Thursday, May 13, 2010

Willful Foreclosure?

This past week, 60 Minutes did a story on a new trend...people willfully walking away from their mortgage and house. That's right, people who can afford their mortgages choosing to not pay them.

Why would someone do that? The quick version is some states have laws protecting your assets entirely in the event of a foreclosure. So folks in particularly hard hit real estate markets who bought houses around 2006 now find their home value at roughly half what they paid. To add insult to injury, that means they can now rent a NICER home for around half what their mortgage payment is. So they've done the math and realized that just walking away and waiting on their credit to recover is cheaper in the long run than continuing to pay.

The story even featured a likable couple who went on camera and admitted they were in the process of doing this. They didn't feel bad in the least. They even chose to live in the house six months without paying because that's about how long it will take to get foreclosed on and evicted. All the while saving that mortgage/rent money. And Arizona state law protects the money they have in the bank, the cars they have paid for, and all the rest of their assets.

So why shouldn't they? I'll tell you why. Because it's not the bank's fault. It's not the bank's responsibility to prop up their bad choice. It might not be completely their fault, either, but let's face it, they'd have ZERO recourse had they saved up or inherited enough money to have bought that house outright. If it was paid for, they'd be living every day in a house now worth half what they paid. But would they be "out" anything? Nope. Not unless they chose to SELL it for less than they paid. But that would be a willing choice.

They leave the bank with no choice. The bank entered an agreement with them to help them buy their house. Sure, the bank stood to make money on the deal, but that's what banks do. Well, that's what they used to do. If everyone who could started doing this, well, they wouldn't be able to any longer.

In my opinion, it's legal theft. And the only reason it is legal is because a law was created to help protect consumers without ever thinking about a situation like this. Yes, the law needs to be changed, and needs to be changed quickly. I just can't for the life of me understand why the bank should be left holding the bag on a couple hundred thousand dollars of losses in cases like this. These people are gainfully employed, have a life savings, have no money troubles whatsoever. Yet the law is letting them stick it to the bank. A bank who did nothing more than help them in the first place.

It's just wrong, and people should know better and take responsibility for their own financial problems instead of pushing it off on someone else like that. Kudos to 60 Minutes for not listing which states this is legal in (other than Arizona). All they said was it's legal in 10 states right now in some form. I hope it isn't legal in mine.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My memories of basketball camp as a kid

I know this probably seems like a random topic, but it is far from it. It's actually inspired by this story that I found thanks to Twitter.

As most know, I grew up in the Charlotte, NC, area. The only sport I played as a young kid (other than a single year of coach pitch baseball) was basketball. I played youth league ball in the Winterfield league (which I don't think exists any longer). It was one of those area-based youth leagues, and the competition was pretty good. There were age groups up to 16, and I think I played from around 8 to 16.

Outside of that, I also played in Bryan Adrian leagues and attended some of his camps. His leagues were one per season, so you could play in four leagues per year. It was a pretty simple deal, really...something like ten weeks of playing on Sunday for two hours. The first hour or so was drills and the rest was a game. Each league had four teams, and each player got a shirt in one of four colors. Each color was a team. You were all mixed up for the drills (on purpose so that everyone got to know everyone) and then you broke out into your teams to play the games. We always had sites with two full courts, so two games happened at one time.

Before we started, Bryan would always talk about what we were going to focus on. Then he would usually lead a drill or two with everyone in one big group, then we were divided up into smaller groups for more drills. He moved around the entire gym watching and giving his own input, though there were other coaches who were in charge of each area and later each team at game time. He'd watch some of both games, and occasionally provide input there, too. Then after the two games were over everyone gathered for about five minutes with him. He'd go over the things we learned that day and what we could work on by ourselves. Then he'd grab a few kids at random to try to score on him one-on-one. Maybe five kids, total.

You got five seconds and one shot only. And you're a kid and he's big. And quick (even with the bum knee). And smart. I don't remember more than two or three kids all season ever scoring. And if you did? $5 in cash. That was a lot back then, and he made you earn it. That was the thing with Bryan. You want something in life, you have to earn it.

He wasn't a friendly guy. He was a tough guy. But he was a genuine guy, too. If he had something to say, he said it. If you deserved praise, you got a terse "good job." If you didn't, you got an explanation as to what you needed to do differently. And you got the opportunity to try again. He never asked for anything of you for him. He only told you what you needed to do for you. He never seemed disappointed or agitated or frustrated with us kids. He just taught. If you wanted it, you learned it. If you didn't, well, you didn't. Didn't seem to be any sweat to him either way. But he worked so hard to help that deep down you just had to think he cared. I remember doing the math along the way on how much money he must be taking in. We knew what we paid, and it wasn't hard to estimate his expenses (it was easy, since the other coaches would tell us what they got paid, and the gyms he used were gyms that we knew other folks that rented, too).

