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July 1999

Persistence That Makes Champions

NewsWire Editorial

Nice guys finish first, after 26 years of work. During that time they are doubted, counted out. But they show faith in themselves, faith they share easily. A flashier opponent, the favorite of the media, challenges. And their efforts are rewarded with the title of the best in their business.

It’s not the HP 3000 story. No, it’s the story of the San Antonio Spurs, a basketball team here in a state better known for football. It’s a lesson in why work, sharing and faith are the steps on the way to a championship.

At the start of the last decade, I was a sportswriter. At the time it was a job I wasn’t always proud of — like the time I interviewed the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee. I was also the theatre critic on our little Texas paper, and he made note of my other post. It was a withering comment about how no one who wrote about sports could be expected to comprehend drama.

I didn’t tell him at the time, but the great playwright was wrong. In sports lies the heart of all drama, and better yet, lessons that don’t leave lasting scars when they scrape. Not long after that interview I began to write about the HP 3000. I worked to leave the drama out of my copy, but that didn’t keep me from watching the lessons in the courts of sport. Like many things in life, after it was my vocation, sports became my avocation, my hobby. They reveal struggle, sacrifice, greed, faith, growth and champions. These are not things unique to athletes or games. They are the major parts of life, and as I later learned, of business and customer relationships.

While I have long cared about sports, I was passionate about just one: baseball. That all changed 10 years ago when I fell in love with my wife and partner Dottie. She was an NBA basketball fan, so in loving her, I learned to love her game: Showtime, the LA Lakers, and coach Pat Riley. When we met, she was enjoying that special moment in a fan’s life when your team had won it all — the season after the championship, where your team is recognized as the best. She’s given me basketball, and now I have more than one sports passion.

Last month was grand for us Texas sports fans. In less than a week, two world titles in pro sports were conferred in the state. One title was built in less than a few years with money, in a city where there wasn’t even a team at the beginning of the decade. The other title came to a team working as long for its first championship as the HP 3000 has been working in business. A team of hard-working basketball players elevated by a change in fortunes, the Spurs.

I could feel the same kind of frustration during the team’s championship round that I feel from those of you who have supported the HP 3000 since its beginnings. The national broadcasters who called the games and described the series between the Spurs and the New York Knicks were biased toward the sizzle of New York — even though the Knicks were clearly the weaker team in the title series. San Antonio was a little blue collar town, said one announcer. It’s not that much bigger than Austin, the home of the NewsWire. A modest home isn’t often the address of a championship team, especially in our era of rich getting richer.

But what happened to the Spurs this year was a model for what’s happening to the HP 3000, and the people who believe in it as an engine for commerce and information. The team worked together, passing the ball an extra time to find the player with the hot shot, communicating to create a penetrating, league’s-toughest defense. Here in the 3000 community, companies are coming alive again, working together with the latest technologies integrated with a veteran system.

For the Spurs, their title run was sparked by a player many regard as the best in the game, Tim Duncan, just one year past a rookie. In the 3000 community, the system’s resurgence was sparked by a general manager who wouldn’t let his company turn out the lights on a loyal customer base. On the Spurs was waiting a top-caliber veteran, David Robinson, as classy and gracious an athlete as anyone who’s put on a uniform. In the 3000 community waited proven performers in MPE and IMAGE tools vendors, HP engineers, integrating an operating environment and database faster and more reliable than many with newer pedigrees.

People didn’t believe in the Spurs at first, that they could succeed against better-known teams. Pundits and analysts didn’t believe in the HP 3000 until lately, mistaking maturity for the tarnish of old age. The Spurs, being made of players cut many times and those who toiled in minor leagues awhile, didn’t let the lack of support block their faith. The HP 3000’s truest supporters didn’t waver, either, when HP’s corporate leaders sharpened their knives.

They followed the same course of action as the Spurs — they persevered. At the end of the season and the series, when the team had beaten the flashier Knicks 4-1, the winning shot was nailed by the smallest man on the court, the guard Avery Johnson — who had been cut from three teams. The trophy was hoisted minutes later by the tallest, Robinson. A Naval Academy graduate who did his national service before going into pro basketball, he’s called The Admiral. His comment at the end was an officer’s testament to the power of perseverance.

“If this was easy, it really wouldn’t be worth the journey,” he said. “It’s a joy, man. It’s worth every minute of the journey.”

We live with struggle in our lives, and some learn to love it as much as the success that follows. Hard work and faith brought a basketball title to the smallest market in the league. Success comes calling, on its own schedule, if you believe and work. You can find joy in the journey if you have been suited up a long time, ready for success.

HP has put down its long knives and begun to value hard work, the kind performed on thousands of HP 3000s every day. We’re watching the 3000 division return to its roots, to reconnect with software companies that made waves for the system in another decade. Price changes have put the system on an equal footing with other HP systems. These are plays that will make success happen for you, the customer.

In the thick of this reward for the patient customer, the loyal software vendor, it feels like the 1980s again, a rich time for the HP 3000. I hope those customers and vendors enjoy their championship season, as well as the joy of the struggle that’s sure to come. Sportswriters say the Spurs are favorites to repeat their success next year. From this former sportwriter’s seat, it feels like the start of a fresh dynasty for the HP 3000, powered by perseverance.

— Ron Seybold 


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