Cleaning out the Drains

Do characters need to have charisma and leadership to make a difference to those around them?

The Giants have been on an uncharacteristic run of losses lately. In an attempt to change their fortunes the managers disposed of two veteran players: Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand. It’s a dramatic and expensive change. The very next game they bounced back with a convincing 4-0 win against the Cubs with back-to-back home runs. So it worked. Why?

By all accounts Rowand wasn’t a leader and Tejada, a new acquisition this year, was no better. It seems there’s more to influencing a team than being a leader.

Most people seem to simply absorb the mood around them. If everyone else is happy, they’re happy. If the team is glum, they’re glum too. The special people are the ones who raise the mood of everyone around. Regardless of the situation, they can find some humour or optimism to lift the team. The Radiators. And then there are those who, no matter how well things are going, will always see the downside. The Drains. People who can bring down the mood of a group by just walking into a room. I bet you work with people like this. I know I do.

In any group of people you can pick out who the Drains and the Radiators are. Radiators are wonderful to be around. They always have more friends. Drains are exactly the sort of people that most of us, if we’ve got any sense, avoid spending too much time with.

It’s easy when making up a story to make all the characters Radiators. And by making up a story I mean not just being an author, but the stories we all make up to explain the behaviours of the people we see in our news stories, the trials and tribulations of the celebrities in the media, and the stories that we hang on our sporting heroes and villains.

In real life we encounter Drains at every turn. Why aren’t they in our stories? Mostly they aren’t in our stories because we don’t want to spend time with them.

The story that, for me, best explains the Giants sudden revival without Tejada and Rowand is that the two of them were Drains. They sapped the morale of the dugout with their griping about a lack of playing time. Tejada’s much publicised hissy fit about being asked to bunt against the Astros might not have been the reason he was DFA’d but it is a good indicator of his attitude. Without these Drains, the Radiators of the team like Aubry Huff, Pat Burrell and Brian Wilson can do something to raise the mood.

Then again, the Giants might not be out of the woods yet. Watch the video of Keppinger and Sandoval running the bases after their home runs on Wednesday. Not a glimmer of a smile. The high-fives back in the dugout looked mechanical and joyless. Well, as Raymond Chandler would recommend to story writers “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” Let’s hope that, metaphorically at least, new arrival Brett Pill’s bat can be that gun.

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