Sunday, March 22, 2009


It’s not unknown in hockey but this sort of thing (Canucks vs. Coyotes, last night) IS rare, not to mention embarrassing beyond belief:
The “own goal” I remember most… and with GREAT pain… is this one (from The Wiki):
Detroit Red Wings' Paul Coffey accidentally swiped the puck into the Wings' own net during Game 1 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche. The goal proved costly as it forced the Wings to tie the game late to force overtime, where they would eventually lose. Colorado went on to win the series 4-2.
Yup. That one hurt. A lot. It hurt Coffey more than it hurt me (and all other Wings fans), tho. Coffey was traded to the Hartford Whalers in the off season that year after a reported falling out with Wings coach Scotty Bowman. Coffey’s “own goal” could well have been the beginning of the animosity between the two. But that one moment of ignominy shouldn’t be the basis for judging Coffey as the man had a damned fine career, all things considered. “Stuff happens,” to everyone.
"Spuck Bennett, left, owns two Harley-Davidson dealerships, one in Delaware and another in Maryland. "I haven't seen anything like this in the 33 years I've owned a dealership," he says. "We're just trying to survive." At Mr. Bennett's dealership in Seaford, Del., Terry Willey Jr., center with hat, Terry Willey and Justin Chambers, right, were checking out the bikes."
Photo: Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times
Hard times in Milwaukee… and elsewhere (NYT: “Harley, You’re Not Getting Any Younger”):
SPUCK BENNETT’S dealership just outside Ocean City, Md., is cluttered with 65 shiny Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including the chrome Sportster and the sleek V-Rod. Last year, Mr. Bennett, 79, sold 200 bikes, down from 280 the year before. This year, sales have slowed to a crawl.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in the 33 years I’ve owned a dealership,” he says. “We’re just trying to survive.” He has cut expenses by trimming hours and overtime, and laid off 7 of his 49 employees.
After riding high for two decades, the company that makes the hulky bikes that devoted riders affectionately call Hogs is sputtering. Harley’s core customers are graying baby boomers, whose savings, in many cases, have gone up in smoke in the market downturn. Few are in the mood to shell out up to $20,000 or more for something that is basically a big toy, and the company, in turn, has not captured much of the younger market.
Well… all that is interesting and more than a little predictable. We are in a recession — toys are usually the first things to go in times like these — and a mo’sickle ain’t nothing but a toy in these United States. But what caught my attention is Harley’s very own sub-prime crisis:
As much as one-fourth of the $2.8 billion in loans issued by Harley-Davidson Financial Services last year were subprime, with interest rates as high as 18 percent. As the downturn took hold, some borrowers started defaulting on loans and investors stopped buying the securities, forcing Harley to write down $80 million of debt last year, analysts said. Although it recently tightened lending standards, the company is still chasing buyers by offering credit.
“It’s an unsustainable strategy to continue financing this way,” says Robin Farley, an analyst with UBS. “In the last few months, they’ve been running into a liquidity wall.”
Tom Bergmann, Harley-Davidson’s chief financial officer, defends the company’s lending practices. “It’s not easy in this environment,” he said. “We have to give loans to customers, but only to those worthy, and we’ve been disciplined and prudent in granting credit to our customers.”
In large part because of loan problems, though, profits at Harley fell 30 percent last year, to $654.7 million on revenue of $5.6 billion. Operating income of the financial subsidiary fell 61 percent, to $83 million.
Interesting, eh? It ain’t just subprime real estate loans… it’s bikes, too. I’m betting there are similar situations in the boat and RV markets as well, or any other industry requiring the significant financing of a purchase. This, of course, tempts me to drag out my soap box and talk about things such as self-restraint and financial responsibility in the sense of “we have met the enemy and he is us.” And to re-post the famous Walt Kelly cartoon which I will do, yet again.
The cartoon is as far as I’ll go down this path, other than to say the collective “we” brought a LOT of the current economic crisis upon ourselves through our instant-gratification culture. The sales, marketing, and finance asshats who encourage and exploit that attitude ain’t helping things, either. I really don’t know which is worse…the clue-free consumers who really DO believe they deserve every damned thing in life… NOW! … or the aforementioned blackguards who make mindless acquisition possible at exorbitant cost to everyone involved (bike loans at 18-frickin’ percent?), including those who hold more reasonable and prudent values.
One is tempted to think we might deserve to reap this economic whirlwind… but I keep reminding myself there ARE responsible people left in America. Somewhere…
Well, now. I should remind you that the Harley article isn’t about values and financial peccadilloes… it’s mostly about the bike bid’niz and its product. And the article IS a good read, regardless of the fact most of us bikers have seen this movie before… like back in the early-80s when Harley was on the brink and cajoled temporary tariffs out of President Reagan and the Congress on imported bikes over 700 cc displacement while management saved the firm. Forgive me my massive digression and pontification, Gentle Reader.


  1. I love that POGO - there are 2 that I have saved...that one and one about how dogs keep the "fambly" together.

    And further along with your digression, SPOT ON! as you and the Brits say. I am tired of hearing the blame passed to the banks and corporate. A lot of us share at least a bit of it.

    I have bought and sold 3 properties in MT in the last 10 years. Unless, MT does things very differently, the "fine print" in the loan docs is not "fine". I am always given a large print doc with exactly what I'm paying in interest. I have never done an adjustable loan, but I've seen the alternative docs - they are clear in size (font and bold) and language (not legalese). AND there is a paper you sign that says you read and understand. My closings were attended by my realtors AND mortgage brokers in case there were any questions. AND the docs are all available - by law - 24 hours ahead of time. A long winded comment to say, I just don't buy the excuses of those that say they were "taken" by banks, brokers - they WANTED something so badly they were WILLING to sign thinking the worst consequences would not happen.

