John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: February, 2014

Happy Birthday in the Electronic Age

Last Saturday I celebrated a major birthday turning the page and joining the ranks of family and friends already septuagenarians. The occasion reminded me of the birthday greeting I received from my cousin, Bill, ten-years ago when I first opened my previous chapter as a sexagenarian: “Just think, John, if you had died yesterday, at age 59, people would have  said: ‘How awful, he was so young.’ Now they’ll say: ‘So it goes, ah, he lived a full life.”

This time around, instead being surprised by a humorous message or one profound, or silly, serious or even loving, the one that grabbed me came from a machine. Mary Ann and I spent ten-days in Florida in the week leading up to my birthday, the last three on Sanibel Island. By a very human act, I had diminished our available cash half-way into our trip by leaving a chunk in a hotel safe in Orlando when we checked out. (Fortunately, Mary Ann’s call to the Hilton retrieved the lost billfold and its contents, but the money would not reach us until we arrived back in Port Washington.)

The morning after we arrived in Sanibel, I said to Mary Ann, “I’m fairly certain that there is a Wells Fargo bank on the island where I can get cash from my account without incurring a fee. Let’s go there on our way to lunch.”

So I pulled the rental Jeep up to this ATM, inserted my debit card and entered my pin. The usual menu appeared – I chose; GET CASH – Enter the Amount – I chose; $200 – Receipt? – I chose; No… But wait, before the cash was dispensed the ATM flashed on its screen: Happy Birthday John!

JESUS H. “JUMP UP AND DOWN” CHRIST, THE F****** ATM was telling me to have a happy birthday. AN ATM WAS TELLING ME TO HAVE A HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


“Mary Ann, look, look at the ATM.”

She did, shook her head and replied, “Talk about Big Brother.”

Inside I knew that this was just another technological assault on the old people and as a newly minted septuagenarian, I object to the velocity in the growth of our electronic age. Fellow travelers, we are screwed. They just throw this stuff at us without care, concern or condolences. Take the development that just broke last week; Mark Zuckerberg, (29), the man who brought the world, Facebook, bought out WhatsApp from the relatively two older men who founded it, Brian Acton, (42) and Jan Koum, (38). The deal was for lots of stock and options in Facebook that on the bottom end will yield these two gentlemen and their minions a minimum of $16 billion and at the top end, $19 billion!

A week ago, I had no idea who WhatsApp was and what they do but, if something is worth nineteen billion semolians, I wanted to find out more. I think I have this right so here goes: Simply put, WhatsApp is the largest of a number of new providers that enable their subscribers to communicate text messages almost for free over the internet regardless of the type of device either party is using (ex. Android, iPhone, etc.) thereby bypassing telephone providers and their per-text charges.

Here is how the New York Times explained it: “This means that someone who sent 5,000 messages over WhatsApp, a not unreasonable (monthly) number for some overactive teenagers, would pay about a penny in data fees. If 5,000 (SMS)* texts were sent at AT&T’s nonplan rate of 20 cents a message, the sender would be out $1,000 which is 100,000 times WhatsApp’s price.”

I hope you are still with me on this and that, so far, it makes sense. WhatsApp has 450 million users and is growing. But read on, this is where we go off of the rails; again the NY Times: “It is still unclear whether WhatsApp can make a lot of money providing very cheap texts. Today, the app is free to use for a year, after which it charges a user $1 a year.”

In addition the folks at WhatsApp pride themselves on not collecting a lot of data about the users nor do they accept ads and have pledged to remain ad free. So, unless I am missing something that is staring me in the face, this means that aside from the buck a user they get, WhatsApp has no revenue. So I ask: “How in hell can a company with this limited revenue be worth $16 to $19 billion dollars?

It is times like this that I really, really feel not just old, worse, much worse than just feeling old. I feel, lost, out of it and vulnerable to this brave new electronic world. Forget trying to understand Bitcoin and frankly I still don’t get hashtag. By the way, when did the pound sign become hashtag? I had to look it up in Wikipedia just to see how to spell hashtag correctly!

#Oh what’s the hell, let’s get a drink.

*SMS: The thing in your phone that allows you to send text messages through the same system that sends your mobile telephone calls.

Report from SB XVIII Pt. 3: The Party’s Over

The Game


Well, the self-proclaimed, “Super-Duper, Only in New York City-Super Bowl Experience” is finally over and the weather, security, access, pricing and crowd hype is all said and done. The teams took the field at Met Life Stadium on Sunday evening and the game opened with the Seahawks kicking off to the Broncos for a touchback. On his first offensive play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning began his usual pre-snap ritual by sneaking up to his center, Manny Ramirez, to adjust the formation. Unfortunately, Manny got it wrong and, instead of waiting for Peyton’s Omaha laced fakes and commands, Ramirez decided to snap the football into the space just vacated by his stunned quarterback. Manning watched the ball sail into the end zone with a look on his face that he would wear the rest of the game. The Seahawks scored a safety: Seattle 2 – Broncos 0.

Turn out the lights the party’s over

 they say that all good things must end. 

Fair enough, too early to admit this one was over, but it was over. This was Seattle’s day and the Broncos remained unglued. Even if you were the biggest Bronco aficionado and believed your team could turn it around, you too would have forsaken hope when Percy Harvin ran back the second-half kickoff for a Seahawk’s TD tweaking their lead to 29-0!

The entire verse, please, Mr. Willie Nelson:

Turn out the lights the party’s over

they say that all good things must end.

