In these troubling economic times, I wanted to try to do my part to help calm the masses. So for this week's Flem File I've asked (a completely made-up version of) popular personal financial guru Suze Orman to take e-mails from around the league on any lingering, or troublesome, economic questions you guys might have.
Known as The Money Lady, the ubiquitous Orman is the folksy but abrasive high priestess of personal finance. She worked as a waitress until she was almost 30 and lost the first large chunk of change she invested but, nurtured along by Oprah, Suze now has her own television show and several best-selling books. She has also done for jackets and wedge haircuts what Chad Ocho Cinco did for Bengal stripes and the 'FroHawk.
So it is my distinct pleasure to welcome Suze to the Flem File.
My pleasure, Dan. And. Before. We. Get. Started. Letmejustsaythis: I. Love. Your. Column. Loveit. Loveit. Loveit. I. Love. It. Almostasmuchas triple-A rated municipal bonds. And. That's. Just. The. Truth. As. I. See. It.
I sense a huge migraine coming on, but before we take our first e-mail, can I just ask: Does that jacket actually have buttons from each NFL team on the collar?
Oh my sweet dear idiotic little friend, why yes-yes-yes it does. It cost me $8,755, but I've just decided to cut out lattes for the next six months to make up for the difference. Because -- hell-o? -- I take care of my money and my money takes care of me. And. That. Is. Just. The. Way. It. Is. Period.
OK, well, uh, our first question is from Eric S. in New York.
Eric asks: "Dear Suze, I make $26,180 dollars a week as a defensive back in the NFL. Last week I was fined $50,000 by my CEO for a hit that did not even draw a flag during the game and the opposing quarterback has already publicly taken the blame for. My question is: I spent all my money on plasma TVs, Jet Skis and Ibuprofen; should I cash in my 401(k) to help make ends meet?"
No sir. That would end up being the biggest mistake. Of. Your. Life. Now, listen to me. You need to pretend your 401(k) is a quarterback and you are the Bengals' defense under Marvin Lewis and just go the entire season without laying a single hand on that passer. Oh-kay? Look, you are just gonna have to cut back a few nonessential things to make it through the tough times, like, shoulder pads, cleats and, well, food.
Suze, isn't the bigger issue the hypocrisy of the NFL? This is a company that, while using the violence of the game to market itself into a multibillion-dollar industry, turns around and fines players for hitting too hard? Come on, you can't have it both ways.
I'm sorry, I wasn't listening to you. I was trying to compute your FICO score in my head. And it's not good. By the way. But. You. Already. Knew. That. Didn't you?
Our next e-mail is from Al in Oakland.
Al writes: "Hi Suze, love your whole decorative jacket thing you got going. In fact, I kinda have the same look. Anyway, I recently had to let one of my top employees go -- he's the sixth top guy that's left in the last six years -- but I really, really don't want to pay him. I need a plan. Also, my team is an NFL-worst 20-64 since 2003. I've actually lost more games than the Lions in that time, if you can believe that, and my shareholders are getting antsy. My idea to fix all of this is to see if, well, if you'd be willing to coach my team. Whaddaya say, Suze?"
Let. Me. Say. This. To. Mister Al-in-Oaklandtown right over there. I. Was. One. Of. Time's. 100. Most. Influential. People. I. Was. Raised. In. Chicago. I. Currently. Am. Worth. In. The. High. Eight. Figures. Yes. So there is no way -- no way -- that I would ever coach your team. I'm sorry. I. Am. Sorry. I am True-leeee. Sorry. But. That. Is. Just. The. Way. I. See. It. And. You. Will. Have. To. Just. Accept. That. Or ask Dr. Phil.
The NFL could use a little Suze. There's. No. Doubt. About. It.
Next up is Brett F. formerly of Green Bay, who writes: "I have a four-bed, three-bath house on the market for $475,000 in the city where I used to work. What's the best way to get that sucker to sell -- and fast."
Oh Brett, you are so lovely, indeed. You need someone with lots of money to burn who really, really needs a house within walking distance of the local schools. I would try Plaxico Burress.
Next is Roger G. in Manhattan, who asks: "Tons of injuries to my work force -- I mean, my very best workers at almost every branch -- have severely watered down my product, and I'm worried consumers are going to get smart and stop paying so much for an inferior product produced by temps and fill-ins."
Listen: Roger, you are the CEO of a league of such uninformed customers and such unoriginal, uninspired employees, that the single wing -- an offense that is nearly 100 years old -- is considered the hot, new, full-throttle crazy scheme of the day!
If you all think the single wing is cool, well, Flem here has a sweet Model T all tricked out with an awesome phonograph sound system that he wants to sell you to cruise the beach in Miami!
The bottom line is this, people: Roger could feed fans an MLS repeat, and as long as there were fantasy stats and funny beer commercials, I'm not sure anyone would complain.
Hey Suze, we're only about halfway through these e-mails and I'm really thirsty, can I have a sip of your giant expensive latte?
Folks. Who wants me to turn the tables here a bit and ask Mr. Smartypants sitting next to me about his own personal finances? Uh-huh! Uh-Huh! Yeah? Yes? Oh-kay! So: Are. You. Mr. Flem File. The. Prince. Of your own personal wealth?
Yes, well, I seem to recall some old AOL stock going bad faster than a Matt Millen draft. (And please stop saying: "You can't blame Matt Millen anymore after the Lions lose." The Lions could make perfect personal decisions and it would still take them three seasons to undo the damage that guy did to the franchise.)
