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3 O'Clock High: He's Going the Distance


Mama said knock you out!


After a full week of bowl-game overload, I'm having a hard time not thinking, and writing, with all the understated hyperbole one associates with The Greatest Football Game Ever Played. I'm going to have to Dig Deep and find my Championship Heart to lead this column to the Promised Land.

I'm going to give 110% and Leave it all in the Ring. As always, I'm imagining myself to be the physical spitting image of Primo Carnera (ignoring my genetic Scott LeDoux reality). As is always the case, the only enemy I'm attentive to is myself.

12 Rounds of Topics for the Unofficial Snark Championship of the World!

Round 1 : The Fighting Spirit

Minyan "Palooka" Joe writes:

Hey, Macke. I liked your column on Don King. The guy is truly an American Original. Speaking of boxing, I'd love to find a way to be short boxing and get long Ultimate Fighting. The UFC product is much better, overall, and seems to have much more upside.

You have any ideas how to get long UFC?

I think you'd be making a fantastic trade. The Fertitta brothers (previously known as "The Station Casino Guys") bought the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, in 2001. At the time, the sport had roughly the credibility of cock-fighting and was banned from cable television.

Today the UFC does more reliable pay-per-view numbers than the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) from whom they borrowed much of their business model. The exception being that UFC fights are real. Here's a decent, though dated, overview of the fellas from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

If you can figure out a way to get involved, one that doesn't involve risk of sustaining a massive injury to your brain-stem, please let me know!

Round 2: Feedback

Minyan Wendy Writes:

Regarding that Don King piece, you completely lose my interest when you write about sports.

There I was, cruising smugly through the column when, bang, my entire construct gets pole-axed.

The thing that makes sports, particularly boxing, appealing to writer-types is the way it puts you sort of "out there" exposing you to the whims and fancies of an audience you can only vaguely picture. Relaxation is both the key to the kingdom and Enemy #1 in all matters sporting and, I would argue, artistic.

Which is a feeble jab of a retort, I realize. In all candor I'm lucky to get out of this round alive. My corner has dumped a bucket of ice down my pants, snuffed a lit cigar on my leg and generally reminded me that "coasting" is punishable by death.

Round 3: Falling Into the Gap

Minyan Wendy "The Creator and Destroyer of Mojo" later writes:

"This is a great Gap (GPS) ad by Spike Jonze. I think they're only showing it in So Cal. If they had any sense it would be nation-wide... the brand needs desperate help"

In light of the Gap's recent results, I'm not sure if that is an ad or a thinly-veiled cry for help from Gap executives. Mr. Jonze made the under-rated Being John Malkovich as well, so he knows a thing or two about drilling into the celebrity psyche.

Judging by the ad and the WSJ's front pager on the Gap's remodel today, the once great retailer has decided that the place needs to be ripped down and started over again, aesthetics-wise.

From where I'm sitting, the Gap's problems are more a function of merchandising than store layout. It's going to be hugely expensive to redo the stores but, on the upside, it's unlikely to really hurt. Also, it gives the chain an excuse to have month-to-month sales data stink for a while longer ("we're in the middle of a huge remodel!") without getting the analysts into a lather.

Round 4: Kmart-Sears-Real-Estate-International (SHLD)

Minyan "F" Scott writes:

Please include Sears (SHLD) in your retail round-up.


That's the kind of blow I would have had trouble with back in round 2. But now I'm settled into the fight and rolling. In writing as in life as in sports, if you can find the testicular fortitude to stay in the game under duress everything becomes much easier.

And it helps if you have a defensible position. I don't include SHLD in the Retail Round-Up because the company hasn't made a practice of reporting Same Store Sales data the first Thursday of every month. In the case of this week, they posted numbers which turned out to be exactly flat.

I think there are any number of things which could be done to get at least a year's worth of great comps out of the store base of SHLD. Mostly because the stores haven't been run very well. I also think there are any number of strategic spin-offs and brand exploitation that could help the bottom line.

But I don't trust retailers who only release SSS when they feel like it.

Round 5: Clubbing the Fish

Yeah, I read President Fish's eulogy for Tivo (TIVO). Yeah, I'm still long TiVO, though I talk about it much less and it's a smaller position than it has been at times.

I judge technology innovations by giving them to my Mom. If Mom can figure out how to use and enjoy something then it has a chance to go mainstream. It's not a perfect test but it's mine and I stand behind it.

So, while I agree that set-top boxes are essentially really, really dumb computers and that DVR's as they exist are doomed, I don't agree that the internet is what kills them. The goal to take on-demand, viewer driven TV mainstream is making it easy for my mom to use.

Whatever the mainstream TV set-top-box obviating answer is, it doesn't involve downloading anything.

Round 6: Sports Betting: Making a good thing better!

The Real story of the National Championship game wasn't Vince Young or the stirring Texas triumph. The real story was the hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal sports bets being decided in the last 4 minutes of the game.

With 5 minutes remaining in the game the score was USC 38 Texas 26. Consider that USC was an 8 point favorite. Texas was a +220 underdog to win the game and the Over/Under (total points scored in the game) was 71.

Texas scoring a touchdown with 2 minutes left (to cover the spread and pull the game total even with the Over/ Under) was high financial drama. When Texas pulled ahead with less than half a minute to go it may have been the greatest financial reversal in major American sporting history.

Rounds 7 - 11: Running on Fumes

It's only half-way through the fight and I'm gassed. At this point, my best hope is to pull a Tyson vs. Lewis; head out and take the rest of my beating manfully then fade into "bolivian".

I'll let Peppy DePew Streibeck count me out with his top Five "corrections" for yesterday's Retail Round-Up:

  • Dress Barn (DBRN): Who knew a farmer's daughter could be so sassy? That a-line dress lying in the haystack? Smoking!
  • Gymboree (GYMB): Solid results as the new toddler poop satchel takes off!
  • Talbots (TLB) Uninspiring results as the MILF craze fades
  • Sharper Image (SHRP): What do you sell to people who have everything? Not much, apparently.
  • Jo-Anne (JOA) Last spotted holding hands at the Pink Pony Pub, Jo and Ann find common ground in the enjoyment of leather motorcycle pants, golf and a good old shaggy mullet type of quarter.
Position in TIVO

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