For many people, the new year 2001 could not get here soon enough. Just one year ago, folks across the country (and the world for that matter) were popping open champagne bottles, shooting off fireworks, dancing in the streets, and ringing in the millennial new year (366 days early). The year forever known as Y2K started with so much promise, so many expectations. Once everyone realized that their personal computers would boot up, money machines would distribute cold hard cash, and every technological invention of the past millennium would still operate, they proceeded with their partying without a care in the world. The economy was thriving; the stock market was soaring; the presidential campaign was cordial and orderly; carefree “yuppies” cruised around in their overpriced, gas guzzling SUV’s with their well performing Firestone tires. Yes, despite a few occasional Florida riots over young Elian, all was good throughout the land.
And all at once, something happened that turned the world upside down. It may have been the ruling in the Microsoft antitrust suit that proclaimed the giant monopoly was a “giant monopoly;” it may have been a Barron’s article revealing that many high-flying “dot.coms” with no earnings expectations for the foreseeable future were in dire need of additional financing so they could remain open and continue losing money indefinitely; it may have been some “untimely” comments from the March 2000 issue of “For What It’s Worth” that stated “The bad news is, in many cases, investing has become sheer speculation. The tide will turn one day; it may get ugly … Subsequently, incomes will drop; consumer spending will subside. Company revenues (not to mention profits) will decline, stock prices will fall, and investors will panic.” (Remember, you did hear it here first.) The seemingly never-ending stock market euphoria came to a “crashing” halt. Day traders went back to their day jobs to pay down their margin debt; twenty-something Internet billionaires were soon updating resumes. All of the major indices plummeted over the last nine months of the year and the economy as a whole seemed headed for recession.
While the financial world was in disarray, folks turned to the political world to regain some semblance of sanity in their lives. That dream match-up of “W” vs. Gore caught the nation by storm and turned average apathetic Americans into political junkies. Watching riveting debates on TV became the new national pastime. (With the stock market plunging, no one could afford to do much else.) In the end, the people had spoken (or did they?) and after another six short weeks of counting ballots (and rioting again in Florida), a new President-elect was crowned. With no true mandate for “W” to govern, uncertainty reigned and the people worried about the political state of the country. While Hillary took her “rightful” place among the elite fraternity (sorority) of U.S. Senators (despite never living in her new “home” state), hubby Bill desperately sought a peace deal in the Middle East to achieve that legacy by which he will be forever remembered (like anything could surpass Jennifer, Paula, Kathleen, Monica, and Ken). The only true winners in this tragic-comedy known as American politics are the Saturday Night Live players (not to mention Leno and Letterman) whose political satires would be even funnier if they weren’t so factual.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
With both the financial and political worlds in shambles, folks longed for that much needed escape from reality and looked for it in the soothing dreamland known as sports and entertainment. Over the course of the year, we watched an accused murderer (allegedly) turn his life around by football season and earn defensive MVP honors in the league. We listened as a racist pitcher insulted virtually every minority in the country, yet continued to earn his trade because he can throw a heck of a fastball. We saw a cussing, choking, chair-throwing basketball coach finally get run out of town after one final intolerable incident (and an inability to take a team to the Final Four in years). We eagerly awaited a comedian that no one understands joining the booth of Monday Night Football to try to recapture the magic of Howard Cosell (and failing miserably). We celebrated the return of a baseball dynasty to New York and realized that without a salary cap, the World Series streak may continue indefinitely. Unless, of course, an all-star shortstop can live up to his $250,000,000 (yes, those zeroes are right) billing and lead his team to the pennant. And, by the way, I think the Summer Olympics occurred this year but no one really noticed.
From the entertainment world, our attempts to escape reality failed miserably as the networks bombarded us with real life adventures and activities that we could enjoy from the comfort of our LA-Z-Boys. We watched some ordinary folks get stranded on a desert island, forced to turn to their natural animal instincts in order to survive. (Interestingly, that camera crew survived just fine in those harsh conditions.) We realized that “love and money” go hand and hand as desperate women competed for the affection of an eligible millionaire (allegedly) bachelor. And finally, we could barely contain ourselves as we experienced the always exciting day-to-day lives of diverse people living together in a house while “Big Brother” was watching. (Thankfully, for me, DirecTV and HBO mean I may never have to watch network TV again.)
LET THE PREDICTIONS BEGIN
Just what’s in store for the true millennium? President “W” longs for his “good old days” as Governor of Texas (where Lt. Governor does all the work) and Texas Rangers owner (pre A-Rod). Adversaries emerge to oppose the confirmation of Cabinet nominees (namely Attorney General) and passage of his promised massive tax cuts. Bill Clinton does not fade off into the sunset but instead becomes a highly popular (and compensated) speaker and the most sought after corporate spokesman since Bob Dole and Viagra. Alan Greenspan tries to wave his magic wand over the economy in the form of (more) rate cuts, but no quick fix can help as the sluggish times continue. The stock market remains quite volatile and does not look to regain that euphoria of the 90’s anytime soon. After such a dramatic pullback over such a short timeframe, excellent “values” exist in the marketplace. (It just may take a while until they reap rewards for investors.)
With money in the bank, A-Rod puts up very unimpressive “Ken Griffey”-like numbers and the sub-500 Rangers are left on the outside looking in as the Yankees capture another World Series ring. (Owner Tom Hicks wants to renegotiate.) Attendance decreases at the ballparks (in every sport) as Average Joe Fan can no longer afford the expensive tickets and gets tired of watching non-loyal, overpaid, whining players who believe they are above the game (and the law). And besides, who wants to leave the house, when we can stay home and watch “Survivor 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6” which get more air time than Regis Philbin? Welcome to the real millennium; from financial, political, and sports/entertainment standpoints, it could not have gotten here soon enough.