Friday, February 12, 2016

Tote that engagement, lift that morale

Fortunately, whenever I get a bit wistful about no longer being a full time employee anywhere, I come across an article that reminds me just  how fortuante I fortunately am. The Bloomberg article I saw - grabbingly headlined "Companies Are Outsourcing Employee Morale Building" (I've always loved seeing the words "outsourcing" and "morale" juxtaposed) - had an intro paragraph that made me shudder:
On a recent Thursday evening, Erin McCulloch, 31, was in her New York City office's conference room balancing on her manager's shins. Nearby, another colleague lay on her back and lifted the chief executive officer into the air with her feet, airplane-style. (Source: Bloomberg)
I've made it this far in professional life in one piece by following a few pretty simple rules. One of those rules is never balance on my manager shins. And another one is never lift my CEO (or, for that matter, anyone over the age of 3 and/or weighing over over 32 pounds).

But I've never been a hip young thing working in a cool place in NYC. Nor have I ever been even vaguely interested in anything that promises to be a "fusion of acrobatics and yoga," even if it promises to "leverage the wisdom of AcroYoga and apply it to corporate America."

Both may indeed require coopration and communication, but that's really where I see the (strained) applicability ends.

Then again, I've never been a hip young thing, etc.

Anyway, hip young companies in the NYC area can outsource their morale building to an outfit called Wekudo (as in "we could do", not as in weh-coo-dough" which is how I mnentally pronounced it when I first say it).

Wekudo has a "BIG dream: to inspire happiness at work."

This happiness at work must be a Millennial notion.

I'd say that the Greatest Generation wanted a steady income (plus pension) at work. Us Boomers wanted a steady income, too, but since we weren't going to get a pension, we wanted to have work that was "interesting", if not inspiring. As far as I can tell, poor Gen X wants an income, but since they weren't going to get a steady one, let alone a pension, what they want is for the Boomers to leave and not let the door hit them on our way out. They want this in a desperate hope that they can have a few minutes to run the place before the Millennials come streaming in through the doors that the Boomers had just exited. And the Millennials apparently don't care about income, steady or not. They care about perks, and engagement, and happiness at work.

I generally found a fair amount of happiness at work. But it was deifinitely small-h happiness. For real, capital-H Happiness, I looked to friends (a number of whom I found at work), family (hey, come to think of it, I met my husband at work), the nearest bookstore, and the Boston Red Sox. (Happiness from the Sox was an up-and-down-er.)

Given what the Millennials are after, I think that Wekudo is on to something. So go check them out. Any place that features pets on their site is likely a place that does, indeed, inspire happiness. (Even though some of those pets are cats.)

And Wekudo is not all about the acro yoga. They do plenty of things that even I - loather of most corporate bonding functions, just on general principles - might have enjoyed.  Like trivia night and karaoke (which I actually did at a couple of corporate functions). Others, well, sometimes I'm just as glad that at Me, Inc. I get to build morale and inspire happiness doing whatever I damn well please, even if it's just a snow-day afternoon nap. No manager's balancing on my knees, thank you!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's in a plaid?

For nearly a century, Burberry has kept tabs on its trademarked plaid, the "Burberry check" pattern that most of us are familiar with. It may not be on our backs - it's not on mine, that's for sure - but it's in our psyches. But on the outside chance that it's not embedded in your brain, thar' she (the Burberry check pattern) blows:

Burberry's pretty expensive - I mean, The Queen sports it - and I don't think that most J.C. Penney's shoppers would be buying it. But, according to Burberry, the company has "suffered 'substantial and irreparable injury.'" at the hands of Penney's.
The British fashion house said Penney had been illegally selling "quileted jackets" with the pattern, as well as "scarf coats" in which scarves with the pattern were sold with matching coats. Burberry claimed that Penney kept selling the items in question for two months after learning of its objections. (Source: Fortune)
I guess they've taken it off their shelves, because this is what the Penney plaid looks like these days:

Close, but....You know the rest.

Burberry acknowledges that Penney's "infringing products are of inferior quality." Even so, "they appear superficially similar to genuine Burberry products."
[Burberry] then said Penney had intended to "deceive and mislead consumers into believing that defendants or their products are authorized, sponsored by or connected to Burberry."
If, in fact, Penney is found to have violated Burberry's trademark, they could be out millions. They'll have to sell a lot of "inferior quality" products to make up for that kind of outlay.

