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RIP: Hold The Presses! In Lieu Of Flower, Please Send Contributions

But 19% Profit still ain't chopped liver

ripmedia_01By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

Is the traditional newspaper business beyond the grave, or is it in the throes of a slow, agonizing certain demise? While industry observers arrange for flowers, the death rattle, analysts note, is chilling: paid circulation and ad revenues are plummeting at most dailies and weeklies, and pink slips are being handed out with the frequency of those old phone message sheets once left in your mail slot at work.

But are rumors of the industry’s ruin greatly overstated? “I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying—it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off,” Molly Ivins, the blunt and penetrating Texas columnist, wrote earlier in the year. Ivins, citing the Wall Street Journal, said that publicly traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported profit margins last year of 19.2 percent, down from 21 percent in 2004. “That ain’t chopped liver—it’s more than double the average operating profit margin of the Fortune 500,” she writes.

“So, if newspapers are ridiculously profitable, how come there’s panic on Wall Street about them?” Noting a 13 percent drop in paid circulation since 1985, she adds, “So we’re looking at a steady decline over a long period, and many of the geniuses who run our business believe they have a solution. Our product isn’t selling as well as it used to, so they think we need to cut the number of reporters, cut the space devoted to the news, and cut the amount of money used to gather news, and this will solve the problem. For some reason, they assume people will want to buy more newspapers if they have less news in them and are less useful to people.”
In a recent Sunday Ideas section, The Boston Globe weighed in with a thoughtful perspective on how high-profile millionaires and billionaires are now considering acquiring some of the nation’s largest papers; among would-be investors are former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and advertising maven Jack Conors who have expressed an interest in acquiring the Globe from its parent, the New York Times. Espousing the tenants of independent, public-minded journalism, Ted Venetoulis, a publisher heading an investment group bidding on the Baltimore Sun, told Globe staff writer Drake Bennett, “We are taking a much longer view of the newspaper institution, we’re not just interested in flipping it.”

Embracing the  “community contract"

Clck to see the book about HoughThe future of newspapering— assuming the industry responds appropriately to the challenges and opportunities of the web—rests with owners willing to take the longer view. Perhaps a look back to the old school of publishing is as edifying as a focus forward. Embracing the  “community contract” he had for decades with his readers, the late Henry Beetle Hough, legendary editor and publisher of the Vineyard Gazette on Martha’s Vineyard, wrote in his classic work, Country Editor, “Instead of being qualified in a profession, it seems to me that I have taken root in a place.”

Newspaper publishers and investors should take stock of Hough’s wisdom, and take root in a place, not just profits out of it. Their futures and the future of the industry itself will depend on it.

Sadly, conventional wisdom suggests they won’t get it.

Business As Usual In Washington: Democrats Saddle Up To Public Trough For Pork

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

Political pork is a meal, it appears, best served these day to Democrats as a seismic shift in Washington will now allow the new party in power to pig out on earmarks for public projects, slapping on the feed bags as their Republican counterparts have done in the past. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan budget watchdog, has put an all-points bulletin out for such a binge, as predictable on Capitol Hill for the party in power as the outcome of roll calls. “Earmarks,” also called “spending by zip code,” are provisions tucked into bills by members of Congress to tap tax dollars for politically favored beneficiaries and projects.

“The federal appropriations process has become out of control—lawmakers are stuffing appropriations bills with billions of dollars in earmarks for wasteful, pork projects,” the taxpayers group warns in a website action alert.

While Democrats have spoken out for months against “special interest earmarks” inserted by Republicans into bills “in the dark of the night,” The New York Times noted recently, the party leadership seems to be queuing up for a spirited diversion of monkey see, monkey do. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who will become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee said in a speech last fall, shielding an Alaskan Republican’s earmark of more than $200 million for bridge to a remote area serving 50 people, the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere,” the Times report noted.

Other cases in point, the Times reported, are supplementary “pet projects” of Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican, outgoing chairman of the Senate defense appropriations committee, and his replacement, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii. Taxpayers for Common Sense reports that Alaska this year fed on more than $1 billion in earmarks ($1,677 per resident), and Hawaii received more than $900 million ($746 a resident). Total earmarks, according the Congressional Research Service, have tripled over the last 12 years to 16,000, adding up to a whopping $64 billion a year.

