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An Imperfect Storm of Lousy Excuses

     Sebastian Junger caused it all.
Blame him for the subprime mess. The banks meltdown. Gang violence in American cities. The collapse of the commodities market in western Australian. A fish kill in Pennsylvania. The woes of the newspaper industry. The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The failure of U.S. automobile manufacturers. The losing ways of countless sports teams.
      All that and more can be attributed to one hapless writer from Massachusetts.
Junger, perhaps unwittingly, created the perfect excuse for anyone whose incompetence, lack of foresight, failure to act or even criminal intent led to an unhappy income.
It was nobody’s fault. None of it. It was a “perfect storm.”
     Junger wrote the 1997 best seller, “The Perfect Storm, A True Story of Men Against The Sea,” about a Gloucester fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, that disappeared in the roiling seas off Nova Scotia in 1991. (Made in a movie in 2000). An unusual confluence of a north Atlantic storm and a hurricane not only created the horrific conditions that devoured the fishing boat and its six crew members, but created one of the most over-used analogies of our time.
     Where once responsibility for a bad outcome in business or government or household finance might be attributed to human behavior, it is now universally laid at the feet of Sebastian Junger. Or at least to the analogy he provided.
     GM blames the company’s failure to build reliable cars or foresee a change in consumer tastes on a “perfect storm” of unfavorable market conditions. Wall Street investment bankers, who once might have considered their own short term greed, as they wallowed in the short term profits of subprime mortgages, now talk of a “perfect storm” of the collapsing real estate market and tightening credit, as if it was all an act of God. Or Sebastian Junger.
     Even sports writers, who never confess to beating an analogy to death, offer up Sebastian Junger as the excuse for their favorite team’s collapse. Even though the confluence of unavoidable factors was that one team played well, the other didn’t. Hence, “the perfect storm.”
     If I was named editor of The Miami Herald (perhaps a possibility with a few perfect storms and lots of attrition), I would ban use of the term by anyone other than our hurricane beat writer.
     And maybe the occasional columnist, explaining how various acts of God that caused him to miss deadline: A confluence of too much wine the night before and too much wine the night before that. But mostly I blame Sebastian Junger.


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