It will take a you a bit of time to digest this…and no doubt this will ruffle some feathers…but here is Bud’s latest essay.
The IASC “Gentleman’s Agreement” 2008. Let’s get off our asses, and Get ‘Er Done this time. Or, Let’s Not, and Say We Did.
by Bud Stratford
This essay’s immediate predecessor is “The Failure of Leadership”.
If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It segways really nicely into
this one. Or, rather: I hope it does, at least.
Let’s face facts here: That “Gentleman’s Agreement”of 1994 that
IASC put out fourteen years ago now… it’s done. Old hat. Yesterday’s
news. As I reflected in “Leadership”, the milk has been spilled,
cleaned up, and largely replaced in the ‘ol frigerator. Initiatives
were compiled, articulated, not acted on… and, others came out, acted
on them for us, and became incredibly rich in the process. Yay for
them, bummer for us. Live and learn. Life goes on.
picking on all of this has become rather akin to beating a dead horse,
or picking on the child retard at school. IASC has turned out to be
pretty pathetic, defenseless organization. Unable and inept at even
lifting a finger to address simple critics effectively, let alone
launching or executing industry-wide missives. They’re the scourge of
the industry, basically. Well, guess what? This has to change. And,
So: Why? Well, you see, it’s like this. As I look into my crystal ball,
here’s what I can see happening eventually. Say, five to ten years out.
One: IASC as we know it will still exist, and I’ll still be picking on
them. Which is actually not too shabby, considering Number Two. And, in
all Probability, Number Two is: IASC will be made up of Big Corporate
Types that lave long since either gobbled up, or chewed up, the
“ex-skater-owned” brands that today represent IASC, and will have
largely replaced those dudes with their fancy boards of directors, and
their equally fancy-pants “shareholders”. Which we can see happening
today, of course. Yup, you heard me right: At the end of the day, for
as much as I’ve kicked IASC in the nuts over the last few years… I’d
still much rather work with those assholes, than a buncha Big Corporate
Assholes (note the capital “A”, there). The IASC dudes, if nothing
else, used to skate. They can relate to skateboarding, at least on some
level. Big Corporate can’t relate to shit, except lining their goddamn
pockets, looting and pillaging everything in sight, and fucking up as
much as they can in the process. The last thing I want them anywhere
near, is skateboarding.
So, what to do, you ask? Well first, we gotta realize a couple of
hard-ass truths. The first one being that, Big Corpo ain’t gonna buy
everyone. Which is what “everyone” falsely believes. I know a whole
lotta dudes sittin’ around and waiting, right now, for the Big Corpo
Buyout, and the resulting Big Cash Cow to come a-knockin’ at their
doorstep. For a lot of these guys, they’re living in La-La Land. I
mean, shit dude… look at Wal-Mart. Do they make a habit of buying out
every Downtown USA? No…… they make a habit, mostly of quashing Downtown
USA. That’s what Big Corpos do best: Blindly steamrolling over
everything in thier path, in the incessant quest for “shareholder
value”. Which basically means: Quash Cash. So: Our industry is not
gonna be “bought out” lock, stock, and barrel, contrary to some real
wishful thinkin’ goin’on out there right now. Most of us are Trampling
Targets, not Takeover Targets. That’s truth #1.
Truth #2 is, in order to avoid The Big Corpo Quash… we’ve gotta get
our shit in order. Big Corpo definitely has their shit together. That’s
how they came to be “Big Corpo” in the first fucking place. They have a
straightforward mission, and they stop at nothing to execute that
mission. “Shareholder Value” is a pretty ruthless business, and it’s
either Eat, or Be Eaten. Big Corpo understands this all too well. IASC
does not. Indeed, as it sits today, I’d almost propose changing
“IASC”’s name to “DINNER”. Because, that’s exactly what they’re gonna
be if they don’t get it right, and get it right really fucking fast.
