Overcoming Adversity

I’m not much a movie buff, but to prepare for the Super Bowl I set aside a couple of hours to enjoy a big screen classic: Rudy. I’m sure you all know the story of Rudy Ruettiger whose persistence and hard work elevated him to legendary status at Notre Dame.

It’s the perfect sports movie mixing the emotional trials of the small-town underdog against the machine that is big-time college football. No matter how many times you see this movie, if you have a pulse, you’ll get choked up and find yourself cheering for Rudy’s success.

Being a writer, I had to investigate Rudy’s story a little more. It was too perfect. Looking into the script, I learned that certain depictions in the movie are in sharp conflict with what really happened. For example, Dan Devine, Notre Dame’s legendary football coach had already announced Rudy would play in the game–a surprise on film, but not so much in “reel” life. The classic scene between Devine and team captain Roland Steele is another intriguing element:
Roland Steele: Coach I want Rudy to dress in my place.

Devin: Don’t be silly Roland. Georgia Tech has one of the best offenses in the country. You’re our captain an All-American starting acting like it!”

Steele: I believe I am.

What drama! Unfortunately, it never actually happened. In fact, there wasn’t even a player named Roland Steele that played for Notre Dame. However, teammates did speak with Devine on behalf of Rudy two days before the final home game of the year. The coach was convinced and decided then that Rudy would dress for game.

While not good enough for Hollywood, the message sent by Devine is as dramatic as the fiction that played out on the screen and that is hard work is its own reward. When you give your best you know it and those around you know it. This includes your customers and employees. It may not have the dramatic flair of a Hollywood movie, but it is the reality by which all of us should lead our lives. In this months cover story, I spoke with a number of small-and mid-sized operators whose underdog status is constantly trumped by their hard work and desire to succeed.

Their decision making and leadership is rooted in the American dream, in many cases seemingly torn from an Horatio Alger epic. And they certainly don’t need a Hollywood writer to embellish their efforts. Read this month’s cover story beginning on page 18.

Good for NYACS
A NYACS-supported lawsuit is targeting New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Native Americans in hopes of forcing the state to collect taxes on sales of gasoline and tobacco by Native Americans to non-Native American customers. These tax-free sales give Native American retailers an enormous price advantage over traditional convenience store operators in New York and have forced the closure of dozens of stores that just can’t compete.

What’s so frustrating about the situation is that New York law already requires the state to collect taxes from Native Americans. The governor simply refuses to enforce it. Operators in New York are now being forced to spending thousands of dollars on costly lawsuits in an effort to minimize the losses they are already experiencing. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

The suit aims to expose the state’s shortcomings, but what remains to be seen is how the courts will react. Any excitement over this suit is quickly squashed by the realization that even a favorable ruling is far from a victory.

The state has repeatedly violated its own laws by turning its back on the thousands of honest, hard-working convenience store owners spanning from Long Island to Buffalo. That’s not just negligence, that’s criminal, and when did it become OK for our lawmakers to turn a blind eye toward crime? The state spends millions trying to entrap legitimate retailers into selling tobacco to minors, yet ignores the millions in tax revenue it’s losing to Native Americans. It’s time to bring justice to the operators that help sustain New York’s economy.

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