He made a reasonable living, but he wasn't getting rich off this stuff. What he did do was work. And sweat. And teach. To me, anyone who is willing to sweat when they teach and do it all for a meager living must care about what they do. A lot.

Why was he all closed up? Only God knows. What I know is he helped a lot of kids be better basketball players, and as far as I know he did it very well. I'm sure he had some sort of problems in life other than what was mentioned. My idle curiosity wants to know what they are, but in a way I'm fine not knowing, too. Because I want to remember him as that tough basketball player who realized he had a gift he could share and just wanted to share it with as many kids as he could. And that's just what he did. Thanks, Bryan. You will be missed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Farewell to a best friend

This is a very old picture of Jasper (top) and Clark (bottom). Clark passed away about three years ago, but today we lost Jasper. Both were brothers from the same litter, and we have our good friends the Cosper's to thank for hooking us up with them. Kit's sister, Dee, had a horse farm and a female dog that appeared to be mostly German Shephard that they had adopted (or that had adopted them!). Before they realized she was even old enough to breed, though, she was pregnant.

Ashley and I signed up for our first pet together and waited long enough for them to be weened. When we showed up to pick up Jasper we found that only one sibling remained unclaimed. The folks who had said they wanted him didn't show, and I quickly theorized that having two dogs would mean they would chew on each other rather than our stuff. Ashley agreed, and we took home two puppies instead of one. Both had already been named...Clark got his name because he had a white patch on his chest that Dee's kids thought looked like Superman's symbol. They wanted to name him Superman, but cooler heads prevailed and they were fine naming him Clark, short for Clark Kent. Jasper was named after Dee and Bob's restaurant at the time, Jasper's in Cary.

We loved the names and loved the dogs even more. There are so many wonderful stories of both their lives, from Jasper and his ball chasing antics to Clark and the bullet he carried to a pot bellied pig tormenting them to Clark playing the "mother" to all creatures he loved. Like raising kids, not all the stories were good ones at the time, but they are all now fond memories. We loved them both, and now we will miss them both. In recent years we spoke of Jasper singularly since Clark had to leave first, but now I feel like it's quite appropriate to speak of them together again, since I know in my heart they are together again. I thank God for the 10 years we had Clark and for the almost 14 we had Jasper.

Farewell, doodlebug. Me, Ashley, Kevin, Zach, Sandi, and Hattie will miss you. And a lot of other people.

Conan versus Jay

So I've distilled my thoughts on the Conan versus Jay saga after having watched Conan's interview on 60 Minutes. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, just move along, nothing to see here.

Conan is bitter. I get that. Most comedians his age probably coveted the job of The Tonight Show host, and he got it. He was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down. Promises had been made that were now broken and he was devastated. To top it all off, it was someone he considered a friend that was doing this to him.

But wait. He also said in the interview he realizes that NBC's part in this was "just business." Sure, there were relationships there that are now dead as a result, but he understands. But on the topic of Jay all he could really say is "that's not something I would have done" regarding Jay being willing to take back The Tonight Show.

This is where I get confused. NBC had two people under contract. It doesn't sound to me as if Jay had a choice in the matter. NBC decided they wanted Jay back in that time slot, and they offered Conan his same role (and The Tonight Show label, I believe) to move back thirty minutes. Conan refused and NBC decided to buy him out of his contract. But what did Jay's contract even say on the matter? Jay's contract is huge compared to Conan's, and any buyout is estimated to have needed to be well in excess of one hundred million dollars. Conan's buyout was $32M.

THIRTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. And he's bitter. And he realizes it was a business decision. And he thinks Jay shouldn't have accepted the job. But what if Jay's contract didn't give him that choice? Maybe Conan knows the details of Jay's contract, but it seems unlikely.

But here's my thing...Conan isn't as funny as Jay. Okay, that's my opinion. But I'd bet you anything that if we could measure "funny" across the board, Conan just isn't as funny as Jay to most Americans. They can't relate to him as easily as Jay "the car guy" Leno. The ratings are one measurement, and Conan's show fell behind Letterman. And that's all NBC cares about at the end of the day, and that's no secret to anyone in the business.

So my thing here is this: Suck it up, Conan. You got handed a $32M check. You'll live comfortably off that if you do no more work in your life. You will work, because you're funny. But sadly, you're not as funny as Jay. That's life. Move on. Be happy 60 Minutes felt like taking a stab at NBC, because otherwise you're not nearly relevant enough to make that show on your own.