Friday, February 27, 2009

Big Money, Big Sports

Who is the highest paid state-employee of your state: The Governor? The President of the state University? The guy who decides what the slogan should be for the license plate? If you live in Connecticut, among other places, it's an athletic coach. Jim Calhoun, men's basketball coach for the University of Connecticut is paid more than any state employee in Connecticut - –$1.6 million a year.

At a recent press conference, Coach Calhoun was not particularly gracious about his salary. A reporter, Ken Krayeske started to ask Calhoun a question: "Coach, considering that you're the highest paid state employee, and there's a two billion dollar budget deficit, do you think..." "Not a dime back," Calhoun responded, before the reporter even finished his question. The coach went on, "I'd like to be able to retire someday. I'm getting tired."

Did the reporter have a valid point? Should public universities be paying that much of taxpayers' money to coaches? Should a school pay one coach the same amount that it could pay ten or twenty professors? In these tough economic times, should more money be available for things like scholarships instead of coaches' salaries?

It's not just the coaches of public colleges who earn huge salaries. Pete Carroll, USC's football coach, is the highest compensated employee among all of those employed by private universities in the United States. He earns in the neighborhood of $4.4 million a year. That's a pretty nice neighborhood.

Coach Carroll is not the only private college coach up there in the financial stratosphere. There are several coaches who earn about four times as much as the presidents of their schools. How would you like to make four times as much as your boss?

Of course, there is a difference between how public and private universities should be viewed. A private university is like a private business. Unless we're bailing out that business financially, they have a right to spend that money any way they want, even if it's paying some guy who wears a bad sports jacket and yells at kids all day.

The traditional rationalization for paying coaches so much is that athletic teams can bring huge amounts of money to schools. Connecticut's men's and women's basketball teams make about $12 million a year for the school. Successful teams also bring prestige to a college. Some young kids dream of going to college where their favorite team plays. And when those kids do go there, most of them will pay tuition. All of this probably explains why the Athletic Department at most universities has a beautiful multi-million dollar facility while a musty closet serves as the offices for the Department of Conversational Lithuanian.

But even if some schools make big bucks by paying out big bucks for their coaches, are those salaries a good idea, especially in these difficult times? Are they the moral equivalent of those auto execs taking their private planes to Washington? Is there any way the public isn't going to see those salaries as obscene these days?

Actually, there is another way to look at paying them so much. If you think of sports as entertainment, maybe people need this kind of diversion more than ever in these awful economic times. When was the era of the wonderful "screwball" movie comedies? It was in the 30s, during the Great Depression. People apparently needed something to help them stop thinking about how empty their pockets were. Isn't it possible that when a person scream his lungs out to root for his, that helps him forget momentarily that tomorrow he has to spend the day looking for a job yet again?

So maybe we need diversions like football and basketball these days. So I guess it shouldn't be so startling that a football coach is the highest paid private college employee in the land. What is startling is the guy who's Number Two. He's a dermatologist. Columbia University's David N. Silvers, professor of dermatology, earns about $4.3 million a year.

I guess this somehow must make economic sense to those who run Columbia. Maybe there are millions of boys and girls who have posters of famous skin doctors on their walls. Just as the movie character Rudy dreamt of going to and playing for Notre Dame his whole life, there must be kids who dream of going to Columbia because of Dr. Silvers. And someday those kids will be tuition-paying students. Far fetched? Maybe not. Let's face it, what is more important to college age kids than dermatology?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Concerned Writer Saves World

Almost everybody loves gossip. That's why it must be hard for those people who usually buy celebrity gossip magazines and newspapers to stop buying them. But that's exactly what's going on. In these difficult economic times, people are not buying these publications like they used to. Sales are down as people obviously have determined that this is an area where they can cut back. You know the kind of publications I'm talking about. You can find them at the drug store or the supermarket right next to the other "impulse" items like gum, condoms, and Pez. Using sensational headlines, they tell the world about alien abductions, hairstyles that are scientifically proven to attract the opposite sex, and who the 20 fattest stars are. In other words, these are publications that have obviously given some people a much fuller life.

I worry about these former readers having to go on without reading the latest gossip about which teenage star escaped from rehab to be with her boyfriend who is actually the reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse. So, as a public service, I decided to publish here the kind of stories that their favorite publications will probably be publishing for the rest of this year.



Singer, entertainer, exhibitionist Madonna posed nude for a new book of photography to show how good a woman can look at her age.


Nadya Suleman said today that she just wants to be left alone with her children. The last thing she wants is publicity. This announcement was made by her new publicist.


A fiery round ball has mysteriously appeared in the sky above a California town. Randall Brett Jones, of Johnson City, California, says, "The whole town is baffled by this thing. It appears first thing in the morning and stays in the sky until night."



The first lady, Michelle Obama, shocked the nation yesterday when she appeared in public with a new hairstyle.


Singer, entertainer, exhibitionist Madonna posed nude for another new book of photography to show how good a woman can look at her age.




Nadya Suleman gave a clue as to who the sperm donor for her fourteen children is. In an exclusive interview with this publication, she said, "His first name starts with a 'B.'"

FALL 2009


Brad Pitt denies that he is the sperm donor for Nadya Suleman's children. Angelina Jolie told the press she is standing by her man. Jilted Jennifer Anniston commented, "It wouldn't be the first time he did something behind my back."


An embarrassed Martha Stewart apologized to her fans today. "This is the worst thing that I have ever done, and I am so ashamed. I thought I had pre-heated the oven at 350, but I did it at 325." As a result of this transgression, most of Ms.Stewart's sponsors have dropped her.


Singer, entertainer, exhibitionist Madonna posed nude for yet another new book of photography to show how good a woman can look at her age.



Celebrity celebrity, Paris Hilton, was shocked yesterday when someone informed her that the capital of France has the same name that she has. She responded, "You mean there's a city called, Hilton, France?"


Madonna held a press conference today to say that after doing some Kabbalah studying, she realizes that posing naked was a shameful exploitation of sex and she won't do it again. She attended the press conference in the nude.


When rumors surfaced the other day that Bill Clinton may be the sperm donor for the Octo-mom because his first name begins with a "B," he denied it adamantly. Wagging his finger, he looked right into the TV camera and said, "I did not have sexual relations with myself for that woman, Ms.

There. That should hold you readers of rumors for the rest of the year. And maybe things will be better in 2010, and you'll be able to go back to buying the real thing. I think it will be a better year. You see, this six-year-old Nostradamus who has a birthmark on his back that looks like Oklahoma told me,... oh, never mind. You'll probably read about it yourself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Turn Off TV News

Why should politicians be the only ones with stimulus plans? I happen to have a stimulus plan of my own. It would stimulate good moods and help rid of us of bad feelings and depression. It's very simple: I'm calling for this February 22nd to be National Turn Off TV News Day.

A recent University of Pittsburgh-Harvard Medical School study concluded that adolescents who watch too much TV have a greater chance of becoming depressed adults than those kids who don't watch a lot of television. For every additional hour of TV watched per day, the odds of becoming depressed increases by 8%. I'm not surprised. If I watch too much TV these days, there's a 100% chance that I'll get depressed. Especially if I watch the news.

Usually, the studies that portray TV as a villain are concerned about the content of TV and worry about viewers, especially kids, imitating the behavior they see on TV. I'm always a bit dubious about those studies. I guess that's because not one kid I grew up with turned into someone who thinks he can fly, is afraid of kryptonite, and has a best friend who's a talking horse.

But the Pittsburgh-Harvard researchers apparently weren't concerned about the content of what kids were watching on TV. They concluded that just watching television for hours, regardless of what's on, can contribute to an adolescent developing depression. When you throw in the dreary things on TV these days, it's no surprise.

If you watch the news every day, it's bound to bring you down. War rages on, every day more people lose their jobs, and Obama can't find a Cabinet candidate who has paid his taxes. And yet, I'm hooked on it. I even watch those cable shows that talk about the bad news that I just saw ... on The News.

The news isn't the only thing on TV that's likely to depress people. Some of the most popular programs are reality or game shows that have people getting rich, famous, or thin. So the audience who is worried about just paying their bills watches other people getting happy and set for life. What could be more depressing than that?

Then there are the TV dramas. They usually involve murder, and it's not like TV murders in the old days. Back then, somebody got shot, and then a smart cop or a brilliant lawyer got a suspect to confess. Now, solving the crime is just as gruesome as the crime itself. We get to see autopsies, and they show them to us in super-extreme close-up, with bodily functions moving in slow motion.

