Aging Sport Heroes…. Again

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Guess it’s a sign that I’m getting older. A sign that our social fabric is in constant change, dying and being reborn. When the things that have been can be forgotten or made less visceral, a moment when the past, present, and future all collide to help place each one of us into our little perspective that… well…. time will march on.

I am not talking about presidential elections or how many olympics I’ve watched, or even how many homes and apartments I’ve lived in. Nope… it’s aging sport heroes. And it’s seeing the coming and going of a couple generations of athlete heroes

When I became aware of the larger world, outside my parents and little community of course, I found these larger than life figures. I saw Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Pete Sampras all dominating their fields of play. For years at a time, they were untouchable to their nearest peer – Pete Sampras almost looked bored most of the time. As I grew through high school these guys started to slow down, Jordan retired (again), Sampras fell out of the top 50 in tennis, and the athletes who dotted the sports horizon were named Tiger, Federer, Manning, Rodriguez. They were the kids on the playground, they got crushed but quickly started doing the crushing – a few years, and after college for me,these guys owned the world. Owned it. Tiger won everything in sight, Federer looked immortal for six years, Brady just won… period.

I saw Griffey on television today talk about how his kid is going to Washington State for football. On the radio, as the US Open is starting, their saying Tiger will never catch Nicklaus and that he’s done winning majors or being anything like what he used to be. Federer can’t seem to break through not only Nadal, but Djokovic.  My second generation heroes are getting old, and they’re starting to see the farewell tours on the horizon.

It would be easy to say this makes me feel old, that these guys being retired at age 35 is unbelievable to me. It is a funny pull on the sentiments to go from the lucky kid to the aging champ who you hope has one more glimpse of greatness in him. Like the 91 Open with Jimmy Connors or Favre’s tragic last game for the Vikings. To see these guys, gone the days where they could outrun and outjump, using their guts and their craft for the last go around, is a hard thing to not be emotional about.

I thought Tiger, seriously, would keep winning like that my whole life. I thought Federer turned old almost over night. When did Favre get grey hair? Are they really talking about succession after Brady?!

At this moment… June 2011, my second generation of sports heroes will have gone over the hill. I will cheer them on as they go into the setting sun, and I will question the longevity of the new heroes in creation. I’m going to like some of them, maybe not Lebron, but some of them! I just have to be open I guess – but I will never, ever say anyone but Pete Sampras is the greatest tennis player of all time. Never.

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Groupon

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Groupon seems to be the hot site in the past year. Me, myself, I’ve been an outlier in this new craze – but I am nonetheless affected by it.

The premise is great, a business asks groupon to use their vast list of bargain hunters who love bargains to find them, the more people take the bargain the more the bargain is. Immediate returns are made for the business, exposure is overnight, and the likelihood of all the coupons being used is probably 50/50. But, there have been grumblings from both business and customer, mostly for the fact that the deals are often too good for the customer and bad for the business. The business is sometimes caught off guard with the rush to use the groupon, resulting in bad service or experience and a bad impression for the future. Groupon was praised as a business starter, a way for cheap promotion for a new dog bakery or go cart track company, but it seems these businesses can’t break even from the initial handouts Groupon delivers. I saw the other day helicopter training sessions for 300 bucks. Yes, I would do it – but no, I couldn’t see this as being a good thing for the company doing the lessons – just a massive influx of free intro lessons for the next eight months, with the check having already come and gone by the time you see anyone sign up for the second full price training.

For what it’s worth, I’ve gotten most of my information about Groupon from their coupon announcements I get emailed daily and articles such as these. Well, this Groupon has been around a while – and in the coming week it’s slated to start an IPO on Wall Street. That’s great news for investors who see the new brand as crowdsourcing and “anything”.com’s. Their business model seems sound, they are a well known name by now, they have happy and loyal employees, and there are millions of new subscribers going to the site monthly…. or are they?

