Thursday, April 27, 2006

A father's grief. The death of a child is very hard on both parents. In news stories reporting on grief, we most often hear the mother's perspective, perhaps because women find it easier to discuss their emotions. Fortune magazine has a wonderful story in the current issue titled "Playing With Pain Playing with pain: Dick Ebersol lived through the plane crash that killed his son. Now he's trying to lead a recovery at NBC. Will 'Sunday Night Football' be the cure his network needs?"

Playing with pain is a great metaphor for masculine behavior. The story discusses the career of Ebersol, the chairman of NBC sports. His 14-year-old son was killed in a plane crash in December 2004 that left Ebersol severely injured. As the story reports, he returned to work six weeks after the accident and in April 2005 found himself in a meeting with Paul Tagliabue, the head of the NFL, discussing $3.6 billion dollar deal for NFL football TV rights. According to the story,
The next afternoon a group of six NFL and NBC officials convened in Ebersol's office to close the deal. After two hours of negotiating, during which the executives puffed on Ebersol's stash of hand-rolled cigars, he felt ecstatic. But just at the moment of celebration, he caught a glimpse of one of his many pictures of Teddy and felt his eyes fill with tears. He retreated to a far corner of the office. "It was the first time since the accident that I had felt really big happiness," he says now, "and suddenly I thought to myself, 'How can I feel good? He's not here anymore.' "
The article discusses how Ebersol and his wife, former actress Susan Saint James, cope with the grief. This is a quote from Saint James' words at Teddy's funeral:
It would be a terrible mistake if you, Dick, were to ever entertain any thought such as, 'I should have been home more, or I worked too much and that was bad,'" she said. "Because your passion and creativity and vision and successes and devotion to the details of your work and all the joy that you got from that was the pulse of our house - the heartbeat. We all thrived on it and learned from it, and it rubbed off on us. And once we were able to teach you to check your crown at the door on weekends, we also owned a part of it."

We are priveliged to hear this eloquent, powerful man discuss how he grieves for his son. I subscribe to many business publications. For me, this would have been just another business story, if it had not had the moving discussion of the father's loss.


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