But no matter how dark those shows are, they're still not as gloomy as the news. Even the usually perky newscasters seem depressed as they tell us how much worse off the world is today than it was yesterday. Sometimes I feel like they are speaking directly to me. After reciting the latest stock losses, I almost expect the newscaster to look into the camera and say, "And Lloyd, your house lost another 3% today, your cholesterol drug has awful side-effects, and that shirt doesn't go with your pants."

The solution to all of probably seems obvious: If TV turns us off, we should turn off the TV. But I don't think it's realistic for those of us who are hooked on TV to just stop watching it, cold turkey. So, I propose that we start by not watching the programming that bums us out the most --- the news.

It won't be easy. Some of us are clearly news addicts. But let's try it one day at a time. And let's start on the birthday of someone who was very successful and never watched the news on TV -— George Washington.

Let's make February 22nd National Turn Off TV News Day. Tell your friends, make bumper stickers, shout it from the rooftops, call your Senators, organize Facebook groups, twitter your twitters. We can do this.

And we'll be able to tell if this experiment is a success. On Sunday, February 22nd, if you see some people smiling who are usually grumpy, you'll know they turned off the news. If you're with some sports fans and they aren't talking about the latest athlete who got arrested, you'll know they turned off the news. And if you go out to dinner with someone, there's a sure-fire way of knowing. They definitely didn't watch the news if they pick up the check.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Scraping By On $500,000 A Year

As I'm sure you know, President Obama recently instituted a salary cap of $500,000 per year for CEO's of some companies that will be bailed out by taxpayers. To most of us, "only" half a million dollars a year doesn't sound bad. However, it's a lot less than these CEOs are used to getting, so they can't be pleased. Some of them are bound to write letters explaining their outraged feelings to the President. Letters like this:

Dear President Obama:

It has come to my attention that you have decided to put a salary cap on some of us who will be receiving bailout money because of the current financial crisis. I applaud your effort to try to help the American economy, but I must object to this cap business. To cut my salary – and the salary of others in my position – down to $5,000,000 is absurd. We need a salary commensurate with ... wait a minute. My assistant just told me that I misread the figure and the limit is not $5,000,000, but $500,000. $500,000 a year? You must be joking.

$500,000 a year? Isn't that about how much teachers and firefighters make? And do they really contribute more to society than us fat cat bankers?

Something that people who are not in the financial world don't understand is that those of us who have an impact on the economy, need to be happy in order to do our best work. What makes us happy? Things. Things like private jets, boats, offices with Picassos on the wall, and a very modest private island in the South Pacific. $500,000 a year won't even pay the insurance for these things.

I have a lot of expenses that the general public doesn't know about. I set my wife up in a cute little store that loses about $60,000 every month. I don't just need to belong to one country club; I need to belong to a country club near each of my five homes. Front row seats are not cheap for basketball games, the opera, and ultimate fighting. If I don't sit in the front, I just don't enjoy the experience. Once I sat in the third row for a playoff game. I was so bummed out that the next day my bank lost $200,000,000.

Just between us guys, do you have any idea how expensive a mistress is? There are gifts, rent for her apartment, and singing lessons. I also have a private detective watching her because I think she might be cheating on me, and he's not cheap.

With all due respect, Mr. President, this plan, which would force CEOs to buy our suits off the rack, will be disastrous for our country. You talk about creating more jobs, but this will force many people out of work. With a salary of -- it's hard for me to even say it -- only $500,000 a year -- -- I won't be able to pay my chauffeur, the crew on my boat, and the woman who creates my personal aftershave. And am I supposed to toss out on the street the guy who takes care of my koi pond, my two year old's French tutor, and my chocolatier? God, I just love those confections.

I'm convinced that after you have read my letter, you will see the folly of your decision. Don't feel bad. Almost everybody makes mistakes. And isn't part of the "new politics" your being able to admit when you've been wrong? So, I thank you for your time.

If you're ever in New York, Beverly Hills, Deer Valley, Martha's Vineyard, or Liechtenstein, feel free to drop in on me.

Yours truly,

James "Trey" Harrington III
CEO Midwest Bank Trust and Mortgage

Well, I have to admit that Mr. Harrington does raise at least one good point: CEOs like him ran our economy into the ground when they had enormous salaries and perks. Just think how much worse they'll do if they're in a bad mood.

New Bob Newhart Video

Check out Bob Newhart's first internet video by