Monday, October 31, 2011


“Almost” only matters in horseshoes and hand-grenades.

This phrase was often repeated by a local Hell’s Kitchen character whenever my childhood friends and I discussed near accomplishments.

He was right, of course. We like to tell our children that “trying” is what is important, that “it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Yet no one remembers the name of the person who nearly discovered penicillin, nor of the aviator who came close to crossing the Atlantic before Lindbergh’s famous flight.

Last week, the Texas Rangers twice came within a strike of winning their first World Series. Theirs was a fascinating tale. Their best pitcher fled to Philadelphia after the Rangers lost the 2010 World Series, believing that his chances of attaining a championship would be much improved with the Phillies. Their best player, Josh Hamilton, abused alcohol and drugs for years, nearly losing both career and life, before coming to grips with his addiction and evolving into one of the best players in the game. As a tribute to Hamilton’s struggles and perseverance, after the Rangers won the 2010 American League championship, players celebrated on the field with ginger ale, rather than the traditional champagne. The team’s manager, Ron Washington, disclosed prior to the 2010 season that he had tested positive for cocaine during the previous year, a mistake which he acknowledged and for which he apologized. Many speculated that Washington would be fired, but management and ownership supported him, and he rewarded that support by leading the Rangers to the first World Series appearance in franchise history.

A Rangers victory in 2011 would have yielded an intriguing story. Yet that story will never be told. The St. Louis Cardinals battled back from the brink of elimination and defeated the Rangers in seven classic games. The thrust of journalistic attention will therefore focus not on the Rangers, but on the Cardinals’ historic championship run. St. Louis almost missed the playoffs, overcoming a double digit games deficit in September to qualify for post-season play on the final day of the regular season. That is what will be remembered from the 2011 baseball season – not the Rangers’ successful defense of their American League title.

In the early 1990’s, the Buffalo Bills played in four consecutive Super Bowls, the only team in NFL history to attain that feat. Yet the Bills are noticeably absent from discussions of the game’s greatest teams. They are never mentioned with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots or San Francisco 49ers because the Bills lost all four of their championship games. Likewise, their on-field leader, Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, never attained the glory or stature of Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw or Tom Brady, all of whom won multiple NFL championships.

In 2007, the New England Patriots took an unblemished record into the Super Bowl, matching the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ accomplishment. But the Patriots were defeated by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Thus, when we speak of classic undefeated seasons, only the Dolphins are mentioned. The Patriots receive little recognition for their near accomplishment.

The city of St. Louis is celebrating. Championship parades are being staged for the Cardinals and their retiring manager, assured Hall-of-Famer Tony La Russa. Thousands are expected to attend.

It is uncertain whether Dallas will host any parades for its defeated two-time defending American League champions. Yet, even if consolation celebrations are held, it is difficult to imagine thousands of fans lining the parade route and showering the Rangers with chants of “We’re number two!”

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Special Message from Netflix

Dear Netflix Subscriber,

We still can’t understand it. When we announced in September our plans to split off DVD rentals from streaming services, we assumed that our customers would embrace the opportunity to maintain two separate accounts (streaming on Netflix and DVD rentals on Quikster), with different websites, different ID names and different passwords at twice the cost of traditional Netflix services.

We were wrong. Since we made the announcement, nearly one million customers have left the Netflix family, and account cancellations continue to arrive daily.

Our investors are unhappy. They see our decision to abruptly deviate from the “ease of use” formula that has traditionally made Netflix successful as a corporate mistake rivaling Coca-Cola’s 1985 ill-fated formula change.

You have spoken and we have listened. The message is loud and clear: if we want to maintain control of Netflix and our substantial annual incomes, we must re-evaluate our plans.

The first step in the re-evaluation process is a review of the origins of the idea. Why did we decide to make the change? Who was responsible? Our investigation has revealed that the source of the idea was a mailroom employee at Netflix’s main offices in Los Gatos, California. You may rest assured that the individual is no longer employed by Netflix and the company plans to post his address, telephone number and photograph on the Netflix website to give you, our valued customer, the opportunity to express your dissatisfaction directly to him. We will also include a direct link to the individual’s Facebook page, so that you may share your frustration with others. Our principal goal is to enable you, our valued customer, to assuage your rage with the same seamless ease that has traditionally defined Netflix.

The next step in the re-evaluation process is righting the wrong created by that ill-advised former Netflix employee. So we are going to keep Netflix as the one place to go for streaming and DVDs. That means no major changes: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Quikster. The only noticeable change is that Netflix will now be called Netflix Classic, consistent with Coca-Cola’s resolution of its own PR fiasco.

Don’t get us wrong – we are still raising our prices more than 60 percent. We feel strongly that the increase is justified by the more than 3,500 second-rate TV episodes that have been added to our streaming selection over the past few weeks. We believe that the addition of thousands of shows no one wants to watch more than offsets our recent loss of the rights to top quality programs such as Showtime’s Dexter and our inability to secure the rights to any HBO programs (curse you, HBO-Go!).

So please, give us another chance. If you are one of the one million Netflix subscribers who left as a result of our former employee’s decision, please come back. We will make your return to the Netflix family as painless as possible. And, to avoid the possible stigma that may attach to perceived “turn-coats,” we will continue to charge your credit card for the entire period of your absence. It will be as if you never left!

We value you as a member, and are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies and TV shows.


The Netflix Team