Monday, December 7, 2009

Tiger Woods

Oscar Wilde once said “Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.” Never was that more true than this past week. As both a golfer and an admirer of Tiger Woods, I have this to say about Tiger’s admitted “transgressions,” It’s none of my business. Steve Stricker, his friend and fellow golf professional put it best: “I don't think it's really any of our business to get inside his private life. But it all drives us to want to learn more, I guess, and I don't know if that's right or wrong. But I respect what he's doing. You know, he's trying to make it as private as he can, and it's just hard because everybody is trying to get a piece of information on really what happened. But we may never know, and I really don't care. I don't really want to know. It's too bad that it happened and that it happened at this time.”

By Sam DelPresto

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What is Going On Here

According to the book “Connected” by Christakis and Fowler , every month over eleven million people around the world play a game on the internet called “World of Warcraft.” “If the people who play this game every month were their own country, they would be bigger than Greece, Belgium, Sweden and nearly 150 other nations.” according to the book’s authors. Millions of people are playing this game as you read this. (This is not by any means the thrust of “Connected”, it was merely used as an illustration of a different point.)

Eleven million playing an internet game is shocking on at least two fronts. First, how could I never have heard of something that eleven million people do every month, and second, what does that say about them or us as a society? Although it is almost impossible to find out how many books are being sold, individually or collectively, it has long been accepted that there are surprisingly few when compared to any other medium. A best seller might have a readership in the hundreds of thousands, rarely into the millions. Or put another way, more people watch infomercials on TV than read most books. And yet, eleven million people are playing something you probably never heard of. I hate a story that indicates that I am more out of touch than my own daughters, but eleven million people are hard to ignore.

By Sam DelPresto

Monday, October 26, 2009

President’s Cup

There is no other sporting event like golf’s President’s Cup. I know everyone always says that about whatever their favorite event is, but in this case I mean because there is not other event that makes me wish I was playing along in it. I can appreciate LeBron James driving to the hoop, or Eli Manning throwing a perfect 54 yard pass, but it doesn’t make me want to be in the game.

The President’s Cup does.

The recent biennial event was held in San Francisco and was won by team USA who beat a team of the best international players. I particularly liked catching a glimpse of the “off the field” intrigues of the event. In a sport that is exceedingly individualized, it is wonderful to see the world’s best golfers genuinely pulling for one another. It is refreshing to see them openly applaud another’s great shot. They say that the problem with golf on TV is that the only people who watch it are golfers. If a non-golfer tuned into the President’s Cup, I think that would make him an exception to the rule. Or at least, the comradely that is so obvious would make him or her want to grab some friends and go out and try the game.

By Sam DelPresto


I’m a big sports fan. This time of year, with baseball playoffs and the NFL under way is maybe the best time of the year. Throw in college football, and there’s a temptation to kill half the weekend in front of the tube. I understand the popularity of sports in America. I get it that almost sixteen million people watched Monday Night Football. (

But what I’m dying to know is how many people in the New York metropolitan area, where I live, watched either Northern Iowa vs Missouri State or Idaho vs Northern Illinois. Both games were available here. I figure that fewer than the sixteen million who watched MNF could even find any of the four represented states on a map. I guesstimate that about nineteen people from this area went to Northern Illinois, so they were glued to the TV. Throw in a few parents and cousins of students in Missouri and about sixteen degenerate gamblers who figured Idaho couldn’t miss with the point spread and I think the total viewership must have been about three hundred, and I’m being generous. What mostly intrigued me is the finances of the broadcast. Logic would dictate that airing these type of shows week after week makes more money than , say, a test pattern. But I don’t think by much.

By Sam DelPresto

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Depending on what you read, the recession may or not be over. The business excesses of the current decade without a name are well documented - from LBOs to derivatives et al. And as the House of Representatives argues about the means to prevent a recurrence of our woes, let me take a moment to mourn the loss of excess. Will we ever see again such luxuries as once displayed in the Robb Report’s “Annual Ultimate Gift Guide?”

Who among us will mourn the unavailability of a sterling silver tennis ball can for $1,750. Or covet the world’s most expensive bow tie in 24 karat gold with 22 karats of diamonds for $140,000. And gift giving has also taken a hit. Gone is the mink coat for a Cabbage Patch Kid doll that once sold for $400 or a working 24 karat-gold gumball machine set with 158 diamonds and jewels for a mere $100,000.

