Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Twinkies and Greinke

My brother is on an Alaskan cruise, so he gave me a week's worth of his Royals season tickets. In the spirit of Beaver Cleaver, my immediate reaction was "Gee Wally (not my brother's real name), do I half ta go?" I endure enough pain, torment, and blown saves during the day not selling commercial real estate, so I was not necessarily excited about continuing the frustration after hours at Kauffman Stadium.

As it turned out, I could only go to two of the six games, the first being this past Sunday where my expectations of utter frustration were fulfilled. Among other things, I was treated to the Minnesota Twins' 8-run 7th inning which featured Michael Cuddyer's two home runs, a feat not accomplished in the major leagues since David Ortiz did it for the Red Sox last year. I also endured the Royals feeble attempts at a sacrifice bunt while observing the Twins' perfect execution of this most basic of baseball fundamentals.

Other lowlights included a drunken Twins fan who insisted on remaining shirtless for most of the game. He kept waving his Twins hat throughout the game while turning around so that the sun could fully burn his massive girth. To my surprise, when he finally put on his shirt it was a George Brett Royals jersey. I'm not sure to whom the most dis-service was delivered. Was it the Royals jersey to the Twins cap or the Twins cap to the George Brett jersey?

To pass the time I surfed my Blackberry to see how many games the Royals were out of first place as I wondered if they had yet been mathematically eliminated. I then learned from that the Royals were about 19 games out of first place and maybe five games out of 4th place in the AL Central. They own the worst record in the American League but are some three games better than the Washington Nationals of the National League. As if this were not depressing enough, I saw that the Royals were 24 games out of the wild card playoff race. So let's get this straight, it is five games harder to be the 4th best team in the American League than it is to be the Division leader and presumably third best team? Oh well, at least we're better than the Nats.

When the game was over the drunken Twins fan pulled a little broom out of his back pocket to celebrate his team's sweep of the American League's worst team. It was a little wimpy broom, smaller than the whisk broom that the umpires might use during the game. Although it takes a little nerve to bring any broom to the opposition's ballpark, if you're going to be that brazen you should not apologize for it with a whisk broom and come with an industrial strength broom. Crocodile Dundee would have not approved. But this guy had the ultimate defense. If anyone ever considered hitting him he'd pull out his George Brett jersey. A Royals' fan hitting someone in a George Brett jersey is worse than a guy hitting a girl with glasses. It simply cannot be done.

Mourning turned to dancing though when I went to last night's (Tuesday's) pitching gem offered up by the Royals' ace, MVP, all-world, hope-for-the-future, and walk-on-water stopper Zack Greinke. Greinke amassed 15 strikeouts during his 8 innings of work. This total eclipsed his previous personal best of 11 K's and broke Mark Gubicza's Royals' record of 14 set in 1988.

Greinke has changed the way I watch a baseball game at Kauffman. I used to plan trips to the bathroom, concession stand, and miniature golf course around the opposing team's at-bat. I used to want to watch the Royals attempt at offense and wasn't too interested in watching them in the field. After all, I know what it looks (and feels) like to miss a cut-off man. However, with Greinke on the mound, I now will not leave my seat while he is pitching. I'm content to hear the Royals at-bat over the radio play-by-play in the men's room or watch it standing in line at the concession stand. I'll be perfectly fine missing a grand slam or a hit-and-run or even a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, but I won't miss a Greinke pitch. They are too beautiful to watch, especially the slider that was responsible for most of last night's strikeouts.

Greinke has become a sport within a sport. His pitching is so phenomenal that you forget that he's a play within a play. He's a Mid-Summer Night's Dream. And even though the Royals are entrenched in a bomb of a 2009 production, the Act that is Zack Greinke stands alone.

And last night, that was enough.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Briquettes and Baroque

Does it seem like your business associates come from a variety of different worlds? Besides greed, do your customers and clients have little in common, with interests as diverse as those of an Ohio or Florida election precinct? Do you ever fear these multiple worlds will collide if all these business acquaintances meet at a formal gathering like your funeral?

If these fears grip you, keeping you awake during sales meetings, then allow me to offer a solution. FACE THESE FEARS HEAD ON by hosting a social gathering at which you have complete control. Invite them to your home for a one or more carefully crafted “customer mixers.” To start with, consider the following themed gala which I call Briquettes and Baroque.

This late Spring event is designed to assimilate your stuffy, snooty, artsy clients with those whose idea of a museum is the National Quilt Hall of Fame in Paducah, Kentucky. Imagine the following… As each guest arrives to your home, he or she is offered a “door prize” or party favor of exactly one (1) 40# bag of Kingsford Charcoal. Carefully affixed to each charcoal bag is approximately one (1) 14 song compact disc from the Williams-Sonoma Dinner Companion Series entitled Baroque Classics. Since you have rented an impressive sound system with speakers throughout the inside and outside of your property, you are ready for the party to begin.

As Pachelbel’s Canon in D blasts brashly throughout your home and property, you ask each guest to open his or her Kingsford bag and toss exactly fifty (50) briquettes into a carefully constructed backyard grilling pit. (Note: For some of your clients that have never done “real work,” you may consider inviting them over early, asking them to actually dig the pit. We do not recommend this, however, unless they have signed long term purchase agreements with you.)

By the time all the briquettes are in place, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon should be blasting throughout your neighborhood. When you hear this song, it is time to ask your guests to join soot-laden hands and march in circular fashion counter-clockwise around the pit. Once the guests have circled exactly 3.75 times, provide each with approximately one (1) garden rake. Their task with the rake: Ensure the briquettes are forged into a culturally and socio-economically homogeneous mound of charred wood. To make things interesting, you can make this activity simulate a game of musical chairs by providing one less rake than there are people. Guests are asked to rake then pass the rake, rake then pass, rake then pass, and so on until the music stops. Don’t tell your guests this beforehand, but if they don’t have a rake when the music stops, they get to go home.

