01 October 2005

 
The glorious Aston-Martin DBR-9 from the Petite Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Posted by Picasa

29 September 2005

Coldplay!

The gents from England entertained an enthusiastic crowd at sold-out Philips Arena.  During their last stop in Atlanta two years ago the band welcomed Sir Elton John to the stage; this show's special guest was Michael Stipe of R.E.M.  Yours truly escorted the lovely Elizabeth, who still tolerates me, and her sassy sister Shaya.  See the photo album to the right for pix and notes.

11 September 2005

 

From a recent vacation in Iceland. This lonely phone booth is just outside Thingvellir National Park, home of a magnificent natural amphitheater that hosted the world's first parliament in 930 AD. Posted by Picasa

11 August 2005

Lessons from Hawks ownership battle

The NBA has yet to involve itself in this mess, but David Stern is expected to "suggest" to Steve Belkin that he step aside as team governor immediately, allowing the Hawks to complete the sign-and-trade deal with the Suns for Joe Johnson.  (For details on this mess click here.)



What can we learn from this situation?



  • Ownership groups, like committees, often disagree and are slow to act.  This can be expected when several successful businessmen pool resources to purchase a team.  Often these owners are accustomed to being the final decision maker and knowing their businesses inside and out.  With sports teams, however, the ownership groups must reach consensus, and owners seldom understand the intricacies of drafts, personnel moves, salary cap management, etc.


  • Sports teams and leagues need benevolent dictators.  Using only motorsports as a microcosm, look at the success of NASCAR under the France family, F1 and Bernie Ecclestone (notwithstanding this year's U.S. Grand Prix debacle), IMSA's glory days with John Bishop, and the ALMS under Don Panoz.  Strong commissioners play a key role, too, as witnessed by the meteoric growth of the NFL under Pete Rozell.  Conversely, examine MLB's missteps under Bud Selig (allowing an interim commissioner to own a team, then sell to his daughter when he becomes full-time commissioner; allowing devastating work stoppages; who can forget the emasculating arms-in-the-air shrug during the 2002 All-Star Game), and the NHL's disastrous lost season under Gary Bettman.


  • Successful owners typically function like successful CEOs, in that they hire the right people, and let them do their jobs.  CEOs who dabble in operations can lose focus on the big picture; rare is the owner who knows player personnel better than the GM, although many good potential GMs have passed on positions under meddlesome owners.  In the Hawk's example, Belkin should let Billy Knight do the job for which he was hired.


  • Lastly, the business of sports is unlike any other.  Anti-trust exemptions allow the leagues to play with their own rules.  It's difficult to assign an return on investment for a championship (although the Red Sox and MLB are mighty pleased with the post-World Series merchandise sales).  One can draw a parallel between city's attachment to teams and corporations: recall Seattle's disappointment at losing Boeing to Chicago, although that was less about pride than jobs and the tax base.  Ask any long-time Cleveland fan about Art Modell, however, and you'll learn just how attached cities can become to teams.


Whatever the outcome of the Hawks' situation, we're reminded of the peculiarities of the sports world, and the often warped intersection of sports and business.

08 August 2005

Back from Toronto

Many, many thanks to Ted, Lisa, and their wonderful children for taking such great care of me in T.O.   Far too much time had passed since I last visited their fine city, which was even more remarkable than I'd remembered.  Please check out the photo album when you get a moment.

13 July 2005

An All-Star Weekend

Just returned from the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Detroit. Over the past few years my mother has grown into quite a baseball fan, which was rewarded with the Red Sox championship last year. So when the opportunity arose to attend the All-Star Game courtesy of the fine folks at MLBAM, she was a natural guest.



We thought we would expand our cultural horizons by staying across the river in Windsor, Ontario. Unfortunately Windsor seems devoid of culture -- it's really not a pleasant city.  The park along the riverfront was nice enough, and the people natives kind, but these positives were overshadowed by the downtown blight.



Windsor aside, however, the All-Star Game and related festivities, such as FanFest and the Home Run Derby, made the trip worthwhile.  Even better was the joy on my mother's face as David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez were announced before the big game, and the look of relief as the Home Run Marathon finally ended deep into the night.



Please check out the photo album to the right when you get the chance.

19 April 2005

The NFL’s record take



The one sports property that networks can count on to bring in viewers is the NFL, and the league took advantage of that belief in the latest round of carriage negotiations.



