One of the greatest reading pleasures I’ve ever had was maybe 20 years ago when I first got my hands on the complete volume of Stephen King’s “The Bachman Books”.
Those were the novels he published under his pseudonym. There were four in total, with a fifth – the book that turned out to be Misery – already in progress when he was busted.
He went public, admitted it, published Misery under his own name and eventually released the four Bachman novels that way too.
They are different from King’s usual fare, written by a young author who was still finding his footing.
The best of them – by far – is the one I want to talk about. If you’ve only ever heard of it from the appalling movie, then I suggest you find it and read it because you are in for a treat.
The Running Man is a superb story.
The premise is simple and will sound eminently familiar to anyone who’s watched Squid Game, although King’s book precedes it by some thirty plus years.
In a dystopic future, the poor have one option for getting out from under; they can sign up with The Network to compete in a series of televised “games.”
You can get a feel for them just by reading the often hilarious names; there is Treadmill To Bucks (which accepts only chronic heart and lung patients), one called Run For You Guns and another called Swim The Crocodiles.
It goes without saying these are not your average game-shows, and neither is the main event, The Running Man, a show where the contestants (they usually run two simultaneously) have 30 days to survive – the losers die as you probably gathered – as the entire nation works to track them … with the tip of the spear a Network hit-squad called The Hunters.
The story follows a contestant called Ben Richards, who signs up for The Games because his daughter is sick with something that could be lung cancer. He endures a day of poking and prodding and IQ tests and various procedures before he is offered a “prime time” slot. He accepts it and a day later the manhunt is on, with the whole country in on it.
And it’s then that Richards makes his first critical decision; should he take to take to his heels, or try to bunker up somewhere? He recognises immediately that the second choice is such a human impulse that it is exactly what the Hunters will expect him to do.
“They would not be looking for a Running Man at all,” he thinks. “They would be looking for a hiding one.”
Where is Celtic’s CEO hiding?
I’ll tell you this, he isn’t running because he’s got nowhere to run to.
The Celtic job is the biggest he’ll ever have in his life, and it’s one he would never have gotten near in an open “best candidate for the role” process. He has nowhere better to go.
So he can’t head for the hills, he has to front up every single day at the office.
And when you’re forced to do that it means, as Richards realises, that you can only hide for so long.
Given enough time, you and your audience come face to face.
I don’t know how long our CEO thinks he can keep his head down and appear only in front of hand-picked friends throwing softballs but he’s dead wrong if he reckons he can do it indefinitely.
As far as this Australian friendly garbage goes he is clearly better off in the burrow.
In the end it doesn’t matter how long he stays, because unless he’s coming out of his hole to say that the whole idea is so bad, on reflection, and so mishandled that the club is pulling out of it and apologising for ever entertaining it, I don’t want to hear a word of it.
Any justification he attempts to make will be treated by the bulk of our fan-base with the same contempt we’ve been shown.
There are lines you do not cross.
Endorsement of the Survival Lie and the promotion of a hate-fest is the one the Celtic board knows is a bridge too far, and they have known it for years.
They did it here and now because they thought by pushing Ange Postecoglou in front of it that he would soak up some of the heat for them, and in doing so have turned what should be the crowning moment of his career so far into a showdown between club and fans.
A CEO in the modern world needs political savvy.
Does this suggest that he possesses even a shred of it? Does this suggest that he has the first clue how to do public relations?
It is not simply tone deaf, but the manner in which it’s been done is shoddy, second rate, cowardly and offensive.
That does not suggest a deft touch and 20-20 vision.
It suggests, as many of us feared, that the man is in a job vastly greater than what he can handle.
It suggests that we’re in the hands of a rank amateur at a time when the steady hand of a professional is needed most.
Let me say out loud what is surely on the minds of many others; Peter Lawwell may have considered doing this, but he would never have actually did it. He would never have actually sanctioned something so profoundly detrimental to club-fan relations.
But Nicholson may have had no choice in the matter, and that doesn’t matter either.
He’s the guy, whether he likes it or not.
He can’t stay in the bunker indefinitely.
He’s getting away with it right now because the team is on form, but the club has openly provoked a fight with the fans here and if he reckons that he can brass neck this in total silence like some aloof emperor who doesn’t have to bother with the opinions of the common folks he is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
This board, for all its smugness and all its ego, lost the last big showdown with the fans, over the attempt to hire Higgins.
They now face a level of anger on a par with that, not least because they have openly used the manager for this shameful end and that can’t be allowed to go unanswered.
Nicholson has sat in front of the fans, so he has no excuse here.
He must have known the level of feeling against the very idea of this, and it is inconceivable that this decision would have been made without his say-so … hey either that or he’s simply a sock puppet with an Irishman’s hand up his arse.
Either way, he’s going to end up the public face of this decision whether he hides that face or not.
Because this is the job, as unpalatable as he might find it.
If you’re going to make these kinds of calls you better be prepared to take your medicine.
You better be willing to defend them in a public forum or you’re nothing but a bad joke.
When the public face of the company is keeping his head down, that tells you everything you need to know.
They can’t even defend what they’ve done here and they know it.
Celtic’s Hiding Man, the Invisible CEO, can stay hunkered down for a while, but not forever and there’s nowhere for him to flee to.
In short, he can hide but he can’t run.