I am 53 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. But I just spent $35 billion to buy that NASCAR-lovin', walkie-talkie phone company based in Virginia, and they say I have to move back east. My wife says, "If you see it in the KC Strip, it's so." Oh, tenderloin, please tell me the truth: In Virginia, is there a Santa Claus?
Gary, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by three years of massive layoffs and the dwindling reputation of a phone company with customer service so notoriously bad, we'd rather suffer a heart attack than call up to question a bill. Your Overland Park campus buddies have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see -- and who can blame them, when their jobs are about as secure as an unlocked BMW in Raytown? After all of the mind-numbing restructuring you constantly put your co-workers through, is it any wonder that they think nothing can exist that is not comprehensible by their little minds? All minds, Gary, whether men's or children's, are little. Particularly in the telecommunications industry. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant. CEOs are smaller still. In his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, the CEO is like something sticky that attaches itself to a cell phone after it's been in a teenager's pocket too long.
Yes, Gary, in Virginia there is a Santa Claus.
He exists there as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, at least between lobbyists and the lawmakers they adore in nearby Washington, D.C. Alas! How dreary would be the capital if there were no Santa Claus! Who would shower our representatives and senators with parties and gifts and vacations at the timeshare if not by generous telecom elves? There would be no childlike faith in technology, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. And no chance that another round of favorable legislation could make it even easier to ship whole departments to India.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. But Sprint does, having recently added same-sex partner benefits. We're not sure how that will sit with the Nextel-NASCAR people. Anyway, you might hire some people to watch all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus; it would make about as much sense as the layers of middle and upper management you already have in place. But even if they did not report seeing Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. If that sounds familiar, then you've been reading what your company regularly sends out to shareholders to read.
The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see, Gary. Like, for example, the balance on the credit card of a family facing its first Christmas after Dad got tapped on the shoulder one Friday and was called into a windowless conference room and handed a pink slip and a cardboard box to gather up his family photos in 5 minutes or else the security guy would call for back-up. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn, Gary? Of course not -- not with the anal-retentive rules you have at the Overland Park campus, where an employee -- gay or straight -- can't even stand on the friggin' lawn without gathering attention from a security guard.
Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are in the world, unseen and unseeable, but Lord knows your marketing folks try. There was the meeting at the beginning of the year -- remember? -- when they announced that 2004's "theme" would be "In the House," a mindless slogan that was supposed to raise morale after tens of thousands of jobs had been cut since 2001. Yeah, in the house. Like, outsourcing call centers to Convergys, which later laid off former Sprint workers by the hundreds. That's some great morale building, dude.
There is a veil covering the unseen world which neither the strongest man nor even the united strength of all the strongest men who ever lived could tear apart. It's called the FCC, and it may give some other people a difficult time, but it's your best friend, and your merger won't run into any problems at all.
Is it all real? Ah, Gary, we know that sometimes it's all hard to believe. What with a base salary of $2.65 million a year and more than $29 million in total compensation in 2003, we can't blame you for thinking it's all a lovely dream. That $29.2 million is enough to pay 584 people $50,000, which is a pretty nice salary in Kansas City. But it's all for you! Ah, Gary, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding like CEO pay.
No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and lives forever. Even in Virginia.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.