Low Expectations 8/16/22

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Ohio has two professional football teams, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. In Cincinnati, of course, Bengals are the more popular, but it seems as though, generally speaking, most of Ohio roots for the Browns. Now, this has always fascinated me, because although they have yet to win, the Cincinnati Bengals have at least been to the Superbowl three time. The Cleveland Browns have yet to make it. Now, far be it from me to question why, but why? Okay, seriously…WHY?

Usually, I don’t read anything related to sports, but an author did raise this very question at one point. It is an odd phenomenon, and I was happy that I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. The author of this paper did have, I must admit, a fascinating take on it. He suggested that perhaps the reason a team that was never in the Superbowl was the favored one is because they were never in the Superbowl. Okay, follow with me here. See, having been to the Superbowl, people critique the performance of the Bengals and wonder what happened. On the other hand, the Browns always under performed, so the fans are more forgiving because they’re expectations are set low. They can never be disappointed. Honestly, I don’t feel like this is a great legacy, though. It’s a pretty sad legacy to have fans because they have low expectations.

There are advantages to underachieving. We all know them, those people with whom we work to frankly never perform. They just don’t feel they owe anything to anybody, and just don’t do anything, at least nothing well, and certainly nothing above and beyond their expectations. Supervisors recognize this as well. They know those people they can depend on, who work hard, do a good job, and they reward those hard-working employees by always giving them more work. When something has to be done, they give it to their most reliable employees and God save them if they mess up. But that underachiever is safe. The boss didn’t expect them to do that extra work, so they’re safe.

We lower our expectations all the time. We buy appliances today expecting to have to replace them within five years, regardless of how major the appliances are or how much we spend on them. We’ve stopped washing fruits to get rid of dirt and started washing to get rid of pesticides. We know insurance companies will do anything they can to avoid doing what we hire them for and paying us when they should, but we still work with them.

The government is probably the best example of this. We have such low expectations for them to actually perform their job that when they do, as it was when they passed the health and tax reform bill recently, that it’s celebrated as a major accomplishment. The reality is that this is what they are supposed to do, and when people like Mitch McConnel shirks his responsibility because he doesn’t like the president, he still manages to get re-elected. Underperformance has become the expectation for those in office.

This goes for lies as well. Anytime a politician lies, the typical response has become a dismissive, “they all lie.” We’ve come to expect an under performance on honesty by the politicians so much so that Trump’s lies have become so excessive that not only did we, the general public, know that he lies, but we expect it. His lack of truthfulness has become his signature, and yet his support is as strong as ever.

Ultimately, we have a choice as to the kind of person we want to be. In my past two jobs, I’ve been faced with the choice of doing what was right with great difficulty, or to lay down and do nothing. Yes, I’ve been fired for doing the right thing. I knew I could just do what I was told, to be the incompetent that didn’t make waves, but that’s not me. In the end, I did lose those jobs, and yet, even with my life crumbling apart as a result, I wouldn’t change it. I can’t be that person who sits back and let things happen around me, especially when I know they’re wrong, even at great personal expense. I went out on the limb I took that extra step and paid the price for it, but I would rather pay the price for doing something extraordinary than live invisibly and quietly watch things happen that just shouldn’t.

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