Your mother was right. Everybody's got to be the best at something.
the best at basketball,
the best mouse, and when it comes to chicken farming, nobody beats
But in the business world, competition for being the best can be fierce. So companies -- and Wall Street news makers -- do the next best thing to being best. They lower the bar by creating and promoting awards for themselves with criteria so narrow that only they can slip in.
Let's call them the Absurdity Awards. Here's some of 1998's best.
Where's the Beef?
For the second year in a row, the
Franklin Templeton Group's
Mark Mobius has been named the "No. 1 Global Emerging Markets Fund Manager" of the year by
, according to Franklin.
Now, while Mobius may be commended for being first in his class, the underachievement of this group as a whole is enough to make even high school teach
The average fund in the emerging market category has had a
29.9% return this year through Dec. 17, according to
. That figure handily trails the
positive return of 23.4% during the same period. And Mobius' three funds tracked by Lipper have returned an average return of negative 20.8% through Dec. 18.
In fairness, the Mobius award wasn't really about the numbers. According to the Franklin release, it was based instead on the results of a survey among emerging market professionals who said Mobius knows a whole bunch about emerging markets
returns their phone calls.
Perhaps next time
should survey fund shareholders.
Slicing and Dicing
Here's a distinction that was so tortured it took four tries by the folks at the $4.2 billion
Kaufmann fund to get it right (albeit after
questioned them on it.)
In its ubiquitous ads for the fund, Kaufmann earlier this year boasted that its fund was the "No. 1 General Equity Fund," for the last 10 years. Not a bad claim. But in June, stronger funds knocked it off its pedestal. No problem. Kaufmann simply adjusted its claim downward to being the No. 1
fund for the past 10 years. When that hallowed designation also proved fleeting, Kaufmann changed the title again in September to the "No. 1 Diversified Fund Since the Market Low of 1987."
But those ads
simply weren't true. Oops. Improper calculations were to blame, Kaufmann told
. Kaufmann's solution? Numero Uno once again, with the succinct, 17-syllable slogan of "No. 1 Small Company Aggressive Growth Fund Since the Market Low."
It's poetry in motion.
It's How You Play the Game
Perhaps the only more
absurd attempt at claiming to be best was that of a
ad, which boasted of its
spot for its $36.2 million
Japan Growth fund for one year through Sept. 30. Not only was it trumpeting the fact that it was in
(which, last time we checked, couldn't win you a medal at the Olympics), the fund's return was negative 14.4% during that period. Its peers, however, did post an average negative return of 23.3%.
Tech also featured well among the Absurdity Awards, in large part because there seem to be even more obscure tech publications and groups than awards that they give out.
Among the more obscure: "Best Packaged Application Category," presented to
magazine for, of course, Oracle's packaged applications.
Then there was the "Test Product of the Year Award" that went to
LabView 5.0, from the editors of
Test and Measurement World
And in a first this year, the "WideBand Cable of the Year Award" went to
NetLInk 2000R UTP cable from
This last product deserves a special distinction, having beat out 50 other cables from all across North America to pick up its laurels.
Now that's impressive.
Don't forget the "Best of What's New Award" to
Hughes Global Services
magazine. The company got it for its attempt at salvaging an errant communications satellite by whipping it around the moon.
According to a press release, when the satellite's orbit got out of whack, the original company that launched it wrote it off on its insurance as a complete loss. But then Hughes came along, and after securing title to the satellite, used lunar gravity to whip it around the moon and get it back on track in a usable orbit. With the problem solved, Hughes promptly smacked a For Sale sign on the satellite and is currently looking for a buyer.
If nothing else, we think the company at least deserves the
"Most Creative Ploy to Make a Buck off of Someone Else's Loss Award."
beat us to it.
Finally, there's "The 1998 Breakthrough Product of the Year" from the
International Network of Golf
You would think that this prestigious award would go to a golf club or golf cart or golf bag or, at the very least, to a golf ball.
This year's watershed product? An umbrella.
, to be exact. Manufactured by
of Farmingdale, N.Y., Gustbusters are the high-tech, ultradurable rain shedders that are "guaranteed to withstand winds up to 55 mph without turning inside out." Each comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The fact that an umbrella won in the golf category just goes to prove the old adage -- and your mother -- right: "If you're gonna be an umbrella, you ought to be the best darn umbrella there is."
Did we miss any absurd awards?
Send in your favorite absurd investment accolades, with your full name.