02.5.2019 / NEWSLETTER
Why Is Football Popular Only In The US?
I walked into a bar in Mexico City. There were a few people scattered around at the tables, but the bar was empty.
I was thinking about football, now that the season had ended. I’d grown up in New Hampshire and lived in Boston back when the Patriots never won a title. Things had changed!
I ordered a beer.
I glanced at the mirror. A guy stared back at me. He raised his mug. “Here’s to the Super Bowl champions.” He smiled “My name’s Juan.”
“I’m John. Glad to meet you.” I couldn’t help adding, “I’m from New England. We’re happy about the Super Bowl.”
“Yeah. I know. Congratulations. Sixth time, right?” He lowered his mug. “Excuse the abruptness and I hope this isn’t rude, but I got to ask: Why is American football so popular in the US, unlike here in Mexico or anywhere else in the world?”
“I’ve wondered about that, Juan. I think it’s because a football team is a microcosm of the corporation.”
“Oh, you mean, John, that corporations make a lot of money off the business of football – the ads, Coke sales, Viagra, and all that other stuff they sell?”
“That’s true, but not exactly what I had in mind, Juan.”
I watched him in the mirror as he sipped his beer.
“You see,” I said, anticipating his question. “The team has a CEO – the quarterback – who gets lots of information from his advisors on the sidelines, including the coach who is sort of like the chairman of the board. Then the quarterback makes the decisions about what to do next.”
“Doesn’t he make more money than anyone else?”
“Exactly. Like the CEO.”
“And he gets the fame – if the team wins.”
He cocked his head. “I’ve noticed that the quarterback gets to touch the ball every play – and he’s the only one who does, other than an assistant who bends over and hands or throws the ball to the quarterback under his butt and between his legs.” He laughed. “A very strange position, very funny picture indeed!”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Not sure why they do it that way, except the center – the guy who hands the ball back between his legs – is like a bodyguard to the quarterback.” I paused. In the mirror, his eyes held mine. “But there are these other guys – running backs, receivers. . . The quarterback sometimes hands or throws the ball to them. He tells them where they have to go and what they have to do to get the ball, but once they have it, they can make a few decisions – fake right, run left, or fake left, run right, that sort of thing.”
“Like vice presidents.”
“Hmmm. . .” I saw his point. “Nice analogy.”
“And what about all the other players, John? Those guys who bash heads and keep hitting each other.”
“The line.” I motioned for the bartender to bring our bill. There was no one else in the mirror. Just him.
“Yes, the line. They never even touch the football, do they?”
“In general, Juan, they don’t. Although sometimes the CEO or one of those vice presidents drops the ball, and then the men on the line can grab it or fall on it.”
He scratched his head. “No other game like that, is there? In our futbol, what you call soccer – everyone gets the ball and decides what to do with it. Same with basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, hockey – you name it.” He stared at me through the mirror. “What about girls?”
“You mean. . .”
“Do they play American football?”
“A few do, but not professionally.” I searched my brain. “Not even in high school or college, as far as I know.”
“Wow, John. So, it is a very macho sport? Sexist.”
“I suppose you could say that.”
“Strange, especially at this time with so much talk about gender equality and sexual abuse.” He shook his head at the mirror. “American football is a unique sport.” He lifted his mug. “I think you’re right: A football team is modelled after the corporation.”
“Or perhaps,” I said as I finished my beer. “It’s the other way around.”
He shrugged in the mirror. I reached into my pocket and watched him hand my money to the bartender. We walked away from the bar, through the open doorway, and toward a group of boys and girls who were kicking a soccer ball around in the street outside.
For the past several decades, world leaders, CEOs, tech titans, billionaires, philanthropists, and celebrities have descended upon Davos, Switzerland with the goal of “improving the state of the world.” Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, says they are part of the problem.
Trade wasn’t working for everyone.
Dynamic scheduling, underpaid, contractors, fight minimum wage, more flexible labor, tax cults for the wealthy anti-inheritance taxes, evade existing taxes, rewards offshoring, expresses no loyalty to communities. (5 min)
I don’t think arsonist need to attend at a firefighter’s convention.