Some market corrections cannot get here soon enough.

By Sam DelPresto

Monday, September 21, 2009


According to James Thomson, president of the Rand Corporation, “Polarization in the US has reached its highest measure since the late 19th century.” His words were disturbing when I realized the civil war had just ended in the late 19th century. To say we are again at that level of animosity is disquieting. Thomson is not stating anything profound or new. He is merely echoing the words of President Obama , and quite frankly, echoing the words of just about everyone. Obama thought that too much attention is being paid by the media to “the shrillest voice.” Thomson’s take is "The proliferation of new, low cost media, able to aim only at a niche audience, allow people to hear or to read only what they want to, not exposing them to any challenging thought or uncomfortable opinion,"

Compounding the problem is the glut of shows that present themselves as “news” but are really merely entertainment. The goal is ratings and not education or debate. Perhaps I should heed the words of Samuel Marchbanks (aka Robertson Davies) who said “If you attack stupidity you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.” But I feel I have to try. The only upside to the polarization of ideas is better ratings. We need more than that.

By Sam DelPresto

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


For the fortunate traveler to Europe, the most striking piece of the landscape is the cathedral. I can’t off the top of my head think of any major city in Europe without a major cathedral to attract tourists. Notre Dame in Paris, perhaps the poster child for all cathedrals, took over two hundred years to build, and yet, the common reaction is to wonder how they built so magnificent a structure so quickly given the resources of the age. The multi-colored marble duomo (cathedral) in Siena, Italy could accommodate the entire population of Siena (15,000 people) at one time when it was built.

This struck me this morning when I heard that only 24% of the population in the United States goes to church on any given Sunday.

I was surprised that the percentage was so low. The notion of an entire population gathering at a central point was so foreign to me, so astounding, really, until I realized that the entire population of the United States gathers daily, without fail, in front of the new cathedral - the television. Unfortunately, that leaves the travelers of the future with very little to see.

By Sam Delpresto

Thursday, August 13, 2009


According to Mark Twain, “Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” If that is true, I would like to add another unnecessary necessity to your own idea of civilization – tequila. Yes, many of your friends may be into wine and all that goes along with it, but I want to take the briefest of moments to extol the virtues of the virtually unknown elixir.

There were between 850 and 900 registered brands of tequila in 2007. When you add in the rare brands hidden aware in people’s personal cellars, there are over 1,000 brands available. will bring you up to speed, if you’re so interested. The pleasures of tequila have not yet reached the hipsters in Brooklyn, NY, so you’re safe for a while from the accusation of being trendy if you get caught up in this little world. I’d write more about it, but there’s a glass of 100% Blue Agave with my name written all over it.

By Sam DelPresto

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tiger at Turnberry

How good does a man have to be to have his failures become a leading news story? This past week, Tiger Woods failed to make the cut at the Open Golf Championship at the Turnberry golf club in Scotland. Despite Tom Watson’s valiant effort and near victory at age 59, the top story of this year’s British Open (as we refer to it here in the US) was Wood’s failure to make it to the weekend. He has made 231 cuts in the 246 events he has entered. (

I’m always aware of the privilege it is to be able to watch Tiger at work. It may be as close as one gets to watching perfection, not unlike, I imagine, what it must have been like to watch Michelangelo paint. To borrow a line from Oscar Levant, Tiger Woods “is a character who, if he did not exist, could not be imagined.”

By Sam DelPresto

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Slow Wheels of Justice

            On the day that Bernard Madoff began serving his 150 year jail term for what seems to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history, his accountant, David Friehling has apparently reached a plea bargain. Friehling was arrested for securities fraud in March. He allegedly deceived investors by falsely certifying that he had audited the financial statements of Madoff’s firms.

            Perhaps finally his plea will open the flood gates to long-anticipated additional criminal charges against others. It has become a game of sorts in the financial world to try to guess the minimum number of people who had to know that something was amiss. Just to generate the monthly paperwork would have required a small army of people.  Someone, somewhere must have asked “Where are these numbers coming from?”  Actually, many “someones” must have asked that question every day of their lives.

            The upcoming unraveling of this impressively massive scheme will be certain to entertain right up to football season. I admit to a fascination that borders on awe of the enormity of the fraud. I’ve got my popcorn on hand and I’m ready to watch. “Go, team go.”

By Sam DelPresto