Recently, hmmm, I also spent thousands, seriously, on a lab puppy, and personal training for the mutt, from a very upscale breeder in my area, and the dog bit my daughter in the face, ate my back porch, had the runs for six months and the general, cuddly temperament of a snapping turtle on meth.
Getting back to the NFL, Marvin L. in Cincinnati writes: "Dear Suze, I haven't closed a sale in my last five attempts and I'm actually 7-14 in my last 21. I've been with my current employer for six years, but nothing's really changed. The thing I got hired for, my expertise so to speak, is what my group is actually the worst in. Should I be worried about getting fired?"
Try this: Last week the Giants suspended Plaxico Burress and the Bears suspended Tommie Harris and they both won by a combined score of 78-15. So: Here's. What. You. Have. To. Do. Suspend Carson Palmer. I'm sorry. I. Am. So. Sorry. But. That. Is. Just. The. Way. I. See. It.
Or just ask yourself this question: What kind of boss do I have? Is he the kind of CEO who would put up with losing for, say, two whole decades? Is he the kind of boss who would rather go 0-16 than have to pay you the remaining two years on your salary? Is he the kind of guy who would continue to soil the soul of his franchise by signing guys like Chris Henry and Cedric Benson? If the answer to any of these is "yes" then you, my lovely wonderful dear friend Marvin, have better job security than almost anyone in this entire economy.
Brandon J. in New York asks: "Hi Suze, I'm wondering if I can afford to buy a small island off Turks and Caicos and give away Rolexes for Halloween."
OK, Flem here says that Brandon is one of the best young backs in the NFL, that he possesses a freakish combination of size and style, and he's about to become a free agent for a team with a new $1.6 billion stadium. Oh yeah, he also has credit-card debt totaling right around, hmmm, $73. Oh. Kay. Now. This. Is. The. Fun. Part. Of. What. I. Do. Brandon: Go ahead and enjoy that island and all those watches.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Brett, no need to put your hands up in financial surrender. Suze is here for you.
Jerry J. in Dallas wants to know: "I'm building a new corporate headquarters that's going to cost well over a billion dollars. I know, given the current economic climate, that this structure runs the risk of becoming a symbol of everything that's wrong in our society. Here's my real problem, though: My plan to help pay for it is to ask customers to fork over between $16,000 and $150,000 not for the actual product I sell, mind you, but -- get this -- just for the mere privilege of buying my product. Are consumers dumb enough -- I mean -- passionate enough to fall for this?"
In Dallas, they will pay what you ask because your company -- for better or worse -- gives the distinct impression that it does everything it possibly can to put a winner on the field every year. And, quite frankly, that's all fans expect in return for their massive investment. Yet it's still amazing how many teams don't even offer that -- isn't it? It doesn't always happen in Dallas, either. It's actually been 12 years since the Cowboys won a playoff game. But in finance we have one little rule: Perception. Is. Reality.
OK, here's an e-mailer who wants to know the worst bargain in the game.
Martin "Erratica" Gramatica.
How do you think T.O. would work as a stock broker, Suze?
Bad. Idea. Baaaa-aa-aad idea. And. Here's. Why. The more big stocks that Terrell drops -- I mean big stocks in key trading situations -- the louder he seems to complain about the rest of the market being off.
Whose numbers are charting up?
Indianapolis. If not for two last-second bailouts from opposing QBs, this team could be 0-4.
Our last question comes from Dan. S in Washington, who writes: "I know you prefer low-risk, high-rated muni-bonds, but if you were to invest some of your own money in an NFL team, which one would it be?"
Here's what you need to do to take care of yourself right now in this hostile pro football market.
Take off your orange Browns sweatshirts. Take off your light blue Titans hat. Sell your Panthers seats and divest of your Buffalo Bills winter gear and make the wisest foot-nancial decision of your life: Cash in your 401(k), sell everything, pick up one of those flexible A.R.M. loans that are all the rage now as well as some bank stock, move to Washington, D.C., and give yourself a Jim Zorn buzz cut, because the Redskins are 4-1 with the Rams, Browns and Lions coming up and three division games at home remaining.
Buy. Buy. Buy. Buy. I would say: Hip-hip-hooray here but that's too corny for even me.
Listen: The. One. Good. Thing. About. The NFL. Is that pro football is practically recession-proof. Period. Endofstory. Over. And. Out. I'm sorry. But. That. Is. Just. The. Way. It. Is.
The. NFL. As messed up as it is, will always be a super-duper good investment. Yes. Because. The. Worse. Things. Get. In the -- you know -- reeeeal world. The. More. We. All. Need. The. Escapeandsweetsweetcomfort. Of. Our. Beloved. Football.
And you, my friends, can ... Take. That. To. The. Bank.
Well, thanks, Suze, I couldn't have said it better myself.
In the crazy, topsy-turvy world of the NFL, sometimes fans just need someone to talk to. So once a week, I will exchange e-mails with one lucky (I think) reader on ESPN The Magazine's Web site. If you would like to have an e-mail exchange about something that's bothering you, by all means, click here and pour your pigskin heart out. Flem Filers: I'm listening.
DEAR FLEM: First of all, love your stuff. You seem like you know where your sports fall in line with your family. In that regard, I just found out that I am going to be a father. Now, I am a die-hard Patriots fan and plan to raise my child as such. When I am teaching about the history of the franchise, do I go into the sordid details of Spygate right away or do I "misremember" certain events until they get older? Kind of like telling them about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Any advice would be great. -- Kevin Swaluk from Walpole, Mass.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship," which has been optioned as a movie. The Flem File will run each Wednesday during the NFL season.