Jackpot!

Through a nice little run of good luck, or bad luck if you’ve been buying tickets, the current Mega Millions jackpot sits at a tidy $500 million.  If it’s yours, you’ll get $19 million spread over 26 years or a lump sum payment just shy of $360 million.  Before you get too excited, those numbers are pre-tax so you’ll only take home just over half of that.  Hardly seems worth it.

But if you do win, even after you pay your taxes and shower riches upon your favorite writer (hint, hint), you’ll have quite a chunk of change to burn through.  Think of the fun you can have:

  • Start every day by threatening to cut your kids out of your will.  Their bedrooms will never be cleaner.  For extra fun, hire a team to mess up the rooms at random times throughout the day.
  • Buy a new car every week.  Don’t like it?  Just leave it at the side of the road and grab a cab to your nearest Ferrari dealer for another one.   If you like the cab, you can buy that too.
  • Buy a $600,000 solid gold, handmade rocking horse for your newborn.  Performers Jay-Z and Beyoncé did this in January.
  • Hire Justin Bieber to perform in your living room, every day of the rest of your life.  This also has the altruistic benefit of monopolizing his time so he will be unable to perform for anyone else.
  • Buy Segway scooters at almost $7,000 per piece for several of your closest co-workers.  Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush did this last year.
  • Fly back and forth to Tokyo every Monday for a year.  You like airline miles?  Think free upgrades forever.  It would be like being a management consultant, but with less travel.
  • Purchase a $475,000, platinum-wrapped iPad from Stuart Hughes, featuring 85.5 carats of flawless diamonds.  It weighs almost 6 pounds, so you’ll also need to hire someone to help you carry it.  If you have kids, the same company can sell you a gold wrapped Nintendo Wii for just under $500,000.
  • Act however you want.  Only poor people are rude, inconsiderate, and mean spirited.  Rich people are colorful, eccentric and endlessly entertaining.  You and your sister might even wind up with your own reality show on E!.
  • Buy a suite for your favorite sports franchise.  Be careful with this one, though.  Concessions inside stadiums are really expensive, and it might be more realistic for you to just buy the team.
  • Feed your dog $300 per-pound Kobe beef.  He won’t know the difference, but his private canine cardiologist will.
  • Open a Twitter account and promise to burn a $1,000 bill every time someone tweets the hash tag #(InsertYourNameHere)IsAwesome
  • Hire Stephen Hawking to tutor your kids, but you can forget about hiring Albert Pujols to play catch with them.  His new contract with the Los Angeles Angels was $240 million over ten years.  After you pay your taxes, he’s out of your league.

Even if you don’t hit the 1 in 175,711,536 chance at the jackpot, just dreaming about what you can do with the money makes the $1 investment worth it.  Realistically, dreaming is all you’ll get to do.  I already bought the winner, and I’m not sharing.  If you think that makes me a jerk, OK.  But after I win and become rich, I’ll be hilarious.

More Questions for Manning

I just watched the press conference where the Broncos announced Peyton Manning as their new quarterback.  As expected, there was not enough time to answer all of the questions.  If I was there, though, here are some of the questions I would like to have asked:

Q: Sorry, but am I the only one in the room who thought we were getting Eli?

Q: Peyton, you realize that we had John Elway so your cute, little one title means nothing to us?

Q: Did the Nene trade help or hurt your decision to come to Denver?

Q: How soon until you can start working with your running backs on practicing the spread option?

Q: Man, that recruiting process must have been a real pain in the neck, oops.  Too soon?

Q: You realize that unless you make it to the conference finals, you will have done the same or worse than Tim Tebow?

Q: Is that huge forehead where you store your extra football brains?

Q: We had a quarterback who got us to the second round of the playoffs in his first season as a starter, but now we’re trying to trade his ass to Jacksonville for a 7th round pick.  How do you like that kind of pressure?

Q: You know that just because you signed doesn’t mean we will stop stalking you, right?

Q: Now that the ink has dried, did you know that last week was 40 degrees above normal?  It’s usually snowy and cold well into June.

If you think of any others, feel free to enter them as a comment to this article.  Love to hear some good ones.

Tebowmania RIP

Christmas came early in Denver.  Condolences to Tennessee, San Francisco, Miami and Arizona.  Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego can just stick it.  Peyton Manning is our new quarterback, and Broncos fans are going nuts.  Productivity plummeted today in the Mile High City, and we have John Elway and team to thank for it.

Not a single game was played, yet March 19, 2012 will go down as one of the greatest days in the history of Colorado sports.   Sure Denver got Peyton Manning, who if healthy stands a chance at eclipsing John Elway as the team’s greatest quarterback.  Sure, the team is suddenly among the favorites to win the AFC.  Sure, the team has a hook with which to lure other high profile free agents.  But none of that is what has people so ecstatic.  In the blink of an eye, in the fraction of a second it took to digest a single tweet from Chris Mortensen, Tebowmania in Denver came to an end.

It’s one thing to get a great quarterback.  It’s another thing entirely to land one when a day earlier you were looking at a starter with an abysmal 47% completion rate.  San Francisco, had a chance to trade in Alex Smith for Manning.  Big deal.  For us, instead of taking the two hour drive from Denver to Vail, this is like flying from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to the top of Mt. Everest in a heartbeat.  We’re going to get a colossal case of the bends and could not be happier.

Tebow had the franchise handcuffed.  As a quarterback, he was challenged, to put it mildly.  Mark Schlereth, former Broncos player and current ESPN analyst, recounted how when watching Tebow play at training camp he actually wondered if Tebow may not in fact be left handed.  Tebow’s passes were that inaccurate.  If his name wasn’t Tebow, Schlereth speculated, he was watching a player who should have been cut.

Yet in a flash, with the simple writing of a massive check, Denver gets out of the death grip of Tebowmania.  While Tebow was here, the chances of a title were slim and the possibility of recruiting offensive free agents was non-existent.  The passion of his loyal fans made his replacement a challenge unless it was by someone truly great.  Manning fits that description, and Denver can turn the Tebow page.  As another ESPN analyst Merril Hoge commented, “the team should have paid [Manning] an extra $20 million just for that.”

Farewell Tebowmania, we knew thee way too well.  Later this week, we’ll get introduced to the new our new starting quarterback.  But Peyton Manning is just the cherry on top.  The real payoff was our escape from the prison of football lunacy.  Even if Manning does not bring another title with him to Denver, it won’t matter.  We’ve already won.

The Tebow Chasm

It is no secret that Tebow needs to improve his passing skills.  Therefore, it is not hard to assume that this is the main reason John Elway, Broncos executive and NFL passing legend, is less than enamored with the young quarterback.  But is there something more?  Is the underlying distaste more centered around Tebow’s approach towards life in general?

For example, last December during the height of Tebowmania, the Broncos had their largest challenge of the season, a match up against the Superbowl-bound New England Patriots.  Going into the game, hopes were never higher for Denver, and the contest was viewed as a real litmus test for post-season prospects.  The Broncos were humiliated and limped away with a nationally televised  41-23 beat down.

The things that separate professional athletes from the rest of us are not just centered on physical ability.  It is the relentless drive to prepare and compete and the unquenchable desire to win.  Most of us at some point will decide to try something different or to sleep in, but athletes who make it to the professional ranks will jump out of bed to do the same thing until the day their knees tell them to cut it out.  After a loss like the one described above, elite athletes have been known to be driven to do everything from smashing up the locker with a bat to staying up all night watching game film.  But when asked how his faith help him with the loss, Tebow gave the following response:

“God is still God. I still have a relationship with Christ, and a loss doesn’t change anything. Win or lose, everything is still the same. What matters is the girl I’m about to see, Kelly Faughnan. If I can inspire hope in someone, then it’s still a good day.”

Now while admirable without question, that is the last thing an elite competitor like John Elway expects to hear.  Elway wants to hear anger and frustration.  He wants to hear vows never to let it happen again.  That is what Elway would do, and quite frankly that is what just about every other elite athlete we have ever known would do.  But not Tebow.