Getting the “Bud Stratford Bastard Beatdown” is bad enough as it is,
I’m sure. Being “extinct”, however, is a whole ‘nother matter
altogether. That’s the eventuality that I’d really, really like to
avoid. Unfortunately, that’s gonna require IASC’s cooperation. And, I
sure as hell ain’t holdin’ my breath on that one. So. How to go
about it, then…? Well, my proposal is simple enough. It’s more than
high time for another “IASC Gentleman’s Agreement”. A 2008 version, if
you will. A ballsy move, you say? Yeah, sure it is. A lot of you guys
will call me”cocky”, maybe even “arrogant”. What the fuck ever. The Fun
Truth of the matter’s pretty simple, and it goes a little like this:
You guys wrote the last Gentleman’s Agreement, and you largely blew it
off. I’m writing this one… and of course, I presume that you’ll largely
be blowing this one off, too. At the end of it, what does that all
mean? It means: It makes Me at least as smart, and as important, as all
of You, that’s what!!! Ha!
All kidding around aside… we do have a whole smorgasboard of
fucked-up shit in The Industry that needs addressing, and needs
addressing mighty quick. In some ways, I’ve never seen it so bad out
there. And, it ain’t gonna be gettin’ better all by itself, I’m sure.
So, let’s get on with it then.
1. Learn To Execute
That’s simple enough, I guess. Figure out how to get shit done.
Saying that you’re thinking about it is one thing. Claiming that you’re
gonna lift a finger to do it, is even better. But nothing… and, I mean
“nothing” here, fellas… beats Getting It Done. “Less Talk, More
Action”. Execute, by Whatever Means Necessary.
Truth is… and, this is largely what the last essay was about… if
we’d all executed on that last “Gentleman’s Agreement”? We’d be an
entirely different, more profitable industry, today. Likewise: Being an
entirely different, more profitable industry tomorrow, is largely what
this Gentleman’s Agreement is all about. Sure, ignore it if you’d like.
But, you do so at your own peril.
2. Address Populist Causes First
IASCs biggest failure, is in garnering good will and support from
the “rest” of the industry, as well as the rest of the skateboarding
community. That’s why they have so many fucking critics, of course. So,
how do we shut the critics up…? Go after stuff that even the critics
can’t argue with. The whole “Go Skateboarding Day” was a good start…
there’s not a lot of skaters that won’t go skateboarding on “Go
Skateboarding Day”, since most skaters “Go Skateboarding” every day,
anyway. The “Skatepark Initiative” was another great example of IASC
engaging a “populist” cause… I mean, really… how many skaters are gonna
say “Fuck You, Dudes! I don’t even want another skatepark in my
town…!!!” Nobody? That’s right! But, the problem here is: Very Few Of
Us Have Actually Seen This Wonderous “Skatepark Initiative”. Some of us
have even asked for it, quite a few times. Still hasn’t materialized,
though. And, it is very hard to support what I have yet to see.
Tell ya what: Once y’all smarten up, and put that damn thing
Online…? You know, where it should have been the whole time, for anyone
who needs to find it…?! Like, y’know… people and cities that wanna
build skateparks and stuff? Let me know. Then, I’ll probably support
it. Which leads me right to #3, and that is:
3. Learn To Embrace Your Critics
Michael Brooke told me a great one-liner once. Little did I know
that he got it straight from The Godfather. It’s this one right here:
“Keep Your Friends Close, And Your Enemies Closer”. That is really,
really good advice, guys. Maybe y’outta do it more often than you do.
Here’s just one reason why. I know for a dead fact that, there’s a
lot of pissed off IASC heads out there, that would probably much rather
have me dead for some of the shit that I wrote about that “Under Fire”
bullshit that you guys put out a couple years back. Well, wishing me
dead is all good and well, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really
amount to jack shit. However: Realizing that I began writing about that
bleedin’ thing at least six months before it came out… now, that’s
telling. That, is significant. That, was an opportunity that was sadly
Here’s why: If anyone from IASC had had the nuts to drop me a line…
maybe even, given me a buzz… and, actually ask what the fuck my
goddamned problem was with all of this? Y’know what I woulda done?!
