You all know about Enronthe Houston corporation that so far as I
can tell didn't produce anything but economic euphoria, economic despair.
You know, of course, that Enron is the largest U.S. corporation
ever to go bankrupt. You know that about 30 top executives experienced
economic euphoria when they got advance notice of what was comingin time
to sell off at great profit more than a billion dollars worth of their
And you surely know about the economic despair experienced by
thousands of stockholders, many of them Enron employees who had their
retirement money tied up in Enron stock, who didn't get advance notice.
So in the technical language of high finance, they took it in the
Made a lot of people grouchy, including politicians Enron gave
money toabout 80 percent to Republicans, 20 percent to Democrats.
Last week, Sen. Joe Lieberman said on the PBS News Hour that he
had to agree that the whole mess was the result of "greed, arrogance,
deception, and fraud." Sen. Fred Thompson, the Republican sitting next to
him, did not disagree.
And the next day, Richard Cohen, in his Washington Post column,
was even less polite. He concluded that "This is not a political scandal.
It is not another Whitewater, where you can't figure out what happened.
We all know what happened. A bunch of bastards picked the pockets of
their own employees."
Well, it's fun to let off steam like that. But real truth-seekers
will dig deeper to get down to where real causes lie.
That's where I come in.
I don't deny that greed, arrogance, deception, fraud, and
pocket-picking all were present here. Enron was, after all, an adventure
in creative capitalism. But there are plenty of greedy, arrogant,
deceptive, fraudulent, pocket-picking enterprises out there that are doing
just fine. The question is, why was Enron singled out for comeuppance?
I'll tell you.
Enron offended the Baseball Gods.
The Houston Astrosyes, it is a goofy name for a baseball
teamplay home games in a stadium called Enron Field. It got that name
not because Enron built it, but because Enron pledged to give $100 million
over 30 years for the naming rights.
And here's a great Foundation Truth about Baseball Gods: They
don't like having their playgrounds corrupted by the names of corporate
sponsors. Unless the corporations make beer (Coors, say, or Busch) or
chewing gum (Wrigleys). Baseball Gods probably like to drink beer and
chew gum, I don't know.
But naming a stadium after any other kind of corporation makes
them really cranky. If I owned property within a mile of Qualcomm Stadium
in San Diego, I'd sell it real quick.
The Truth, Mainly
And when Baseball GodsFootball Gods, tooget cranky with
corporation, they really play hell with corporate net worth.
Hence, the Enron catastrophe.
If you want to see another potential corporate disaster in the
making, look at the Denver Broncos' new stadium. You know what its
official name is? "Invesco Field at Mile High." Is that a clunky name or
Invesco, so far as I know, is a corporationlike Enronthat
doesn't make anything but trouble.
The City of Denver built the stadium (next to the old Mile High)
with about $400 million, three-fourths of it from sales taxes, one fourth
from the Broncos' owner's stash. Then Invescoagain like Enronbought
the naming rights for $60 million to be paid over 20 years.
The result? The once-powerful Broncos were a surprisingly
mediocre team playing their first season in the new stadium this fall.
Didn't make the playoffs. Lots of injuries to key players. Lots of
And there's a rebellion afootanother clear sign of Football God
displeasure. The Denver Post refuses to use the name "Invesco Field at
Mile High." Instead it calls the edifice "the new Mile High stadium."
And everyone knows that newspaper writers, more often than not,
are the spokespeople for Divine Sentiments. Retribution's surely on its
So there it is. Enron went down not for its greed, arrogance,
deception, fraud, and pocket-picking. It went down for its hubris, its
overweening pride and ambition in trying to name a stadium after itself.
What's that you say? The Gods seem to have overreacted with
Then just imagine this: Memorial Stadiumyou know, where the
Cornhuskers have played football foreverwith a new name.
Say it aloud: Con-Agra Meadows.
Whaddya think of that, buddy? Huh? Huh? Huh?
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail