Over the past few weeks I have received emails from all the presidents of my alma maters regarding the respective university’s financial situation in this rapidly deteriorating economy. The emails all had the exact same outline. The serious tone was set right away. Followed by a reassurance of “don’t worry, the university has a good handle on the situation”. That the financial trustees have invested wisely and haven’t done as badly as most other colleges. Then by another serious tone that the university endowment will inevitably be smaller at the end of the year, and to what extent it is not clear yet.
However, all universities have some envy with Harvard University’s financial position. Check out the endowment figures on Wikipedia. They have the largest endowment in the world, by far. In 2007 they had a $34.635 billion endowment, which completely dwarfs the second largest endowment, Yale University, $22.53 billion. Even a similar university like Princeton University has only an endowment of $15.787 billion (although Princeton does have the highest endowment per student figure, whereas, Harvard only ranks 5th in this category). The financial manager of Harvard’s endowment has a highly regarded position and has more responsibilities than most large investment firms.
I came across an article on Slate yesterday regarding the impact of the economy on Harvard’s endowment in 2008. Although it’s still unclear, and since Harvard is a private institution does not have to abide by the SEC regulations for the public disclosure of financial statements, there are many clues to its performance this year. In simple terms, it’s not looking good. But the question to ask is, why? With an endowment so large, so powerful and so stable, wouldn’t it actually be pretty easy to manage? Simply invest in the most stable and long-term entities out there? Why risk the entire university on risky investments? This seems partly true in the case with Harvard. As more comes out, it will be interesting to see what the final endowment figure is for Harvard (and for all other prestigious universities, for that matter) at the end of 2008.
UPDATE 2008.12.03 – Preliminary figures released today showed that Harvard’s endowment lost $8 billion in the four months since the end of the last fiscal year (June 30)!! That’s a 22% drop from it’s $36.9 billion figure. To make matters worse, they are predicting a 30% drop for fiscal year 2009. Wow… An endowment should not drop that precipitously; too many risky investments.
I don’t know why, but one of my TV guilty pleasures is the Real World / Road Rules Challenges. I like how the guys get so into it, and the girls are so catty.
TOP 5 COMPETITORS
1. Timmy – He just doesn’t fit in the Challenges. He seems like an adult compared to the other guys. Says and does some pretty funny stuff sometimes though. But just an all-around nice guy that everyone respects.
2. Derrick – Derrick is the ultimate competitor and the fact that he is smaller than most of the guys makes him easy to root for. He never gives up and always competes to the limit. He can also show a sweet side when he and Diem were partners in the Fresh Meat episode. Derrick is always near or at the final challenge.
3. Kenny – OK, all he cares about is his looks and sometimes he’s an ass, but he has the funniest sound bites ever, and he makes it to the final challenges a lot.
4. Paula – Helping her own teammate but “pseudo-enemy” Susie to get the lifeshield in Inferno 3 knowing that Susie would probably put Paula into the final female Inferno? That’s ultimate team player. Plus, she’s an amazing athlete.
5. Alton – He has bad challenges sometimes (Giraffalo), but his climbing and build is too amazing. Overall a nice guy too.
Honorable Mention – Too bad Mike “The Miz” left to do wrestling. He was a fun guy to watch and usually a very good competitor. However, his last challenge was pretty bad for him. I think he had other things on his mind.
TOP 5 BAD COMPETITORS
1. CT – Way too high on himself and has absolutely no self-control. When he punched Davis for no reason before the season even started in Inferno 3, it just showed what a hooligan he is. His only nice guy moments were when he was smitten with Diem in the Duel.
2. Wes – Definitely knows how to play the game and is one of the ultimate competitors. However, a major sexist and didn’t get along with many others. Still amazed at how long him and Johana were together.
3. Beth – I won’t even waste space talking about her.
4. Brad – A CT wannabe. Calm down dude.
5. Susie/Cara – Cara not competing her hardest because she is looking out for her friend Susie and herself instead of the team? Susie picking Paula, the ultimate competitor, to go into the final Inferno instead of her worse competitor friend, Cara?
