Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.
– Warren Buffett
I reference the Oracle of Omaha not to bring up his home city again, though I once spent 10 minutes there over a decade ago during a brief stop on Amtrak’s California Zephyr line. Rather, it’s important to keep the nation’s current economic malaise in perspective. Whether the recession ends at the end of this year or next year, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a shovel in the ground for a ballpark anywhere in the Bay Area by then. Which means that no one has to raise any funds or issue any bonds by then. Which makes all of the media’s constant allusions to the wrecked economy moot. The next time I want financial advice on a personal or governmental scale, I won’t be posting to a sports columnist’s Facebook wall.
Yet that won’t stop the critics from hammering away. This weekend, three columns have been devoted to Lew Wolff’s various foibles, from Gary Peterson, Ray Ratto, and even Huffington Post contributor Stephen Kaus. I agree that Wolff should simply STFU on much of the San Jose talk until it’s time to deal in earnest. After all, that’s exactly what Wolff told San Jose, so it certainly wouldn’t hurt for him to heed his own advice. It’s hard for me to believe that Wolff isn’t stung by some of these critiques, but if he’s already picked out his media cheering squad, he simply may not care. Still, not everything has to be played through the media. If that’s the way he wants to play, he’d be advised to don a suit of armor.
However, these owners, these rich guys all have something you and I have far less of based on the past 9 months: the ability and means to do long-range planning. Even though Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway lost a mindboggling $11.5 billion last year, the man is by no means destitute. Neither are Lew Wolff or John Fisher. They don’t have to worry about their 401k accounts dwindling to peanuts while killing their retirement plans. They don’t have to worry about their employer, say a newspaper, going bankrupt, thus forcing them to figure out a different way to freeload off the gameday spread at various sporting events. They can look ahead to a couple years from now when the environment is better for big stadium plans. We all think short term because we’re forced to, because that’s what the circumstances dictate for us. Them? Not so much.
So could we please stop it with the economy crap? No one’s building anything right now, or even a year from now. When it’s time to talk turkey we can see how the economy and market respond. Until then, it’s a red herring.