And this is where the unique dichotomy of Tebow reveals itself.  In a world where work ethic and preparation are prized, Tebow is a leader.  In a world where passion and competitiveness are lifeblood, Tebow stands out.  In a world where leaving everything you have on the field is a pre-requisite, Tebow sets the bar.  But he leaves more than just his energy on the field.  As he steps away from the competition, he completely switches his thoughts to other endeavors.  One perspective is that his deep faith gives him a unique ability to live both worlds.  Another perspective, and one Elway may have, is that Tebow’s ability to “turn it off” means there are times when it is not “on”.  And that, Elway may conclude, precludes Tebow from joining in with the ranks of the elite athlete.

Last summer, while most young players were working on preparing for an upcoming season, Tebow went on a national tour to promote his new book.  It is easy to believe that his motivation was not money driven, but rather a sincere desire to get his message out.  It is also easy to believe that while he was traveling, he spent hours preparing for his job as quarterback.  But to have spent time doing anything other than preparing for football, especially for a player with so many opportunities for improvement, seems inconceivable to many.  After all, every minute spent away from football is a minute spent away from football, and to the elite athlete that is inexcusable.

The chasm between Elway and Tebow may be driven by more than just playing style.  It may be driven by attitudes towards life in general.  One view maintains the highest need is an unwavering obligation to a life of football, while the other view maintains the highest need is an unwavering obligation to life outside of football.  If that is the case, then no amount of training or coaching will lead them to work well together.  It is time for one of them to move on.

Return to Sender

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I maintain several email accounts.  There is the one I give to my friends, the one I give to the people I hate (have fun determining which one you have), and one I use for online shopping, etc.  The reason I maintain a separate account for shopping and other random online activities is to protect my main account from waves of SPAM or other unsolicited offers.  The mail system I use for my shopping account does a fairly good job at segregating the SPAM into a junk folder, but every so often I sift through the rubble to see if I missed anything that was actually meant for me.

Here is today’s review:

1)  Three messages from national, name-brand stores I have done business with whose mass emails have triggered the SPAM protocol.  As a career marketer, I have sympathy for these.  From experience I know a marketing manager, through no fault of his own, is being fired because the click-through rate on that last email campaign was 0.00001%.  Every marketer knows that a successful email campaigns yields at least 0.00002%.

2)  Four emails offering me a way to find a quick date or rapid “hook-up”.  These are SPAM defined.  I’m faithfully married, but even if I wasn’t, I’m at the age where an offer of a random hook-up on the same night I have Nuggets tickets just isn’t as interesting of an option as it once was.  In the off chance I decide to re-gift the tickets, I’m staying home to watch the game in HD anyway.  Even the most fundamental targeting strategy should have excluded me from those campaigns for at least half a dozen reasons.

3)  Two emails offering penile enlargement products.  These are either SPAM or incredibly well targeted campaigns.  There is a chance this vendor has really done some impressive homework on me, but unless my wife has been sharing way too much information in the phone surveys we get, I’m leaning towards SPAM.

4)  One email offering to fix the problems with my golf swing.  Like penile enlargement, this could go either way.  But as I have four year old triplets, the odds I’ll find the time to play golf any time soon are slim.  Years down the road,  I’ll probably open this one, and somewhere a marketer will yell in excitement that he “finally got the bastard”, and groundkeepers who spend too much of their budget on course repair will rejoice.

5)  One email asking me to help a person transfer several million dollars from some foreign country like Ghana.  All I need to do is provide my checking account number, my PIN number, my social security number, my home address, the name of my high school mascot, the city of my birth, the model of my first car, the name of my favorite pet, and my mother’s maiden name.  If I do that, half of some fortune no one will miss is magically mine.  This fraud strategy was first deployed less than two days after Al Gore invented the internet, and I can’t believe it’s still a money maker.  This is definitely SPAM.  I’m a writer, so I have no savings worth stealing.  In fact, people living in rural Sierra Leone should be sending money to me.

When I reflect in this, I have to note the irony that on some days I get as much humor out reading my SPAM than I do from reading my actual email.  Despite its questionable content, I’ll still peruse it on a semi-regular basis just for the laugh.  But one of these days,  I’ll take some of those junk emails up on their offers and become the next Tiger Woods in more way than one.