Well: I would have told them…! I know, I know: What A Concept, Huh…? Go
And, at the end of the day, you know what they could have done with
this new found info? They could have edited the fucking Under Fire
Initiative to duck my criticisms, and shut my ass up! That’s What!
That, in hindsight, might have been very, very smart. But, they didn’t
do it. Which, as we can all see in hindsight, was ultimately a very,
very dumb thing to do. Wasn’t it, John Bernards…?
By forging ahead anyway… even in spite of already having some very,
very vocal critics on this initiative… the only thing that you guys
actually accomplished, is to turn the whole skateboarding world into a
buncha very, very vocal IASC critics. Hey guys, do me a favor, will ya?
Don’t ever, ever, ever be that stupid, ever again. Realize that, some
of your very worst enemies, could very, very easily become some of your
very best friends. Just by stopping you from doing some very, very
idiotic crap. Harshing right along,we come to the next thing on our
“To-Do Shit List”:
4. Get Rid Of Bernards.
While we’re making a few changes in how IASC does shit, we might as
well go The Full Monty. Let me be the first to call for this asshole’s
immediate resignation, removal… or, whatever.
Now, let me be clear on this point, just so that we have zero
misunderstanding here: It Is Not Personal. I don’t even know the dude,
that well. It’s a strictly professional problem that I have with John
Bernards. Well: Several, actually. Let’s lay out the list, shall we?
First of all, the dude’s got Zero Credentials. For example: I have
no idea whatsoever, if he’s ever actually skated in his whole god damned
life or not. That’s bad enough. But, even worse: Even when you Google
this f’n bloke, you don’t get shit for results. The only thing that I
could ever find on the guy is that he’s the Executive Director of IASC
(duh), and apparently, he’s some sort of expert on off shoring. Great!
Two completely useless tidbits of info. And, this is from Google, no
less! Doesn’t Google know everything these days?! Apparently, not when
it comes to John Bernards, it doesn’t. I’m sorry guys, but I just don’t
trust anyone that I can’t Google. Even worse: I can’t trust anyone that
doesn’t have a resume, and didn’t really seem to exist before IASC came
Whoever holds the Executive Director’s position needs to, at the very least, have an air of transparency about them…
But, what’s more: I’d propose that being the ED of IASC, also sorta
requires that you be a fairly friendly bloke. The kind of guy that can
talk to people in a manner that, y’know… sorta makes the people being
talked to actually enjoy the experience…? Bernards doesn’t talk to
anyone; he talks down to people. He’s certainly done it to me, so I can
vouch for that one firsthand. And mind you, this was way, waaaay before
I ever started writing a single word about “the industry”. At the time,
I was just “somen dude”, getting my journalistic start. I was “The
Press”. But, in Bernards’ mind I guess, I was roughly equitable to a
shit-soiled roll of toilet paper. The last people in the world that you
wanna treat like TP is The Fucking Press. Bernards, if he knows nothing
at all, outta know at least that much.
Likewise: We also need a guy that can effectively dialogue with all
those Harsh Naysayers out there. Being fair minded, open-minded,
inquisitive, curious… all traits that are also, noticably absent from
Mr.Bernards. Bernards is aloof, stoic, impatient, and he sure as hell
don’t wanna hear a peep of criticism from anyone… he makes that clear
enough, for sure. And, this guy is the public spokesman, and the public
face, of IASC…?! Well, it’s No Fucking Wonder that you guys don’t have
The very last thing that IASC needs in it’s ED, is a sort of “IASC
Bullshit Safety-Valve”. A Naysayer. A “No” Guy. A guy that will save
IASC from themselves, if and when need be. Now, a lot of blokes will
disagree with me on this one, and tell me that, that’s not really in
the ED’s Job Description. Well, I say: Screw It. Put it in there, and
put it in there quick, for pete’s sakes. Let’s Help IASC Help
Themselves for a change. Squashing some of these horrible, horrible
“initiatives” right from the get-go, wouldn’t be a bad idea. Oh, yeah:
The guy who holds the ED job, also has to be Fair and Impartial, on top
of all of this other stuff that I outlined above. Someone that has an
equal stake in everyone’s best interests. It’s a very, very tall order,
and frankly, Bernards really does not even begin to measure up.
