A parable about how to lose friends and discourage people

January 25, 2018, 1:07 PM · Imagine a guy with really rich parents. He's a young adult — in college maybe — but he's always throwing great parties (with plenty of free beer for his friends), thanks to his parents' money. And because of those parties, he has a lot of friends. He's not the number-one, most-popular kid in the city, but he's close.

Then his parents pass away. He's sent off to live with a less-wealthy uncle, then eventually has to make it on his own. The parties stop. Many of the old friends (who were just there for the free beer) leave to start hanging out with another kid from the neighborhood, who's now throwing even bigger parties with a bunch of money from new friends from Great Britain.

But a core of friends stick with the young man. Yet things get worse. The guy's beloved co-worker is killed. He goes into shock and withdraws from his friends.

And then a bully starts picking on him. Withering under the bully's attacks, the guy retreats into a shell. The remaining friends feel ignored. They try to stand up for their friend to the bully, but the bully doesn't care and no one else in the city listens to them. The friends plead with the guy to come out of his shell.

Eventually, he does. But instead of returning to his remaining friends, the guy tries to suck up to the bully for approval. He often ignores his friends and tries instead to start hanging out with a smaller, different group of friends in the hope that the bully will leave him alone. The bully doesn't care. But the guy keeps trying.

Then, nearly 10 years after the loss of the parents, a few of the guy's remaining friends pay him a visit, for old time's sake. But then they see, on the curb in front of his house, a broken, framed photo of the biggest, greatest party the friend had ever thrown — now tossed aside with the rest of the trash. Shocked that their buddy would discard this beloved memory, some of the friends wonder if it's even worth trying to hang around with this guy any longer.

And that, my friends, is the parable of SeaWorld Parks and the theme park fans.

For more perspective:

Replies (16)

January 25, 2018 at 1:38 PM · So what's the answer? Does SeaWorld close and sell the land to Universal?
January 25, 2018 at 1:51 PM · I knew it was going to be SeaWorld before the end of the second paragraph and was already sad. Nice piece, though, Robert. I wish I knew what the answer was... Maybe, as some people have suggested, the guy just needs to get adopted by new parents....
January 25, 2018 at 2:33 PM ·
Mrs Plum and myself will continue to be his friend.
January 25, 2018 at 2:49 PM · It's a case of some bad luck and weapons grade targeted attacks, but mostly it's that they simply lost track of their USP, and tried to replace it with attractions that were never going to be as good as those of their neighbours. As soon as the acrobats and actors outnumbered the animals the writing was on the wall.
January 25, 2018 at 3:31 PM · SeaWorld deserves so much better than the hand it has been dealt. Yes, they may not have played the best game with the cards they have been given, but it seems like the deck has been stacked against them more often than not.
San Diego has been hit especially hard as that park's location makes it much more difficult to adjust and modify to a rides based park due to local government, an especially vocal animal rights presence in SoCal and the Coastal Commission.
A good bit of blame can also be directed at decisions the park has made itself. The new *Submarine Ride* is a real mediocre addition at best. Electric Ocean was a great addition and the Electric Eel has made an exciting impact on the Mission Bay skyline and it's still quite a while until the ride opens.
I hope the brand finds a way to turn itself around and become a major player again, but something needs to happen soon.
January 25, 2018 at 3:43 PM · A better analogy isn't that she lived with an uncle. It's that she was married off to a an already rich husband. He then proceeded to take her dowry, maxed out credit cards in her name, and then ran off, while selling their joint assets and leaving her with the bills. Now she has to make it on her own...
January 25, 2018 at 4:09 PM · Oh brother. *eye roll* Sea World isn't exactly the poor hapless victim you've made them out to be. They've done some pretty shady things in the past and calling those who brought those things to light "bullies" is just as bad and unfair as saying Sea World is abusing animals and should be shut down. Sea World's problems go deeper than Blackfish and as much as anything they reflect changing public tastes.
January 26, 2018 at 2:43 AM · We always enjoyed Sea World Orlando but we stopped visiting. Not because of Blackfish, anyone with a brain should be able to understand they are manipulated. I'm just not a fan of circus shows. I love watching animals but I don't need them to perform for my entertainment.
Sea World also lacked the huge aquariums the regional marina's offer. Instead they offered more coasters and that is exactly NOT the reason I visited Sea World.
When the park would change up the shows into natural habitats (as they said they would before BF) and would ease down with the coasters and put in some quality rides (like penguins but many times better) I would be back in a heartbeat.
January 25, 2018 at 4:41 PM · Great job Robert. I'm still a passholder, and will be for the foreseeable future. They do need to stop caving in to the "bully", they can totally come out of this.
January 25, 2018 at 5:52 PM · Pinquine?
January 26, 2018 at 8:31 AM · They still throw the best Christmas Party in Orlando
January 26, 2018 at 10:46 AM · I still remember in 2012 when they opened the "Antarctic" section, great reviews, talk of "doing it better than Disney" and such...and it did NOTHING to help attendance and a huge waste of millions. It's sad, I remember visiting in 1994 and enjoying it, it was fun but it's like they're going out of their way to tick off what loyal visitors they still have.
January 26, 2018 at 11:01 AM · Other theme parks are increasingly leaning on IP for new offerings, that's something that Sea World doesn't have, except Sesame Street Bay of Play? And Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for Christmas. But I can't think of any good ocean based IP. Finding Nemo? Taken. Jaws? Free Willy?

Also, the public's taste for animal shows has waned, and it's not just Sea World, Ringling Bros. Circus closed forever after declining attendance after removing the elephants from their shows. I like Sea World, and I still like animal shows, but I have to admit I don't see any future for them, unless they do something drastic.

The submarine ride was a sad, half-hearted attempt to do something, anything. It's not even a submarine, it's an elevated people mover that goes through some indoor rooms. Legoland did their submarine ride right. It's like Sea World wanted to do something, but didn't have the confidence that the park would last, so they didn't want to put the necessary money into it.

January 27, 2018 at 12:27 AM · Just look at Sea World Ohio. Oh wait...

January 28, 2018 at 6:16 PM · Imagine if that rich, party-throwing guy had a dude locked in the basement, who had already killed or nearly killed people in the other basements he was locked within. Let's imagine that the basement dude's saliva was really powerful and valuable to the rich, party-throwing dude, so he was forced to spit up periodically. And then someone ELSE (!) died.

Yeah, less of a bully when you complete the parable.

January 28, 2018 at 6:21 PM · In all seriousness, I don't think the "bully" had anything to do with it. Those folks who watched Blackfish were already convinced of SeaWorld's "evil."

Focusing on this misses the point. They were already skipping SeaWorld before Blackfish reinforced their worldview, right or wrong.

The competition got bigger, better and vastly more aggressive is all.

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