Night classes in failure

bo•nus |ˈbōnəs|


• a payment or gift added to what is usual or expected


Where can I sign up for some night classes in failure? There seems to be big money in it these days. Maybe I've been on the wrong career path all this time.

As a skill, failure is versatile. It's not just a career choice. It's a way of life and can be adapted to almost any profession.

The New York Times reported on January 29 in this story that 18.4 billion in bonuses had been paid out to employees of financial services businesses based in New York. This estimate is based on income tax collections, and comes from the New York State comptroller, who has the decidedly Soprano's-esque name of Thomas DiNapoli.

18.4 Billion.

With a "B."

That's enough to bail out General Motors AND Chrysler (at least it was the first time they came groveling).

Heck, if you could get someone to kick in another 4 billion (pocket change, if you think about it), that would be enough to build a new football stadium equivalent to Indianapolis' newly opened Lucas Oil Stadium for all the other 31 NFL cities.

And these bonuses were paid out to workers and executives in an industry that, by about every imaginable measure, has exhibited failures of galactic proportions in FY '08. (I wouldn't blame bank shareholders for thinking that "FY" stood for something completely different these days.)

I can imagine that maybe some of these people did carry out their jobs in a sharp and industrious manner that kept their institutions floating in the toilet bowl instead of being flushed all the way to the sewer. By the same token, a twenty-win season is a great thing for a Major League pitcher, but if his team loses 100 games, no bonus.

. . . With a "B" . . .

On a more local failure front, former Indiana University Basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson has again managed poke his head above the waters of newsworthiness by appealing the sanctions levied against him by the NCAA. As you may recall, Sampson parted company with IU after what appeared to be an additional two years of recruiting violations on top of violations during his tenure at the University of Oklahoma for which he was already on probation. One could rightly argue he should have walked away from IU with nothing more than a referral to a proctologist specializing in boot removal.

But no. He walked away with a cool $750,000.

That's three quarters of a million.

That's more money than many Hoosier fans who work hard and play by the rules will make take home in their entire LIVES.

Oh, and he also got kicked up to the pros. He's now an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, a ball club which, by the way, has exhibited in recent years a more than passing familiarity with failure.

With failure becoming not just a trend, but a career opportunity, I am making the following template available to business writers (and possibly also sports writers) to save time as they report our current continually-unfolding financial crisis:


(name of executive) resigned today from (his/her) post at (company name). (last name of executive) presided over record losses at the provider of (name of widget or service) during his (number of years of "service") years in the office of (alphabet soup job title).

In appreciation for leaving the company in mere shambles instead of total bankruptcy, for urinating on the executive suite carpet only a little bit, and for showing enough restraint not to detonate a nuclear device in the lobby of corporate headquarters,
(last name of executive) will be paid enough money to feed Africa.

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