Who was faster, Mantle or Mays? Who was the best center fielder in the '50s heyday of Yankees-Giants-Dodgers baseball in New York--Mantle or Mays or Mantle? Who was the greatest pure hitter of all time--Ty Cobb, Ted Williams or Rogers Hornsby? Is Barry Bonds truly to be regarded as the best home-run hitter of all time--better than Ruth or Maris or Aaron--what with the controversy over steroid use?
After all, the incomparable Babe outpaced all of baseball in his time without any stimulus but booze, babes and hot dogs. Then again, the Big Bambino didn't have to cope with coast-to-coast air travel. And the remarkable and gentlemanly Mr. Aaron just went about his business all so quietly in even quieter baseball venues, like Milwaukee and Atlanta. And on and on the debates rage in grandstands near and far in the sizzling heat of a long, long season. Great office water cooler stuff. Pass the peanuts, please.
This springs to mind the latest brokerage rankings, in which our brethren at Business Insurance and A.M. Best ranked the best and the brightest, the one favoring Marsh, the other Aon.
Before we get into yet another round of meaningless chest-thumping by these two behemoths, let me say again what I've said before. All that matters in this post-Spitzer era is focus on the issues that truly matter: not who's bigger or better or best, but how well the agent-broker community serves its customers, how downright honest and transparent they are.
Pound for pound, who's the best? Who cares? Pass the peanuts, please.
"Impeccably correct" is what one veteran agent called my July column, "Small Notes From the Big I." The letter writer, who prefers anonymity, has attended the IIABA convention in the past and agreed with some of my observations about this year's event.
I made the point in that column that the Big I "continues to marginalize the press," especially in barring the fourth estate from its annual legislative briefing, the very core of the meeting. I asked, "Why the closed doors? Don't agents and brokers outside the room deserve to know what's going on as well? Isn't the press an instrument for disseminating this vital information?"
This agent says, "I noticed like you all the same blockades to effective mass communications--so vital to an industry (like) insurance, which the public finds tedious and confusing." Also noticed was an absence of pressroom activity, especially the trade-press contingent. (Perhaps they just went back to their rooms for a nap, because the program itself was a snooze and the pressroom was rarely available.)
I also posed the question in that column, "What's with the fatal attraction of the megapanel?" wherein a host of industry luminaries squeeze in a sound bite or two on a multiplicity of issues in a triumph of star power over substance. Our weary conventioneer agrees. "I sat in on a general meeting expecting to discern some gem of knowledge about the P&C industry (only) to see a tag team of rhetoric on the stage with a number of insurance 'experts' whose names and significance I couldn't remember unless I constantly glanced at my program."
"Enough said. You made a great point. Thanks for saying it."
And thanks for writing. It's rewarding to get feedback from someone, unlike myself, who's out there every day.
TOM SLATTERY, a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for 40 years, is currently managing director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications of Baldwin, N.Y.
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September 1, 2007
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