But if all that Burberry's got on Penney is something like the scarf coat shown above, I don't know. Here's the Burberry scarf coat, for compare and contrast.

Can you trademark the colors that go into a plaid? Anything with camel, white, and black - with or without red - is owned by Burberry? Do they have trademarks for a slew of plaids? What's pictured for Penney's - at least what I could find - doesn't really look like the real thing at all.

Then there's the overall look and feel. Let's face it. That wholesome Penney's model, in the jacket with the slightly clunky cut, is probably not wearing pricey pumps. Or toting that bag. Look, she doesn't even have the cool loop around thing going. She's just got hers plain old draped over her shoulders. (Does Burberry's own the right to the looped scarf look? If so, I'm in trouble.) But seriously, the only connection someone wearing that Penney's coat is making to Burberry's is in the realm of fantasy.

I ought to know.

I may not have the J.C. Penney wannabe, but I do have in my possession an L.L. Bean quilted jacket with a lining that's somewhere on the plaid continuum between Penney and Burberry. Here's my Burberry-lite lining:

Even if I roll up the cuffs to show off that ritzy-ritz lining, I'm pretty sure that no one's looking at the boxy cut of my LL Bean quilted jacket and thinking Burberry. Oh, sure, I might make pretend that I'm out deer stalking with Lilibet and Philip. Grouse hunting with Charles and Camilla. Chilling with Kate and the kids while we watch Wills and Harry play polo. (Move over, Pippa.) That someone might mistake me for a Sloane Ranger.

Should I turn myself in? Turn LL Bean in? Am I doing Burberry irreparable harm? Or just myself, by trying to pass myself off as someone who rides to the hounds?

And what should I be doing about the pink plaid cotton scarf I got for $5 at a sidewalk sale on Charles Street. Now that's a Burberry knock-off, if ever.

But what's in a plaid?

We may be finding out soon enough...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sunday Night at the Red Lobster

One of the best novels I've ever read about "real" working people, in a "real" no-collar job, was Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster. If you haven't read O'Nan - my idea of THE Great American Novelist of our era - and you admire excellence in fiction, you can't go wrong picking up anything (make that everything) he's ever written. (Don't forget his non-fiction, either. He wrote a terrific book about the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. And he co-authored (with Stephen King) a book about the magical Red Sox season of ought-four.)

What O'Nan captured so brilliantly was not just the bleak and depressing elements of working at a Red Lobster - any Red Lobster, let alone one that's about to go out of business. (On top of everything else, on that last night, there's a blizzard. And, oh, yeah, I may not have this right, but I think it's just before Christmas, too.) What he also gets spot on is the humor, the sexiness, the fun of working in a place like that. Plus the dignity that a good and hard working person like manager Manny DeLeon can bring to a job that so many of us would consider a "death trap...a suicide rap."*

I especially like Lobster because I could identify with it. Before I launched my brilliant professional career, I was a waitress. No, it was never going to be my life's pursuit - that I still haven't figured out yet - but I did spend three summers during college, and a year+ after that waiting tables. Two of those summers were at Big Boy's, a low-end chain. Kind of like a Red Lobster, only without the booze. 

In actuality, I've never eaten in one. But based on my time at Big Boy's, and the other joints I worked, I know the look, the feel, the smell. I know that it can be fun to flirt with the cooks and kid around with the busboys. To get the bartender to make you a Kahlua Sour. (That was at Dugin Park and the Union Oyster House. No alcohol at Big Boy's!) To bitch about the customers. To enjoy yacking with the customers. To sneak a bite or two off of a plate that's just sitting there under the heat lamp waiting to be picked up. To count the tips at the end of the night. To go home bone tired, with barely enough energy to wash out your stinking uniform so you can get up the next day and do it all over again.

So I'm sympathetic to folks who work at the Lobster, or any other restaurant, especially the chains. It's hard, unglamorous work. But someone's got to do it so that the rest of us can go out to eat. And I thank you.

Anyway, last Saturday must have been an exhilerating one for Red Lobster workers. Because that was the day Beyoncé, on the eve of her super-star turn at the Super Bowl halftime show, released a new song in which she talks about taking her boo to eat at a Red Lobster.

As a result of that big ol' shout out from Bey,
Red Lobster Chief Executive Officer Kim Lopdrup said sales jumped 33 percent on Sunday and increased "well into the double digits" on Monday after pop star Beyoncé mentioned the seafood chain in her new song, "Formation."
The song, which was released over the weekend, sent customers streaming into Red Lobster on Super Bowl Sunday, which is typically a slow day for the company, Lopdrup said in an interview. He declined to give a specific figure for the double-digit increase on Monday, which compares with the year-earlier day.(Source: Bloomberg)
This could be a big deal for the chain, which has not been faring all that well, and is plagued with the patronage of an undesirable, aging demographic. 

I'm fortunate that, when I want a red lobster, or any other seafood, I don't have to go to a Red Lobster. I live in New England where you just have to reach your arm into the Atlantic and pull one out. Well, not quite. But lobster is pretty easy to come by, in either of my preferred manifestations: boiled with drawn butter or in a lobster salad sandwich. 

But I hope that the turn in fortune for Red Lobster continues, and that Beyoncé's mention boosts their business for a good long while. Not to make the owners - a private equity firm - richer. But to put a few more bucks in the pockets of the waiters and bartenders. To put a smile on the face of all the Manny DeLeons - the hero of Last Night at the Lobster - and to keep a few more of them from having to go through the pain and sorrow of a last night.

*And, yes, I'm quoting poet-rock-eate Bruce Springsteen here. I saw The River Concert at The Gah-den last week. Springsteen is the singer-songwriter equivalent of Stewart O'Nan, other than the fact I suspect that more people have heard of (and heard) Bruce Springsteen than have heard of (and read) Stewart O'Nan. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Boomers aging into old age housing? Gimme shelter!

Right after my mother turned 80, she moved into a congregant living facility.
It was time to leave home, the house she’d live in for 44 years, where she’d raised her kids, seen my father through a long illness, and been a widow for nearly 30 years. Worrying about whether the lawn was mowed, the walk was shoveled was getting to be too much. The new folks next door were a bit difficult. They were sloppy about putting their trash out, and milk jugs, tampon cartons, and Styrofoam Dunk’s cups would blow onto my mother’s property, and those lazy, good for nothing neighbors would do nothing about it. You’d think that someone might be ashamed about letting an 80 year old woman trying to retrieve their trash from the steep rocky hill that abutted her yard, but apparently not.

Anyway, from everyone’s perspective it was time for her to move to a place where she didn’t have to worry about house stuff, and her kids – none still in Worcester – didn’t have to worry about her.

Her new digs were pretty darned ideal.

She had a generously-sized one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and plenty of storage. There was a balcony that fit a couple of chairs that looked out on a pond. (The official name of the pond was Curtis Pond, but we knew it as The Electric Pond because it was near an electrical substation. When I was a kid, I thought the water was electrified, and that you would be killed if you stepped toe in it.)  Even better than the view of The Electric Pond out back, the front of the building was directly across the street from her parish church, where she’d been a parishioner since she’d moved to Worcester more than 50 years earlier. It was the church where she’d baptized her kids and buried my father, and the place where much of her social life revolved around. Her home away from home.

My mother’s congregant living place was by no means luxurious. But it was well kept up and comfortable. The grounds were lovely, there were plenty of activities for the “congregants,” and the staff were wonderful. Residents got breakfast and dinner, light housekeeping, and someone to check on their whereabouts if they didn’t come down to breakfast. Bonus points: my mother had a couple of friends who already lived there. Further bonus points: it wasn’t crazily expensive, and my mother could easily afford it.

When we moved her in, my sisters and I kidded her that – having lived with her parents until she married – my mother was moving into her first “single gal pad.” We also raved about how much storage there was. (Less than a year later, when she died, we were cursing that way too ample storage.
All in all, my mother was very happy at Goddard House, and we were very happy to have her there. Part of our sadness at her death was regretting that she didn’t get to enjoy more years of life unencumbered by a too-big house with a too-big yard.

As my Chicago cousins go through the search process to find a place for my Aunt Mary who, nearing 90, is ready to move into an assisted living situation, I hope that they’re able to find a place as good for their mother.

Anyway, the day before my mother fully moved in, I was transferring her frozen food for her  when the woman in the apartment next door popped her head out and asked if I were the new resident.

It was my 51st birthday. So my answer was, errrrrr, no.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I’m still not ready to start thinking senior living – independent, congregant, assisted, skilled nursing. Maybe another fifteen or twenty years from now, which seems to be about the time in someone’s life when they need to get themselves into a more supportive/assistive living situation. I’m in a great location, and, with my recent reno, I made a couple of senior-friendly improvements: the tub is now a walk-in shower with bench and grab bar; the steep and twisty stair case is now equipped with a railing. But there’s nothing I can do about the steep front steps to the building, and the puny landing at the top. I suppose that breaking my neck while toppling backwards down those steps wouldn’t be the worst way to go, I don’t intend to find out.

Whether we like it or not, us first wave boomers are embarking on the beginning of the end and, whether we like it or not, are having to figure out our end of life plans. Just think, only yesterday, as a high tech product manager, I was sitting around the table talking EOL strategies for products that needed to go. Any day now, I’ll be sitting down to figure out my person EOL strategy.

Anyway, when I do decide to move on (short term, not permanent move one…), there’ll apparently be plenty of choices.

I really don’t picture myself in a golden-ager community, but if I’m going to be staying in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’ll have an increasing number of options. I’m already seeing – or perhaps, for the first time, paying attention to – ads for all these incredibly nice looking communities where incredibly well-dressed, incredibly fit older folks (mid 70’s?) seem to be just loving their new digs.

But do I want to live in a place where all the women where sweater sets and pearls? With perfectly coiffed heads? And perfectly coiffed and toothed husbands? Hell, no.

Regrettably, I have yet to see an ad for a place that looks really appealing, that looks like a place I’d fit in. I.e., one populated by a bunch of grey-hairs in jeans and “interesting” sweaters who look like they’re heading out to go door-to-door for Bernie Sanders. Where the main features of the place are the library and the geezer-ed center, not a lap pool and tennis courts.

But I suspect that there will be more choice as time goes by. After all:

…as the first baby boomers turn 70 this month, the number of “old old” is expected to nearly triple in coming decades, from 7.3 million in 2015 to more than 21 million by 2050. (Source: Boston Globe)

And those ads we see running? They really don’t think that us Boomers are going to be flocking in any time soon.

“Part of the marketing efforts you see today will help bmer. “Strong operators are basically constantly marketing because they have to keep that front door full with a line.”

In addition to being savvy marketers, I bet they have excellent models to predict when there’ll be an opening, too. Actuarially speaking.

Part of that marketing effort is promoting communities for the 62+ demographic, even if the residents are in the 80+ demographic. And part of the marketing and product management effort is putting in more and more amenities to appeal to us younger geezers. Kayaking! Wine lockers! Tai chi! Plus the ability to stay put as we need an escalated level of care if we ever decide to grow old and die. As if!

Much of what’s going up in Massachusetts is upscale, which is not surprising, given that there is a lot of money around here.

But the reality for most baby boomers is not going to be deciding whether to go kayaking or break open a bottle of Shiraz. It’s going to be figuring out how to retire on whatever it is we did or didn’t save. Hoping that Social Security and Medicare will still be around. Praying that we don’t get Alzheimer’s. Or that we do get Alzheimer’s and spend those final years grayed out, unaware.

There used to be a Clairol (I think) ad that went, “Hate that gray? Wash it away.”

The truth is, there’s only so much gray that we’ll be able to wash away and, if the boomers live long enough, our bulge of a demographic is going to need the ability to stay in our homes or move into places that are clean, comfortable, safe and affordable. Forget about tai chi. For a lot of us, it’s going to be gimme shelter.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Firing your customers? You can if you're Elon Musk.

In the later stages of my career, a new philosophy of "cusotmer management" started to take hold. And that philosophy was that all customers are not created equal, and that some were more profitable and desirable than others. So what you wanted to do was cull the unprofitable customers from the herd. And, while you were at it, you were supposed to jettison customers who were "off strategy."

The trick, of course, was to identify those unprofitable and/or ottherwise undesirable entities. We seldom had the systems in place to figure out who they were. But whether we could formally identify them, or just had a gut feeling that they were too expensive to hang onto, in any case we generally didn't have the will to part with them.

Most of my career was spent in companies that sold to "the enterprise" market. I.e., we had large, complex, complicated and expensive "systems". And, as it so often turned out in my experience, the customers that turned out to be the ones we were losing our shirt on were the big names. And nothing so dazzled the places I worked like a name that someone had heard of. And those big names knew it, so they extracted all sorts of concessions and extras for the pleasure of doing business with them. In return, we seldom got anything - they weren't willing to provide a reference, or do a customer story, or sometimes even let their name appear on the customer list. Sure, you could tell someone they were a customer, but that was about it.

But, at least in theory, it makes a lot of sense to figure out how to lop off those customers that don't make you money and/or those that are a distraction from the business you really want to be in. (A hosting provider I worked for had some legacy busienss with a major porn vendor. Readers may recall that the demand for porn was a major driver for the growth of the Internet. More bandwidth, please! Anyway, we decided that there was no benefit to have a porn provider sucking way too much bandwidth up, not to mention that it was just unsavory. So we did get rid of them. A story for another day...)

Mostly, it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to get rid of customers.

And that goes whether you're in the big old corporate B2B world I come from, or, it would seem, the consumer market.

Of course, if you go about cusotmer-elimination in a public, feudy kind of way, you do get some publicity out of it. And that might be good for business. Or maybe you just want to vent spleen, which sems to be what Elon Musk was up to when he decided not to sell a Tesla to VC Stewart Alsop after Alsop unloaded on Musk's company for putting on what he felt was a dreadful customer event.

The event was last fall, and was held to launch the Tesla Model X, which Alsop wanted to buy, to the tune that he signed up for one and put down a deposit. The Tesla Model X is a 90 MPG SUV that goes for about $80K. (Or about $130K - I've seen both prices mentioned.) So there won't be an unlimited audience for it. Counter balance that with the fact that anything Elon Musk does is going to generate plenty of interest, and the fact that the Tesla is hip and trendy. So maybe a debate on whether how well you need to treat your prospective customers would end in a draw.

Apparently Stewart Alsop didn't find the event to his liking - it didn't start on time, it was over-crowded and he didn't get the oportunity to test drive the car, the food was awful - and Alsop took to his blog, as bloggers do, to rant about what a waste of his time it was. And to crank of Musk for not even apologizing. He posted it as an open letter to Elon Musk.

Fast forward a few months, and Alsop found that Musk had canceled Alsop's order for the car.
British newspaper The Guardian has accused Musk of being "unbelievably petty" in his response to Alsop's moaning. Is it it teachable moment? The possible lesson here is you shouldn't criticize Musk or make him mad if you want to buy a Tesla, as The New York Post and The Silicon Valley Business Journal put it. (Source: Market Watch)
Quite naturally, Alsop just had to blog about the order cancel. And, Alsop being Alsop  - a former journalist turned investor, from a family of prominent journalists - a lot of folks in the tech and business media picked up on the story.

To which Musk responded with a snide tweet about it being a slow news day when his response to a "super rude customer" made the headlines.

But was Alsop being super rude?

I think not.

He was making some valid points, and he was directing them to a public figure - Elon Musk - rather than trashing the marketing folks running the event. He wasn't - IMHO - being a jerk about it. He was describing his experience from his persepctive. He was blogging. And there didn't seem to be anything untoward or particularly rude about it.

But there was Elon Musk, over-reacting. When maybe what he should have done after Alsop's first post was invite him to do a test drive.

A few years back, when the Red Sox were in their glory days and tickets were hard to come by, a wrote a humorous but out there post on my experience trying to buy tickets online. The system has been much improved. And the Red Sox have declined. So, overall, it's much easier to get tickets online these days.

But back in the day...

My screed did get a response from the Red Sox: an email from the head of marketing (which included an email he'd received from then-president Larry Lucchino about my post) saying that the Red Sox would try to improve the system and, in the meantime, offering to have someone in his office facilitate my ticket purchase. I didn't go haywire, but I was able to score tickets for a few games.

Needless to say, my next post about the Red Sox was a smilier-faced one.

But Elon Musk? I've generally been an admirer of his business and technological acumen, but I think he's out to lunch on this one. Maybe he's a marketing genius, and did it to amp up product awareness. Or maybe he was just being a jerk.

Anyway, if he wants to put me in the No Tesla Zone, he can have at it. But I really think if you're going to fire your customers, there should be a better reason than them ragging you about a crappy event your company put on.

Friday, February 05, 2016

More bookstores on the horizon?

The big buzz the other day was that Amazon - of all organizations - was planning on opening 300 to 400 bookstores. The source of the rumor was the head of an outfit that owns a bunch of malls. Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties, dropped this good-for-the-mall-world bit of info on his company's earnings call.

As a result of Mathrani's comments, Barnes & Noble share price dropped.

(I suspect that there are plenty of B&N execs who are muttering Thanks, Sandeep and rethinking their location plans.)

Soon after, Mathrani was walking back his comments, "clarifying" that they were "'not intended' to represent the online retailer's plans." Which is not exactly the same as sayhing it's not going to happen. (Amazon wouldn't comment one way or the other.)

Anyway, I find this all very interesting, given the role that Amazon played in drving so many "brick and mortar" bookstores out of business. This happened to both chains (c.f., Borders) and those small, lovable indies we love to have on the corner but don't bother to shop at. (I'm fortunate to have a good indie, the Trident Bookstore Cafe, about 20 minutes away. It's not all that large, and a lot of their real estate is devoted to their cafe. But it's a great little bookstore, carries a good selection of literary fiction titles, has cashiers who seem to love reading, and will order anything for you. Plus the food's not bad.)

And now, having bulldozed their path clear, Amazon may - or may not - be jumping back into the physical bookstore fray.

What they have done already, however, is step toe in the water last fall, having opened a store in their hometown of Seattle in November.
Amazon's bookstore in Seattle carries boooks selected based on customer rating and their popularity on The storefront also provides a space fo visitors to test-drive Amazon's Kindle, Fire TV and other devices. (Source: Reuters)
I'm by no means an Amazon basher.

I've ordered plenty of books - real books and Kindle downloads - not to mention other stuff from their site, and may well be heading over there when I finish this up to order a wrought iron banana hanger, an item that I couldn't find at Bed, Bath & Beyond when I was there the other day.

But that only carrying "books selected based on customer rating and their popularity on" gives me pause. I know that there are plenty of good reads that rise to the top, but, when it comes to books, I'm not all that big on the wisdom of crowds. Will the Amazon physical bookstores end up being like Walden or those other sad-sack chains of yore that primiarly carried Tom Clancy, Barbara Cartland, and low-end cookbooks?

After all, one of the great pleasures of being in a bookstore is grazing the "what's new" table, followed by some grazing on the off-price remainders table. One of the things I liked best about Boston's late, lamented downtown Borders was its tremendous grazing opportunities. Borders carried a good selection of high-qualilty fiction, and had a lot of excellent books on their bargain table, as well. (I understand this can also happen at Barnes & Noble, but the B&N in downtown Boston is not very good; definitely reading-lite.)

I also think it would be pretty amusing to see Amazon coming around to the merits of having "brick and mortar" estabishments. I know, I know, Amazon now has some same-day deliveries, and before we know it, there'll be instantaneous drone delivery. But there's really nothing like being able to just walk in and buy a couple of books. Instant gratification of the most high-brow order!

We'll see whether Amazon will soon be hanging out shingles in malls around the country.

Whether it happens or not, I'll be doing my bit to keep the Trident in business.

I may still order an occasional book from Amazon. And they're more than likely to get my banana hanger business. But I think I'll do a walkabout tomorrow, amble up Newbury Street, and see just what's up on the bargain table at Trident.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

As If I Needed Another Reason to Despise the NFL

I will admit it: I’m a sports fan.

Not a rabid, crazed, live-or-die, obsessional nut case, mind you.

But, yes, I’m a bona fide sports fan. Largely a professional sports fan.
Mostly, I follow baseball. The Red Sox in particular, but baseball in general. I look forward to the opening day, and am especially happy that, for the first time in years (i.e., for the first time since the Red Sox got good, before they became bad again), I was able to score tickets to the game on Patriots Day. Much one of the best local sports event: a rare morning game so that the fans can stream out and catch some of the Marathon.

Although baseball’s my first sports love, I can get interested in basketball or hockey around the playoffs, if the Celtics or the Bruins are in. And I’m enough of a band-wagoner to admit that, once the Patriots started winning Super Bowls, I began more or less following them.

But I also have to admit that, when it comes to professional football, I’m a bit of a hypocrite.

There is much about it that I just flat-out don’t like, starting – but not ending with – the violence, the aura of militarism, the rigid authoritarian nature of it, the fighter jet flyover spectacle at the Super Bowl. Yet still I watch. Not all the time, and not religiously. But enough.

If I had to pick the one thing I most ardently dislike about the NFL, however, it would be the NFL itself.

Turning a blind eye to the brain damage that so many players endure. Their collusion with colleges and universities to exploit – chew up and spit out – so many largely poor and minority athletes. Their selective tolerance for bad behavior off the field. Their arbitrary prosecution of on-the-field infractions, real or perceived.

To this litany – and, trust me, I could go on  I will add NFL’s treatment of one Troy Haupt.

Just who is Troy Haupt?

No, he’s not a brain-shot former Heisman Trophy winner. There’s no reason you’d recognize his name.

But Troy Haupt has something that the NFL doesn’t, and that’s near-complete video tapes of the first Super Bowl game, which was played 49 years ago.

Super Bowl wasn’t such a big deal back in 1967. Fans weren’t yet as obsessional about it, and football wasn’t quite the lucrative sport it has become. The networks that broadcast the first Super Bowl didn’t bother to save the tapes. (Both CBS and NBC broadcast the game. I’m guessing there were two because, at that point in time, there were two separate leagues: the granddaddy NFL and the parvenu AFL. Each league no doubt had its own broadcasting agreement.)

Anyway, there’s a long and fairly interesting story about how Haupt came into possession of the tapes. (They were made by his father, whom Haupt never knew, but who gave the tapes to Haupt’s mother, suggesting she might be able to sell them for money for his kids’ education; they were long-forgotten and rotting in an attic). At some point about a decade or so ago, Haupt realized that he might have something that was worth something.

The figure that he had in mind was $1 million (which was the estimate of the sports press.)

Which seems reasonable, given that the NFL would have packaged them out and sold them fast and furious to the millions of fans who care about such things. What with Super Bowl 50 soon upon us, there would have been ample opportunities to market full collections. And/or onesies of the long lost first game. It’s easy enough to imagine that the NFL would have made tens – even hundreds – of millions of dollars merchandising this find.

But the NFL offered Haupt a measly $30K, which he turned down. (The league was able to piece together a video of Super Bowl 1, but it apparently lacks the authenticity and vintage quality – or lack thereof – of the Haupt tapes.)

Unfortunately for Haupt, he may own the tapes, but the NFL owns the content. So Haupt, who would like to sell his tapes to a collector, can’t do so. And as a sweetener, he’d like to donate some of the sale proceeds to charities. Here’s the shot that the NFL fired across his bow in a letter sent to Haupt’s lawyers:

“Since you have already indicated that your client is exploring opportunities for exploitation of the N.F.L.’s Super Bowl I copyrighted footage with yet ­unidentified third parties,” Dolores DiBella, a league counsel, wrote, “please be aware that any resulting copyright infringement will be considered intentional, subjecting your client and those parties to injunctive relief and special damages, among other remedies.” (Source: NY Times)

Haupt had an opportunity to make a little money - $25K, plus a couple of tickets – from CBS to appear in a pregame segment o talk about his story. The bully boys (and, I guess, girls) got wind of it and put the kibosh on it.
What could have been a feel good story – the lost tapes found, the “common man” lucking into a bit of money, a tremendous Super Bowl story, an opportunity for a fan lovefest – becomes another example of the NFL’s crap and crushing attitude toward everything and everyone who’s not them.

Sure, they need to protect their assets, their vaunted brand. But it’s not as if all kinds of other folks are going to come out of the woodwork with something of this value. This doesn’t set much of a dangerous precedent as far as I can tell.

Anyway, I didn’t really need another reason to despise the NFL, and here they went and dropkicked one right into my lap.