Archive for the ‘Winning’ Category

Service of That’s Horse Racing–The 2019 Kentucky Derby Outcome a Metaphor for Life

Monday, May 6th, 2019


I always watch the Kentucky Derby though I don’t follow the sport and choose my favorite by name–a sure path to failure. I rooted for Plus Que Parfait this Saturday.

As I watched on Saturday I was reporting developments by text to friends who were in a bus. I couldn’t believe it when Maximum Security, who won by many lengths, faced 20+ minutes of limbo while stewards–horse racing referees–studied the videotapes.


When one of the stewards reported the Commission’s unanimous decision to the press–that Maximum Security was out and Country House was the official winner–she took no questions.

The odds for Country House were 65 to one and the payout $132.40. Imagine the chaos at the betting windows in those edge-of-their-seats 20 minutes.


The metaphor to life of the outcome was gut wrenching, reminding me of the times I was the unlikely winner–my boutique PR agency selected to represent brands at a Fortune 50 company for example or me chosen by awards committees to receive recognition–and the times I could almost taste a positive outcome that didn’t happen and the subsequent sickening sinking feeling of disappointment: All that work and elation leading to failure.

I am on the side of Maximum Security. And you? Do you agree with the Maximum Security team that is appealing the decision to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission?




Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

Monday, April 23rd, 2018



Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”


Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”


One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?


Service of Lies II

Thursday, November 10th, 2016


After the results of the presidential election it became clearer than ever that people believe what they want to hear. When you peel everything away, it’s often because they don’t know the facts and/or are uninformed.

There are plenty of people in my business—PR and marketing—who make an exemplary living by promising the world—i.e. lying–and it works: They get the business.

A typical conversation:

  • Potential client–“We want an article in The Wall Street Journal.”
  • PR person’s response—“No problem. Some of my best friends are WSJ reporters/columnists.”Used cars

The potential clients are often the smartest in their industries, but they don’t know mine: Even a PR person’s brother-in-law can’t guarantee a story in The Wall Street Journal. Getting a hearing doesn’t automatically translate into coverage, but that doesn’t stop people from promising the moon to win.

Candidates also grab at anything to get elected. Most recently one pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs–this from a person so concerned about jobs here that the goods he sells are manufactured abroad.

Do people similarly believe him because they are uninformed? Do they think that he won’t short-change them as he does his vendors and suppliers?

short changeWe tend to remember when we’ve been lied to. President George H.W. Bush said “read my lips: no new taxes.” Who knows if he meant it or said it to get elected? In the day some familiar with the realities of the economic situation may have known better. We remember the lips bit but not his often repeated phrase about “a thousand points of light” to encourage the public’s participation in community organizations.

However this time many of us hope that the winner does NOT accomplish what he promised from withdrawing from NATO and the recent international environmental agreement to cancelling, rather than tweaking, Obamacare.

We need to get back to business and hope like the dickens that things don’t work out as badly as some of us fear. President Obama is urging us to give the man a chance: We’re all Americans and on the same team.

If a friend, colleague or relative lies to me, I do what my mother used to advise that I’ve often noted here: “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” We’ll all be walking on lumpy ground from all those buried bones for a while.

My NYC friends and colleagues who tried to calm my anxieties before the election make clear that we’ve all been shortsighted and gullible. Here in this island cocoon we haven’t a clue of America’s mindset. 

Why do you think people believe what they want to hear?

winning is everything

Service of Good Sportsmanship vs. Winning School Sports

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

cross country fallen 2

The intransigence of Minnesota state officials about an incident involving the “no help” rule in a recent cross country race inspired the conversation on Rick Wolff’s “Sports Edge,” his sports parenting program on WFAN radio one recent Sunday morning. Two girls who stopped to assist another runner were disqualified and were not credited with finishing the race.

Wolff explained the reason behind the rule: Should a Good Samaritan move an injured cross country fallenrunner, more damage than good might result. At the same time he thought that being disqualified is a big price to pay for doing the right thing. In a typical cross country course there are plenty of tripping hazards–tree roots and such. Each case should be taken up on an ad hoc basis.

Before Wolff asked his audience what they thought he shared a few other examples in which, unlike in Minnesota, the officials bent the rule.

  • In Memphis, runner Seth Goldstein noticed that a fallen competitor’s lips were turning blue and his eyes were slipping up into his head. Though runners ahead of him kept going, Goldstein stopped. Goldstein knew CPR from his lifeguard job and saved the other man’s life. He was pronounced a hero. Tennessee officials recognized the run.
  • In Ohio crowds encouraged officials to change their decision to disqualify after cheering two girls who had stopped to help a competitor. 

cross country 2And Wolff’s callers?