There are a few grumblings about the actual company legs of Groupon, including this DealBook article (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/is-groupons-business-model-sustainable/) that says the impact and actual profitability for Groupon has peaked and is now on the decline. Groupon relies on other businesses to use their services, if those businesses continue to not view this relationship as mutually beneficial it may require one of two things. Groupon changes, or businesses find somewhere else online to drum up business. Whether or not an injection of a couple billion will reverse this is hard to tell, but it could mean a greater reach and larger swath in the more traditional means of communication. I’m sure, instead of the word of mouth tract, Groupon will start having flashy Super Bowl commercials staring Brian Bosworth or they’ll be promoting their traveling product fest in Rolling Stone.

Either way Groupon evolves or dies. I’ll still accept their emails telling me of discounts I probably will never use, and I will remain envious of how they could make a billion from coupons and email campaigns.

The New Bubble: Higher Education

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I believed it. I believed the path to the American Dream was through education, sacrifice, hard work, and faith in those three.

I still kind of believe all these things. But, I have a better perspective on the nature of education in America – and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.  Higher education is the only market that seems to have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last decade, and I have this tingling feeling it’s headed towards a major negative adjustment.

When I say that higher education is growing, what I mean is – on a less dramatic note – universities building giant brand new buildings, community colleges expanding their campuses, new colleges being founded all the time, online universities, and of course the traditional exponential growth in tuition and fees. But what is my main concern are the entities behind all of these wheels of growth and who, at the end of the day, will not foot any of the bill. The students will foot this bill, or their 90 year old selves will. And as the cost for a degree gets higher and the access and proliferation of degrees gets wider, the intangible benefit of being a highly educated person is being dragged in the mud. We (those of us in our 30’s) are in a pincer movement to make Rommel blush, we pay out our teeth to stay in a classroom longer so that when we get out we have no option but to ask for a huge paycheck due to our earning years being not only pressured by shortened time and the need to pay back on interested money – but by expectations of family and our own self starting of being educated that used to come with being financially stable after sacrifice of any sort. Costs are rising…. and Reward is falling,

I was around when the real estate bubble was hot, I remember hearing that the best investment any sane individual could make was to buy a home (even if they were going to get so above their head in debt) because a home’s value had never decreased. Me myself, I ignored them, watched the bubble grow into a monster that made the inevitable explosion even worse than the dot com bubble less than two decades ago. I then preceded to ignore the rain of bailout cries by the people who were ill prepared for the home’s inflated value not meeting their deflated wallet sizes. And I held a belief that I would pay thousands to get a better brain and more papers on the wall. They can’t take my brain away I thought.

What is happening, similar to other busts, is that students are taking out larger and larger amounts of debt to enroll in schools where they’re not promised anything in return. Academia doesn’t promise them a job, food on the table, a car in the garage, a good name, or even shoes. They promise an experience, that’s it. I want to say that this bust will follow in the some familiar repercussions. In the gold bust of California we found California, in the dot com bust of the 90’s we learned how to use the internet, in the housing bust we were left with built homes. I’m not sure what will be left after the education bust.

Maybe what will be left are super articulate people who are bagging your groceries and waiting your tables – waiting for the day their book will be published. Maybe the landscape will be filled with professors teaching professors teaching professors how to teach and profess. Maybe the masters degrees will get a bailout from the IMF (no, that’s impossible). Maybe we’ll find a new mineral on mars that allows for our form of monetary value to completely be done away with.

Or maybe they’ll take our brains back. I can see it now “Property of Sallie Mae”.

The same names seem to now be involved with all this new inflationary pseudo insurance promises of a better life (an education) that were being thrown around during other boom busts of my very short lifetime. A phd is alluring, it seems safe, it seems like the best thing to do with your future income. I’m just glad as hell I have my degree – it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Can anyone say tuition limits? Can we all say together “accountability for our new religion of academia!”? Probably not, enough of us are making a shit load of money counting beans.

The cycle of the education bubble is a blotched bastard sitting in the Reno sun, and I believed it to be a gorgeous blonde in Monaco. Now I get to pay for having faith.

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