So, who would? Well, if it were left up to me, I’d probably
nominate Reggie Barnes. Of Eastern Skate Supply. No shit: I really
would. The reason is simple enough: Reggie Barnes is basically
everything that Bernards isn’t. And, vice versa. Reggie’s a super nice
guy, for one. That North Carolina Southern Drawl he’s got implies a
whole lotta “Southern Hospitality”…and, he can back that shit up, by
being one of the genuinely nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of
meeting. He’s a great listener, no matter who you are, or what your
title may, or may not, be. He’s obviously got a resume, ‘cuz everyone
that’s anyone knows who the hell Reggie Barnes is, what he does, and
what he owns…and in many cases, some of us nerdier-types even remember
his freestyle and street style pro-model years with Walker Skateboards.
But, here’s the best parts. One: Reggie knows what’s up. He’s got
his finger right on the pulse of what’s really going on out there. The
simple fact that he was one of the few IASC heads to even express
reservations about that whole “Under Fire” fiasco (I recall the concern
being that, kids would definitely get their hands on it, and rebel like
hell against it… which, lo and behold, is exactly what happened…) tells
me that he has the insight, and the balls, to effectively take on the
IASC Leadership on important issues…and, even more vitally, he’s got
the uncanny ability to actually be correct in his assessments and
judgements. That kind of shit, is invaluable. Another thing that
uniquely qualifies Reggie for the job would be that, as a skateboard
distributor… he works with, and implicitly supports, almost every
single skateboard manufacturer out there… big, or small, Reggie
supports them all. And, he obviously deals with a lot of skate shops as
well (again, both big and small) during the course if his day-to-day
job. That would also be a singularly important asset, given the
problems that we’re experiencing in the retail sector these days…
The big question is: Would Reggie ever take the job…? I’d hope
that, if IASC tossed enough cash his way, and granted some very, very
key concessions… I’d hope that he’d at least consider it. If I were
IASC, I’d give Reggie whatever the fuck it took, to convince him to
take the job. Point blank. Anything less, would just be kinda stupid.
I’d also consider Johnny Schillereff (of Element) for the job, just
due to his low-key, mellow, fair-minded, quiet, and inquisitive nature.
These sorts of traits are important, guys. Let’s give someone the job,
that has these traits. Please…
5. Get Rid of the Non-Skate Companies in IASC
I still don’t understand… and, I doubt that I will ever understand…
why companies such as Activision, Davis Law Associates, FedEx, Moss
Adams, Merrill Lynch, etc, etc, etc… are part of an International
Association Of Skateboard Companies. Are these all skateboard
companies…? Have I been missing something, here…?
At the very least, IASC has a public responsibility to be
transparent, and to clarify what the fuck these guys are doing as
members of IASC. Credibility is on the line,here. There is a big, big
difference between providing valuable insights and services to IASC
member companies (which is what they’re largely doing), versus actually
steering the future of our sport, our lifestyle, and our pastime (which
is what the public thinks they’re largely doing). As such, I’d change
the “Premium Members” group to “Sustaining Members”… and likewise, I’d
merge the current “Associate Members” and “Lifestyle Members”, to a
newly-defined “Supporting Members”. “Sustaining”and “Supporting”, after
all, are very self-explanatory and fairly transparent terms. “Premium”,
“Associate”, and “Lifestyle”, are not.
6. Make a point of calling me, Bud Stratford, a “Pud-Munching Ass Face” at least once between now, and April 14th, 2012.
I’m still a little worried about IASC’s ability to execute, so I
figured I’d toss this “initiative” in there as a safe, simple, and
easy-to-accomplish “gimme”. As well as providing a quirky, mid-essay
laughing break before we barge on to the really good stuff. Of course:
I’m sure that a few of those IASC Heads are already way, waaaayyy ahead
of the curve on this one. And, good on them for doing so! Moving on….