Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pure Pipe

The news that former Miami University and University of Louisville Head Coach Howard Schellenberger is retiring from coaching gives me an opportunity to dust off my favorite Schellenberger story one more time.

I was a sports reporter at the University of Louisville’s student newspaper when Schellenberger arrived on campus. He was a larger than life guy with the shock of gray hair, the moustache, the pipe and the national championship ring.

I was excited to meet Schellenberger, but also a bit wary. Schellenberger was old school, having studied at the foot of legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. I knew players were dropping like flies at his first practices. With this backdrop, my editor and I headed over to the Shelby Campus for a media day. I should say here that my editor was the antithesis of Schellenberger. He was a young, bohemian kind of guy with a ear ring, which wasn’t all that common back in those days.

Schellenberger held court for the assembled masses before opening the floor for questions. My editor threw up his hand. Schellenberger pointed at him. In his trademark gravelly voice, he uttered, “Uhh, yes, ma’am.” Undeterred, my editor asked his question, ignoring the coach’s apparent slight.

Nevertheless, the moment was pure Schellenberger. At least that’s how I remember it, although my memory may have been dulled by holding back laughter.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Maybe He Amazed

I went to Cincinnati with one Paul McCartney manic and returned with three.

No, I didn’t pick anybody up along the way. Instead, Sir Paul won over a couple of new converts through the sheer force of his performance.

My 14-year-old son is a fledgling bassist who is a huge fan of The Beatles in general and McCartney specifically. Kim and I went to Cincinnati for his benefit, but ended up benefitting, too.

It was simply one of the best concerts we’ve ever seen. Despite being 69 years old, McCartney played joyfully for nearly three hours, ala Bruce Springsteen. He covered a lot of ground from The Beatles to Wings to his solo career. All the while, he interacted with the audience and displayed a keen sense of humor.

For instance, McCartney opened with “Hello, Goodbye” and said it was good to be back, even though he last played Cincinnati 18 years ago. The kindly and talkative older gentleman in front of me claimed to have seen McCartney even before that, in 1964, for a mere $5 when the The Beatles played at Cincinnati Gardens.

I enjoyed more Wings songs than I thought I would, including “Nineteen Hundred and Eighthy Five,” “Jet,” “Band on the Run,” and the pyrotechnic-filled “Live and Let Die.” Of McCartney’s solo stuff, “Maybe I’m Amazed” took the prize. Of the Beatles stuff, I loved “Day in the Life,” which transitioned into “Give Peace a Chance,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End,” which closed the show.

The set included tributes to John Lennon, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix. (Sorry, Ringo, I guess you have to die first).

Somewhere between “Hello” and “The End,” McCartney signed a fan’s shoulder. She left immediately after the show to make it permanent with a tattoo. I wouldn’t go that far for Sir Paul, but at least I understand why she did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Social Media Giants Should Cash Out

The latest headline says Twitter is now valued at $8 billion. Here’s my advice to the founders of it and its fellow social media giant, Facebook. Sell! Sell now! Don’t wait another day! Follow the parable provided by Steve Miller and “take the money and run.”

I have several reasons for this opinion.

First, at least as far as I can tell, neither company has developed a reliable revenue stream. The services they offer are free to users and I’m sure they’ll remain that way. Facebook has a few ads. Twitter has promoted Tweets. But neither can expand its corporate presence much without alienating its base. People who use Facebook and Twitter, me included, don’t want the experience marred by marketing. So where is the operating revenue of these companies going to come from? After all, being influential and cool doesn’t pay the bills.

Second, the estimated value of these companies is outrageous as evidenced by the $8 billion estimated value of Twitter alone.

Third, the nature of technology is transient. When was the last time you logged onto to your computer via Prodigy or AOL? How’s that MySpace page working out for you? Unlike a package goods company like Coca-Cola, things get outdated pretty quickly on the Web. Sure, some tech companies have made it to Blue Chip status, but they’ve done it, in part, through diversification. Google is into everything, including maps and phones. Twitter and Facebook are standalone communities.

I congratulate the founders of these companies for holding onto their creations for this long. If I were them, I would have cashed in long ago when the companies were worth far less than they are today.

Why not cash in? I guess it’s tough to let go of a company you founded, nurtured and grew well beyond anyone’s expectations. But if I were these guys, I’d swallow my pride and get out while the getting is good. I can think of billions of reasons to do so. I’d let Microsoft, Google or one of my many other suitors worry about finding a revenue stream. Meanwhile, I’d be on the beach with a margarita, planning my next start-up or pursuing a life of leisure and philanthropy.