"Bad decisions, poor judgment"

We're pleased to report that ARR was able recently to interview Michael Mendacium, the head of ETG, the firm that revolutionized media management for both college and professional athletes by pioneering the "ETG treatment" of episodes caught on video tape or reported in police blotters.

ARR: Mr. Mendacium, we're happy finally to have caught up with you. Thanks for coming today.

MM: Good to be here.

ARR: Your client list consists of college and professional athletes accused of criminal acts. You restore their credibility by the "ETG treatment." What exactly is that?

MM: Well, do you remember Michael Vick, the quarterback who played for Virginia Tech, served a little jail time, and is now playing NFL football?

ARR: Yes. Wasn't he convicted for running a dog-fighting ring? Putting dogs into a ring and making them attack each other viciously until one was either blinded or crippled or lost so much blood it bled to death?

MM: That isn't what Vick was sent up for. The complaint was how they treated the dogs that weren't vicious enough.

ARR: What did they do?

MM: Sometimes they drowned the dog. Sometimes electrocuted it. Some accounts say they swung the dog by its hind legs and smashed its head against the cement until its brains ran down the wall. Things like that.

ARR: What could the "ETG treatment" do for a case like that?

MM: The whole secret of ETG treatment, Norm, is that it keeps the nastiness out of sight. For instance, if someone says "I bashed the head of that dog against the cement until its brains ran down the wall," people are revolted. But if you say "I showed poor judgment in a canine training session," people forget about it in two seconds.

ARR: "Showed poor judgment"? That's the ETG treatment? When the guy has bashed the brains of a helpless dog out against the wall?

MM: Well, if the case is really bad, you can teach the client to say "I made a bad decision."

ARR: By bashing the dog's brains out?

MM: Sure. When the press shows up, you're sitting behind a table with your coach beside you. You look serious. Contrite. You say "I was holding a canine training session and I made a bad decision about negative reinforcement."

ARR: The kid says "negative reinforcement"?

MM: We teach them phrases like that. It's part of the ETG package. If the coach is part of the deal, we teach him to nod and look grave when the player is saying it. The media firestorm dies right down.

ARR: "Bad decision"? "Poor judgment"? You really teach clients to talk like that?

MM: Norm, we do. It works. We also give them bonus lines that express contrition and a resolution to improve in the future."

ARR: Bonus lines?

MM: Right. The kid has to stand in front of a mirror and say the lines. Then he goes out and faces the cameras.

ARR: Lines like what?

MM: Oh, like "This is not any indication of who I am. I made a bad decision."

ARR: But wait a minute. If you feed them these lines, isn't that a classic example of rank hypocrisy?

MM: Sure, but the sportswriters don't give a damn about whether the kid has bashed out the brains of some dog because it wasn't vicious enough. They've got tomorrow's column to write.

ARR: We see. But bashing dogs' brains out is pretty extreme. What do you do in simpler cases? Say a football player rapes a girl who comes to his room. Or hits a woman in the face in a bar? Or hands in papers written by somebody else so he can stay eligible? Or gets pulled over for drunk driving?

MM: Those are all easy cases. You just haven't grasped the magic of the principle. There's nothing that you can't redescribe by using the ETG method. Think about it: if you can call bashing out the brains of some helpless dog as "poor judgment" or "a bad decision," what couldn't you describe that way?

ARR: Good point. So in the case of a client who got into a bar fight and stabbed somebody in the belly?

MM: You teach them to say "I showed poor judgment in handling sharp-edged cutlery." Or "I made a bad decision about the anatomical consequences of an invasive procedure."

ARR: They actually learn to say "anatomical consequences" and "invasive procedure"?

MM: If they want to get off with a two-game suspension they do.

ARR: We see. What about rape?

MM: "Poor judgment about the sincerity of a refusal." Or "bad decision regarding the use of a reproductive organ."

ARR: Cheating?

MM: "Poor judgment on a test." Or "exam." Or "paper I handed in."

ARR: Drunk driving?

MM: With drunk driving, we go straight to a show of contrition: "This is not any indication of who I am. I made a bad decision." Then they can say "I had no idea the little girl was in front of my headlights. I used poor judgment in terms of braking."

ARR: We think we understand. Well, we understand that your company is making millions. But we haven't been able to get hold of a corporate balance sheet. Can you give us a rough idea of how you're doing?

MM: I can tell you how to get an estimate. Go through a list of scandals involving athletes. If the athlete makes a statement using "bad decision" or "poor judgment," they're clients of ours. If the kid says "This is not any indication of who I am. I made a bad decision" or "I've got a lot of growing up to do," or "I'm learning from this. It's a learning curve," or "I've changed and moved on," or "Sometimes people make bad choices. It doesn't mean they're bad," or any lines similar to those, they're ETG clients.

ARR: That's very helpful. May we close with one last question?

MM. Certainly.

ARR: What does "ETG" stand for?

MM: Well, Norm, we actually can't divulge that information. But it doesn't violate the rules if I tell you what the "E" stands for. Can't you guess?

ARR: "Euphemism"?

MM: Very good. I imagine you can work out the rest.