Headline: Power Outage Delays Big Game

Ray Lewis ends his NFL career on a high note, Colin Kaepernick increases his odds of getting a raise and 100-million people are grossed out (twice) by the hideous sounds of a super model and nerd sucking each other’s lips — but Super Bowl 47 will be remembered most for being the first NFL Championship contest delayed by a 36-minute power outage. The outage cut off commentator Phil Simms in mid-sentence and clearly left the CBS production crew with their pants around their knees. Having been involved in hundreds of broadcasts with considerably less import and scope, I can only guess at the number of planning hours that went into this program. A friend who worked at ABC during the days of Monday Night Football once told me there was a physical backup for everything–including a backup production trailer with a second director and crew, “just in case.” You can bet that “power outage” will be part of next year’s planning.
[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”4612″ align=”right” width=”303″ autoHeight=”true”] When you make plans, the hope is that you cover every possible scenario–but who could EVER imagine a massive power outage during the Super Bowl? I mean, come on! This is the 21st century. We’re in the United States. It’s a major city AND there’s no threat of bad weather. All true–but it’s just a matter of perspective.
Let me explain –
I had the opportunity in 2007 to do some consulting work for a client in Nicaragua. The engagement included three visits to Central America and hundred of phone calls over a three-year span. Nicaragua is a developing nation with great potential hampered by a horrendously inadequate civil infrastructure. Roads are in constant disrepair, trash is collected by little children riding donkey carts and there are few days when the electricity doesn’t go out for at least a few minutes.
[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”4613″ title=”Strategic Planning Retreat on Little Corn” align=”right” width=”354″ autoHeight=”true”] My client had arranged for us to conduct a strategic planning retreat on Little Corn Island, 45 kilometers off the Mosquito Coast in the Caribbean Ocean. I had to pinch myself a few times. This was an amazing place to lead a retreat and 12 of us jumped right into an ambitious agenda. We had a lot of ground to cover and we were making good progress when POOF the lights went out, my laptop projector went dark, the over-head fans stopped spinning and the place was eerily quite.  The generator that supplies electricity for our part of the island over-heated and stopped running.
And here’s where change is influenced by your perspective of normalcy –
I was the only one in the room that seemed to notice (or care) that the power had gone out. Power outages happen so frequently in Nicaragua that they are normal. It was weird. I was the only one asking, “When will it come back on?” Waiting for the power to come back on became such a regular occurrence that I stopped be surprised–although it never became acceptable. When I’d suggest a battery or solar backup system to at least allow people to shut down their computers, the response was generally along the lines of, “We’ve gotten used to it, so there’s no need to change.”
Now, you may decry our modern dependence on electricity and other conveniences–I even wrote a column on the opportunity to do Analog Thinking during these frequent outages, but the sad reality is that the inconsistency of the power supply had become normal; not subject to scrutiny. From their perspective, this wasn’t a problem in need of a solution but rather a constant that was to worked around.
Just as the NFL took having electricity for granted, the people in Nicaragua had come to expect random work stoppages due to power outages.
There is hope: A handful of Nicaraguan nationals and foreigners who see the country’s potential and are working to develop alternative energy sources. They’ll be successful if they can break the stranglehold of complacency and establish a “new” normal.
What situations have you come to accept?
What’s your normal?