Baseball is not a sport built for parity. It is not like the NFL where parity in a 16-game season promotes excitement and competition. It’s not like the NFL where each team has a strong base of hardcore fans and where most fans are fans of watching football as a sport. Football is more exciting to watch than baseball. The biggest complaint from casual sports fans about watching baseball is that it’s boring. This is apparent when we look at the popularity of college football versus that of college baseball or even the MLB minor leagues. Baseball’s lengthy 162-game season and similarly lengthy best-of five or seven game playoffs series are not conducive to small market teams like the Tampa Rays and Florida Marlins capturing the attention and excitement of casual fans around the country.
Penalty in football - horse-collar tackle
The drama of baseball takes too long to unfold in this day and age of “keep me interested right now” mentality. Baseball is about rivalries and story lines and history. It is about statistics and tradition. It can be agonizingly slow and frustrating. It’s not like football where all it takes is three hours to resolve the pent up competitive juices. Words you hear about in football are war, in the trenches, cold, frozen tundra, swirling winds, etc etc. Penalties include grabbing the facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and horse-collar tackles. Imagine if any of those words are ever used near baseball.Baseball is too slow for this new era of extreme sports. This is why mixed martial arts is gaining popularity over its more traditional and more boring sport, boxing. Since when is boxing considered boring? This is why a sport like soccer continues to have difficulty gaining popularity in America. The sport takes too long to achieve satisfaction. Even a violent sport like hockey has had to transform itself after a period of low scoring games due to the NJ Devils’ inspired zone trap defense. The game now requires faster, younger athletes with more room to show their speed and skills. It was a matter of survival for the NHL, and baseball might be headed that way as well.
MLB Commish - Bud Selig
To make matters worse, two factors have had very negative effects on baseball. The steroid era has pushed baseball into a precipitice decline in popularity. The skepticism surrounding the genuity of sacred baseball records being broken during the steroid era has removed two of the main attractions I mentioned earlier, history and statistics. It has removed the excitement of slow journeys toward hallowed records and the respect given to such players. Remember the awe and respect of Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak or when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Of course, the second record is now seen with skepticism and is considered one of the defining moments of the steroid era. The fact that players have seemed unwilling to address the problem of the past ten years is disturbing. The feeling that the players rather protect their cheating teammates than the integrity of the sport leaves many traditional baseball fans disgusted. The second factor is directly related to the steroid era. Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has been a complete travesty to baseball. Although he is good for the owners, fans see him as boring, slow, biased and ineffective. He continues to brush over the steroid era and had to be fully pushed by even Congress before taking action. His decision to leave the All-Star Game a tie was horrible. And although his decision to add interleague play initially seemed a huge success, it has proven to be a hassle and distraction to fans. He seems unwilling to confront the problems of baseball and his biased views are shown in a somewhat condescending tone when pushed by the media or fans.
So what is baseball to do? For one thing, it needs a new commissioner. One that is younger and understands that baseball requires changes that appeal to younger fans but keeps the traditionalists happy. One that realizes that the steroid era can potentially destroy baseball forever unless a level of happiness is reached among all groups involved, including but not limited to owners, players, former players, Congress, traditionalists and new generation of fans. However, there are things about baseball that are at the roots of its tradition and changing them would prove good and bad. The Rays-Phillies World Series was a disaster. Television ratings have never been lower. However, baseball cannot change the playoffs to one game takes all because the lengthy journey of 162 games culminating in one 9-inning game seems unfair. Although why not? I bet if the World Series was one game, more people would definitely tune in to see who wins. If I’m a Yankees fan, why would I tune in to a best of seven between the Rays and Phillies? Especially when football is on or I can watch DVDs or do something else. However, if it was a 3 hour event, like the Super Bowl, I’d be willing to watch it and even make a social event out of it. Baseball has to be willing to face the problem of why it is declining in popularity. It has to be open to innovation and the possibility of changing tradition for the better of the sport. It has to also lean on the teams that make it a popular sport, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals. Just like the NBA, which always does much better when popular teams like the Knicks and Celtics do well. With the Knicks in a multi-year doom and gloom, NBA has lost a lot of its luster.
Kids and video games
However, I believe it will be difficult for baseball to regain its name as America’s pastime. It’s a sport that has lost its appeal, most likely for good. Children have more interest playing football, basketball and even soccer than baseball. Inner city kids almost exclusively play basketball now. Nowhere is stickball or other variants of baseball being played in city streets and playgrounds. Additionally, there are too many other things to keep kids occupied nowadays. Video games, internet and hi-def television are far more intriguing options than watching baseball or even rounding up atleast 10 of his or her friends to play a game.
There should be no ties in football. Although it has only happened 17 times since the 1974 Overtime Period Rule, when it does happen, there’s a feeling of, “Why did I waste the past 3 hours watching or playing this game!” Imagine paying over $100+ to watch a tie? The NHL has removed ties as a possible outcome and the shootout period is now one of the most exciting sports events. The NFL needs to do something similar and at least get rid of ties. PLEASE!!!
-Concerned fans and oblivious football players (like Donovan McNabb)
That was a very dominating win the New York Giants had over the Baltimore Ravens today. It is apparent that all this talk about the Giants having the most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL doesn’t matter to them. All the talk about the Giants having the easiest schedule in the first half and not justifying the high power ranking is out the window. The Giants have beaten the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys and Pittsburgh the past four weeks. Their three-headed rushing attack continues to improve every week as they work Bradshaw more into the mix. They have gained 207, 219 and 200 the past three games. Overall, they have had five 200+ rushing games, and seven 150+ rushing games in the 10 games. Bradshaw was four yards shy today of reaching 100, which would have given each of the three running backs at least one 100+ yard game.
What makes the Giants RBs so dangerous is that none of them go down easily. Jacobs is famously known for his monster truck style of running. That run he had from around the 20 yard line to the 1 yard line were no one was able to tackle him was unbelievable. He also has the speed to run to the outside and push it up the sidelines. I still can’t believe Jacobs outweighs Ray Lewis, the formidable linebacker. However, Bradshaw seems to be the most difficult to tackle. The 77-yard scamper he showed today should have been a 3 yard gain, but the guy just knows how to break tackles. His only penchant has been fumbling, and that is partly due to his hard-to-bring-down style of rushing. If the Giants keep this up, all three RBs will be fresh and healthy come playoff time. They will pose a tremendous problem for defenses. After being pummeled by Jacobs and Ward in the first three quarters, the Giants bring in the fresh legs of shifty Bradshaw in the fourth. The result, a tired and beat-up defense just wants the game to end. Did you see the Raven’s Washington’s face and tiredness after desperately tackling Bradshaw at the end of that 77-yard run?
Manning has yet to pass for over 300 yards and the Giants have had only two 100+ yard receiving games, but does it really matter? The key for Manning now is to manage the clock, protect the ball, minimize interceptions and continue his signature third down passes and fourth quarter drives, if even necessary.
At this point, the Giants are definitely the best team in the NFL. They are deep on offense and defense. They are a team that is focused and has the ultimate team first mentality. No one has any big egos. Jacobs has no problem sharing carries with Ward or Bradshaw, since he sees it as helping the length of his career. Bradshaw also has no problem not getting more carries and being the fourth quarter reliever. If the only problem they have is a clock-less Plaxico, that’s okay for now. As bad as Plaxico has been, he is not like Tiki and his big mouth. Burress even went so far as to pseudo-apologize on FOX NFL. It would be nice to see Burress have a big game one of these days to show that the Giants can still pass.
It’ll be sad come offseason time because some key players, including Jacobs and Ward, will be free agents and it would be difficult for the Giants to keep all of them. If the Giants repeat as Super Bowl champions, forget it. There’s going to be a swarm of money thrown at Giants free agents. And that’ll be a good-bye to the amazing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as well.
