Although summer is traditionally the time when major Hollywood studios release their much-anticipated blockbuster films I recently decided to take in "Cinderella Man," the story of Depression-era boxer, James J. Braddock, who despite insurmountable odds, peaked at the right time and, incredibly, wrested the heavyweight title from favored champion Max Baer.
For some reason, the film, despite an avalanche of publicity and major box-office stars like Russell Crowe, is tanking at the box office. Explanations for the film's lukewarm reception vary, but one industry veteran opined that the movie was released at the wrong time of the year.
Summer, he said, was reserved for films laden with special effects and wild storylines like "War of the Worlds."
Nevertheless, the film's plotline reinforces several hundred motivational speaking axioms about the importance of timing.
For example, does anyone think that Sarbanes-Oxley would have sailed through the House and the Senate solely on the ill winds of Enron?
In fact, if memory serves, lawmakers were about to recess when news of another massive accounting fraud -- this one at telecommunications carrier WorldCom -- broke.
That sent them scrambling back to their desks and eventually fused the reform proposals from Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio.
Again, a matter of timing.
Former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers -- who was convicted on nine counts of fraud in the debacle -- now has the distinction of helping orchestrate the largest fraud in this country's history at $11 billion. The company, which has since changed its name to MCI, has, along with Enron, become synonymous with corporate fraud.
Last week, Ebbers was appropriately sentenced to 25 years in prison out of a potential sentence of 85 years. Amazingly, he found 150 people to write to the judge asking for leniency at sentencing -- I doubt many of those supporters were heavy WorldCom investors.
Ebbers will have the next quarter-century to mull over the events at WorldCom and the mega-million-dollar question of whether it was all worth it. If nothing else, we have him and his Mississippi minions to thank for passage of the most sweeping corporate reform law in this country's history.
At age 63, that most likely translates to a life sentence for the former CEO, whose arrogance and disdain for the average investor more than anything contributed to his being a guest of the government until 2030.
By contrast, the modest Braddock never harbored any illusions about his place in the pecking order of heavyweight champions or among ordinary citizens.
Deep down, he knew he was merely a placeholder for the great Joe Louis who, two years later, became the only man ever to stop Braddock and win a belt he would not relinquish for the next 10 years.
Timing is everything, whether in the accounting profession or in a boxing ring.
The Cinderella Man never disputed that. Now I doubt Bernie Ebbers will either.
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