Being The Lightning Rod: When A Social Media Disaster Strikes Unfairly

Have you seen a more egregious example of unfairness than this?

Facebook | The ING New York City Marathon

During Hurricane Sandy, aka #frankenstorm, some Good, Bad, and Ugly things happened on social networks. There were fake tweets about flooding at the NYSE, and of course the American Apparel #SandySale fiasco (WTF were they thinking?).

But the New York Road Runners, the running community and ING bank can hardly be blamed for the devastation wrought by the superstorm, yet the social backlash against the New York marathon dwarfs all the venom ever spent against McDonalds for #McDStories, Kenneth Cole for using the Cairo uprising to sell clothes or KFC Thailand for suggesting that a deadly earthquake was caused by people buying chicken.

The New York Post stirred things up by suggesting that Mayor Bloomberg commandeer the generators from the race organizers to power neighborhoods on Staten Island. As if they are the only generators on the planet. [UPDATE: And as you may know, the race was cancelled by the NYRR and the city on Friday, Nov 2]

As with everything published by the Post, stay away from the comments. Some snippets:

“Would they have run the Marathon within a week if 9-11? It seems unseemly, given the level of suffering.”

“Bloomberg…completely outta touch as usual. when the winter storm happened two years ago, he said…”oh, don’t worry. just take in a broadway show.”

“I hope many other Hotels follow suit and do not kick displaced people out and let the marathoners sleep in the street.”

And of course, this is politics for a lot of people.

For my part, I’m all for holding the race. [UPDATE: Before it was cancelled, that is]

Here’s a Boston runner (where the April 2012 marathon was briefly in danger of being postponed due to extreme temperatures) on heading to NYC for the race:

“I would have thought they would have canceled it with the amount of stuff and just the pure logistics of getting 47,000 people into Manhattan.”

But he’s going [UPDATE: Or not]. Here’s another runner’s take on holding the race, despite the devastation. In short, he writes:

“Because we are New York City. Because we are tougher than this. Because we move forward. Because we are smart enough to have contingency plans. Because despite all of the devastation and travesty and tumult, we CAN do this.”

Frankly, I think the city can [Could have] handle holding one of the FIVE (sorry, SIX, Tokyo) major running events in the world while also repairing roads, subways, electrical lines and water supplies and protecting darkened neighborhoods.

What has the New York Road Runners Club done to deal with the fallout? Everything they can. This isn’t their fault. The event was planned long ago. The runners have signed up, and have been training for months. They have aligned their resources, including generators, food, and water. Thousands of runners have raised money for charities, including those that help hurricane victims. The organization has even pledged to donate $1 million to aid recovery.

What the hell else are [were] they supposed to do? Why blame them? Why blame the runners? Why ask the runners and volunteers to give up everything they’ve put into this because you don’t like the ‘optics’ of holding this event?

When did everyone become so queasy?

For what it’s worth, Madison Square Garden is hosting the Knicks opening game TONIGHT (after postponing the opening game against Brooklyn). And think about this: If the Yankees were in a seven game World Series lasting into this weekend, they’d sure as hell hold that.

But running isn’t really a ‘sport’ like those are, right? Chase one of these folks for 22 miles at a 6 minute pace and tell them that.

Good on ya, NYC. And I don’t say that a lot. [UPDATE: They really had little choice – the online mob mentality was certainly going to spill out onto the course on Sunday]

I’ll be running the Manchester City Marathon in NH this same weekend. And BTW, I’ve just decided to run the NYC Marathon next year.


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