IT’S JUST WINDY . . .<br />NOT A METAPHOR - THE TORTOISE<br />AND THE HARE - Console Wars (2015)

Console Wars (2015)





At forty-eight feet tall and twenty-six feet wide, Sonic The Hedgehog soared through the sky. Swiftly and serenely, Sega’s beloved mascot made his way through the chaos of Manhattan, the newest larger-than-life balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade through a deal struck by Tom Abramson.

“Where is he?” Ashley Kalinske asked from the window of a building downtown.

“Yeah,” Nicole Kalinske added, eager to see her dad’s friend Sonic.

“He’s coming,” Tom Kalinske told his daughters, “and he can’t wait to see you. But in the meantime, don’t forget to stuff your faces with food.” Behind the window, in the room full of retailers, merchandisers, and other friends of Sega, was a wonderful buffet that added an exclamation mark to the occasion. It had been a hectic past few weeks, what with preparing for the Senate hearings and the media storm that would inevitably follow, but Thanksgiving offered a nice chance to take step back and enjoy Sega’s success with his family. Kalinske had flown out to New York with his wife and kids a day earlier, enjoyed a quick romp around the Big Apple, and ended the day by taking his girls over to Central Park West, where they got to see the balloons being blown up outside the Museum of Natural History.

“Is that him?” Nicole asked, ignoring the table full of cookies.

“No, it’s just Clifford the Big Red Dog,” Ashley said, disappointed.

Kalinske put his arms around the girls and was about to remind them not to worry, but at that moment he was informed that there was an urgent phone call from Brenda Lynch that required his attention. He excused himself and walked over to the reception area to take the call. “Is everything okay?” he asked right off the bat, but of course it was not.

Apparently Sonic’s incredible aerodynamics had backfired, and a vicious gust of wind had rammed him right into a lamppost at West 58th Street and Broadway. Because of the balloon’s size and velocity, a light fixture had fallen and hit an off-duty Suffolk County police captain named Joseph D. Kistinger. The medics on hand believed that he had broken his shoulder and were about to rush him to the hospital.

“Is this a joke?” Kalinske asked incredulously, glancing at his daughters stationed by the window.

“No, I’m sorry,” Lynch said. “It’s just windy, that’s all. Bad luck for us.”

Maybe it really was just bad luck, something to laugh about a few years down the line, but in the moment it felt like something more than that. Fate? Karma? Metaphorical proof of a company in decline? To the outside world, decline would have been the last word to describe Sega. After the release of Mortal Kombat, Sega had pulled past Nintendo and was hotter than ever. Kalinske, of course, was thrilled by this, but ever since SOJ had thwarted the potential deals with Sony and SGI, he’d started to notice cracks in the foundation. Little things, usually, but things that he hadn’t paid much attention to before. For example, Rioux had been pushing harder than ever for permission to manufacture hardware in North America. It would be cheaper this way, and save time on shipping, but SOJ would not allow it. They manufactured all of the hardware; that’s just how it was. At this point, however, the cultural differences with SOJ were to be expected, but it was an unexpected incident that had him most concerned.

In early 1993, Sega had made the decision to split up Sonic 3 into two separate games. This was a calculated risk, one that they likely would have taken again, but between that decision and now, one of the game’s best assets had been eliminated: Michael Jackson. While the company was working on the sound track for Sonic 3, allegations surfaced that Jackson had molested a thirteen-year-old boy. True or not, the stigma was too crippling to ignore, so a decision was made to unwind the deal with Jackson and remove any association he had with the game. At the time, that too seemed to be just a case of bad luck. But between that, the Senate calling subcommittee hearings, and the Sonic balloon fiasco, bad luck seemed to be an unfortunate trend.

“What would you like me to do?” Lynch asked.

The only good part about receiving this lousy news from Brenda Lynch was that, well, he was receiving it from Brenda Lynch, and when it came to spinning stories, that woman was a black widow. “Get down to the hospital,” Kalinske instructed, “and try to make this significantly less bad.”

“I’ll do you one better,” Lynch replied. “How about making this into something good?” Before Kalinske could answer, she was already gone. Lynch ran through the snow-paced streets of New York City, leaving behind her husband and two children so that she could get to the hospital and twist bad luck into something good.

In the following days, the press broadcast all sorts of stories about Sega’s balloon going rogue; but instead of focusing on an officer down, they were almost all about how Sonic was simply too damn fast to ever slow down.