“Though each party would have you believe that the other is more corrupt, the reality is that both parties are guilty,” the taxpayers association said in a bulletin last month on lobby-induced earmarks. “What is clear to us is that corruption and graft in Congress is the only bi-partisan issue on Capitol Hill at the moment.”

Pork barrel politics are nothing new to Washington. Examples of such can be traced as far back as the Bonus Bill of 1817, introduced by John C. Calhoun to construct roadways linking the East and South to the West, using the “earnings bonus” from the Second Bank of the United States. What is most alarming in recent years are the bloated attempts at it, and the bi-partisan binging for more.

If Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, soon to gavel the House, wants to signal change, she will end this squandering of public monies, and down the pork food pantry.



Politics As Usual: In The Name Of God

 By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

The mid-term elections are sopping with biblical overtones. The “thumping” of Republicans, some say, is analogous to the Great Flood where the GOP was swept out of office, and the Almighty chose two of each to be saved; in this case enough Democrats from each state for control of the Congress. When the votes were counted and exit polling completed, it was no revelation that this Great Judgment ushered in a period of tribulation for Republicans and a bottomless pit of torment. “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” notes Matthew 8:26.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll, published Tuesday, gives the “casting out” greater perspective. Of those surveyed, 61 percent said they preferred Democrats, long relegated to coat checking in the U.S. House, to have more sway in directing the nation than President Bush. The fallout was more absolute in Massachusetts where Republicans today are about as relevant as abstaining from meat on Friday.

Post elections, Republican soul-searching is at full gait, and many in the party are now looking to the Father, George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st, to lead the tribe out of the wilderness, and show the Son, Dubya, the 43rd, some direction. Effecting this biblical analogy, Jon Meacham, writing in Newsweek, quotes from the Song of Moses, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask they father, and he will show thee; they elders and they will tell thee.”

In a country today as blue in some parts as the sea, many Republicans—lightening rods for conservative family values—are likely pondering: Why Lord? Why me?

The answer, in a word, is: arrogance—arrogance over Iraq, arrogance that Republican proclamations are infallible, arrogance that begot lust and a gluttony for power. Republicans, who love to quote scripture, ought to consider the passage on judgment in Matthew 7:22. It reads, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Arrogance has no political bounds. History is replete with the haughtiness of Democrats, who must be wise about what they have wished for. The public has no stomach for the hauteur. If God is indeed a Republican, perhaps the Lord let Republicans in these mid-term elections take one for the team. Conventional wisdom says the Almighty would not stoop to the level of either party. In any case, Democrats can no longer run on the Republican record; instead of just saying “no,” they now must provide answers.

In these heady, backslapping, high-fiving days for Democrats, it would be prudent of them to recognize that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are not running this country. They are caretakers for those without party affiliation who have placed them there.

To think otherwise would be arrogant.

Land Of The Cod: Where Have All The Fish Gone?

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

Holy mackerel! Some fish story! Harvard’s School of Public Health declared last week in a beefy report that eating fish reduces the risk of coronary death by 36 percent and other causes of death by 17 percent. A similar study released last week by the Institute of Medicine of the Academy of Sciences, although not as sanguine, stated that fish consumption—particularly fatty fish like mackerel and salmon,  “may” lessen the risk of heart disease.

Fish, no doubt, is back on the plate again, though still recovering from some bad spin doctoring over nasty PCB and dioxin contaminants. Both studies conclude that shellfish and finfish—high in protein and low in saturated fat—offer clear health benefits to most consumers, not to mention the culinary pleasures, with the caveat that young children and pregnant woman shun the most contaminated species.

“Seafood is likely the single most important food one can consume for good health,” said Dr. Darius Mozaffarian, an author of the Harvard study.

Anticipating results of the studies, restaurants have wasted little time in baiting customers and landing higher prices for the catch. For example, a lobster dish of one and three quarter ounces is now being offered in a New York bistro for $42, that’s $8-a-bite, according to The New York Times.

But hold on to your wallets. Demand may soon surpass the supply, the real fish story here. Fish landings in some ports are off as much as 95 percent in the last ten years, and local cod—once so plentiful that English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold in the1600s named a narrow spit of land after the fish—are as scarce today as a seat at your favorite waterfront eatery in July.