Manning to Denver or The Kitten Gets It!

Peyton Manning is a free agent, and who knows where he wants to work next.  But the Broncos need to do whatever it takes to get him to Denver.  Kidnap his pets (joking), offer him ownership of the team (half joking), give him the Hope Diamond or the means by which to procure it himself (totally not joking), whatever.   If the Denver Broncos don’t offer everything they possibly can in pursuit of Manning, I will be mightily pissed off.  There I said it.

The Broncos are in a dark place.  Their current quarterback is good at everything except passing, which as a fan makes you kind of embarrassed to think of it that way.  Yet, despite this glaring gap in their repertoire, they made it to the second round of the playoffs and can’t expect to draft a quality passing prospect until at least 2013.  One option would be to trade away every player and pick of value that they have to move up in the draft and grab somebody worthwhile.  Another more elegant and simpler strategy, though, would be to write a big fat check to Peyton Manning and draft for defense.

I’m sure Tim Tebow is a nice enough guy, and his penchant for timely playmaking is fantastic.  But the league through its rule changes and penalty guidelines is moving every day towards rewarding the pocket passer.  Why would you reinvent your entire team in the hopes of catching fire with a running quarterback when you can find success much more easily with a passing game?  To ignore the advantages of past-first talent means leaving yards, points and, more importantly, wins on the table.

The Manning solution is almost too easy.  He’s a free agent, so you don’t need to give up any personnel or picks to get him.  All you need to do is write a gigantic check that isn’t even our money (it’s team owner Pat Bowlen’s money).  Even if he is here for only two or three years, you get your hands on one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.  Manning has already said that he will accept an incentive laden contract, so the team might be able to get out after a couple of years if things aren’t working as planned.  Of course, this assumes that Manning is healthy and fully recovered from his recent spate of surgeries.

The availability of an elite quarterback almost never happens, and in this case is the result of a perfect storm.  Manning was injured the same year his $28 million roster bonus came due.  Meanwhile, the team stunk so much without Manning that they earned the right to draft the best quarterback prospect since John Elway.  From the Colt’s perspective, all they have to do is release Manning, and they save millions of dollars while they waltz into another era with an elite quarterback.  Meanwhile, Manning ironically loses his job because his team was so bad without him playing on it.

However it happened, Manning is available, and there is still some significant tread left on his tires.  Signing him would immediately get the Broncos out of the pickle they find themselves in and launch them into the realm of title contenders.  Manning can play for 2-4 more years, while his back up learns the finer points of running a pro-style, passing offense.  When it comes time for Manning to finally retire, hopefully Denver will have seen another championship and can comfortably hand the reigns over to the heir apparent, Adam Weber.  That dude can throw.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

I watched an NBA game last night, and yet again the contest was plagued by unbelievably inconsistent officiating.  It seems every game I’ve watched lately has a bad call, which will then, with uncanny predictability, be followed by an equally bad “make up” call.  Maybe the refs are trained to offset miscues, but even a 5 year old knows that two wrongs do not make a right.  The league, and by that I mean The Dictator (d/b/a David Stern), needs to put some more effort behind this problem.

I get that the game moves at incredible speed, but if to err is human, NBA refs are proving themselves to be super human.  Not only is there gross inconsistency when fouls are called, but there also seems to be certain players who are at less risk of being penalized.  With respect to the latter, stars rule the NBA.  All of them have guaranteed contracts, meaning that short of murdering their team’s payroll administrator, the checks will keep coming.  It’s not unheard of for a star to actually get his own coach fired, and in reality, if they do murder their payroll administrator, it’s more likely that their next check will simply be delayed pending the hiring of a new administrator, subject to that star’s approval.  There are not a lot of other jobs where that can happen.  But it’s the way the league works, and it won’t be changing soon.  And since it is so well known, I’m kind of OK with it.  If everyone knows that Kobe Bryant will get a shooting foul, even if he is on the bench or a defendant in court at the time, then opponents can adjust accordingly.  The issue that is driving me nuts, though, is the seemingly random calls that occur on a nightly basis.

I’ll pose the following scenario to you.  A blazing fast power forward drives into the lane, and an equally fast member of the defense slides over to deny easy access to the basket.  At some point, the two players may bump into each other.  Two questions come up: 1) Is there a foul?,  and 2) if there is a foul, who is it on?  The answer to question #1 is that it’s usually a defensive foul, unless the defender is a star or the offensive player falls into the “decidedly not a star” bucket.

But if both players are of equal star value, the official’s thoughts seems to play out like this. “I heard a whistle…why is everyone looking at me…oh, that was my whistle?…crap…what happened…that guy bumped into that other guy…I think…damn, it happened so fast…sure neither of them is a star?…no?… damn…ok, remember to breathe….this is easy….you’ve done it hundreds of times…wow, that girl is cute; is she looking at me?…stop, focus…do I need to make up for a recent bad call?…no…she looked at me again…wait, everyone is looking at me…did I turn the hallway lights off?…mmmmm, pork chops….eeny, meeny, miny, moe…it’s a charge.”  And then with great panache and dramatic flair, the ref signals the foul.  All of that happens in less than a second, so I suppose there is superhuman processing in there somewhere.

As a proponent of fair play, losing a contest due to poor officiating is only slightly more annoying than winning a contest for the exact same reason.  Other sports seem to have cracked this nut, either through the judicious use of instant replay or the aggressive evaluation and training of officials.  However they go at it, the NBA needs to do something soon.  One of the other common complaints with the NBA is in reference to the ferocity at which players argue with referees about foul calls.  But in light of the inconsistency, I understand their frustration.  More to the point, I share it.

Dream Job

Not to rub this in anyone’s face, but I’m really starting to come to the realization that regular jobs leave a lot to be desired.  For the first time in my life I have a job where I don’t travel when I don’t want to, I don’t commute unless I choose to, and I don’t set my alarm unless I feel like it.  I can fearlessly tell my boss (me) he’s being an idiot, and with only one person to deal with (me), the corporate politics are kept to a minimum.  I work every day, but when someone needs to pick up a child at school who has decided to shove corn up her nose, I can shut it down and race to the rescue (true story).

Throughout my career, I’ve been laid off, walked out, severed, retitled, reassigned, and restructured, but in this new job I feel pretty safe.  You might argue that is because it would be hard for me to replace me without tipping myself off and thus leading me to jump angrily to a competitor, or you could point out that it’s because I’m sleeping with my boss (also me).  Either way, I know I’m my best employee, and my co-workers (myself and I) love working with me and think I’m hilarious.  Conversely, I’m harsher with my own performance reviews than any boss I’ve ever had, and I can’t fool myself into thinking I’m sick so I can go ski.

Sure, there is a downside.  Regular jobs come with little perks like free coffee, Hawaiian shirt day, desktop computer support and a salary.  To be more clear, unless you think you can live indefinitely off of hay and ice water, I would recommend you think twice about becoming a writer.  But then again, hay and ice water are both low carb and keep you very regular, so even that has a silver lining.

The biggest benefit in having a flexible schedule, though, is in the ability to enjoy life.  When I had a real job and my kids were slow to finish dinner, I found myself getting frustrated that my return to email was being delayed.  I was there but not present.  Now, I can take that extra time to make sure everyone knows what happens when they “pull my finger”.  When some personal emergency does come up, like a sick child or a broken water heater, my wife and I no longer have to play a rousing game of “Who’s Day Looks Less Painful to Cancel”.  Instead of neurotically checking my phone for some work-related fire drill, I neurotically check my phone to see if anyone else has been fired for inadvertently insulting fans of Jeremy Lin.  I still set deadlines, and when I fall behind, I work late into the night or early morning just like I always have.  But I forego the night of sleep because I want to, not because I have to.  Even vacations are more relaxing; I never have to work, although I still do, and I don’t have a mountain of email waiting for me when I return.

In short, I’m having a blast. But this isn’t for everyone.  If you need structure or Hawaiian shirt day, look elsewhere.  But if you have a passion you need to pursue, an absurdly supportive spouse and an accommodating financial situation, I’d recommend giving this a shot for a while.  You’ll be surprised at what you find.