Poor people are very accessible. They want someone to bear witness. They don’t have publicists.
You can’t understand inequality without understanding rich people and the systems they use to justify themselves (10 min)
Today’s elites are among the most socially away, yet also predatory
I don’t think we have free markets, we have a capitalism of monopoly, and rent seeking
Jane Meyer’s Dark Money: how we got here.
Business didn’t have power (Nixon started the EPA) and worked to understand it. They used an alliance with evangelicals and philanthropy to build power.
History is life a mob boss: we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. It can go down like the civil war or women’s suffrage.
82% of new money was in the 1 percent’s hands.
It’s going to require many to become traitor’s to their class. If Gates devoted as much to pushing an estate tax, he could have a bigger impact.
I think things are changing. There aren’t going to be as many Goldman Sachs and McKinsey people in the next administration.
I can tell the people what it is you’re really trying to say.
Mark Zuckerberg has written an op-ed, and I wish he had not.
It was titled “The Facts About Facebook.” I would give that one tweak. I’d call it “Mark’s Facts About Facebook.”
In a piece for The Wall Street Journal timed to the social networking giant’s 15th anniversary, its once-young, now-not-so-young chief executive and founder tried and tried to persuade readers that they shouldn’t be afraid of what he has wrought.
But the post was essentially the greatest hits that we have heard Mr. Zuckerberg sing for a while now. He focused on the enormous advertising system that powers Facebook, while ignoring almost entirely the news from the last disastrous year, including Russian abuse of the platform, sloppy management of data, recent revelations that the company throws some pretty sharp elbows when it needs to, and more. You kind of get why Mr. Zuckerberg would want to forget it all.
Should I be annoyed by this? One person who favors Mr. Zuckerberg told me no, pointing out that the media is irked when he says nothing and even more bothered when he says something, so he cannot win whatever he does.
.. O.K., so instead of just criticizing, I thought I would help him with his piece, given I do this for a living and he does not, by rewriting his work. Here goes:
MARK WROTE: “Facebook turns 15 next month. When I started Facebook, I wasn’t trying to build a global company. I realized you could find almost anything on the internet — music, books, information — except the thing that matters most: people. So I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other. Over the years, billions have found this useful, and we’ve built more services that people around the world love and use every day. Recently I’ve heard many questions about our business model, so I want to explain the principles of how we operate.”
KARA TRANSLATES: We old now. We big now. It came from my one really good idea: AOL sucked and I could do better and I did. Now the noise has reached me up on Billionaire Mountain, so I am going to have to pretend that I care.
MARK: “I believe everyone should have a voice and be able to connect. If we’re committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone. The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do.”
KARA: No rich person is going to pay too much for this muffler, um, social media service, and poor people aren’t going to pay us at all because they apparently don’t have money. So everyone will have to endure the ads that we shovel out and stop griping, because free ain’t free, people.
Be wary of taking life lessons from chief executives
A culture that disdained bad news contributed to overoptimistic forecasts and botched strategies
Jeffrey Immelt, the longtime boss at General Electric Co. , was a polished presenter who held court each year at a waterfront resort off Sarasota, Fla., where industrial executives and Wall Street listened for his outlook on the conglomerate.
“This is a strong, very strong company,” Mr. Immelt said at the event last May.
.. GE’s precipitous fall, following years of treading water while the overall economy grew, was exacerbated, some insiders say, by what they call “success theater.”
Immelt and his top deputies projected an optimism about GE’s business and its future that didn’t always match the reality of its operations or its markets
.. “The history of GE is to selectively only provide positive information,” said Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch, who has a “sell” rating on the stock. “There is a credibility gap between what they say and the reality of what is to come.”
.. “GE itself has never been a culture where people can say, ‘I can’t.’ ”
.. GE once had the highest market value of any U.S. corporation. Its alumni have gone on to run companies such as Boeing and Chrysler.
.. Few knew just how badly ailing the American icon was. Even GE’s board didn’t realize the depth of problems in the biggest division, GE Power, until months after directors had replaced Mr. Immelt
.. A spokesman for the former CEO pointed to his decision to purchase $8 million worth of GE shares in 2016 and 2017. That included 100,000 shares in mid-May at a price roughly twice today’s.