At this point, your compact disc should be bellowing Rameau’s Overture from Dardanus as you hand each guest a bottle of lighter fluid. The trick here is to get your guests to do two things—thoroughly saturate all of the briquettes in the pit while challenging them to identify and soak each of the ones they actually placed into the pit themselves. Of course only you know that you will have NO WAY of determining the winner of this activity. But what you must do is simply and savvily award the prize for this event to whoever’s sale you need the most. This takes much less time and is more dignifying than losing to him or her in golf.

As dusk approaches, it’s time to move indoors so your guests may enjoy hors’ devours made exclusively of Spam and lobster tail. Outdoors, you’ll handle the cooking as the briquette pit embers carefully roast a cross-cultural surf and turf composed of catfish, Chilean sea bass, venison, headcheese, and rack of lamb. Meanwhile inside, against the backdrop of Scarlatti’s Piano Sonata in C minor, L352, your spouse authoritatively calls out a Baroque square dance. If the Sonata ends but your guests are still in the mood for dancing, try teaching them a ballet line dance to the timeless Don Williams ballad Tulsa Time.

After dinner concludes and your guests unwind, offer them farewell gifts of Hormel (maker of Spam) stock certificates. To minimize your cleanup, don’t forget to ask them to be sure and take their unused charcoal from their opened bags of Kingsford.
Congratulations! You have successfully forged strategic alliances among your broad spectrum of customers and clients. And, in so doing, ensured multiple worlds won’t collide, because now they now WILL NOT be attending your funeral.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Executive Bio: Liberty or Lie?

I recently updated my Executive Bio, because in the cutthroat world that is commercial real estate you must aggressively market yourself, and the best way to do that is to lie. Well, maybe “lie” is too strong a term, but words like embellishment, exaggeration, and Donald Trump come to mind. The Executive Bio is about making yourself look better than the next guy, so typically your listings, closings, and number of bowling trophies are rounded to the next light year. This concept is borrowed from the world of sports, where for years game programs have been adding 3 inches to the listed heights of quarterbacks and tight ends. It's all about looking good and successful and intimidating on paper, because let's face it—paper may be all you've got.

The Executive Bio usually starts out by giving some information on your education. So, it's at this point that you talk about college majors and degrees and whenever possible drop some Latin on the unsuspecting reader. Generally the Latin should contain a phrase containing "Cum Laude," which means "with honor," or "with praise." The beautiful thing about this is very few people realize what these terms mean, and even fewer readers will have actually attended your graduation ceremony. So if you are so inclined, you could place in your Executive Bio that you graduated "Parenta Cum Laude," which simply translated means “to the surprised praise of his parents.” This is a true statement, although the Latin may be a bit twisted. Not to worry. You’ll not be exposed unless your pharmacist happens to read your Magnum Opus of Executive Bios.

Next the Executive Bio author must deal with his past work history. This is where most people try to write around a glaring gap of unproductive years that are as conspicuous as 18 1/2 minutes of missing Watergate tapes. Here the author may mask three failed businesses and two firings by stating that “he started numerous small business and entrepreneurial ventures which generated unprecedented exit strategies.”

The Executive Bio should be accompanied by a professionally produced photograph (see above). The photo in this column was randomly chosen from those readily available on my hard drive and from those which would not subject Finley River to copyright infringement. The liberal use of airbrush technology to “touch up” your photo is acceptable. In fact, you should attempt to give yourself a virtual facelift if you are older and most likely well passed your prime (again, see above photo). Unfortunately, there is nothing commercially available at this time to make you look 40 pounds lighter (OK yes, once again see above photo).

Next, it’s time to get personal. Whenever possible bring your family into the mix. If your wife works and has a great job, flaunt it. Only a handful of discerning individuals will realize she’s the reason you’ve been able to master Madden ’09 during the workday. If you have any kids, highlight this. Everyone realizes that a man with a lot of kids is well rounded and probably so desperate to make a buck that he will give his services away for practically nothing.

Finally you’ll want to provide some interesting fact about yourself—something that the reader will “take away" and remember you by. Here is where you desperately mine the depths of your past to uncover something remotely interesting about yourself. It is here that you will also want to aggressively and liberally employ what we call “editorial license.” Again, you’re not lying here, but you acknowledge that your space limitations will simply not allow for full and complete disclosure. For instance, we looked at the Executive Bio of the same fellow which is pictured above and found this statement: “While attending (unnamed university) he participated on the school’s football team and was named to the conference all-academic team while leading the team in scoring in 1982. True enough, but further research unmasks these troubling facts:

1. The “conference,” as it was referred to, had only four teams. Yeah, I know—not exactly the Big XII or Pac 10 or Big 10 (Question: Why does the “Big 10” have 11 teams?),
2) The criterion for being named to this conference’s all-academic team was, vaguely, “periodically showing up to class.”
3.) This fellow led his team in scoring not by rushing for 23 touchdowns or catching 37 touchdown passes but instead by… kicking five field goals and 25 points after touchdown. Yes, he was a placekicker and no one else on the team could muster up more than six touchdowns. And finally,
4) He missed more field goals than he made. Pathetic. This is perhaps the most troubling usage of “editorial license” that we have reviewed to date.

I just realized that I need an unprecedented exit strategy from this column. So I’ll conclude by encouraging you to get to work immediately by authoring or updating your own personal Executive Bio. Hopefully someone will read it, and maybe, just maybe…they’ll believe it.