Don’t you hate it when you read a financial headline, “GE shares tumble…” only to find that the “tumble” refers to a 1.1% or $0.60 drop. Today I read a headline, “Retail sales plunge record xxxx% in October.” Well, the xxxx refers to 2.8%. Now in terms of a pure drop in sales, 2.8% does translate to millions and millions of dollars. However, plunge used in the sentence refers to the percentage, and 2.8% is hardly a plunge. That’s equivalent to getting a 97.2% on an exam after getting 100% the last time. Hardly a plunge in my book. A better verb should have been fall or drop. The media needs to save those strong verbs for when they actually do happen. What happens if retail sales drop 5%? What verb is slightly stronger than plunge? What about 15%? Or 25% Plunge appears more appropriate for those higher percentages than 2.8%.
The media plays too influential of a role in society. They are very biased and definitely use strongly emotional words to draw undue fear and anxiety to readers. They shape the views we have of the present and future. Journalism, especially in this internet digital age is no longer checked and balanced like the past. It used to be a craft and even an art. An honor to report injustice in the world and document history. Just over ten years ago, the main sources of news were either newspapers/magazines or the three nightly news programs and CNN on cable television. Now, media is always there on the computer and even more on cable channels. The rush to be the first to report the news and the pressure to grab the reader’s attention have definitely made the media more biased than ever.
The public needs to hold the media accountable and responsible for unjustifiablely emotional news.
George Stephanopoulos asked Arnold Schwarzenegger what he thought if Barack Obama selected Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. After saying it would be a great move, Arnold goes on to talk about how Obama has to make sure that he and Clinton can work well together. This is what he said,
“And also that you maybe want to learn from that person and admire that person so much that you want to pick up some pointers and learn from that person, so that they together can go out and do this.”
Hehehe… Arnold’s so cool. Can’t believe he’s a freaking politician. When WILL he be back?
1. He won twenty games (20-9) for the first time in his career. Before 2008, he was a borderline Hall of Famer. With the twenty game season, he is still borderline, but definitely much stronger. Another season would help his chances, even if he doesn’t win 20 again.
2. His career record is 270-153. It’s an excellent win-loss ratio, but the 300-win magic number would make him a shoe-win to the HOF, especially with his new 20-win season. Why stop when so close? It’s definitely possible for him to play two more years and average 15 wins a season.
3. He reinvented himself in 2008. He went from a power control pitcher to a finesse control pitcher along the molds of Jamie Moyer. Mussina is 39, Moyer is 45. Moyer’s record the past six years? 82-60. Moyer’s record the past four years? 54-40. I think Mussina is a better pitcher than Moyer and can be better in that age range also. Imagine if Mussina added 82-60 or even 54-40 to his current record? That’s 352-213. A definite sure fire invitation to the HOF.
4. The new Yankee Stadium opens up in 2009. It’s pretty exciting to want to be a part of that. Andy Pettitte has already voiced his desire to rejoin the team to be a part of that.
5. The Steinbrenners’ are set on fielding the most expensive and best team on the field in the inaugural season. If the Yankees add CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett to Chieng-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and hopefully Andy Pettitte, that’s as dominant as a team can get. Why wouldn’t Mussina want a piece of that action? There would be no pressure on him to be the team ace or even in the top 4 pitchers. Enjoy the next season or two.
Yankees World Series Championships
5. One thing still missing in Mussina’s career? A World Series ring. He joined the Yankees in 2001, the year after the Yankees last championship. Next year seems like it has the potential for the Yankees to get back to championship ways if personnel moves go according to plan. Additionally, it seems unlikely that Tampa repeats next year. And Boston is on the decline in several key positions.
6. Mussina is the Yankees player representative. The current CBA expires in 2011, but that means discussions for the a new deal begin in 2010, and maybe earlier. Doesn’t Mussina want to make some final influences before he leaves the game to the next generation?
7. A veteran presence like Mussina and Pettitte for the young pitchers on the Yankees, like Wang, Philip Hughes, Joba and others can be very rewarding for a veteran. It’s like a power trip.
