Out of play

3 Mins read

BEING out of the play gives the benefit of appreciating the big picture. Former players and coaches are recruited to analyze games and broadcast the play-by-play of a live game. Staying on the sidelines provides perspective and insights that those in the thick of things are too stressed to see.

One way to be involuntarily sidelined is to lose a contest.

Only winners are interviewed over and over about how they feel about winning a contest. Maybe, an obligatory interview is devoted to the loser — how did you feel when you lost it? The mumbled answer is not intended to be immortalized… if it is even understood.

Losers are pushed out of the play. They need to find a new role that is on the sidelines. Whatever the loser chooses to do becomes a footnote. The spotlight stays with the players still in the game. Even when a loser is preparing for a comeback, he has to say something outrageous (like, he didn’t really lose in the first place) to be part of the news cycle, along with the tantalizing prospect of a return to the game.

Outsiders like analysts, brokers, and economists stay on the sidelines. These observers pick up financial data, international trends, rumors, overheard conversation in boardrooms, insider takes, business developments, and public disclosures. With such bits and pieces, they connect the dots to make sense of what’s going on.

The sidelines in business (not to be confused with a sideline business) are the preferred vantage point for those playing the market or managing assets. In cycles of volatility, defined usually as a downturn such as what the pandemic and then the Ukraine invasion, and of course a new administration, have brought about, the smart money can stay in the sidelines waiting for some positive signals.

What is an investment in a stock, after all, if not a bet on the management and its prospects of winning? The bets are reflected in the ups and downs of stock prices not only of the target company, but also its competition. It requires an understanding of the industry and the regulatory environment.

Is the new administration tending towards a freer play for the market? Or is it clamping down on the private sector to achieve greater control through regulatory levers? (Go ahead and sue.)

Even the private sector can tilt the playing field by managing information. Leaking important strategic moves like mergers and acquisitions may favor particular outsiders.

Corporate governance considers profiting from insider trading punishable by law, especially for publicly listed companies. The principle of an even playing field presumes equal access to information. Hence, the rules on disclosure and trading halts are intended to provide transparency. (We are not aware of any developments affecting the unusual surge in volume and price of our company.)

Any advantage in undisclosed information is akin to buying a referee or one player to intentionally tilt the outcome of a game. Maneuverings behind the scenes play a significant role in business. It’s always too late to place a bet once the move is publicly disclosed.

The insiders and outsiders are no longer that clearly defined in our culture. In politics, these two sides are coordinated like a single machine. The seemingly outside calls of observers follow a designated narrative. With the suppression of traditional media through regulatory pressures, the biased observers (troll farms) are given free rein with the narrative agenda of the dominant team.

The dividing line between players and commentators has been breached. Is the “ambush interview” where questions are not submitted for vetting and controversial issues are thrown at the players (as they are boarding their cars) to be a thing of the past. (So, it’s no longer mandatory to pay income tax, Sir?) Even unscripted questions in a press briefing may be swept away by bloggers thrown into the mix of the legitimate press covering the palace.

It’s convenient for those in the playing field to be “doing their thing” without being called to account — are you talking to me?

Still, even the “man in the arena” eventually ends his playing days at some point. The term ends. Or he is taken out due to injury or worse. Then he is consigned to the sideline opting to keep his silence… or be an irrelevant kibitzer.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda