content or delivery. This is surprising when one considers the incentive to be an exceptional speaker. Distinct, successful presenters can command higher fees.

As for another example, Apple has developed a fantastic reputation for customer service, but for some reason, other computer companies seem reluctant to create a similar formula.

And that’s why most businesses, most announcers and most batting averages are  . . . well, average.