Life Rant: The Importance of Competition

It’s been a busy few weeks with the Duke-UNC game, midterms and my job search, but I’m back and will be posting more over the next few weeks. First up: a rant I’ve been meaning to deliver.

I don’t’ think anyone really doubts the benefits of competition in markets these days, but sometimes life gives you very clear reminders of how important competition is. I’ve had two in just the past few days (these borderline on major whines so feel free to skim/not read):

1. I’m currently at school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and live in an apartment off-campus. The only option for internet and cable TV is Time Warner Cable. For those of you have used Time Warner, you probably know how incredibly frustrating every part of the company is. Now, the area around my apartment is under construction and it has disrupted various services while my roommates and I have lived there. For months now, the cable will go out numerous times a day. The TV screen will suddenly go blue and we will have to unplug various cords, jiggle the box or just wait it out. There isn’t any obvious cause for its failures and when we called Time Warner to come check it out, the tech didn’t even both coming and instead just informed us it was due to the construction and we could get a significant break on our payments. In addition, our internet has gone out at various times for hours at a time. It even went out in the middle of finals week for a full day. Now, you can call us just whiny college students, but we’re paying a decent amount of money for a service that fails a huge amount of the time. Is it that absurd to expect our internet and TV consistently?

frustrationSo, we called Time Warner to discuss that option. Let’s just say that Time Warner’s customer service was less than satisfactory. They sent us back and forth between different departments for an hour and finally offered us a $20 rebate, when we were looking for much, much more. Finally, we reached someone who offered us a month of free service, which was closer to what we were looking for. The manager politely told us that for a greater rebate, they’d have to send a service technician out to examine our setup again (they didn’t have much of a record of their tech’s first “visit”). We agreed and scheduled a meeting for the following day. Shockingly, no one arrived and we never heard from Time Warner. They’ll be getting another call this week.

If we could, we would dump Time Warner in a heartbeat and pick up a competitor. Unfortunately, no such competitor exists. I’d love to write a guest column in the Duke student newspaper recommending that anyone living off-campus bypass Time Warner and choose some other provider. I’d love to at least use that as a threat against Time Warner. Unfortunately, we can’t do that. Is there any clearer example of why competition matters? Time Warner can offer us sub-par internet, cable TV, maintenance and customer service, because we have no choice in the matter.* Continue reading “Life Rant: The Importance of Competition”

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Credit Where Credit Is Due: The NFL

While I’m not a huge football fan, I’ll still spend nine hours watching every Sunday during the Fall. I feel compelled to watch no matter my feelings on the sport (too many commercials!) so an NFL lockout didn’t seem like the end of the world to me. It basically would have given me my Sundays back. But that won’t be the case for at least the next decade because “football is back”.

That means SportCenter will be dominated by free agency, rule changes, training camps, preseason games and team predictions over the next couple of weeks. Fantasy football commercials will pick up en masse and most major stories on ESPN will relate to the NFL.

I’m not particularly looking forward to ESPN shoving an offseason full of NFL news down my throat in a month, but I do have to give credit NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith.

This was a pretty bitter battle that went back and forth a couple of times and led to the longest lockout in league history. But in the end, they got it done.

Here’s how Ashley Fox at ESPN described the deal:

• The owners and the players. Call it a tie. Each got a little something they wanted, and most important, each will get a lot of money. The owners now will keep 52 percent of the revenues, not the 47 percent from the previous collective bargaining agreement that so rankled them, but they also will have to operate with a $120 million salary cap, with an additional approximately $20 million for benefits, and have a guaranteed spend. That guaranteed spend was important to the players, and they got it.

In the end, the owners and players are splitting more than $9 billion. No one is losing.

That sounds exactly like how this sort of thing is supposed to work. Lots of bickering, months of proposals, counter-proposals and walking away from the table. Bring in the lawyers and the courts and make this thing as messy as possible. But when the season nears, each side sacrificed something and realized missing any games would be unacceptable. The Hall of Fame game is a big enough casualty in itself.

So, props to Goodell, Smith and everyone else involved in these negotiations. They were messy and dragged on but we’re going to have a full season of football and everyone can be happy with that (If only people in Washington could learn how to give a little bit on each side).

Talking About HoF for MLB Players Under the Age of 28? Really?

Today on ESPN Boston, Joe McDonald wrote an article contemplating Dustin Pedroia’s chances of reaching the Hall of Fame.

Anyone else think this is a decade too soon?

McDonald does temper the article by saying,” Obviously, Pedroia has a long way to go before he can even be mentioned in the same breath as the Hall of Fame.” But nevertheless, he goes on to compare Pedroia’s stats through his first five full seasons with Roberto Alomar, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend.

Alomar and Pedroia’s stats are similar in their first five seasons, but that’s not the point. Pedroia is a great player right now. Ten more years of playing at this level will put him in Cooperstown but that’s a long way to go and not a topic of today. What should be a topic is his 21-game hitting streak and the ease at which the Red Sox are winning ball games these days.

McDonald closes by saying:

Maybe we are witnessing a future Hall of Famer in Pedroia.

Well, whether we are or are we aren’t won’t be known for quite a while. Let’s just enjoy it while we can.

Wait. There’s more nonsensical Hall of Fame characterizations from ESPN today! Continue reading “Talking About HoF for MLB Players Under the Age of 28? Really?”