After eight years away, NBC returns to the fold with the Sunday package formerly held by ESPN. NBC also gets a few more games (including Super Bowls in 2009 & 2012) and additional business for corporate parent GE.



NFL owners must be giddy with the total annual haul of $3.04 billion in broadcast fees. ESPN alone will pay $1.1B, followed by Fox at $712M, CBS at $622M, and NBC at $600M.



ABC has been losing money for years on the deal ($150M last year alone), and figures its prime time schedule is strong enough without the football lead-in. NBC, on the other hand, believes its schedule needs help. (Despite the tremendous revenue drop after the loss of "Friends," NBC is actually more profitable due to the simultaneous loss of the salaries for that hit show.



Many fans want to know how the announcers will fare. This fan hopes ESPN moves its Sunday night lineup of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, and Paul Maguire to Monday night. Al Michaels and John Madden need a gig... hopefully they'll land the NBC Sunday night deal. Speaking of which, much has changed since NBC last broadcast and NFL game. Fox has upped expectations considerably. Hopefully NBC will compare better with Fox with the NFL than they have with NASCAR, where NBC's efforts are almost embarrassing.



Here's the WSJ's take.



The one sports property that networks can count on to bring in viewers is the NFL, and the league took advantage of that belief in the latest round of carriage negotiations.

After eight years away, NBC returns to the fold with the Sunday package formerly held by ESPN. NBC also gets a few more games (including Super Bowls in 2009 & 2012) and additional business for corporate parent GE.

NFL owners must be giddy with the total annual haul of $3.04 billion in broadcast fees. ESPN alone will pay $1.1B, followed by Fox at $712M, CBS at $622M, and NBC at $600M.

ABC has been losing money for years on the deal ($150M last year alone), and figures its prime time schedule is strong enough without the football lead-in. NBC, on the other hand, believes its schedule needs help. (Despite the tremendous revenue drop after the loss of "Friends," NBC is actually more profitable due to the simultaneous loss of the salaries for that hit show.

Many fans want to know how the announcers will fare. This fan hopes ESPN moves its Sunday night lineup of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, and Paul Maguire to Monday night. Al Michaels and John Madden need a gig... hopefully they'll land the NBC Sunday night deal. Speaking of which, much has changed since NBC last broadcast and NFL game. Fox has upped expectations considerably. Hopefully NBC will compare better with Fox with the NFL than they have with NASCAR, where NBC's efforts are almost embarrassing.

Here's the WSJ's take.

09 March 2005

Diaper Genie v. Diaper Champ



Here's a recent IM exchange between your truly and a friend who's three weeks away from birthing her first child.



Me: Do you have a Diaper Genie?

MTB (Mother To Be): Yes, AND a Diaper Champ.  My neighbor gave me an unopened Diaper Genie and someone gave me a Diaper Champ at my shower.

Me: Excellent.  Will you standardize on one platform, or keep two for vendor competitiveness?

MTB: I think keep 2.  Diaper Genie uses proprietary technology, while Diaper Champ is open platform, so the additional cost of Diaper Champ is minimal, and having both devices allows for stink-free changes on two floors.

MTB: Make sense?

Me: I concur with that approach.  Considering you're working with sunk costs, the initial capital outlay is a wash.  Diaper Champ opex should be much less than the Genie, as the former relies on finished materials from other service providers.  Provided you purchase these other services, you should be fine.

Me: Regardless, two devices are necessary, so you're well covered.

MTB: And since device compatibility isn't required for the expected use, there's really no harm in trying both.  After all, we're talking about an area in which performance differentials can be quite critical to the overall user experience, and may well outweigh any additional opex costs.



We've been in the corporate world far too long.



Here's a recent IM exchange between your truly and a friend who's three weeks away from birthing her first child.

Me: Do you have a Diaper Genie?
MTB (Mother To Be): Yes, AND a Diaper Champ. My neighbor gave me an unopened Diaper Genie and someone gave me a Diaper Champ at my shower.
Me: Excellent. Will you standardize on one platform, or keep two for vendor competitiveness?
MTB: I think keep 2. Diaper Genie uses proprietary technology, while Diaper Champ is open platform, so the additional cost of Diaper Champ is minimal, and having both devices allows for stink-free changes on two floors.
MTB: Make sense?
Me: I concur with that approach. Considering you're working with sunk costs, the initial capital outlay is a wash. Diaper Champ opex should be much less than the Genie, as the former relies on finished materials from other service providers. Provided you purchase these other services, you should be fine.
Me: Regardless, two devices are necessary, so you're well covered.
MTB: And since device compatibility isn't required for the expected use, there's really no harm in trying both. After all, we're talking about an area in which performance differentials can be quite critical to the overall user experience, and may well outweigh any additional opex costs.