.. But Mr. Immelt didn’t like hearing bad news, said several executives who worked with him, and didn’t like delivering bad news, either. He wanted people to make their sales and financial targets and thought he could make the numbers, too, they said.
.. Over the past three years, GE spent more than $29 billion on share repurchases, at an average price of almost $30, twice the current level. That included billions of dollars spent less than a year before GE suddenly found itself strapped for cash last fall.
.. Trian Fund Management LP, which invested $2.5 billion in GE in 2015, wanted it to buy back even more stock. The activist investor urged the company to borrow $20 billion for repurchases (which it didn’t do), based on a belief that the profits Mr. Immelt was promising would send the stock soaring when they arrived.
.. Instead, at Mr. Immelt’s retirement in August the stock was below its level when he took over 16 years earlier. Including dividends, GE gained 8% with Mr. Immelt at the helm, while the S&P 500 rose 214%. Since he stepped down, the stock has lost about 43%, erasing almost $94 billion in market value
.. Instead of $2 a share GE now projects $1 to $1.07.
.. Several directors discussed in November whether the entire board should be fired
.. Jack Welch, delivered steady profit growth and sent shares soaring in the 1980s and ’90s by striking deals and aggressively slashing costs and jobs. Mr. Welch also built up a huge lending business called GE Capital that for years generated outsize profits—but nearly sank the company during the financial crisis on Mr. Immelt’s watch.
.. Results were strong at two of GE’s big units, aviation and health care (medical equipment).
.. Acquiring companies that help drillers pump and transport fuel, he had GE spend more than $14 billion over 10 years, most of it based on higher oil prices than today’s.
.. Mr. Immelt’s optimism was part of the problem, according to some people close to the situation. They said he told the board that management had identified risks in the power business, yet downplayed them. The probability and risk were way off, one said.
.. Lisa Davis, the U.S. chief of Siemens, said the German company’s executives “have seen this decline coming for the last several years.” So Siemens had reduced its capacity in its power business, she said, while GE bought more.
.. According to former executives, the upgrades meant lower service fees for customers, in exchange for one-time upgrade costs, meaning that future sales were being pulled forward.
Laurence Fink, the chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock and one of the biggest investors in the world, shook the business world last week with an implicit threat to punish small-minded companies that “only deliver financial performance” without “a positive contribution to society.”
What’s driving the rethink isn’t a tingling of the tycoon conscience but brutal self-interest. Millennials want to work for ethical companies, patronize brands that make them feel good and invest in socially responsible companies.
Some of this is shallow and some is deep, but it’s authentic: Doing good is no longer a matter of writing a few checks at the end of the year, as it was for my generation; for many young people, it’s an ethos that governs where they work, shop and invest.
C.E.O.s tell me that this forces their hand. If companies protect groping scumbags, that hurts recruitment and they lose in the war for talent. Increasingly, a company that ignores social value loses shareholder value.
.. I believe the best industries for doing good are law (pro bono work) and certain pharmaceuticals (drug donation programs). That’s because they are held accountable by metrics: Big law firms are ranked by American Lawyer for their pro bono work (Jenner & Block is top of the list), and pharma donations are rated by the Access to Medicines Index (GSK is No. 1).
.. Other companies hailed as model global citizens include Unilever, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Mastercard, Danone and Chobani.
President Trump, with at least two years of full Republican control of government at the national and state levels, has systematically damaged or destroyed his relationship with — well, almost every group or individual essential to success.
Trump’s undisciplined and incendiary style has left the most powerful man in the world with few friends — not onein the United States Senate, for instance.
- The public: Gallup has his approval at 34%, down from 46% just after the inauguration.
- Republican congressional leaders — Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in particular.
- Every Democrat who could help him do a deal.
- The media.
- World leaders.
- African Americans.
- Military leaders.
- The intelligence community.
- His own staff.
And who’s happy?
- Steve Bannon.
- Saudi Arabia.
- David Duke.