A devastating storm has wiped out entire communities, leaving millions without power and thousands homeless. Does it make sense to stage a road race that will trip through the devastation, using portable generators, water and food badly needed by storm victims?
Most right-thinking people would say, cancel the road race. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made that decision — after three days of pondering the question.
His delay in responding to the obvious enraged helpless Hurricane Sandy storm victims, especially on badly battered Staten Island, as well as infuriated runners in the New York Marathon, some of whom flew across oceans for the event.
Storm victims pleaded, "Why would you even think of using those resources for a race when your own citizens were desperate in the dark and cold?" The runners with no race to run wondered, "Why didn't you just cancel the race after the storm hit?"
Good questions, which once again raise the broader question of why can't we sometimes see the obvious?
Bloomberg no doubt remembered former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's defiant appearance at a Yankee game to show New York's and America's resolve not to cower in the wake of terrorists who steered planes into the Twin Towers. The current mayor likely also thought about the economic benefit the annual marathon brings to his city.
But to anybody watching news accounts, as Bloomberg surely was, the decision to cancel the marathon was a no-brainer. Worse, it was a lost opportunity.
On their own, many would-be marathoners took to the streets Sunday to run supplies to stranded storm victims. It was like Red Cross volunteers in Nikes. The runners burned pent-up energy and exploited months of training, while earning the respect and gratitude of many families whose lives have been upended, much like the New Jersey coastline.
What should have been an instant decision by Bloomberg became interminable indecision. What might have been an opportunity for some became opprobrium from almost everybody.
The key to crisis decision-making is to do the right thing — and do it fast.