8. Money, money, money. Yes, Mussina already has a lot of it, but you can never have too much, especially when you are lucky enough to play a child’s game as a career. With the Yankees spending like crazy for the inaugural seasons in the new stadium, Mussina would get a generous 1-year, plus another year option on performance clauses. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you have to play baseball to get it. Mussina plays baseball. Get it.
Money doesn't grow on trees
9. Mussina is already old, in terms of pitching time lines. It’s not like if he retires he’s making a statement by going out on top. He might regret retiring a couple years early when he looks back on his life. As he gets older, he starts looking at his legacy and if he doesn’t make the HOF, he might regret not getting the 300 wins.
10. One other key statistical milestone is within range in the next year or two. Mussina has 2813 strikeouts. He had 150 this year. Getting 187 is possible next year, but most likely would require a second season. A 3000 strikeout career definitely helps his HOF chances.
And a bonus reason for him to keep playing? The Yankee fans want him too.
There are some familiar leaders, such as Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss. Don’t mix up Calvin Johnson of Detroit with Chad Johnson, aka Ocho Cinco. So where do Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, and Plaxico Burress rank in yardage??
None of the four have lost playing time due to injury. Although Burress was suspended a game and a quarter, as per diva rules. Of the 36 games played by all four of them, they have combined for only four 100+ yard games (Moss 3, Burress 1)!! It’s easy to blame their lack of production on injuries to their quarterback. Brady is injured for the entire season, and both Romo and Palmer have been injured for a majority of the time. However, Moss has had three 100+ games with QB Matt Cassel, so it’s not just due to the Brady effect. Burress’ lack of production with a healthy Eli Manning definitely has to do with his diva distractions resulting from being suspended twice. Additionally, when you look at some of the top receivers now, they are getting their yards even from bo-bo and/or inexperienced QBs. Johnson from Matt Schaub in Houston, Jennings from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, White from upstart Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Johnson from pathetic QBs in Detroit.
Their touchdown numbers are still respectable (they average 4.5 while the top 10 yardage receivers average 4.6). However, when you start looking at average yards per catch (YPC), the four divas’ performance starts to degrade. The four average 12.3 YPC while the top 10 average 15.4 YPC. Then, when you look at their total average receptions, 37.5, compared to the top 10’s 49.8 you start getting a better picture of what’s going on. That translates to an average of 4.16 receptions per diva per game while the top 10 receivers are averaging 5.08 receptions per game.
All four divas are playing far below their career performances. Moss’ four TDs are on pace to rank this year with his trouble years in Oakland (3 and eight) and that crazy year in Minnesota (7). His three fumbles so far are already the most he’s had in any season. He has only averaged 0.7 fumbles per season in his career. This shows a lack of concentration and motivation on Moss’ part. To give a little credit to Moss, he has remained quiet this year and has been a team member, although he has been known to shut down and be quiet at times.
T.O. on the other hand has continued to complain and even cried once about his close bond with his ‘boy’ Tony Romo. Today he made another selfish comment that this year’s Cowboys should follow the same blueprint as last year’s, an obvious jab that he should get the ball more often. Someone should remind him with some videos of how many balls he has dropped or how many times balls thrown his way have been defended.
Burress height advantage
The main troublemaker this year has been Plaxico Burress, having been suspended twice for lack of time management. At least, he doesn’t show the frustration towards Eli anymore when passes are badly thrown to him or aren’t thrown to him at all. Burress has yet to have a strong game since the first week of the season when he had 10 receptions of 133 yards. Burress at least understands the importance he plays in drawing double teams and does a respectable job blocking even in his off games. However, he knows if he steps too far out of bounds, the Super Bowl champs will make him a pariah.
Chad Johnson? Ever since his pre-season news of changing his name to Ocho-Cinco, there has been no national news about him. His highest yardage game so far has been 57. His 9.4 YPC is far below his career 15.0 YPC. He has had only one 20+ yard reception this year!! Compared with 27 last year. Ocho-Cinco has been reduced to Nacho-Cero.