The problem: overfishing the fishery—from Georges Bank to the Pacific. “The U.S. fishing industry is sinking as the catch dwindles and a way of live vanishes," Business Week noted in a September special report. "The size of the problem is enormous. Even in the face of ever-tighter rules, the list of overfished species that may not be commercially viable for decades has barely budged. Of 67 depleted fish stocks a decade ago, 64 remain scarce…It’s a classic case of the tragedy of the commons, the economic textbook description of why farmers overgraze on public lands. Each farmer seeks to maximize the benefit of letting his cattle graze. So with no individual incentives to conserve, in the end, the grass on the commons is destroyed for all.”

So it is with fish. The solution: across-the-board implementation and strict enforcement of fishing quotas, insists Paul Parker, executive director of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association in Chatham, a nationally-recognized organization devoted to aligning protection of the oceans with the economic interests of the fishing community. “The problem, most simply put, is there is not enough fish,” he says.

Parker is optimistic that the fishery can rebound, but it will take more than the public’s appetite for native scrod with a side of asparagus; it will require a collective effort to preserve the way of life of those who go down to the sea in ships.


On The Couch In Brewster: Steinbrenner Still A Loser

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

This is the first autumn in recent memory when Dodger Blue and Giant orange—team colors of Flushing, Queens—have dominated the foliage of Bronx pinstripes.

Speaking of pinstripes, you could hear a pin, er…pinheads, drop a week ago Saturday night in New York! The Yankees 8-3 clawing at the paws of the feral Detroit Tigers then set off a vitriolic censure Sunday in the New York tabloids, calling for the noggins of everyone from Joe Torre, to A-Rod (dubbed 8-Rod after he slumped to eighth in the batting order), to deflated Jason Giambi, who plucked splinters out of his derriere while replacement Melky Cabrera (sounds like a candy bar) couldn’t squib the ball out of the infield.

“Damned Yankees. Disgrace,” bellowed the New York Post. “Deja Vu All Over Again For Yanks,” blurted the Daily News. The sports pages were replete with accounts of “Torre’s Time Running Out,” while observers were giddy with speculation that former bomber “Sweet Lou” Piniella would replace him. If George Steinbrenner had any brains (and we all know they stuff straw in his head) he would have replaced Torre with former Met Manager Bobby Valentine, now coaching in Japan where his team won the Nippon Series last year. But Torre lives to fight another season.

The same might not be true for the pricey 8-Rod (four hits in 41 at-bats with no RBIs in his last dozen Yankee postseason games). Piniella’s new den in Chicago may look more inviting, or protective. “The Yanks again stumbled in every phase,” Post columnist Joel Sherman observed recently. “The knee-jerk reaction will be…to throw money at the problems again. But the answer might be in removing some losing DNA that has come with the mushrooming payroll.” Thus A-Rod, he writes, must go.
Smelling blood, Yankee fans are chumming for more.

What is it about New York, one has to ask, that makes the Apple implode with failure? I grew up 20 minutes from the Bronx, and still don’t get it. Perhaps that’s why I converted years ago to lunch pail Fenway. So yesterday I checked in with two local shrink friends of mine to get my head realigned on the subject. As the second oldest in a family of ten—one always clawing to shimmy up the family tree, only to be whacked down again by my older sibling (who lives in New York by the way)—I should have known.

“The Yankees, like New York itself, is the big brother, the first born in the sports world,” waxes John Piekarski of Sandwich, a licensed independent clinical social worker who patrols the Cape. “And like the first born—the spoiled brats that they are—they have to win all the time. First borns never learn to share, and when they lose they flip out. There’s an arrogance factor at play. You have to win at everything, or your place in the family is in jeopardy.”

“It’s a win-at-all cost mentality,” observes Christine Harrington, a licensed independent clinical social worker in the Hanover area. “A fear of failure. If you fail, you’re inadequate.”

So you yell and scream when you lose, pitch such a hissy fit that it distracts from your failures. But we in Boston know better. There’s joy still today in Mudville. Analyze that, George!


Countdown To Catastrophe: North Korea On The Edge

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

Poof or proof? The experts still aren’t sure. But a week after North Korea’s purported nuke test that shook the minute hands of the Doomsday Clock in Chicago, megalomaniac Kim Jong-il—who reportedly keeps a concubine of women as young as 13 and has an appetite (four-day food and drink binges) that makes Henry VIII look anorexic—seems to be taunting to the world: Was it as good for you, as it was for me?

Fizzle or not, we get the point. This boisterous nutcase—this Elvis-in-sunglasses caricature, this Terrell Owens of politics, as my son Brendan calls him—is screwing with us!

Predictable saber rattling aside from George Bush and his frat house of advisors, the United Nations response of punitive sanctions is impotent, with China and even South Korea indicating Sunday that they would continue to conduct business and economic relations as usual with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). On paper, the U.N. Security Council has voted 15-0 to impose strict constraints on North Korea that prohibit the sale or transfer of material that could be used to build nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and permits ship searches for banned contraband. But is it enforceable to the point of achieving the goal—elimination of all North Korean nuclear weapons?

Don’t bet on it. Good money says no!

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton declared last week that North Korea’s professed test  “poses one of the gravest threats to international peace and security that this council has ever had to confront.” The real threat, many observers fear, is the sale of this nuclear technology to other rogue nations or terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and that is why our collective response must be swift and uncompromising. A military strike at this point is not justified and invites a broader conflict, but unbending, unilateral surveillance is critical. Given Kim Jong-il’s ego and his lust for attention and tweaking his enemies, it is unlikely that his own annihilation is a personal option. Instead, he’s more apt to roll a nuke quietly across the floor to the highest bidder.

And there’s no telling who that might be.

North Korea’s announcement “brought to nine the number of nations believed to have nuclear arms,” The New York Times reported. “But atomic officials estimate that as many as 40 more countries have the technical skill, and in some cases the required material, to build a bomb.”
The proliferation of nuclear arms in these countries will cause other nations, some in self-defense, others in aggression, to develop nuclear strategies of their own, and in time these weapons of mass destruction could become as common in a military arsenal as an infantry tank.

The Doomsday Clock, which sits in a snug room at the University of Chicago and is the measuring stick of nuclear danger to the world, is now set at seven minutes to midnight, the bewitching hour.

Do you know where your children are?


Devil In The Details On Chavez Eruption

The CITGO sign is a Fenway landmark
Now Allston-Brighton City Councilor Jerry P. McDermott also has stepped to the plate, urging the replacement of Fenway’s iconic Citgo sign with an in-your-face American flag to demonstrate Chavez is the consummate “el diablo.” The sign, with its five miles of neon tubes, is owned by Citgo Oil, a Venezuelan subsidiary, and has withstood five hurricanes with winds over 80-miles-an-hour, but will it survive the political bluster?

Action Needed To Reduce Dependence On Foreign Oil 

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

The devil made him do it! Or was it politics? Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, facing reelection in December and a vote next month for a Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council, was in full sulfuric gush himself last week when he attacked George Bush, bringing down a holy hell of vitriolic rebuffs from Democrats and Republicans in the throes of mid-term elections that may rest on who is perceived as most patriotic—a term to be defined by the final count.

Not-ready-for-primetime Chavez, a “Caracas crackpot,” as the New York Post intoned, called President Bush “the devil” in a speech last Wednesday before the United Nations, making a sign of the cross that must have had Michael the Archangel at Defcon Five. Legions of Republicans and Democrats have responded with predictable election year hyperbole, outdoing one another with superlatives. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has called Chavez “an everyday thug,” and New York Gov. George Pataki has given this anthropoid the Bronx rush, suggesting he “start giving some of the rights you’ve abused here in New York to the people of Venezuela.”

Allston-Brighton City Councilor Jerry P. McDermott also has stepped to the plate, urging the replacement of Fenway’s iconic Citgo sign with an in-your-face American flag to demonstrate Chavez is the consummate “el diablo.” The sign, with its five miles of neon tubes, is owned by Citgo Oil, a Venezuelan subsidiary, and has withstood five hurricanes with winds over 80-miles-an-hour, but will it survive the political bluster? A former CIA counter-terrorism agent and Army Special Forces commander has now engaged with predictable off-the-mark incoming—targeted at his opponent in the 10th District congressional race, five-term incumbent William Delahunt. Republican contender Jeff Beatty, in a stretch that would challenge even Kevin Youkilis, has accused Delahunt of consorting with the enemy. Delahunt, a member of the House International Relations Committee, brokered a critical first-in-the-nation deal with Chavez and Citgo last November to distribute 12 million gallons of discounted home heating oil to low-income residents of Massachusetts, individuals at risk in the chill of a bitter winter. Delahunt has condemned Chavez’s U.N. remarks, but has insisted, as he should, that he will pursue discounted Venezuelan oil for the needy. No other oil companies to date have responded.  “President Chavez’s remarks were singularly inappropriate,” Delahunt said in a statement. “Americans and Venezuelans alike seek a better future, and expect our leaders to help illuminate the way, not to wallow in personal attacks.”

Lost in the debate is the real devil here—the fact that this nation has no thoughtful energy policy to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, an omission that requires our dependence on oil-rich despots that wouldn’t otherwise make our short list of dinner invitations. Major U.S. oil companies, meanwhile, continue consuming record profits, as much in some cases as $100 million a day, with little appetite for assisting those in need.   

The devil is in the details, and the particulars here point to politics and profit, as usual.


Primary Color: The Greening Of America

By Greg O'Brien, Codfish Press 

Used to be the greening of America meant lugs like Riley, Ryan and O’Brien lumbering off passenger ships at Ellis Island in New York or the Customs House in Boston in the mid 1800s, fleeing the Great Famine. Now it’s code for a growing conservation movement, “the moral equivalent,” President Jimmy Carter once said, “of war”—a conflict that is giving rise on a personal front to more creative recycling, fuel efficient cars, low-energy homes and windmills. And just in time, or perhaps a generation or two late, as the planet hurtles towards a global warming tipping point with polar ice caps melting faster than cubes in a glass of Pepsi, droughts that are scorching the earth and pock-marking the land with wrinkles and scars, inundating tides that are swamping coastal communities and drowning life-giving wetlands, and raging infernos ignited by freaks of weather that are consuming precious forests the size of Rhode Island.

Hype? Not likely if you have a pulse. Add to the equation the environmental threats from rapidly urbanizing and polluting countries like India and China, and you have an earth not at the tilting point, but flat on her back.

“The task of avoiding ecological disaster may seen hopeless, and some environmental scientists have, quietly, concluded that it is. But Americans are notoriously reluctant to surrender their fates to the impersonal outcomes of an equation,” Newsweek declared weeks ago in a cover treatment headlined: The New Greening Of America.

“One by one—and together, in state and local governments and even giant corporations—they are attempting to wrest the future from the dotted lines on the graphs that point to catastrophe.”

In any pending collapse, there is great potential to react in ways that distract from the challenge, to alienate a mainstream of public opinion that will be required to address this crisis. The green movement to succeed must stay on message—police itself from such diverting minutia as earth-friendly facial creams to biodegradable kitty litter.

Not so nutty California, 12th in the world in carbon dioxide emissions, is on point with a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Republican governor that are muscling power plants and oil refineries in the desert southwest both inside and outside state borders to cut climate-changing, greenhouse gas discharges significantly, or do business elsewhere. “California, in fact, is making a huge bet: that it can reduce emissions without wrecking its economy, and therefore inspire other states—and countries—to follow its example on slowing climate change,” The New York Times reported Friday.

This is one California fad that ought to catch on. Energy cleanup and conservation require nose-to-nose confrontation. With all the deafening commotion today over politics, the economy and world order, more leaders, observers and followers need to be yelling “fire” when it comes to the state of the plant. Saving Mother Earth with thoughtful policies and regulations is not a liberal issue. It’s our responsibility as siblings.

A Father's Lesson On 9/11: Seek The Intangible

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

My 84-year-old father, Francis Xavier O’Brien—a second generation Irish American with roots in County Clare as deep as a large oak, the captain of a Navy LST in the Pacific theater during World War II, and the father of ten children, two of which were within striking distance of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, weighed in at the dinner table Sunday night on the horror that entombs us, the hell we can’t seem to escape.

Why is it, he asks, that firemen toting a hundred pounds of rescue equipment sprint up the emergency stairway of a burning building that has been hosed with jet fuel, while its occupants are tumbling down? What makes certain individuals in a time of crisis, in this case terrified clerks and stockbrokers, he inquires, sacrifice their lives for complete strangers? Why would passengers aboard a hijacked plane, he asks, storm the cockpit to drive the nose into the ground?