Let’s call it a night the party’s over

and tomorrow starts the same old thing again. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Final score: 43-8. Ecstasy in Seattle, heartbreak in Denver. Peyton Manning failed to deliver and, despite his records and awards including his 5th NFL MVP, he will not be proclaimed, “The Best Ever” or, perhaps, even the best of his era. And so it goes.

The Buildup and Hype 

The weather hype began on Wednesday, January 22, when, Lonnie Quinn, a weatherman from New York based, WCBS, set out a prediction to Mike Francesa on his “Miked Uped” afternoon sports talk show on WFAN that a certain computer model predicted a significant snow event would impact the New York metropolitan area sometime within 48 hours of the scheduled kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII.

That was eleven days prior to the game but by Friday, January 24th, the tom-toms had quieted down. The ten-day forecast included a game-day precipitation probability of 60% with a 49% chance of snow possible but with rather benign temperatures ranging from 35 to 25 degrees. From there on, the forecast improved daily so that by Tuesday, Jan. 28th, the prediction was for partly cloudy skies with a high of 42º and a low of 26. By Friday, it had improved to a high of 50º and for game-time, a balmy 44! Actual temperature at game-time was 47! (But nobody seemed to focus on Monday’s forecast.)

I have a theory why the weather held. Back in the day, when the New York Football Giants financial survival depended on the size of the crowd that bought tickets at the gate on the day of the game, the Giants had extraordinary luck with the weather. So much so that sports writers began to refer to this phenomenon as “Mara weather.” Now that Tim Sr., Jack and Wellington Mara all reside with the Almighty, it would appear that God may have delegated the responsibility for arranging the weather in New Jersey on Ground Hog Day, 2014 to the Mara family.

Ticket prices however, did not sustain the enthusiastic inflated asking prices first offered on the secondary market. I tracked the prices for my section, No. 108, at Met Life Stadium. The opening asking price on Ticketmaster was $4,620 per ticket. By early Super Bowl week, this had dropped to $2,558 (although other optimists were still holding out for $4,058.) On Saturday the high-low range for 108 narrowed to $2,842 to $3641 and by Saturday night, two tickets remained at that discounted asking price, $2,558.

Nine other Giants fans joined me on Thursday, Jan. 30 to explore Super Bowl Boulevard, a.k.a. Broadway. We decide to meet at the north end in Father Duffy Square (46th Street and Broadway) and travel south to Herald Square (34th Street) and our ultimate destination, Foley’s NY Bar & Grill for a festive lunch.

My friend, Mike Scott and I met in Penn Station and rode the subway north under this section of Broadway to meet the troops. We noticed an absence of uniformed NYPD on the stations or in the train and when I mentioned this to Mike, he noted, “True, but how many cops are right in front of us that we don’t recognize?”

Above ground, uniforms were everywhere but the NYPD is so used to big events that they appeared relaxed. We did pick up passes but they were only needed to stand on line to wait to see this or that. At best, SB Blvd. deserved a C-. Picture an upscale county fair without the midway, the girls*, the gambling, corn dogs, fried dough and turkey wings. Now transfer it to an urban setting: Broadway. Place a series of booths, playing fields and other obstacles in the center of the street then fill it with people until it starts to become a mob scene. Top it off by saturating the entire length with every type of signs, banners and bunting proclaiming its mega-corporate sponsors particularly Pepsi, Bud Light, GMC and Verizon plus a large dose of NFL and Super Bowl logos and, “wa-la,” as if by magic, you have created “Super Bowl XLVIII Boulevard Engineered by GMC.”…its official name.

(* This is not to say that the City wasn’t flooded with hookers. It just means working SB Blvd. wasn’t a viable venue for their consideration.)

Kick a field goal; the wait is only a half-hour. See the Vince Lombardi Trophy up close; 45 minutes—your photo in front of the 3-D block letters, XLVIII; a mere ten minutes—an autograph from a “B”-list NFL player; an hour. Play areas, green screen photo-opts and other events geared to kids; all for the taking if you are willing to wait.

The sun was our very best friend as the air felt 10 degrees warmer than in the shade. The 60 foot-high, 180 foot-long toboggan was hooky but massive and folks did travel quickly. Strangely though for each of us well-seasoned New Yorkers, every one of us commented that the toboggan was turned 180 degrees from what we had imagined. Every rendition of it in the newspapers gave the impression that it traveled downhill from north to south. We thought it went downtown when actually it goes uptown. Go figure.

A Super Bowl usually overwhelms the host city. Not New York though. That’s a funny thing about Manhattan; it swallows any event, big or small. Go one blocks east to Sixth Avenue or west to Seventh Avenue and you wouldn’t know Super Bowl Blvd. existed.


Two final notes: all during the lead up to the game, the fans planning to attend were inundated with public service messages extolling them to use mass transit. So how did that work out?

Not well, New Jersey Transit failed to cope with the 25,000 fans who used the railroad to travel to Met Life Stadium. The transfer facility in the Secaucus swamp (A.K.A. Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station) was a nightmare where fans were trapped for an hour in a connecting corridor in conditions that the NY Times described as, “The air was stale, the heat had become blistering  and the ordeal was going on and on.” The ride home was no bargain either. “As of 11:20 p.m., nearly 90-minutes after the game had ended, about 13,000 people (half the number) had been transported by train from the complex…” and have a nice day.

Lastly, remember Lonnie Quinn’s model? The snow began to fall early Monday morning, heavy-wet snow that stuck like glue. About eight inches fell by the time it stopped around 7 p.m. making post-Super Bowl travel another horrible experience.

Memo to Roger Goodell: Should you ever again consider scheduling the Super Bowl in a cold-weather environment: Forggedabodit!

(Author’s note: I will be off the next two weeks. John D.)