Archive for February, 2011

Sport Futilities

Excuse my Logic but presented here are some questions which poke fun at that hallowed of all institutions, professional sports.

 For example, maybe you’ve heard it asked before. Why do they call it a “World Series?” 

All the games excepting some in Toronto, are played in the United States.  All the teams except for Toronto are from cities in the United States.  Yes there are players from a multitude of countries, but it is essentially an American Series.  Do they call it a world series perhaps because we in America can at times be so self-centered that we think of ourselves as the entire world?

 Now to expand our search for logic to the other professional sports, I ask you to ponder some other questions.

How do we expect players who make millions and zillions of dollars to respect officials who make five figure salaries?  I remember one case in point where New York Yankee’s catcher Jorge Posada actually spit at an umpire.

The same question of economics also comes into play with respect to mangers or coaches.  Aside from managers and coaches on the megabucks level say of a Joe Tore or Phil Jackson, there are many lower tier coaches and managers who earn comfortable but not outlandish salaries.  Furthermore they don’t get nearly the press ink that some of their top players get?  So does it not follow that some of these players may actually think themselves mightier than their so called boss? I remember hearing one rumor several years ago when Tiki Barber was still on the Giants Football team where it was suggested that some players on that team didn’t try their hardest because they didn’t like playing for Coach Tom Coughlin. My recollection is that the Giants finished a mediocre 8-8 that year.

Also, sticking with managers and coaches for a minute, ask yourself this.  When a team does terrible in a season, whose job is always in jeopardy the most?  You know the answer.  So if a team is mired in a horrific slump, I maintain that some players figure “wait until next year” and kind of turn down their throttle, fully knowing that they are under long term contracts while their “boss” the manager is usually on a shorter contract and has a limited shelf life.  I will admit, I like when a team is doing bad and a player will have the fortitude to defend their manager by indicating that it is the players, not the coach who ultimately win or lose the game.

Another logic question I have about professional sports concerns the National Basketball Association.  Now I know NBA teams are trying to squeeze as many fans into their arena as possible to maximize profits.  It’s the American way.  But am I the only one who ever asks why there is such a narrow out of bounds section on the court? How many times have we seen a 250 pound or greater player, say like Shaq, jettison through the air and end up slamming into some unsuspecting 150 pound photographer?  NBA players are by and large, giant men. More space in the out of bounds should be allotted to make he sport safer for the players as well as the media, coaches and other personnel who are gathered on the playing floor.

Lastly, I will leave you with an observation that you can investigate the validity of yourself next time you watch a professional athletic event in any of the major sports on television or listen on the radio.  This comes under the heading of “salesmanship.”

Let’s say the New England Patriots are playing the New York Jets.  It is fourth quarter, 4 minutes to go and the Jets are down by three touchdowns.  You have these announcers who are still concocting “what if” schemes as to how the Jets can still win this game. They will do anything to keep you glued to that television because your viewership means more advertising dollars, bigger ratings and ultimately better salaries for Mr. Announcer guy.  The Jets are losing by 21 points to the Patriots with 4 minutes left.  I think it is a no brainer.  The announcers on the other hand think we have no brains.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Bank Shots

Excuse my logic but don’t we live in a day in age where there’s a double standard in banking as it applies to the rich versus the poor? I am fond of saying that we live in a world of the haves and have nots.  If you fall into the latter category, the bank is probably not your friend.

I came across an observation in an email a friend of mine recently sent which went something like this.  It affirms my claim that for the average guy, the bank is not a friend.  “If you owe the bank thousands or hundreds of thousands you are considered a debtor.  If you owe the bank millions or billions, the bank calls you its partner.”

Now let me offer some concrete examples of what I am leading up to.  Take the case of a prominent New Jersey/New York City developer who shall remain nameless because he likes to sue people like me.  Some years back, he defaulted on a bank loan in the tens of millions of dollars with a well established New Jersey bank.  Most of us will never deal in figures like this in our lifetime.  He has defaulted on other large loans too. Yet he’s still in business and going strong as ever.  A foot note to the bank default.  Several months after that occurred, the bank laid off 2,000 workers.  This developer knows how to play the game.  He turns debt into wealth.

