Friday, February 8, 2002
Carlisle investment club scores in CNBC Super Bowl contest
"OK all you investment clubs in New England and St. Louis. This is your chance to be on Power Lunch on CNBC". I heard Tyler Mathieson, one of the TV journalists and a host of Power Lunch which appears every weekday on my favorite financial channel say these words on the Monday before the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots had just won the AFC Championship, and were headed to New Orleans. The idea was to have investment clubs from areas of the country representing both Super Bowl teams compete on Power Lunch, not in terms of investment picks, but by guessing closest to the actual game score.
Our investment club has been meeting in Carlisle for fourteen years. We've talked about writing a book or appearing on TV. Why not, I thought. So I went to my computer and e-mailed the producers at CNBC and volunteered The Carlisle Exchange. Then off I went to my evening job at CCHS, thinking I'd never hear another word from the network.
Imagine my surprise when I got home at 10:30 p.m. and found an e-mail from the segment producer Meghan Reeder entitled, "You Have Been Chosen!" I quickly called Stephanie Hackbarth, Mary Hult and Ruth Bing and got them all out of bed. None of them believed me. Ruth called Stephanie the next morning to ask if she had had a dream! I was already on the phone calling Sue Heald, Jane Dawson, Sherry Dillon, Liz Loutrel and Carolyn McCannon.
The e-mail on Monday told me we had to provide six stocks that we had researched and would recommend as current buys. We also would need to wear Patriots attire, and if we didn't own any, we'd have to go out and get some. Tuesday I dropped everything and made frantic phone calls to friends whose investment acumen I admire. I did a lot of work online and came up with six stocks we could feel comfortable recommendions, and emailed them to Meghan. Mary Hult and I drove to Waltham to buy some Patriots hats and shirts and we agreed the satellite truck would meet us Wednesday a.m. at the Hults' home.
Those of us who could get time off converged at the Hults' around 10:30 a.m. only to find the truck had been there setting things up since 10 a.m. The producer called us and explained that one of our picks, Abiomed, was too small a company to present on the air. CNBC has had problems in the past when very small companies are recommended and listeners act on the news they hear. The stock price could be dramatically affected, so we eliminated that pick. She later called to explain that another of our picks wasn't covered by the analyst who would be commenting on our choices, so we were down to four. Furthermore, she said, there usually wasn't time to cover more than three companies in one segment, so she asked us to narrow our choices to three.
Finally, we were asked to predict the score of the game. We had ten seconds to agree. We chose Patriots 21 vs. Rams 17. This was definitely going to be an unrehearsed, spontaneous experience!
With about 30 minutes to go, Doug and Phil from the satellite company told us we had to sit down and stay in place. They arranged lighting, sound, props etc. They put an earpiece in my, Mary and Stephanie's ears and clipped microphones on our T shirts. We would be the only three who could hear the questions the host, Bill Griffith, would ask. Also, the producer would talk to us through those earpieces and tell us when we would be going on the air. At this point, Carolyn McCannon put the plastic chip and dip bowl, shaped like a Patriots helmet, on her head! The producers, through the cameraman's earpiece said, "Love the helmet, keep it!" So Carolyn wore the chip bowl/helmet through the whole segment! The bottom of the helmet had little plastic points on it, to support it when it was used as a chip bowl. Phil said she looked like "the evil Patriot, with horns". Carolyn liked it.
We were really concerned about coming across as stiff little middle-aged ladies, which of course, we are NOT. But we were not really prepared for our opposing investment club, The Horses Assets from St. Louis, to be such fun-loving party boys! It turns out that someone gave that group's spokesman Super Bowl tickets after his appearance! We don't know who did, but we suspect the beer company his group chose as their top pick had something to do with it! Of course, we could be wrong. But AOL and Pfizer (our club's two "buy" recommendations) have not been in touch with us yet! We'll keep our hopes up.
Our producer was kind and encouraging through the entire episode. There were moments when I was asking myself what I had gotten us into. But she gave us words of encouragement and even assured us that she and her boss, the Senior Producer, Dan Clark, were from New England and would root for us.
When the broadcast was over, Meghan called us and offered her congratulations. We then watched the tape Paul Hackbarth had made, and turned CNBC back on to catch the remaining two investment clubs, another group from St. Louis and a group from the Berklee School of Music in Boston. They were now seen as our competitors, so we watched with a critical, but sympathetic eye. It's not that easy to talk to a camera lens, and to try to look natural. I know Bill Griffith's voice, but without seeing his face, or the faces of the St. Louis club members, it was hard to feel we were really together. Also, it's natural to turn to look at each other for agreement in normal conversation. At one point, Bill Griffith asked us all if we were surprised the Patriots had made it to the Super Bowl. We all shook our heads, "no"; when we watched the tape, we saw Stephanie emphatically shaking her head, "yes"!
The media kept referring to the Patriots as "the team of destiny" this season. I think that implies that their season was successful because of luck, rather than hard work. But in the case of The Carlisle Exchange investment club, the outcome was definitely lucky. We pulled the final score out of the blue; it happened to be one point away from the actual score of the game! We had even predicted the game would be won in the last few minutes with an Adam Vinatieri field goal! We were going back on CNBC for the second time in a week!
We had originally been scheduled to appear on the Monday following the Super Bowl, but Power Lunch was going to be devoted to the Enron scandal, so the producers thought we didn't belong on such a serious broadcast. We were relieved. On Monday, our segment producer had the idea to place us on the parade route, and she contacted Joseph Melano, owner of the Union Oyster House in Boston, who generously agreed to host the broadcast.
Tuesday morning we took the train from Concord to North Station. The ride was free, and the festive mood began at the depot with all the riders bundled against the bitter cold in their red, white and blue parkas. Boston was crowded, but we easily made our way to the restaurant where we found "our" satellite truck parked in front with the audio and sound van. Joe Melano ushered us to our private room, the Freedom Trail room, where the techs were setting up their lights and equipment. Mark and Jason put us at ease, and we sipped coffee while we watched the parade start at Copley Square from a giant screen TV. We were sorry to hear later that while we were inside, several people got on top of their van and jumped up and down on the roof! Adam, the satellite contracter, told us one person had even climbed on top of his truck. He warned him that if he didn't get down, he'd be radioactive. The kid just shrugged.
Twice the producers had us cheer into the camera for what they called "bumper shots"; the reason was, it turned out, someone kept putting the plug on the cord that led from the truck into the restaurant. Adam later told us he had originally planned to be in Carlisle, sipping tea in the Hults' living room! Next time, he told us, he'd rather come to Carlisle!
Due to the technical difficulties caused by 1.5 million people swarming around the restaurant, we had some difficulty hearing Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, the journalist who hosted the show. But we did ok; after all, we had done the hard part by picking the score. The rest was just celebration. Mary Hult mentioned how great it was to be in Boston on that day, and experience the sheer joy of people coming together to celebrate with the Patriots. Boston has never had a day like it in our memory.
While we noshed on the best clam chowder and fish 'n chips in New England, we talked about "what's next'for our group. We hope that we can pick stocks as well as we pick football scores in the year to come.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito