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    Published on: October 11, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    If Jeff Halpern were a fictional character, his story and the incredible metaphor it provides for business would be simply unbelievable. But Halpern and his story are both very real and his story is something every business should spend some time considering.

    Halpern is a professional hockey player, though as you have probably figured out already, he’s not exactly a superstar. Over the course of more than a decade in professional hockey he’s played for five teams and the US national team. According to Wikipedia, the biggest award he gathered in that time was being inducted into the Greater Washington, DC, Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

    Let’s agree that Jeff Halpern is not exactly Wayne Gretzky.

    And that’s where his story becomes so relevant. Two seasons ago, Halpern saw the end of his career staring him in the face. He had no contract and the combination of surgery and age had made him slower and less able on the ice. So Halpern did something unusual. After 10 years in professional hockey, Halpern got a skating coach.

    His coach, a former figure skater in the Washington area, watched Halpern skate and instantly found flaws. At one point she asked Halpern how it was possible that his flaws had gone unnoticed and uncorrected in all his years of professional hockey. As detailed in recent story in the Washington Post, she put Halpern on a new regiment of drills, including jumping hurdles on the ice in an attempt to eliminate past habits and build new skills.

    As the Post detailed, Halpern’s off-season schedule resembles that of so many youth hockey players, including early morning commutes to the rink for skate time before most commuters have even stirred. For a player who once had a $2 million a year contract, the new reality must be surreal.

    However, the early morning sessions, the drills, the coaching and the self-examination of his most basic skills worked. Last season, Halpern found himself moving quicker than ever on the ice. Teammates and coaches noticed that Halpern was getting to pucks as quickly as players many years younger. His career revived and, in perhaps the = greatest recognition of his improved skill, Halpern won a bigger contract for the current season with his hometown Washington Capitals.

    Let’s ignore the hockey for a second and examine what took place here. A long-time professional recognized that his skills needed improvement. So he sought out an educated third party, listened to new advice and did the hard work to rebuild and improve upon his skills. This happened after a decade in a professional sport loaded with coaches who, you would think, would be examining and studying those very same skills.

    Get the metaphor?

    We talk often here on MNB about the need for all businesses to seek out honest and critical feedback to build areas of improvement. We talk about the importance of useful criticism and, more importantly, the value of acting on that advice. But truth be told, we know it’s a busy world and most of us never quite get around to all of that.

    Yet that kind of reflection and dedication to improvement is exactly what most of us need and as often as possible.

    So that’s why we need to contemplate and emulate Jeff Halpern. He understood that without improvement something terrible was going to happen to him: he was going to see his hockey career end. No team needs a slow, aging skater, even if they are in the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

    Instead Halpern sought out and listened to unusual advice. Despite his years in professional sports, he did the hard work to learn the new skills. So far, he’s found a way to extend his career by at least two years.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The country may still be in a recessionary mindset, but the richest Americans just keep on spending, according to a new study from Unity Marketing.

    Bloomberg reports that the study suggests that a group dubbed X-fluents (for “extremely affluent”) are “responsible for 23 percent of luxury sales in the U.S., up from 18 percent in 2007.”

    And another group, called “Aspirers,” are also “spending more on luxury,” favoring
    “flash, bling and status” and now accounting “for 18 percent of luxury sales compared with 16 percent in 2007.”

    It may be one of the few bright spots in the economy.

    Bloomberg writes, “In the past, affluent shoppers’ willingness to buy baubles has been tied to the stock market because its performance affects the perception of their own wealth -- the so-called wealth effect. Luxury was the hardest hit retail segment during the financial meltdown three years ago; sales in the U.S. plummeted 9.1 percent in 2009, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

    “This time is different. Though the Dow Jones Industrial Average swung by 4 percentage points daily for an unprecedented stretch in August and consumer confidence stagnated near a two-year low in September, luxury sales may outpace the overall industry this holiday season.

    “Sales at luxury stores open at least a year will climb 7.5 percent, faster than the 6.7 percent increase in November and December of 2010, predicts the ICSC. Other retail segments will see slower or unchanged sales growth, the New York-based trade group said.”

    Of course, there is a dark side to these positive numbers - the continued and increasing buying power of affluent people also trains the spotlight on the expanding gap between the haves and the have-nots ... a gap that is now fueling protests taking place in a number of US cities.

    Affluence may be good for business. But widespread social dissatisfaction and unrest - even if at this moment it seems to have momentum without a specific target or well-defined goals - probably isn’t.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Facebook and Walmart have struck a new deal that will allow users of the social networking service to “connect with their local stores just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season” by using any of more than 3,500 Walmart Facebook pages that will alert shoppers to new products, local promotions, sales and price rollbacks and other in-store events.

    Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Walmart U.S., tells the Times that retailing is a "fundamentally local business" and that “Facebook has become an important way for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer to interact with shoppers. He noted that Wal-Mart is bringing back layaway because its shoppers on Facebook asked for it. And shoppers will be able to download a map of merchandise in their local stores.”

    The Times notes that “Facebook is trying to attract more advertising dollars and spending on its service as it ramps up for an initial public offering in 2012. It competes with Google, Yahoo and other online services for eyeballs and ads.

    “Research firm EMarketer expects Facebook to become the top seller of display advertising in the U.S. this year, surpassing Yahoo.  The world's largest social networking service, with more than 800 million users, will generate $4.27 billion in revenue this year, more than double the $2 billion it made in 2010, according to EMarketer.”
    KC's View:
    Walmart may have more than its share of troubles at this point, and I’m not sure initiatives like these will solve them. But ... it is critical that the Bentonville Behemoth invest in these sorts of initiatives even while trying to solve things like a decaying price image and out of stocks. In the end, they all will work together ... and have to, if Walmart is to regain past glories.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill “banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands,” legislation that forces Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy “to shift from an all-automated format to one that has at least one clerk on hand to check a purchaser's age before ringing up sales of beer and wine.” The new law is, according to Fresh & Easy, a fix of a non-existent problem.

    According to the story, “The alcoholic beverage sales bill, AB 183, requires face-to-face interaction at Fresh & Easy and all other supermarkets to prevent sales to underage consumers. It was supported by law enforcement and groups that treat alcohol abuse.”

    It was also supported by organized labor, which has targeted Fresh & Easy for having a non-union workforce.

    The Times writes that “Fresh & Easy countered that it built in safeguards by using a combination of automated tellers and clerks to prevent sales to minors. Furthermore, executives noted, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it had no enforcement difficulties with self-service check-outs.”
    KC's View:
    Stupid law. The fact is that everybody who bought booze at Fresh & Easy was being checked by an employee. I’ve done it, and seen it at work.

    This is one of those cases where while some people’s intentions may have been honorable (like parents concerned about underage drinking), the law itself probably was not necessary. Like Fresh & Easy said, it fixed a non-existent problem.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    Interesting piece in the Boston Globeabout Food Sol, described as “an ambitious two-month-old start-up at Babson College” that is designed “to identify how so-called food deserts - geographical areas without access to a grocery store or fresh food - are formed, and how to make healthy food sustainable for all.”

    According to the story, Rachel Greenberger, “a 33-year-old Babson MBA graduate who studied food-system dynamics and consumer behavior in the sustainable food movement, came up with the concept for a company similar to a think tank, but centered on action. By creating a digital map to pinpoint food-related issues, Food Sol intends to highlight pressing topics such as food deserts and fair trade, linking experts in the field with would-be entrepreneurs to ignite working relationships.”

    The goal is to create a kind of laboratory that is focused on identifying problem spots and then putting together partnerships of people and companies that can address the shortage of healthy food in specific neighborhoods by using entrepreneurial skills.
    KC's View:
    In many ways, the most important characteristic in any company’s plan to address the problem of food deserts is going to be patience - because just putting in stores and providing better food is not going to fix the problem overnight. One has to have reasonable expectations, and a marketing plan with a long-term approach to changing people’s eating habits.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “supermarkets - recognizing that many customers use their mobile telephones to compare prices and check lists as they shop - have begun to experiment with smartphone-related technology.

    “The stores hope to use apps, high-tech bar codes called Quick Response Codes and other technologies to drive sales and lower costs just as millennials, who grew up using electronic devices, are becoming a bigger percentage of their shopping base.

    “Grocers have considered incorporating new technologies into the shopping experience for some time, but the industry has small margins and many stores don't have big technology budgets, analysts say.”

    One example, according to the story: “Ahold has started a pilot program at three Stop & Shops in Massachusetts that enables customers who download an iPhone app to scan the bar codes of each item they're buying and bag the items as they continue to shop. The app is linked to the shopper's customer-rewards card, so that customers can receive targeted specials and coupons related to items they like as they shop.”

    The technology also works for online shoppers, the story says: “Peapod Inc., an online grocery service that operates in 11 states and the District of Columbia introduced its own app last September. Thirty-six percent of its customers have since downloaded the app, and Peapod says about 10% of its orders come via mobile devices.

    “FreshDirect, a New York-based grocery-delivery service, also gets about 10% of its orders through mobile apps.”
    KC's View:
    Retailers have to do this stuff. They cannot be running 20th century stores if they want to appeal to 21st century shoppers.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Chinese police in the southwestern city of Chongqing have detained several Walmart employees “as part of a government probe into whether the retailer fraudulently sold ordinary pork as more expensive organic pork.”

    Yesterday, it was reported that authorities there had closed down 12 stores owned by Walmart, and said that they must remain closed for 15 days.

    The Journal notes that “some analysts say Wal-Mart is coming under greater scrutiny in Chongqing because local authorities are jockeying for power prior to a 2012 leadership transition and are cracking down on businesses to be seen as protectors of consumer rights.

    “Wal-Mart is aiming to grow its business in China. Sales from the country reached $7.5 billion from 328 stores in 2010. The company didn't break out 2009 revenue from China.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    Seventy-two percent of U.S. consumers expect their holiday spending to be ‘careful’ or ‘controlled’ in 2011, according to Accenture’s annual consumer holiday shopping study. “While 88 percent of shoppers intend to spend the same or less than last year, 71 percent of those respondents earning more than $100,000 expect to spend over $500 on gifts this holiday season, indicating that high-income shoppers may provide a boost to retailers this season,” the study says.

    The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that, “while discount stores still remain the top holiday shopping destination, their dominant position is beginning to fade. 73 percent of respondents say that they will shop at a discount retailer this year, compared to 81 percent last year and 85 percent in 2009. Despite this, discounts will still provide the biggest incentive for consumers during the 2011 holiday shopping season as 93 percent say that discounts are important this year.
    “The importance of ‘Black Friday’ also continued to slide downwards with the results suggesting that this year’s turnout at stores could be the lowest in three years. 44 percent of consumers say that they are likely to shop on Black Friday, compared to 47 percent in 2010, and 52 percent in 2009.”

    “This holiday season will see the balance of power continue to tip in favor of the consumer,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “‘Precision shoppers’ will dominate. They will be very targeted about where and what they buy, and will be more inclined to shop around for the best value. Stores should focus on providing an experience and services that create a sense of extra value in the mind of the shopper."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    Reuters reports that in the UK, Sainsbury has promised not just to match “the prices of branded products with its larger rivals Tesco and Walmart-owned Asda as the battle for price-conscious customers escalates,” but to “automatically compare some 13,000 branded products with Tesco and Asda at the checkout, and customers would receive a voucher redeemable on their next shop for the difference if Sainsbury were more expensive.”

    "Unlike some of our competitors we aren't asking customers to do the hard work to check on our prices," said Group Commercial Director Mike Coupe, in a swipe at rivals' promotions.
    KC's View:
    As far as I know, Mike Coupe is no relation. Though he obviously comes from good stock.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    Advertising Age reports that Four Loko - the much criticized maker of fruit-and-booze drinks that are seen as targeting young people and, in some cases, putting them in the hospital because of excessive drinking - is out with a new web-only ad campaign that lampoons the media coverage it has received.

    According to the story, “Dubbed ‘The Big Bust,’ the first video features faux TV station ‘News 4,’ whose frenzied reporters stake out ‘the motherlode, an underground Four Loko party.’ As it turns out, the party is more chill than thrill, with Four Loko drinkers casually mingling at a barbecue. But that doesn't faze the reporters, who act as if they've just busted up some kind of illicit, illegal fest.”

    "The key to this campaign is that it all reflects the way our company and product was shaped," company co-founder Chris Hunter tells Ad Age. "Let's face the fact: Our company and our products were shaped by media coverage, and we are a pretty fun-loving group that's able to laugh at ourselves. And that's kind of the nature of this campaign.”
    KC's View:
    I’ve watched the first video. It isn’t funny. And I think I have a pretty good sense of humor.

    What the clowns at Four Loko seem to not get is that while they may want to create the illusion that their product is being sipped slowly around the barbecue by middle class suburbanites, it isn’t that kind of consumption that landed the product in the news. No, it was binge drinking by young people - many of whom were underage - that the company implicitly targets in its marketing.

    Blaming the media is an old trick ... but the reporters who went to the hospital to cover the stories about binge drinking didn’t make it all up.

    I’m a parent. I don’t want my kids touching this crap, and I’ve told them so. (Especially the one too young to drink, and even the ones who are 22 and 25.) I believe it is dangerous, and it appeals to all their worst instincts.

    I’m guessing that Chris Hunter either is not a parent, or that he has discovered some magic way to lock his sense of parental/adult responsibility in a closet somewhere when he goes to the office.

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    • The Boston Herald reports that while BJ’s Wholesale Club competes with its membership club brethren, Costco and Sam’s, it also increasingly finds itself competing with traditional supermarkets - a trend that is highlighted by the fact that BJ’s newest store is in Massachusetts, not far from where Wegmans plans to open its first Massachusetts store next weekend.

    “We have been competing with Wegmans for a long time in upstate New York. We know that they are very good at what they do. They are a very stunning destination retailer,” says BJ’s CEO Laura Sen. “My prediction is that when they open they will help us, because they will draw a lot of traffic to that plaza.”

    • The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) announced that it has signed a three-year contract with an EMCOR Group subsidiary called USM Services to provide “integrated facilities management” at 336 A&P stores.

    The announcement says that the contract calls for USM to be “responsible for comprehensive facilities management for the A&P locations, including maintaining food service equipment. In addition to performing full electrical, fire protection, plumbing services, as well as all landscaping, and snow removal services ... repairs and maintenance to ceilings, fixtures, floors, sidewalks, windows, cabinets, doors, compactors, lighting, material handling equipment, and parking lots.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that General Mills says that it has gone about as far as it can go in making some of its products - like Lucky Charms - healthier.

    While the company says it has been working arduously to make its cereals healthier since 2005, some products are resistant to too much change: “Not only do the cereal's frosted oats need to taste sweet enough to keep kids clamoring, they have to float in milk for at least three minutes. That was a challenge as the company reduced the sugar in most of its kids' cereals to 10 grams per serving from levels as high as 15 grams. It has committed to reaching single digits in the years ahead, but it sometimes runs into a wall.”

    Take any more sugar out, the company says, and nobody will want to eat the product.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    • Catalina Marketing Corp. announced that Jamie Egasti, former CEO of The Folgers Coffee Company and president of Global Snacks & Coffee at The Procter & Gamble Company, has been named the company’s new CEO. Egasti also gets a seat on the company’s board.

    Egasti succeeds Catalina co-founder George Off, who has served as interim CEO and a member of the company’s board of directors since May 2011.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    We got a number of emails responding to last week’s story about Walmart reportedly hiring consultants to help it deal with what has become a persistent out-of-stock problem.

    One MNB user wrote:

    In the past year, I have had the sense that out of stocks are a real problem at Walmart. As a retired consumer goods sales manager who sold to Walmart, my observation is that the there is something amiss in the quality and training of local store managers. Walmart has always prided itself for its culture, and rightly so. They should take a hard look at this, before it becomes an irreversible trend.

    From another reader:

    Doesn’t matter who the company is, there is very basic issues in question here. If you keep dialing down the amount of time you allow your team to perform a task such as ordering and stocking, you reach a critical point where it becomes impossible to do the job right. You cannot keep telling your team to stock faster or more cases per hour, at some point you have reached all you can do. We all have executives and computer wizards who can tell you that the program says it can be done. The real battle is on the sales floor, stocking, ordering, helping your guest, conditioning, the rest of it is in support of that battle. I firmly believe many executives lose sight of that. It always amazes me they have to hire a consultant to tell them this, when they have store managers with the best experience possible that could tell them why they out of stock issues.

    Maybe just maybe they should strap on a box cutter, load a few trucks and run some loads, fill a produce rack, unload a semi in the backroom; do all of this at the height of a busy work day or week. While doing all this they should always have the labor goals in mind that they have set for the stores and work within those restraints.

    It isn’t just Wal-Mart, too many other companies have to follow suit to stay competitive. Any one who has been in this battle long enough knows the first line to get cut to affect the bottom line is labor.

    I know this looks like a rant, but it really isn’t. I love what I do, I find it challenging and rewarding. I have been in the trenches many years, and I know when you cut too much store conditions suffer; in stock position, to much back stock and house keeping.

    MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

    A couple of comments on Walmart hiring outside contractors to walk their aisles looking for out-of-stock items:

    First off…just seems to me like Walmart could better hold on to their profit margins by handling this function in-house.  Even if each store created one full-time position dedicated to this function, I’m sure that would cost less than an outside consultancy.  Walmart is not known for paying Big Bucks, right?  Consultants, on the other hand…. 

    But, perhaps they have identified the problem as being something more external than internal, which brings me to my second observation:

    The out-of-stock situations at Walmart have not really stuck out to me in my routine shopping (beyond the in-the-moment frustration) because I’ve been encountering this situation on an increasingly regular basis everywhere I go.  Stop & Shop and Target especially Target—have both been having out-of-stock issues of late.

    Another reader chimed in:

    Another point that I don’t think they are highlighting is the fact that they “encouraged” their loyal shoppers to experience other retailers and channels when they had their sku reductions couple of years ago.  Their focus on efficiencies and streamlining operations led consumers to go elsewhere for those items that WM deemed “unnecessary”.

    Now, they are scrambling to bring those items back, look at new item innovations and try to keep the shelves stocked to capture sales.  If you want to know why they have been down, I think it’s because their shoppers went elsewhere to get ALL of their items and haven’t come back……lesson here is never give your consumers a reason to check out the competition.

    MNB user Todd Ashworth wrote:

    I find this to report to be somewhat comical. With Wal-Mart being our #1 competitor I spend a lot of time in their stores. A lot of time. I can honestly say that in the last 6 years throughout my Walmart travels (mainly west coast based) I have never counted less than 200 out of stocks in grocery alone. Here in the Boise, ID valley it is in the 300-400 range. This has always been consistent. I find it funny that now they are finally paying attention to it. The fact that they have to hire a broker to tell them that their volume is too great for their capacity is a little scary. That’s my 2 cents.

    And, from yet another reader:

    Here in fact is much of Walmart’s real problem. They have spent millions and millions on consultants on a variety of programs and topics. Many of which, like their STOC program, Project Impact and others have failed big time. One must give them credit for trying to get help to find their way, but at the same time ask why the current management team can figure this out?  Is it that they no longer have any Walmart retailers on board, that they have brought in so many people from the outside and change the business model so much that no one knows how to fix it?  Maybe next time they will leave some crumbs along the way so they can find their way back. It took the 10 years to get here and to try to stop digging the hole they’re in ,it’s  going to take as long or longer to get out.

    Couple of more points, the banks are screaming about the government taking away debit cards fees (ah), but at the same time not seeing Walmart lowering the prices, so it is going to their bottom line? Also thought it spoke volumes this week when the extended the 10 cent off gas program. What’s odd is gas is cheaper now then when the  first started it, so must be help “sales”, but then again they are not showing how the gift cards are being spent, on product or gas…..

    Last, if top management is serious about being EDLP then this holiday season will really be a “truth test” for them, my bet is the will not go EDLP, but need sales more and will do off price, gift cards and all the stuff they have built in and got “hooked” on.

    Another MNB user offered:

    Retail service providers have long been working in-store at Wal-Mart so employing the service isn’t a new idea. Many companies use one of the retail service companies though sometimes off the record. The reason this is news is that Wal-Mart is employing them, signaling they need some objective facts to confirm conflicting scorecards exist within Wal-Mart. The merchants want the shelves full; inventory management wants as little product on the shelf as is necessary to make presentation. Pricing is managed by another department. It will be a major step forward if Wal-Mart leadership can resolve these conflicting scorecard objectives.

    Wal-Mart is the poster child but hardly alone. Target has their issues in this area – as do the grocery chains.  Isn’t it strange one rarely hears about OOS at Costco? Before someone says “well, they are a different channel”…. Think again. There are some things they do that set them apart in managing in-stock position. Things that can be replicated by Wal-Mart, Target and the grocers. (And it’s not RFID either!)

    Regarding the ongoing Netflix debacle, and its decision yesterday to not separate its streaming and DVD rental businesses - a move that had caused an outcry and mass subscription cancellations, one MNB user wrote:

    Netflix has gotten a attitude adjustment because of a public outcry. Wouldn't it be great if our Government would respond to the public outcry over all the issues the country is facing today?

    Good job Netflix for listening.  sometimes it is better to make slow nickels then fast dimes  who ever said that is probably very rich and very smart. You can't afford to take your family to a movie any more so Netflix has brought the family back together enjoying a movie night at home.

    So I still support them  as long as they don't try to play a fast one on us again .

    I think it is fair to suggest that this is the minority position.

    MNB user Brian Anderson wrote:

    Thanks for your “Breaking News” on Netflix… it reminded me that I needed to cancel my membership.  I received an e-mail today from Netflix explaining all about 1 website convenience while defending the price increase.  After I cancelled I was asked to take a brief survey, which I did.  They gave options to choose from for why you were canceling your membership with no write-in option.  There was NO option for being dissatisfied with the price or price increase.  The closest they came was “I need to cut back on my expenses.”  So, I didn’t choose any of their technical issue related options.  Talk about tone-deaf… the survey just screamed “We don’t want to hear it!” when it came to their most recent actions as a company.  And to think at one time I thought Netflix was going to save the USPS!?!

    From another MNB user:

    Earlier Reed Hastings sent a self-serving rambling e-mail to his subscribers. We quit Netflix based on the arrogance of the e-mail and the huge price increase. Customer loyalty counts for zero in their model. We won’t be back. We are surviving and prospering using the existing On Demand from Comcast we already had.

    An interesting question from an MNB reader:

    I've always wondered about your exhaustive coverage of Netflix.  How does it qualify as a "retailer," exactly?

    I think Netflix is a fascinating ongoing case study in consumer marketing and online retailing, as well as an intriguing window into the possibilities of a smart loyalty program. It may not be retailing in the traditional sense, but it is an example of 21st century marketing done extremely well ... and lately, done badly.