This is the injustice of it all.  A wealthy person can stick banks and other creditors for millions and keep right on with business as usual, but your average Joe Blow who sticks a credit card company for $2,000 or $3,000 gets buried in his credit report and is considered worthless.

Unlike our developer friend, I on the other hand flounder about in that no man’s land known as the middle class.  The bankers don’t help me.  On any given day I am lucky if they don’t try to drive another nail in my coffin. 

About five years ago, I refinanced my house and went from a fixed rate mortgage to what is known as a negative amortization mortgage.  In the beginning it sounded great.  We went down from $1,700 per month for a mortgage payment to $950 per month.  This $950 represented the minimum monthly payment and the bank told us that if we only paid that, the principal would not go down on the loan but we would remain in good standing.  I highlighted the four words “would not go down” for a reason.  The bank is very cagey with their words.  They only told us half of the truth.  The reality was that the principal was going up every month instead!

In about two years’ time my principal skyrocketed from $220,000 to $238,000.  I admit to my own incompetence.  During that two years, I just kept writing out my payments and never looking over the monthly statement carefully. I’m busy. Okay?  But my point is, if the banker, in this case World Savings, was my friend they would have been up front and told me about this. 

Then consider this from another personal experience of mine.  In the mid 1980s along with my business partner, I successfully repaid about $600,000 in mortgage debt.  While paying monthly payments I never missed an installment.  Eventually, I sold the properties in question and paid off every penny.  Not one mention of this good deed ever appeared on my credit report.  However, when I stuck Citibank for a mere $3,000 all the buzzers and bells went off.  My credit report in the ensuing years painted a picture of me as a lowlife scumbag devoid of any worth and not to be trusted.  In short, they crucified me.

Maybe you are getting the picture.  I read a book which I highly recommend called “Debt Cures” by Kevin Trudeau.  In it, I recall reading of several rather unscrupulous banking practices which I have personally fallen victim to and maybe you have too.

The first one has to do with the date your credit card payment is posted, if you are lucky enough to get it posted at all. Trudeau maintains that some credit card institutions systematically lie about the date they receive your payment and thus tack on a late payment fee to your next statement.  In some cases, he continues the bankers even have the audacity to actually rip up your check when it comes in and claim they never received it.  The reason I believe Mr. Trudeau is that I have had a credit card where the payment was going to Richmond, Virginia. I live in New Jersey.  I have seen cases where I mailed the check a full ten days prior to due date and the credit card company posted me as a late payment. Excuse my logic, but if we were still in the days of pony express I might believe it takes ten days for my check to travel that far, but c’mon!

Another nefarious practice engaged in by the credit card companies and their cohorts involves the use of scavengers.  Sound scary?  Well they are.  A scavenger buys your credit card debt from the bank for probably 20 cents on the dollar.  It’s a calculated risk on their part.  They figure if they are lucky enough to collect the debt in full, they have increased their investment four fold.  The scavengers tend to be tenacious in their collection practices.  They will hound you at work, at home, and even call at ungodly hours of the night.  But I have an even greater objection to their practice.  What I believe they tend to do, is subtly increase the amount of your debt over the following months by whatever amount they paid to the bank to purchase the debt. 

So if you owed the credit card company say $3,000.  The scavenger pays the bank $600 to buy the debt.  Now they start mailing you monthly statements that show you owe $3,100, $3,200, etc until the total gets up to $3,600.  But you didn’t borrow the money from the scavenger and number two, you didn’t borrow $3,600. You borrowed $3,000.

When I became entangled with a scavenger last year, on one particular day an extremely heated conversation took place.  I explained to the scavenger the following. I had owed the credit card company $2,000. I had offered to pay $100 per month for 20 months. The bank countered asking me to pay $60 per month for 5 years. I said take my offer or no deal. The bank turned it over a collection agency who when they couldn’t collect from me turned it over to the scavenger in question. The scavenger told me I was acting “stupid” and “childish.”  I asked the attorney his name and hung up. I called back the firm and asked for the complaints officer. I explained how this attorney insulted me and how he was verbally abusive. The complaints officer informed me that I would never hear from them again.

You know what? I never did hear from them again.  But they sold the debt off to another scavenger and now that firm is hounding me!

I guess the moral of the story is that in financial affairs,  with credit card companies especially, consider this adage to be true.  “You are either a big player, or a small payer.”

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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