We've been in the corporate world far too long.

06 February 2005

Patriots win! Patriots win!

Woo hoo! Patriots win! Patriots win! "The New England Patiots will be the first dynasty of the 21st century," says Joe Buck.

It's final! 24-21 Pats! I can't stop typing exclamation marks!
Picked off!
I'm not gonna lie -- I'm a bit nervous. Philly's wasting a lot of time, though.
Whew, the Patriots recovered the onsides kick. Heck of a blocking job. So with the Eagles touchdown, it's now...
Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Freddie Mitchell? I recognize the name, but... Seriously, it's his first catch of the night. "I'd like to thank my hands" my ass. Punk.
Field goal, Patriots! Seven is always better than three, but at least it's a two-possession game.
Patriots 24, Eagles 14.
Commercial analysis: MONKEYS AGAIN! ARGGGGGHHH! Despite my colleagues' protestations, I really do have a career in marketing. At least I know what *not* to do.
Bethel Johnson just had a short return. I don't recall hearing his name during the broadcast, which tells me he's due. Look for Brady to send Johnson on a fly route and heave it deep.
The Patriots covered the kickoff return very well, keeping Reid from his normal spot past the 30. Is this the start of the Pats clamping down? One can hope.
Touchdown Patriots! Clock-Killing Corey Dillon! Woo hoo!
Patriots 21, Eagles 14.
So the Eagles' defensive guys were screaming "Screen," and the Patriots ran it anyway. And ran it well. THAT'S confidence... when the other guys know what's coming, and you ram it down their throats.
First down, Patriots. Nicely done, Kevin Faulk. You kids out there should watch how he patiently waited for his blockers on this screen play. That slight hesitation gave him the yards needed for the first down.
Crap. Touchdown, bad guys. Good drive, though. Pats seemed on their heels the whole time. Ugh.
Patriots 14, Eagles 14
Commercial analysis: Ameriquest Mortgage, with the guy holding a seemingly bloody cat and a long knife. I'm all for ridding the world (or at least the homes of the women I date) of cats, so I liked this one. Much better than the guy-holding-up-a-convenience-store effort from the first half.

Commercial analysis: CareerBuilder.com. Ha! Another monkey commercial. One down, at least one to go. Are we that out of ideas? Really, guys.
Commercial analysis: Anheuser-Busch, with the travelers applauding soldiers in the airport. Very, very well done. I'm choking up just thinking about it. We must never forget that these people -- mostly kids, really -- are putting their lives on the line every day. They *are* heroes. All of the talk about football "warriors" (and I'm guilty of it, too, as demonstrated by a previous post) pales when these men playing a game are juxtaposed with real warriors.
Touchdown, Vrabel! OK, so I was a quarter late with the prediction. Heck of a catch, too, what with the juggling and all. He outran The Freak, too! What a move.
Patriots 14, Eagles 7
Commercial analysis: Publix, with the boy baking a Valentine's cake for his mother. This may have been a local spot, so not everyone saw it, and it broke Ray's Rule #1 for Super Bowl ads (don't show a commercial you've previously aired -- debut them on the big stage), but it's still touching. Some -- not I! -- might have teared up.

Commercial analysis: Ford, with the Mustang frozen at the stoplight. Ray's Rule #2 for Super Bowl ads: Don't buy more than one spot if you only have one ad to show. This was an OK commercial when we first saw it just prior to the game, and it only drops in value with subsequent showings.