    Plus, they helped put a traditional retailer, Blockbuster, virtually out of business. Which means that in my book, it is worth covering.

    MNB user Steven Ritchey had some thoughts about my analysis of baseball team payrolls seen in the light of who is advancing in the postseason:

    The fact that the  two teams with the highest payroll in baseball are both out of the playoff picture is rather telling.  What it tells me is that it doesn’t matter so much how much money you spend, but did you spend it wisely.  You have to spend a minimum amount to be competitive.  I mean, guys like us would play for a few hundred thousand a year, or less, but a team full of guys like me won’t win many games ( never could hit the curve ball).  The Rangers made two very important deals in the offseason, one was quite well known as it was a big deal, the  other not so much.  Signing Adrian Beltre was a big deal, the  trade for Mike Napoli wasn’t, but I shudder to think where that team would be without both of them.  Couple that with two smart trades at the trading deadline and you have a team that could go all the way, if things break right for them.

    In the Yankees’ minds they were built to win the World Series, but that lineup had too many  holes, once you got past the ace, the starting pitching was too suspect, some of the players are getting old.  Frankly they’ve made some signings that just weren’t smart.  Plus the Yankee mystique is gone.  The players who helped build that mystique, the unheralded players like Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neil, Bernie Williams, who realized that the mystique doesn’t help without making plays in the field.  For them being Yankees wasn’t enough, they would do whatever was necessary to win. The team I see now, doesn’t have that same grit and determination.

    In sports, as in business or in life, sometimes it’s not how much money you spend, it how smart  you are about spending it and how all the  pieces fit together.

    Regarding criticism of my lack of reporting on WNBA scores, one MNB user wrote:

    In your defense, MNB IS YOUR COLUMN.

    You are interested in MLB and NFL.  So that is what you report.  I understand that!  I am a huge NBA fan (although not right now...) and I am not upset that you do not report NBA scores.

    Thanks. The thing is, I write about the stuff that interests me, and trust that for the most part, it will interest MNB readers.

    Besides...check out this morning’s “Sansolo Speaks.” It is about hockey.

    MNB user Larry T. Owens wrote:

    I don’t know why you make this a weekly post of yours anyway.  I don’t go to MNB for sports scores – I go for all the other news.  Any fan is going to know the scores long before you post them.

    I know. But if I do them regularly, sometimes they give me a window that I can use to draw an example from, or can use as a metaphor.

    Besides, I probably would have enjoyed being a sports columnist, but didn’t find that out until late in my career. So this gives me the chance to play around a bit. Same reason I write about movies, beer and wine on Fridays - I get to play around and have some fun, and do things that no other site like MNB would do.

    Hopefully, that keeps people coming back. (FYI...I’ve been doing MNB for almost 10 years, and I would not need all the fingers on one hand to count the complaints I’ve ever gotten about sports scores and my various other digressions....)

    However, I did get one complaint yesterday, from MNB user Cale Evans, regarding what I thought was a nicely placed “Damn” on yesterday’s site:

    No need for it in a professional forum.

    Point taken.

    To be honest, I cannot promise it won’t happen again. I try to limit them to the occasional “hell” and “damn,” and live in terror that I’m going to misspell a word and end up dropping the s-bomb or f-bomb. (Once I accidentally misspelled “shirt”, and got dozens of emails almost instantly. Nobody was offended, but everybody thought I’d want to know so I could fix it it. Proved, among other things, that you were paying attention.)

    The thing is, MNB is not your average “professional forum.” I like to think of it as an online version of sports radio, but about (mostly) business ... and sometimes a well-aimed epithet just seems to be called for.

    But I’ll try to show restraint.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2011

    In Monday Night Football action, the Detroit Lions defeated the Chicago Bears 24-13.

    In game two of the American League Championship Series, the Texas Rangers defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-3, giving themselves a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

    And, in game two of the National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals - powered by Albert Pujols, who hit three doubles and a home run - defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3. The best-of-seven NLCS now stands at one game apiece.
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