Categorical Failure Bitterness

Back in high school, I was assigned to do a group presentation about something boring to our class. It was a bunch of really boring facts, where most of the groups just stood up, and presented the facts the same old way. I didn’t like boring, so I asked everyone in the group if we could present the dumb facts in the form of a game show. We presented the same talking points as everyone else, but we did it in a different way. It wasn’t like we presented any facts differently than any other group. We just created a new category of how to present the same facts. Our teacher liked our idea so much that she forced to present it to the Harvard of my hometown, Sioux Falls College (basically because it was the only college in town.) I don’t remember the facts, but I do remember to this day, how we presented them.

The normal presentation.

A similar presentation happened in my junior year of college. I had yet another group project where we were to present boring information to the class. Every other group presented the boring way, with each person on the team stating facts and sitting down. I remembered back to my junior year of high school and threw the idea out that we should do our presentation in the form of a newscast. It took some convincing, but they finally got on board, and we did a newscast. Our teacher loved it and we got A’s. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to present it at the Harvard of my hometown, but that was fine because we were in the Harvard of our town (only because again, we were the only college in our town). Again, I don’t remember much from college, but I do remember that presentation.

My presentation in class.

The world is full of people that will just do the assignment the most logical and least time-consuming way. Most of the time, I’m that person. Every once in a while, someone will come along and try to do something different. Whether it is because they are bored of doing that way, or they are forced to try to something different, or they just want to risk it, they create a whole new category.

Ever heard of stuffed crust pizza? Every pizza brand has some sort of stuffed crust pizza now. When I was in high school, stuffed crust didn’t exist. Every pizza place was the same. Pizza crust was either thin, or thick, came with sauce, cheese, and a bunch of toppings. Sometimes, you would get a little extra cheese, or the pizza would be square instead of round. Other than that, everyone was just doing pizza the same as everyone else.

In 1995, Pizza Hut decided that they didn’t want to just present the same old facts in front of the class. They wanted the pizza crust presentation in front of the Sioux Falls Pizza College, the Harvard of Pizza Colleges to see their pizza with cheese inside of it. They created a whole new category. They even had endorsers like David Robinson show how pizza eating was supposed to be done. Backwards. Crust first, then the rest of the pizza. Pizza Hut’s pizza wasn’t any better or worse than any other pizza, they just created a new category. For years, I only ate Pizza Hut, and only stuffed crust. Also the reason why for years, I was so heavy.

David Robinson eating Stuffed Crust Pizza Hut. (Not pictured: David Robison.)

This last weekend I saw Air, the movie about how Nike and Michael Jordan changed the shoe market forever. In 1984, Nike was close to being a billion-dollar company, but they were mostly known for running shoes. They were a distant third in basketball to Adidas and Converse. Many shoe industry experts even thought Nike was on the verge of exiting the basketball market. Sonny Vicario was in charge of Nike’s basketball division, and he was close to being fired or resigning because of a number of huge obstacles.

First, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Dr. J, the biggest stars at the time, were all wearing Converse. Second, Michael Jordan preferred Adidas. Third, Nike had always split their budget between 3 or 4 players in the first round, and anyone in the Top 10 were either too expensive or went with Adidas or Converse. Fourth, David Falk, Michael’s agent, was stonewalling Sonny and wouldn’t let Michael even meet with Nike, because of his preference with Adidas.

If not for Sonny Vicario, he’d be wearing Adidas and trying to scrap his first billion.

Somehow, Sonny got around all that. How? He broke protocol and created new categories. To afford Michael, he convinced Nike to spend all their budget on one player, Michael. Instead of working through his agent like everyone else did, he visited Michael Jordan’s parents in North Carolina. To convince Michael to sign, he had Nike create a whole shoe around Michael. To convince his mother, Sonny convinced Phil Knight to give Michael a percentage of every shoe sold with his name on it.

Adidas and Converse were just like the other teams in my classes. They stood up in front of Michael and presented the same way that they always did. At Converse, he would only ever be fourth or fifth priority (behind Magic, Larry, and Dr. J). And Adidas just focused on the quality of the shoe, but didn’t give Michael any variety or the color he wanted on the shoe.

Needless to say, that deal changed everything. Michael went on to becoming the best basketball player of all time. Nike somehow survived and went on to becoming the king of basketball and all athletic shoes. Everyone involved got rich and famous for that deal (including Michael’s mother).

What is my point? We are all humans. We are super similar in a lot of ways. We almost all have eyes, ears, mouths, noses, arms, legs, teeth and lots and lots of cells. We also have a lot of protocols that we have to go through. Most companies and jobs and lives have a set of rules and categories that we have to fit into. We can do our best to try to fit into a category, or we can create a new one. For a long time, there was just gas cars. Until someone came along and figured out you could do an electric car. For a long time, we only had phones in our houses, or businesses. Until someone came along and figured out cell phones that could leave houses and not need cords.

If not for someone, we’d still be calling people from home.

My longevity on this blogging platform has little to do with the quality of my writing or my ability to market myself. It’s because I just created a new category. Bitter humor. There was bitter and there was humor, but no one else thought to combine the two, and if they did, I’m ignoring them.

And my novel, when it is published, will be published not because of the good writing or interesting characters. It will be because it is different. Different idea, different place, different category. Not fantasy or science fiction. It will be in the science friction category. The only novel at Barnes and Noble or Amazon that is science friction. A fantasy where there is lots of friction between characters. The first novel to ever have friction between characters and worlds.


Bitter Categorical Failure Ben


8 thoughts on “Categorical Failure Bitterness

  1. Somehow I always seem to be outside the categories, whether in writing, at work, at everything. I guess I’m the Gonzo of categories, only way cuter. 😜

    Liked by 1 person

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