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Monday, December 05, 2005

Arriola and the Marlin that Can Get Away

I've barely been keeping up on the dealings concerning the financing of a possible new stadium between the city government, represented by city manager Joe Arriola and the Miami Marlins, represented by team president Dave Samson. What really caught my attention was fellow Miami blogger Critical Miami's take on recent headlining events. It seems that the Miami city manager Arriola publicly made insulting allusions to Mr. Samson's diminutive stature and purportedly high pitched whiney voice. Steve Klotz at Critical Miami basically pointed out that there was more prick waiving in these exchanges than at a George Michael bathroom party. Most of you know that I am a fan of Critical Miami. When Mr. Klotz noted Samson's role in his own bad PR, owing to his whiny voiced pronouncements and complaints on local talk radio, I think he may have missed something.

Joe Arriola has gotten through life thinking with his dick. Arriola's continued insulting remarks about Samson's small stature and whiny voice should come as no surprise. Even when he states that he cannot negotiate with a "little boy" it should not raise a brow. I will refer you to my previously posted item about his threat to hold future hurricane assistance from District 5 as proof. The bully-boy tactics that have been mentioned on this blog are the tip of it. Is this just machismo rearing its head? Despite the popular notion of Latin machismo I do not believe that Latinos are any more prone to think with their dicks than any other males. It is how dicks are waved that may differ.

There are a number of differences in how Latinos and Anglos engage each other in doing business. I recall when the former CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Isilio Arriaga, adressed the Miami city mayor and comission members he stated that Miami has a business culture like Latin America there was a nervous round of laughter. He quickly pointed out that this was not all bad. Continuing, he said that there is a business culture in Miami built upon personal relationships, informality and trust. I agree. And if he can get away with generalizations (and in the following I am grossly generalizing) so can I.

Latinos are very personal, open about what they are trying to achieve, conduct business through conversation and choose business partners through personal relationships and loyalty. Latinos are eager to gauge firmness and trustworthiness. In Miami, where so many business folk have limited command of English there is another wrinkle. I have always had the sense that when English-challenged Latinos do business in that language, the manner of communication becomes both comical and genius. It is like feeling out with a cudgel, no innuendo, implications, subtlety or nuance- just "Tell me, what do you want, because this is what I want and I am trying to see if you are going to give it to me." I should mention that this does not happen only with Latinos. It happens fairly often in dealings where there is an issue of mutual comprehension of language. I believe it sometimes is a positive thing as it forces people to get right down to brass tacks.

The problem is that Dave Samson is coming from an entirely different place than Mr. Arriola. Yankee* corporate types, (like the Cardozo educated, former Morgan Stanley lawyer Dave Samson) are disposed to do things through calculations, statistics and information using paper, graphics and email. Conversation is very impersonal and legalistic. They carefully weigh what is said, making sure not to put something in a way that can readily be construed as offensive, especially when saying something offensive. I know these people, these Dave Samsons. Behind the prep school accents and good grooming, passive aggressive attitudes are people who are much more likely to screw you and are generally better at doing so.

The personal slights will probably be seen as signs of ignorance, stupidity and more importantly, weakness. Samson knows that sports teams are important to Miami because the emperor has no clothes. Miami's image is like much of its architecture, lots of lights and little value of structure. It should not be surprising that the city most interested in luring the Marlins is Las Vegas, Miami's desert double (add the gaming, subtract the coke smuggling). A substantial city like Los Angeles can do without a pro football team without harm to its image but Miami will be less of a city without a baseball team.

So the little boy, who has been as successful as any team president in his short (ahem) tenure, will do his research and be manipulative while weighing his shifting options. He doesn't care about whether he is seen as losing or winning, as long as he makes a profit. When Dave Samson comes on the radio with his whiny, corporate voice, crying foul, he knows there are more effective ways to do PR. He just doesn't need to.

*I do not mean Yankee as synonymous with Anglo or any other ethnic group.

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