Commercial analysis: Ford just aired the Mustang commercial AGAIN. Bad, bad Ford. If you're out of fresh ads, show the "track of dreams" spot with Steve McQueen again. That was a hot one.
Halftime with Paul McCartney. Only a handful of the on-field fans remembered his first U.S. invasion, but everyone sang along with "Hey Jude." Nice job with the plus-shaped under-foot video screens, too, showing everything from glowing circles, to first-half highlights, to the Statue of Liberty. Well done, Don Mischer Productions.
Commercial analysis: NFL Network, with various players (mostly quarterbacks) singing "Tomorrow." Low-hanging fruit, but still funny. Gruden can't carry a tune in a basket, but he growling at the kids with perfect pitch. Poor McNair on the massage table, too. I tell you, that man is a warrior unlike any other. And kudos to Roethlisberger for looking genuinely ticked at Montana. Not bad, rook.
Heading into halftime it's 7-7. Both teams have turned the ball over, been hit with (and saved by) stupid penalties, and have failed to move the ball much offensively.

Commercial analysis: Heineken with Brad Pitt. Cute. Not as cute as Jennifer Aniston, mind you, but few are. Even with endorsements from such fabulous celebrities, Heineken still tastes like ass. BTW, I'm available to pitch yummy beers like Fat Tire, Sweetwater 420, or Paulaner Hefeweizen.
Touchdown! Givens was all alone on the right edge of the end zone. It wasn't the play action to a tight end that I (and one of the talking heads) predicted, but I'll take six any way I can get it.
Patriots 7, Eagles 7
2:00 warning. Patriots have 1st and goal, and could really use a score here. Play action pass to a TE or a D-guy (e.g., Vrabel?)
Commercial analysis: CareerBuilder.com, with the monkeys. Please, enough of the monkeys! I predict at least two more commercials with our primate cousins. I do appreciate the "room full of monkeys" reference, given how often we've used that statement in an attempt to launch products early.
Huh? The Patriots lost a fumble? Brady turned it over? C'mon, Tom, let this make you angry. Make... the... bad... green... men... pay.
Commercial analysis: Cadillac V-Series. Good-looking, hot-performing cars. That the cars in the tunnel remind me of Colonial Vipers in launch tubes is another plus. Please, Cadillac, drop the "Break Through" theme. Following Chevy's "Like a Rock" strategy, huh?
The Patriots have run three straight, with two screens to Dillon (OK, those are technically passes), and the off-tackle with Faulk. Keep running, baby! There's another one. As stout as Philly's defense is, they've shown weakness stopping runs up the middle.
Commercial analysis: Be Cool preview. Travolta and Uma dancing again? Wasn't once enough? Vince Vaughan is in this, though, so I'll prolly see it. That man is funny like few others.

Commercial analysis: Degree, with the Mama's Boy dolls. Funny dolls. Stupid connection to the product. Looks like some creative type was sitting on that idea for a while, and finally found an opportunity to sorta link it to a client.
Commercial analysis: Lays, with M.C. Hammer. So this is what he's doing to pay off that debt? Wonder if he still had those pants, or had to find them... somewhere. The smart kids threw him back over the fence. Good for them.
OK, Pats, the Eagles are closing in. Time for a strip or a fumble recovery.
Quack quack. What a horrid pass. Yes, I want the Patriots to win, but I don't want McNabb to do poorly.
Shoulda had the interception. Dang the penalty! Yet another one. This is not a typical beginning for the Patriots. Wonder if this break settles McNabb down, and he takes care of business in the red zone.

Commercial analysis: Longest yard. Adam Sandler as a QB? Huh? He threw that pass in the preview like a baseball! But it does have Burt Reynolds...
Big sack for the Patriots! 16 yards! This would be a good time for an INT, fellas.
Commercial analysis: Diet Pepsi, with hunky guy who looks surprisingly like me. Nice cameos, easy to dance to, I give it an 8.8.

Commercial analysis: GoDaddy, with bimbo testifying in front of an AARP committee. Wasted money. Guys, spend the coin on better hosting admin tools, and find a new ad agency.

Westbrook just picked up a first down. Troy Brown tackled like, well, the bimbo from the bad commercial, but it's difficult to speak ill of him, given he's playing offense, defense, and special teams. New England has two penalties thus far -- both times jumping on offense, which is unusual for them. Hopefully this portends nothing...
Commercial analysis: FedEx, with Burt Reynolds. I like pretty much anything with Burt Reynolds, so this one makes the winners list. A bit dry -- intentionally so, I believe -- with a big finish with "Don't Stop Believing."
Did Patten pull a Pinkston? Sure looked like he developed alligator arms on that third and long pass attempt.

