The Upside Roundup - 5 Things I Like This Week, August 14

Music’s Must-See Showcase, RIP NYC?, and An Italian Tradition Returns

On this date four years ago, Usain Bolt won his third consecutive 100-meter gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, retaining the title of fastest man alive he first got in 2008 in Beijing and defended in London 2012. No person had even won the event twice in a row until Ben Johnson was convicted of doping after winning the gold in the 1988 games, which awarded the title to 1984 champion Carl Lewis, who finished the race in second. Bolt’s Olympic resume is legendary, as he three-peated in the 200-meter race as well. For more on the greatest sprinter of all-time, click here. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was scheduled to have had its closing ceremony last Sunday. Instead, they were postponed in March to July 23, 2021. A year of slack seemed appropriate to hold the event without any interruption, but there are questions about whether the world will be in a position to hold a global event of this magnitude next summer.

1.     The Verzuz Effect

·      In the four months since Verzuz first premiered in April, co-creators Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have created a self-proclaimed “museum” of entertainment for music lovers stuck at home. It has become a battleground for classic musicians to engage in live battles on Instagram Live by showcasing their respective catalogs. Artists in genres ranging from R&B, dance, and rap go through their songs in 90-second clips with fans on social media acting as judge, jury, and executioner despite the fact that there is no winner and no one is keeping score. Memorial Day weekend featured a memorable soundclash between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer with the police unsuccessfully trying to shut the party down. That was followed by a piano battle between John Legend and Alicia Keys to celebrate Juneteenth and a million-dollar donation to justice organizations of each artist’s choice. The growing movement has caught the interest of many in the industry, with a partnership secured with Apple on July 20th. The deal ensured that the dynamic duo would retain creative control over the program, while also offering a simulcast and on-demand viewing through Apple Music and Apple TV+. Despite all the success, neither Timbaland and Swizz beats have made a profit, choosing to live by their motto, “For the artists, by the artists, with the people.”

2.     Is New York City Really Dead?

·      If you’re trying to get people to read your stuff, one way to do so is through a headline that says, “NYC IS DEAD FOREVER. HERE’S WHY.” That was enough for me to read and include it in this week’s roundup. James Altucher lays out his thesis for why he believes this may be it for the Big Apple using lots of anecdotal evidence. The city has been resilient to many setbacks, including the 70’s and 80’s when it was the crime capital of the fountry and in 2001 after the World Trade Center attacks. But with the proliferation of remote work, people are moving to second and third tier cities, and as a result, rents in the city are on a steep decline. Commercial buildings are almost completely vacant, and there is no relief in sight. Culture, in the form of Broadway shows, museums, and comedy clubs, is out of commission indefinitely. And, restaurants are shutting down each and every day. That trifecta is what separated New York City from everything else over the years, and there is no reason to believe that they are coming back anytime soon. Altucher’s level of pessimism seems hyperbolic to me looking at this from a long-term lens, but trying to identify when things will begin to rebound is damn near impossible at this point.

3.     Wine Windows Return to Italy

·      When the bubonic plague demolished Florence in the 17th century, makers of wine used the small openings that windows provided to conduct business and prevent the spread of the contagion. The openings are called “buchette del vino,” which means little wine holes in Italian. The wine sellers of that time were the wealthiest people in the city and their service allowed them to do business secretly to avoid paying taxes on the alcohol they were selling. Flasks of wine were passed through the window, but payment wasn’t directly received into their hands. Instead, a metal pallet was presented to the buyer, then they placed their coins on it before they were disinfected with vinegar. In all, there were over 100 wine windows across the city. One restaurant, Babae, had the foresight to reintroduce the concept last summer before the pandemic hit, but many others are doing it now out of necessity. Each wine window is unique with their set of frames and materials used, and that is what drew American photographer Robbin Gheesling to release the book, Wine Doors of Florence last year. Some traditions never die.

4.     The Greatest Athlete Investor of All Time

·      Superstar athletes in modern times are global brands, and the leaderboard for annual earnings of the world’s greatest athletes can reach $100 million due to the array of promotional and endorsement opportunities available. This puts them in the driver’s seat to be successful investors for life. But, for my money Junior Bridgeman is in a class of his own when it comes to an athlete creating wealth for themselves. Bridgeman was a successful basketball player in 1970’s, but over the course of his career, his salary maxed out at $350,000 in 1985. Understanding the need to keep building his wealth, Bridgeman systematically put himself in a position to succeed post-basketball. He began working in fast food, studied the business model, and purchased three Wendy’s stores by the time he retired in 1988. Over the next 20 years, Bridgeman went all-in on the restaurant business, amassing ownership of over 160 Wendy’s franchises and 120 Chili’s restaurants. He parlayed that success into a deal with Coca-Cola in 2016 where he became the owner of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company with exclusive operations in parts of the Midwest. He’s now worth $600 million.

5.     Russia’s Claims of a Vaccine

·      Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that his country had become the first to approve a coronavirus-related vaccine. After the announcement of “Sputnik-V,” there was widespread disbelief of the vaccine’s true effectiveness. Phase III trials haven’t been completed yet, and Putin cited his daughter’s treatment as evidence that it would be ready to go for public consumption by the new year. The vaccine has been in development by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Researchers said that not even 100 people have been tested with the vaccine, and without evidence of success in large-scale clinical trials, experts believe that this is just a propaganda play that will endanger many people. There is widespread consensus that the race to be the first country to develop an effective vaccine is a sign of leadership on the global stage. The United States has Operation Warp Speed and China is testing their efforts with developing countries. Last month, Britain, along with the U.S. and Canada alleged that hackers backed by the Russian government were trying to steal important information from researchers and pharmaceutical companies that could lead to the development of a vaccine.