ProJo gets scoop but Schilling still doesn’t get it
Mike Stanton and Andy Smith of the Projo scored a big scoop with today’s interview with Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox World Series legend and major domo of the doomed 38 Studios video game company.
The interview shows that Big Schill still doesn’t get it; he is blaming the state and Governor Lincoln Chafee for the puncturing his retirement dream of making it big in the super-competitive and risk-laden video game-business.
One would have to have a heart of stone not to have some empathy for Schilling, even if you think this was a foolish investment on the part of Thanks Don Carcieri and the state Economic Development Corporation.
No one wanted to see 38 Studios fail, especially the Rhode Island taxpayer, the legion of Red Sox Nation dwellers who inhabit our small state and Governor Chafee. And Schilling talks like many a small businessman who put his heart and money into a project, only to see it founder.
Chafee has enough on his plate to worry about, much of which he inherited from Thanks Don, particularly the parlous state of municipal finances in the state’s older, onetime industrial cities and towns, a significant structural state deficit and a General Assembly that will never be confused with a Mensa meeting.
Schilling’s comments about Chafee seem like an attempt to deflect responsibility from his own poor management and bad decisions by his employees at 38 Studios. And they show an utter lack of comprehension of the imperatives of political and government leadership.
While Chafee has been hit by charges from talk show chatterers and political opponents (see State Treasurer Gina Raimondo) that his administration did not keep tight enough tabs on 38 Studios and inform the public of what was going on inside the company, Schilling has the opposite criticism.
Chafee, Schilling told the ProJo, jeopardized his company’s future by doing what a government official is supposed to do – run things transparently and keep the voters informed of what is going on.
“The governor is not operating in the best interests of the company by any stretch, or the taxpayers, or the state,’’ Schilling told Stanton and Smith. “We’re trying to save this company and we’re working 24/7. The public commentary has been as big a piece of what’s happening to us as anything out there.’’
What Schilling obviously wanted was for Chafee to merely play along with his company, fork over millions more in tax credits and pretend that nothing was happening. That may – or may not- have helped Schilling. But it would have abrogated Chafee’s responsibility to the public and taxpayers. As governor, he has an obligation, both moral and political, to disclose what is happening in state government, particularly if taxpayers are at risk for as much as $102 million.
Facts are stubborn things. What they show in this case is that Schilling had 17 months with scant interference from Chafee or the state Economic Development Corporation to raise the venture capital needed to keep the company afloat while it developed games that perhaps, and we emphasize perhaps, would have been successful.
As a superstar athlete, Schilling had an easier entrée to financiers than the average start-up business person. Yet it looks like the onetime all-star hurler made (pitched!) his case to the deep-pocketed in the investment world and they decided it was just too risky a deal to get involved with.
The other element here is the hypocrisy of both Schilling and his enabler, Thanks Don Carcieri. Both Big Schill and Thanks Don are conservative free-market Republicans who purport to oppose government intervention in the free market. So how do they justify such massive government intervention in the marketplace?
From just about any angle, this deal was flawed from the start. There was, of course, the crony capitalism. Even worse was the haste. All Chafee was really seeking when he attended the EDC meeting in August, 2010, where the decision was made was to get Thanks Don and the EDC board to delay the deal until a new governor was elected. The election was only about three months away and there didn’t seem any reason not to take more time to scrutinize the prospects of this company and allow a new governor the time to properly vet it. After all, the new governor was the politician who was going to have to deal with any consequences.
Carcieri and the EDC board refused and here we are. (Chafee, of course, was running for governor and was also seeking what he saw as an issue for the autumn campaign).
And never forget that Schilling went to Massachusetts economic development officials, who were more than willing to work with him (hint, hint: it helps to be a World Series hero).38 Studios at the time was located in Maynard, Mass., so it is obvious the Bay State didn’t want to lose Schilling and the jobs. But they refused to match the R.I. giveaway because they thought it was just too risky a bet on a guy with no business record and an iffy business plan. They look like they made the right judgment, while RI just looks foolish.
On the media side, Stanton and Smith’s scoop redeemed what has been a two-week run of mediocre coverage by the state’s largest newspaper on the 38 Studios fiasco. The Projo was beaten by the local television stations, Channels 10 and 12, (particularly by Channel 12’s Ted Nesi, the blogger who never sleeps), Rhode Island Public Radio, and the Boston Globe, which had a series of well-written narratives that buried the ProJo’s choppily-done PG1 coverage. The Globe’s commentary and columns were better and more timely. In the early going even RIFuture.org provided better commentary (Tom Sqouros and Bob Plain deserve mention here). And the ProJo was even slammed by the Golocalprov.com web site that got the scoop on the firing of EDC head Keith Stokes.
But in Stanton, a onetime sports writer who understands clear story-telling, and Smith, the ProJo got the interview everyone in the Providence and Boston media markets were looking for. And they deserve credit for that, even if Schilling gave the pat lanswers he learned from many a post-game locker room media scrum.
Maybe now even Thanks Don will grant someone an interview. Probably with one of the local talk show yakkers who so shamefully flacked for Carcieri during his mostly failed governorship.