Do you remember that Coca-Cola ad from the 70s? The one with "Mean" Joe Greene of the Steelers? No? Let me refresh your memory:
Not one to debunk his nickname, "Mean" Joe limps down a hallway, obviously injured. Some doe-eyed boy approaches Greene and asks if he needs help. He curtly replies, "no." The kid offers him a cold sugary beverage, which turns the man's surly attitude around. He then returns the favor by tossing his jersey to the kid. Everyone's all smiles, laughs abound, ha ha ha.
Though I like pulling pop-culture parallels out of thin air — believe me, I do — a recent meeting with Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Doug Abele and the group Grandparents and Others on Watch (GrOW) brought to mind this commercial. Well, rather, the abrupt change in demeanor that came about because of the meeting.
I've written about GrOW before, most notably in February of this year, when I made some (admittedly) rather inflammatory claims toward Abele. I based all those claims off of a report that was sent to me by GrOW, a neat little booklet held together by a single staple that rattled off names, dates and incendiary claims like a Thompson gun.
I checked what names and facts I could on CaseNet — like you, I'm just a member of the public and don't have access to much of the information that authorities do — and ran my column in the paper. The fallout from that stung. It hurt my reputation, the reputation of the paper and the Prosecuting Attorney's office. All because of that tidy little booklet of half-facts from GrOW.
Admittedly, I didn't care much for GrOW. I don't like it when groups play armchair quarterback with court cases. I didn't like it when GrOW refused to talk to the people actually making the calls; just the media. I didn't like it when they questioned "the moral compass" of public officials. And I really didn't like it when they treated me like the enemy (hint: I'm not).
But that's in the past. All things aside, GrOW is growing on me.
After some convincing, Dan Peek, the head of GrOW, agreed to meet with Abele to discuss the claims he'd made in said booklet. Representatives of GrOW, the Boonville Daily News, the Cooper County Sheriff and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office gathered to shed some light on things. Line by line, Abele's group went over all the facts that Peek and GrOW had made and absolutely squashed them.
Here it was, irrefutable evidence that GrOW had been incorrect. Peek could have pointed his finger, argued and fought. But GrOW didn't. They said they'd work on it, and be in touch with Abele and his office to double-check any claims they have in the future.
Page 2 of 2 - Mutual communication? With prosecutors and the press? That's what we were shooting for in the first place. Awesome. High-fives for everyone.
Still, it seems like we could have gotten here a little quicker if we checked our hubris at the front door. But people mess up. People make mistakes. It's only when people turn their mistakes into a learning experience do they truly comprehend how to better themselves, and I think things got resolved as neatly as they could.
So, GrOW, I'm at peace with you. Take that for what it's worth. That won't mean, however, you're off the hook. When you play fast and loose with the facts, you're bound to get sacked.
And I won't be there to offer you a Coke.