These four receivers need to realize they need their QBs just as much as their God-given talent. Because of their selfish attitudes, they tend to give up and play non-chalantly when QBs they don’t respect take over. Imagine other position players doing that? Cornerbacks? Offensive linemen? Taking games off for cornerbacks and offensive linemen would prove detrimental to a team’s chances of winning that game. So why should wide receivers, especially the best ones, do that at times? The mind of the diva wide receiver.
The crisis from the 2000 presidential election continued to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the voting public during the 2004 election and even the recently removed 2008 presidential election. To the outsider, the hanging chads and the recount after recount in Florida gave the impression that every person’s vote must count. However, everyone knew that it was one of those rare instances in American presidential politics that a single vote could actually make such a dramatic a difference. A single vote that could potentially give Florida’s electoral college votes to the winning candidate, and thus the presidency. When Florida and the presidency finally went to candidate George Bush, people were at least somewhat happy that the judicial and election systems of America had held its ground.
However, another interesting statistic left the Al Gore camp more perturbed. Candidate Gore had won the popular vote over George Bush. That means more people in the country had voted for Gore over Bush. But due to the electoral college system, Bush won the presidency. Mathematically speaking, each vote cast for Gore was actually worth less than one vote. Or, each vote cast for Bush was worth more than each vote cast for Gore. “This doesn’t seem fair”, the Gore supporters argued. Bush supporters responded, “Well, that’s the system for hundreds of years and it’s always worked. Stop complaining.”
Why did the founding fathers use an electoral college instead of a popular vote to determine the winner of the presidential election? In short, the founding fathers were skeptical of the will of the people or their ability to intellectually vote for the candidate of their choice. By inserting a safeguard, the electoral college, the founding fathers believed that if by that rare chance the will of the people was either misguided or that some populated region in America dominated the popular vote, the safeguard would protect American democracy.
Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska
Which leads me to why I think the electoral college, although in many cases a frustration and hints at unfairness, it is a necessary safeguard. Let’s look at one Senate race this year that could have used something like an electoral college. The Alaska Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Stevens and Democratic challenger Mark Begich.Ted Stevens was convicted of seven counts of making false statements and taking bribes worth more than $250,000 to make renovations on his personal home. The evidence was overwhelming. After the announced conviction, bipartisan calls for Stevens removal were prominent, reaching up to federal level, including John McCain and Barack Obama. Even the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin said at the time that he had broken his trust with the people and she planned to ask him to step aside. However, the news of the corruption did not affect Stevens attempt for an eighth term in the Senate as he won the Senate elections in November! This is a man who epitomizes the corruption in government and the Alaskan people still voted for him!!! He won by a 1.43% margin (roughly 3200 votes) over Begich. To make it more interesting, Sarah Palin switched her tone and declared that the will of the people had spoken and she would not ask him to step aside. In other words, she was okay with supporting the first felon elected to the US Senate in history!! What about the 46.61% of the people? Is the 48.04% that voted for Stevens the “will of the people.” It is not even a majority. However, the question that really needs answering is why did the people still vote for Ted Stevens? Had they no shame that they were electing a felon to the US Senate for the first time ever?
The corruption scandals associated with Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young. The inexperience and ethical issues of Sarah Palin. The hilarious attempt of Mike Gravel to win the Democratic primary. The Bridge to Nowhere. And finally, the “will of the people” voting for convicted felon, Stevens. What is going on in Alaska?? I just think the people there live their own merry little lives and are disconnected with reality or don’t care for it. If the presidential election was ran the same way Alaska is, this country would be in big trouble. Are you telling me that if McCain or Obama was convicted as a felon, that they would still win the general election?
This example clearly demonstrates that the will of the people or the ability of the public to vote with due diligence and conscience is not always dependable. The electoral college works for an overwhelming majority of the time. It is only at times of a close race that it has the potential to rear its ugly head. However, if a race is that close anyways, theoretically it won’t really matter who wins since there is no definitive will of the people.
In the case of Ted Stevens and Alaska, I wish the founding fathers put the electoral college into Senate races as well. But of course they wanted to separate representation at the federal and state elections. Then again, I don’t know if I would trust the electoral college in Alaska either.