Another subject that came up at staff meeting yesterday was sports publishing. We are starting to publish trade and professional books, in addition to the reference works we are known for, and were brainstorming about the areas to focus on. (Getting me to trim things from the projects list is a recurrent theme in our meetings.) China, thatâ€™s obvious. Sustainability, no question, we have so much going on there. Global issues seems to be number three, a sort of catch-all that still makes sense in terms of sales and placement.
â€œBut what about sports?â€ someone said, â€œwe have such great stuff lined up.â€ Indeed we do, and thereâ€™s probably no topic that generates as many ideas and opinions in the office. But even in discussions about reference, I told them, I am asked why we do sports. â€œI donâ€™t see how it fits in with the rest of your work,â€ Iâ€™ve been told. I always argue that sports is one of the worldâ€™s biggest businesses, has enormous social and cultural impact, and is one of the major ways people connect across cultures and across class lines. Itâ€™s important and itâ€™s global, and that makes it a Berkshire topic. But this is still something of a hard sell, conceptually, for many people. (Our major encyclopedias on the subject are not a hard sell, though, Iâ€™m glad to say.)Â The consensus was that we will find a way to develop our line of popular sports books, even if it means creating a separate list or imprint or partnership.
Just after the meeting I got a call yesterday from one of our New England sales reps, Paul DiCrescenzo. I was pleased, because Iâ€™ve been meaning to get in touch with him for a few weeks, but it did cross my mind that maybe he was calling me (which heâ€™s never done) to complain about something weâ€™d done, or not done.
Not at all. He and his wife Rosalie, also a sales rep working with the wonderful Paul Davis, are planning to go to a martial arts workshop in Vermont in a couple of weeks and wondered if I would be interested in joining them. This was rather flattering, because the one time we met, in Burlington, Vermont, in October, I was in a terrible state, with a heavy cold at its peak, and I wasnâ€™t sure Iâ€™d been coherent during the dinnerâ€”let alone persuasive as a former martial arts practitioner. â€œYou should go back to it!â€ Paul had said insistently.
I canâ€™t make the dates of the particular workshop they are going to this month, but weâ€™ve made plans to do something together in July. Paul and Rosalie focus on Chinese martial arts, which I would love to try. â€œI could tell,â€ Paul said yesterday, â€œyouâ€™ve got the jones. Youâ€™ve got to do it.â€
Then he asked what Iâ€™d wanted to talk to him about. I laughed: Iâ€™d been planning to email him and Rosalie to let them know that I have indeed gone back to aikido.
Gotta face facts: At Berkshire weâ€™ve got the jones for sports. Weâ€™ve just got to do it.