Commercial analysis: Diet Pepsi, with P. Diddy. Very well done. Pepsi has a history of lame commercials, especially when given a huge audience like the Super Bowl, but this one was funny. New agency?
Michael Douglas gives me the creeps. Always has. Not sure why -- he's not a bad actor -- but it's rather disappointing he's infiltrated the Super Bowl.

:: National Anthem ::

I really like players who sing -- and know -- the National Anthem. We should all know it, but it's far too rare so see and hear folks singing along. And as big, strong, and fearsome as the players are, they're still awed by the flyover. Something about military jets makes us all five again.

The best version of The Star Spangled Banner I've ever heard was before game three (I think) of the 1986 World Series in Boston. Smokey Robinson combined the National Anthem and America the Beautiful. Normally I'm a purist -- don't muck with the anthem, but that was the best I've heard. Anyone have a recording of it?

Commercial analysis: XXX -- What kind of "secret agent" has his code name TATTOOED on his neck? Even French Intelligence could spot him!
At the last minute I decided to watch the Super Bowl from home tonight, rather than head to a party. If the Patriots weren't playing, and I didn't want to focus so intently on the game, I would be with friends, but, well, these are the Patriots, and this New Englander is taking nothing for granted.

So when I think of it I'll post a few thoughts here, beginning with the pre-game. Good lord, could Fox stretch this out any longer? What are the chances of returning to simpler days, with the broadcast beginning a few minutes before kickoff, giving the announcers a chance to set the stage, introduct the players, and take one last commercial break before the kick? Close to nothing, I think -- especially with Fox handling the broadcast.

And away we go...

02 February 2005

President Bush just began his State of the Union address. Alert viewers noticed congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on the aisle, a position she reclaimed after a two-year hiatus. I'm curious how early Ms. McKinney arrives in the House Chamber in order to occupy that seat. Perhaps one of her aides performs that function? Regardless, the past two years were refreshing.

01 February 2005

Thanks to Netflix I've been catching up on movies over the past few weeks. A lifelong James Bond fan, I was quite looking forward to Die Another Day.

What a perfectly dreadful film. No wonder Pierce Brosnan doesn't seem too upset at the thought of not reprising his role as 007. The writing was the worst of any of the bond films, with sophomoric double-entendres that better fit in Scary Movie. Not that the acting was much better. I wonder if Brosnan was embarrassed during filming, and chose to exert as little effort as possible.

Word is the next Bond film will feature more -- gasp -- character development, perhaps ending the reliance upon special effects and grandiosity. Speaking of the next film, it is my hope that Clive Owen gets the gig; if not, Hugh Jackman would do.

22 January 2005

All the inauguration news got me thinking about the unique nature of the president's single-letter nomenclature, "W." One-word names used to signify cultural significance; now one letter demonstrates even more meaning.

So who else is a memeber of the single-letter club? I can think of only two others, both fictional characters. Herewith are the letters and their associated cultural and/or historic references, from my narrow perspective:
A - First who pops to mind is former Saturday Night Live alum A. Whitney Brown ("Someday, hopefully, *the* Whitney Brown").
B - No one, although Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale referred to each other as "B" in the HBO series The Wire.
C - Nothing.
D - Drawing a blank. Continuing The Wire referece, D'Angelo Barksdale was known as D.
E - Nada.
F - Hmm. Nope. Sringing these two together reveals "E.F.," as in "E.F. Hutton." Weak, I know.
G - No one person, but "G Money" is fun to say.
H - David Caruso's character from CSI: Miami, because "Horatio" is apparently too difficult to pronounce.
I - Nope.
J - Gotta be Doctor J, even if he was a nemesis to my beloved Celtics.
K - Nothing.
L - Uh uh.
M - Why "M" from James Bond. This is one of the two others I thought of.
N - Zip.
O - Zero.
P - Positively nothing.
Q - Another James Bond character, and the only other one on this list.
R - No one yet, although I'm hoping to claim this, much like the NYSE is saving "M" for Microsoft, should the latter decide to abandon the Nasdaq.
S - Drawing a blank.
T - Mr. T might work, but he needs the salutation.
U - Thankfully no one, except, perhaps, "you."
V - Still available.
W - The president. And the bumper sticker.
X - Malcolm X, but the X is lost without the Malcolm.
Y - Uh, no.
Z - Surprisingly unclaimed.

Any thoughts? Please post your comments!