Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 2.10
October 1996




Download ATPM 2.10

Choose a format:

Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao,

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I remember the many late nights as a child that I huddled close to the radio while I listened to the games of the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins on WBZ. I lived about 300 miles from Boston in a suburb of Philadelphia located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. A few years earlier my family had moved from an ethnic enclave in southeastern Massachusetts. I had yet to visit Boston Garden where the Celtics and Bruins played, but our "home team" preferences stayed with the family even though we had moved away.

Sports were a big deal to me and my friends. I probably learned more about math in my grade school days from the statistics on the back of baseball cards than I did in the classroom. Maybe it's not so ironic that during most of my adult life I viewed exercise and personal fitness as more of a spectator sport.

The reason I say all this isn't because I want to do an column about sports. It has more to do with the old saying, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."

My childhood hero was Carl Yastrzemski. Second to the Hardy Boy mysteries, my favorite books were biographies of the former Boston Red Sox left fielder. He threw with his right arm and batted as if he were more comfortable with his left. Everything he did, it seemed to me, had a special flair to it.

Those who do follow baseball may be aware that the Red Sox have not won a World Series since 1918, when Babe Ruth was THEIR pitcher. Every Spring since, the hearts and minds of the ardent Red Sox fans have been filled with hope that maybe this year will be THE year for the team. Virtually every year since 1918, the seats have been filled at home games. Fenway, in my view, is an extraordinary place to see a ball game.

Now that my home is in Los Angeles, my inclination is to follow the exploits of the L.A. Dodgers if I pay attention to baseball at all. But for many years the Red Sox and their yearly ups and downs captured my interest. People may wonder why the Red Sox would continuously fill the seats, excite the crowds and instill hope in the minds of the fans year after year, without winning a World Series. The answer is - in a word - imagination.

The team always had stars, colorful characters and a "home town" the size of New England. At home in Fenway Park, with left field's "Green Monster" of a wall as a back-drop, you never quite knew what would happen—home runs became doubles and sometimes singles became doubles, triples or even inside the park home runs.

Imagination is an interesting thing. I remember the first time I saw a Macintosh. It was cute. It also appeared to be "friendly" and fun. When the Mac was introduced it also seemed to have more "sizzle" than available software and more promise than immediate purpose. However, it did excite the imagination.

The "1984" commercial, which Mac enthusiasts were recently able to view again via the Apple Computer home page, did impact the mindset and purchasing decisions of many, many people. Just as importantly, the emergence of Macintosh technology changed our expectations of a personal computer and raised our personal awareness of what we could do with one, especially if we owned a Mac. It also made personal computing more mentally "accessible" to a lot of people who felt intimidated by the thought of using a PC.

For several years I worked as the CFO of an entertainment organization that included among its various entities a successful independent record label and a motion picture distribution company. I remember the day in 1987 when I brought my Mac Plus to the office to work on a project. It attracted a crowd. The demonstration was so convincing that one of my biggest, on-going projects at that organization was the creation of an all Macintosh computing environment that included a Mac on every employee's desk.

I've mentioned several times before in this column, I don't think Apple's problems over the past few years stemmed from not having quality products. Rather, I think the problems stemmed from having too many products in too many sub-markets so that even company executives became confused about their focus and business plan. It became, figuratively speaking, not so much a matter of whether or not Apple was winning the game but more of a matter of just how many games the company had obligated itself to play simultaneously. In this situation, "the more" was definitely not "the merrier."

In any organized game or contest, there are a set of rules: guidelines to which the players or contestants are supposed to adhere and performance benchmarks by which the winner or winners are declared.

For baseball, many of us know the rules. Usually the game ends after nine innings and the team with the most runs scored is the winner. However, to develop a winning baseball team that won't bankrupt the owners, there has to be more than just a few people attending the games. Teams do need ticket sales along with other revenue sources. Baseball, like other sports, needs things that are fun and exciting to keep people in the stands.

The overall benefit to a community from a sports franchise is less determined by the number of pennants won and more by the amount of new dollars generated and new jobs added to the local economy. Winning a pennant will help in this regard (people do prefer to watch "champions"), but it is more of a means to an end than an end in itself.

One of the things that has helped revive Apple Computer in the last year, along with the implementation of more efficient business model and a more effective business plan, is the tenacity and loyalty of Mac users like you and me. We are of extraordinary value to Apple's management and shareholders. If success in the personal computer industry was measured by product owner loyalty and satisfaction, Apple Computer would have been the undisputed champion for many years in a row.

Apple Computer has taken many risks over the years. The Macintosh itself was a big risk. The leap to the PPC platform was another big risk. The development and release of OS 8, a major upgrade and change to the operating system, will also be a risk. These changes and other improvements over the years have helped Apple Computer remain not only a fun company to watch, but also a company with products that are superior in quality and technology to those of its competitors. It is my view that by being more innovative and fun Apple Computer has won the World Series of user satisfaction.

What's more important to me than a computer company's market share and profits is the ability of its products to help improve the productivity and quality of life of its users. This to me is how the real game should be played. It makes no sense to admire a computer company that only seeks to meet its own goals without regard to the goals or dreams of its users. I'm happy I have a Mac. It's helped me attain many personal goals.

Despite the fact that it's been almost eighty years since the Red Sox have won the inter-league championship, they have been a very successful sports franchise. The 1975 Baseball World Series went the full seven games. In the end, the Cincinnati Reds won four games to three against the Red Sox. But far more memorable than which team ultimately won the deciding game were the final moments of the sixth game.

In extra innings, Boston's Carlton Fisk hit a long fly ball which straddled the foul line. Millions of viewers still remember as he "coached" the ball to fair ground with shouts and gestures as he began his hopeful trot to first base, soon followed by his triumphant leap as the ball entered the left field seats for a game winning home run.

That night Carlton Fisk won the World Series of heart and effort. It's the same way many Mac users have approached the last several months of Apple's history. We've shouted, jumped and told the world how we feel. Keep watching Apple. You will like what you see and where it ends up. If today's performance doesn't excite you, just remember the old saying at Fenway, "Wait until Spring!"

As for me, as I mentioned earlier, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. I've strapped on a new pair of athletic shoes. I think I'll go out running for the first time since...sometime before the 1990's. The personal computer game is once again becoming fun. I want to be in shape to see what happens in extra innings. This ball game ain't over. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks...

"Apples, Kids and Attitude" is © 1996 by Robert Paul Leitao, [apple graphic]

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (0)

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article