    The banks are in trouble because THEY assumed the worst would not happen either - but my point is that it all comes down to being responsible for our choices.

    Not taking responsibility and then whining about it, is the part of this downturn that annoys me the most. That and what the admin is doing about it but that's yet another topic.

    Stopping now.

  2. Buck,
    I am waiting for the Flyers to play the Devils so I am in the Hockey frame of mind. The bit on the "own Goal" hits close to home.

    Some years back all three of my kids played ice hockey here in PA. On three different teams, SN1 on a High School team, SN2 (some 5+ years younger than SN1) and the Daughter played on an All Girls team. Of course their games were not coordinated and the Mom and I did a lot of driving on weekends. In this one particular year when the High School season ended SN1 announced he was no longer going to skate, he was changing schools and he would not skate against his old school team, too many friends there. The other two joined a Spring league team that was associated to SN2's team, kind of something to keep developing players.

    They were put on the same team.

    The daughter being the only girl on the team and in many games was the only girl on the ice.

    Now, she was not a natural at the ice hockey stuff like SN2 and it showed out their on the ice. And SN2 being some 2 years her junior did not yet understand the secret rituals between Teenage Boys and Teenage Girls of interest to said Boys. Some of these boys making "runs" on the Sister not so much to advance the game of ice hockey as more to introduce themselves to said daughter.

    Now, SN2 was always a big kid and was taught early to play defense (this is the kid that is now a Corporal in the USMC). He was a very effective hitter, clean but hard. Many a forward once introduced to SN2 in on ice action were made less affective in their fear of getting even more attention from SN2's shoulder or hip. The Goalie's he played in front of loved him.

    In one game, my daughter took a couple of intro's which are misinterpreted by SN2. No harm No foul from the stands at least. SN2 goes out and like a mad hornet clears the Ice, and I mean bone crushing clearing of anyone that came near the Daughter. It got to a point where no one wanted to come near her when she was handling the puck.

    So, there she is getting the break-out pass and heading into neutral ice, she starts twisting and turning, head down working the puck avoiding opponents who were just as nervous trying to avoid her as SN2 was out "escorting" as it were. It was an ugly set of turns this way and that and then she crossed the blue line, people started yelling at her, their enthusiasm rubbing off, kind of. She finally looks up, sees the Goalie out of position and no one to pass to in better position than she, so she takes the shot. It was a lovely slapper, I was in the stands watching it unfold.

    Of course she scored into her own goal. In the mess that was her skating the puck up ice and everyone trying to avoid her, she got turned around and when she finally looked up she simply thought she had worked her way into the opponents end.

    The ride home that day was pretty quiet. They never played again on the same team, but they are the best of friends.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  3. Ann: We're on the same page, and my house-buying experiences mirror yours. I, too, never even CONSIDERED a variable-rate mortgage... opting each and every time for the standard fixed-rate 30 year mortgage (although three houses had their mortgages guaranteed by the VA). Well, I DID take out a 15-year mortgage on my last house, but that was because I could, and the interest rate was considerably lower.

    I've been "victimized" by a real estate collapse, too... back in the mid-80s when the oil patch collapsed in Oklahoma, along with property values. It was my bad luck to have to sell my house at that point in time (I'd just retired from the AF and was relocating to Michigan)... and I took a $6K check to closing, losing my down payment and all my equity in the process. But... I sucked it up and did the right thing. I supposed I could have walked...

    Finally... I have seen a few real horror stories about predatory lenders and I do believe they're out there. I'd love to see THOSE asshats do some time, rather than watch all the carping and faux outrage about the AIG bonus flap. Then again, most of the disreputable brokers/lenders didn't do anything technically illegal, they were simply massively unethical. And slimy.

    Jimmy T sez: The ride home that day was pretty quiet.

    I guess, LOL!! Thanks for that story, Jimmy... I really enjoyed it!

  4. Well put, Ann. My husband and I had 1 ARM that jacked up to 13% in the early eighties before we could get out of it . But, we always made the payments, even if it meant we ate a lot of beans and cornbread one month. Then, we re-financed that puppy ASAP and never contemplated another, no matter how much it reduced payments.

    I'm really proud of our older daughter -- she's taking a course sponsored by her employer, after hours, on personal finances. And -- get this -- she's actually following the advice! She figures that she and fiancee will have no debt other than mortgage and car note by this summer, together with a substantial savings account and investment portfolio. It does a mother's heart proud. We wish the son would follow suit, but he's a little too much into "toys."

    I miss Pogo! And Li'l Abner.

  5. We have some friends who somehow always had nice new boats, ATVs and snowmobiles, and the big hardware with which to pull them around. I always used to wonder how they could afford them along with the big new houses.

    Now I know; they were refinancing every six months, riding the bubble and chewing up the equity. Now they don't have the toys, and may or may not be able to keep the big house.

  6. Moogie: The late '70s ~ early '80s wasn't the best time to be buying a house. I had more than a few friends who were paying WELL over ten percent for fixed-rate mortgages back then. I lucked out and got into an Oregon state gub'mint VA program and had a three percent mortgage, assumable at five. I had NO trouble selling that house when I was transferred to England...

    Good on your older daughter!! Stories like that do my heart good!

    Gordon: That's a sad story and ALL too common these days. I don't want to be mean-spirited, but... those are the types about whom I have serious issues when it comes to "mortgage assistance."


Just be polite... that's all I ask.