  • Some felt that the difference between the Tennessee, Ohio and Minnesota incidents was crucial: There was an adult by the side of the runner in Minnesota who told the girls to keep going and they chose not to. The callers felt that because an adult was alerted and on top of the accident, there was no need for the girls to stop.
  • Others said that our litigious society was at the bottom of the rule in the first place. If a do-gooder caused a fellow runner to require knee replacement surgery, for example, because he/she helped up the competitor prematurely, lawsuits might ensue.
  • Another said that he didn’t consider helping a fallen fellow competitor was good sportsmanship but rather, good “humanship,” and should be encouraged. Yet another said he would hire the Minnesota girls who helped over the winner of a race any time as he appreciated their attitude.

Should student athletes be encouraged to consider the greater good over winning? Would that make them misfits in today’s society? Should sports officials stick by the rules no matter what as the Minnesota officials did?  

cross country 4

Service of You Can’t Win: President Obama, Event Timing, Redskins, Debt Limit and Voting

Monday, October 7th, 2013

you can't win them all charlie brown

Sometimes you can’t win.

The options President Obama has when dealing with the Syrian or debt limit crises could be summarized: No matter what, too many innocents will be killed or hurt.

RSVPFortunately most of us don’t have to weigh options with such momentous repercussions, yet choices come up daily that work for some and not others. Plan an event for an organization, company or family and it’s inevitable: some can’t make mornings, others can’t fit in anything in the evening, lunch is out and didn’t you remember that favorite Aunt Muriel is off to her annual timeshare on the only weekend you, your brothers, sisters and cousins can travel to the family reunion?

Result: Noses out of joint.

RedSkins helmetThe owner of the Redskins football team is being challenged to change the team’s name as it offends Native Americans. Even the President chimed in suggesting clearly that he consider an alternative. In discussions I’ve heard on TV and radio nobody remarks on the millions spent to build the brand and what it will cost to create the new identity. Goodness knows, these teams almost print money so that’s not the primary consideration but still. Regardless of the decision there will be many who disagree.

Choose a menu for your guests winding it around allergies and taste preferences and you’re sure some will think you hadn’t considered them.

You can’t win at the polling booth when you object to both candidates. [I can think of one Senatorial race like that and I’m happy I don’t live in that state.]

Is flipping a coin the only thing you can do under such circumstances? How do you make choices when you’re not totally happy with any option? Are there words that work to soothe injured feelings of those whose preferences must be disregarded?

Photo: Coastal Capital Wealth


Service of Winning at All Costs

Monday, March 21st, 2011


I heard about a sports investigation on WFAN Radio’s “The Sport’s Edge” with Rick Wolff. Wolff asked his Sunday morning guest, Jeff Benedict: “Can You Have a Winning College Football Program Without Having Some Players on Your Roster Who Have Criminal Records?” Benedict is one of the collaborators on a Sports Illustrated cover story, “Criminal Records in College Football.”

Benedict also blogged about the story in “Lessons to be learned from the SI/CBS News investigation.”  He wrote:  “Over a six-month period we conducted criminal background checks on all 2,837 players whose names appeared on the rosters of SI’s 2010 preseason Top 25 poll on Sept. 1. We turned up 204 players (7%) who had been charged with 277 incidents or crimes. Nearly 40 percent involved serious crime.”

He outlined the extent of SI and CBS’s checks and continued: “The numbers are an important place to start any conversation about the situation. But the most striking revelations from this investigation are not statistical. The guts of the story are what college coaches know and don’t know about the players they are recruiting.

dont-want-to-know1“We polled all 25 schools in our sample and found that only two (TCU and Oklahoma) perform any kind of regular formal criminal background checks on recruits. But even those two schools don’t look at juvenile records…..

“But the simplest way for a coach to learn a recruit’s juvenile history is to ask him for it. That doesn’t seem unreasonable before handing over a four-year scholarship worth well over $100,000.” Benedict noted that most coaches don’t want to know. On WFAN Benedict told of one student charged with armed robbery less than five miles from the college that recruited him.

Turning to politics, former New York Governor David Paterson, acting as substitute host on a morning radio program a week ago, shared highlights of flimflammery that duped him. Shortly after he was appointed governor, a high profile person [he wouldn’t identify] told him that Governor Spitzer–who’d resigned precipitously as a result of a sex scandal–had promised him a job. He hounded the new governor, practically “following me into the men’s room,” at a time where his focus was on catching up on far bigger matters. So he gave in. Next time he saw Eliot Spitzer, Paterson asked about the fellow and Spitzer said he’d never promised him a job.

Is winning so important that you relate to college coaches who want no details about players so they can gather a winning team and a job applicant who lies about a promise so as to bamboozle a juicy sinecure? How does a team or a person remain competitive in such an environment?


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