Monday, February 16, 2015

The Race Within: Will Ultra515 be worth it? I don't know.

 By the time I went to Hawaii to cover the 2013 Ultraman World Championships, things between Steve Brown and the rest of the board had become very tense. I had two at-length conversations with Steve during my time there. One occurred during the Keauhou Canoe Club's Thanksgiving potluck dinner. The other was during the awards banquet after Ultraman. Both took place in the presence of alcohol and in neither case did I explicitly say we were on the record, so I didn't print anything he said. However, in both cases he avoided answering certain questions I asked, so it was pretty obvious he was still aware that I was a journalist and he was a subject of interest. With that said, I was surprised at the tone of the sentiments he did express, and just how much they foreshadowed what came afterward.

The dialogue had shifted radically by November. From Steve's point of view, the emphasis was no longer on progress, expansion or even Australia. It was about how the board operated. He was very dissatisfied with the fact that Sheryl and Dave were essentially a voting bloc, and that they would almost always side with Jane. But he was further frustrated with the fact that Jane has 100-percent control of Ohana Loa, which renders the point of a board moot in the first place. These are valid points, and I empathized with Steve. At the same time, majority rule is also a valid point, and Steve didn't have a really good answer when I asked him if it told him something that he was on the losing side of the argument so often.

I think that was the real hitch. UMUK was definitely the catalyst that pushed Steve over the edge, but if it hadn't been UMUK maybe it would have been something else. At any rate, he was done arguing over the issues by that point. He was arguing over how they were arguing. His ideas mostly revolved around restructuring the board to give him more control. I still like to believe that he wanted that control to do the right thing. But he was trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. Why he pushed to get Ultraman Europe going in 2015 when he knew that wasn't what Jane wanted, I have no idea. He never responded when I asked him. But it was a pretty clear bright line, and he crossed it.

I struggled with the final pages I wrote in the book for a long time. They were not easy to type. I struggled with them again when the book came out and I had to face certain people very close to Steve who had placed a lot of trust in me. I frequently tell people that I felt like writing this book was like watching "Field of Dreams" from the middle of the diamond out in that corn field. Steve took on the role of Shoeless Joe from my perspective. Maybe Pete Rose is the better analogy. I wanted better for him, but I wanted better from him, too.

Steve Brown forgot what Ultraman was supposed to be. Or maybe he knew and just ignored it. But the real mystery to me is, in leaving Ultraman's principles behind, what was he moving toward? What is it he wants to do with Ultra515? Where does it go from here, and how will it be different from Ultraman? He obviously wanted things to be different from Ultraman. I wonder just how different Ultra515 will be, and whether those differences will be significant enough to say they're worth everything that was sacrificed to achieve them.

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