We’re missing the lesson of 9/11, he tells me. All the investigations, however necessary, all the finger pointing, however appropriate, all the efforts to eradicate terror worldwide, however futile, fall short of what we need collectively to survive as a nation—that is, more courage! More of the same, my dad instructs, of what carried us through a bloody revolution with the British, a wrenching civil war, two horrifying world wars and a depression as devastating as one will ever see in a lifetime. Courage, he tells me, is difficult to define, a holy intangible, and yet we know it when we see it. We all have courage within us, he states, some in greater degrees.

All the electronic eavesdropping equipment, all the airport screenings, all the new rules, regulations and laws, he advises, will be futile if we don’t have courage, if we don’t have more heroes in our time and measure their triumphs.

Courage can be measured in many ways.

“Courage,” Mark Twain once wrote, “is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”

 “Courage,” said C.S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Courage is the basis of all morality, the late John F.  Kennedy once opined. “A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures.”

“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway,” observed actor John Wayne.

Perhaps it was Plato who said it best: “Courage is knowing what not to fear.”

No need to fear the future, my dad tells me, if we walk today in courage: what is needed in the afterglow of 9/11 is more people to saddle up with fortitude. That’s the lesson of the World Trade Center. It’s that simple.

I should listen to my dad more; we all should hear our fathers when they speak with wisdom.

Sliding Red Sox: Too Little, Too Late, A Cape Codder Tosses The Towel

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

Don’t get all warm and giddy about a few wins against Chicago. The plump lady has left the parking lot, as evidence by Wednesday night’s 8-1 rout and the skid marks on Yawkey Way. The view from here is cheerless.

There is a row of boxy television sets, 12 in all, above the treadmills at Willy’s Gym in Orleans. The gym this time of year is packed with Boston types siphoning the fumes of summer and usually agog with talk of the insufferable Yankees, a Red Sox pennant bid and baseball in October, with every set at game time glowing red and blue.

Not any more. “Ever notice the Giant Glass advertisement behind home plate?” asks the guy from Weston on the treadmill next to me, an observation sadly that reflects these grim times and dour American League standings. He points to one of the few screens tuned to the game, another washout that has more to do with the scoreboard than the dreary weather. Left-handed hitters on a particular camera angle, he notes, block out the first two letters of “Glass.”

Sure enough! And many of us today are feeling like a “Giant ..ass” for thinking this could be the year in a season that has witnessed the greatest collapse since the Garden of Eden, as we wrestle with the Gaelic guilt of condemning before absorbing the trauma of Big Papi’s ticker, Jon Lester’s chilling lymphoma and the reality that the once riding-high Red Sox locker room is no longer a rodeo pen, but now a crowded MASH unit. The cowboys have left Dodge.

“Where do we go from here?” the late Howard Cosell might ask. One place we don’t is the black star of self-pity. Screw the curse; life is bigger than the Bambino, and the political and sports worlds (Google Sports Illustrated memorable collapses) are filled with stunning implosions: Dewey Beats Truman; Bobby Thompson uncorks Ralph Branca; Phil Mickelson’s double bogey at Winged Foot earlier this year; the Detroit Red Wings three-game Stanley Cup lead in 1942 that vanished like a searing slapshot; John McEnroe’s crash against Ivan Lendl in the 1984 French Open; no, we’re not going to mention that Buckner thing; the Yankees 2004 tanking three outs from sweeping the Sox and advancing to the World Series; and George Bush’s hasty 2003  “mission accomplished” declaration aboard the USS Abraham, the father of all Iraq miscalculations.

No need to speculate about the Rapture, Second Coming or Armageddon. At least not this fall. The Sox breakdown is simply a confluence of poor pitching, questionable field management and extraordinary bad luck—the last of which, the experts say, can be overcome in sports and business with a positive attitude. Psychologist Richard Wiseman says in an interview in the magazine Fast Company that “if you wanna get lucky: maximize chance opportunities; listen to your hunches; expect good fortune; and turn bad luck into good” by not dwelling on ill fortune and taking control of a situation.

So get over it Sox fans. “Snap out of it,” as Cher braced Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck. It’s only a season, and besides, Varitek and Papi are back.