THE HANGOVER

Most people have learned about the real risk of having a hangover. In addition to the potential damage from drinking too much and embarrassing oneself, the morning after can be even worse. My favorite story about this concerned a very high-ranking insurance company officer, whose identity has been deleted to protect the obviously guilty. We were in New Orleans for a Risk and Insurance Managers Society Conference. Several of us decided to walk back from Bourbon street to our hotel, which was near the Superdome. On the way we passed a used car lot. There was a 1988 Dodge Charger there on prominent display. This business executive fell madly in love with the car. He went into the dealership, which was open all night. (That should have been a real clue folks). He bought that car on the spot and said he would pick it up later.

The next morning, I had breakfast with this guy. So, I asked him if his wife was excited about the new car. He said, “what car?” I said: “The 1988 Dodge Charger you bought last night.” Blank stare. Then: “I bought a car?” I said: “yes, a beautiful 1988 Dodge Charger. “ Blank stare. Then: “how did I pay for it?” I said: “You wrote out a check.” He started to swear, then asked us to excuse him while he called his bank and transferred the money necessary to prevent the check from bouncing. I later learned that he had the car shipped to Seattle, only to discover that like a lot of things, it looked a lot better when the person checking it out was drunk. He sold it at a big loss.

I knew he had been drinking but had no idea he was that hammered. At first, I thought he was joking, but eventually realized he did buy a car and didn’t remember it.

The entire country is going to have a COVID 19 hangover. Only this will be a lot more serious and expensive than buying a dumb car. When you combine this with the insane reaction to the George Floyd incident, it is a perfect storm. Let me give one example, the San Francisco Giants. They were already in trouble. The team has stunk up the field for the last five years attendance is way down. Last year there were more SF Giants representatives trying to scalp tickets than the real ticket scalpers. In my case one of these smiling young geniuses tried to see me tickets, next to my tickets, for about half of what I paid for my seats. When I point out that as a season ticket holder, I found this to be offensive, they quickly moved on to the next target of opportunity. At the end of the year, I decided, for the first time in 25 years, not to renew my season tickets. I could handle the lousy teams, but previously when I couldn’t go to a game, I could sell my tickets for face value and often a surcharge. Last year I was lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar.

That turned out to be brilliant timing because the baseball season was cancelled. I believe the Giants are still trying to figure out what refund, if any, to give to current season ticket holders. If I still had those tickets I would be beyond furious.

Now they are playing games in front of empty stadiums with cutout figures sitting in seats in key locations, like behind home plate, to create the illusion of an audience. They are even piping in game noise. All the players have masks, and they must wear them unless they are playing the field or batting. This is even though they are playing in an empty stadium surrounded by people who are tested on a regular basis. People, who if they do get sick, tend to recover before they get all the way to first base. Yet the players are whimpering about not feeling safe. It is beyond pathetic.

But it gets worse than that. The new Giants manager considers himself a social justice warrior, so he knelt while the national anthem was played to nobody. One of the star players stood next to him, with his hand on his shoulder, to show support. I turned off the TV and wrote a letter to senior management at the SF Giants thanking them, as a Vietnam combat vet, for their kind consideration.

George Floyd, the symbol of systemic racism, was a sad situation but not actually racist. He was drunk literally out of his mind on Alcohol, meth amphetamines and heroin. He had serious underlying health conditions and may have died without or without any police being in the area. He was arrested because he was acting weird and was asleep at the wheel of his car. The video shows the police tried to treat him with respect until he became agitated and they had to resort to physical force to restrain him. While one may criticize the police for the way they handled this, there is nothing about this incident that indicates this happened because George Floyd was black. If you doubt that, take this test. Go get tanked up. Fall asleep in your car. Then when police arrive to question you, start swinging at them. See how they respond. The only difference is that if you are white, and the police rough you up, no one will care.

Major businesses are making similar mistakes. Trader Joe’s is changing its name to “Trader”. (“Say it ain’t so, Joe!”) The NBA is painting black lives murals on the floors. The Boston Red Sox just hung a “Black Live Matter” banner on the Green Monster. A Nascar driver freaked out over a garage pull that has been used in racing garages for decades. CNN accepted this as further evidence of systemic racism. The NBA would sell you a shirt that said, “Kill Cops” but not one that said, “Free Hong Kong.” The NFL is re-introducing Colin Kaepernick and there are already organized attempts to disrespect our flag at every opportunity. Some even want to play the black national anthem, unknown even to most African Americans, before every game. “God Bless America” will be replaced by John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

This is insane. So far as I can tell, the only sport that has not become totally anti-American is the National Hockey League, which is populated by a ton of Canadians and has several Canadian teams.

So after losing more than a season because of irrational fear of a virus that isn’t actually very lethal, supposedly really smart people are doubling down on disaster by apologizing for their white privilege and promising to accept responsibility for screwing everything up for everyone else. Frankly, some of these sports may not survive. At best it will take years, if not decades for them to recover. Businesses all over the country has already closed permanently, others will never reopen, and still more will reopen only to discover that they will pay a terrible price for trashing a high percentage of their customers. After COVID 19, no one wants to go anywhere just to be lectured about something else.

The bad news is that the hangover will be worse than anyone imagines. The good news is that this is one case where Darwinian theory works. Survival of the fittest is just as true in the commercial market as it is in nature. The old institutions, poorly run, fueled primarily by tradition, will never recover, but they will be replaced by something else. Something smarter, strong, more efficient and run by people too focused on making money to waste time insulting key customers.

The morning after will be something special.

TDM

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