Football is a game of inches. Did the receiver get both feet in bounds? Did the ball cross the plane of the goal line? Did the running back push across the first down marker on that run up the middle? And when did the ball come out of the quarterback's hand? Was it a fumble or an incomplete pass? The officials are expected to get the calls right all the time. That's a tall order. The game is fast, and the task is hard. To help them and to give teams some control over bad calls, the league has instant replay and team challenges. However, this season seems to be the year of the costly bad call that has helped seal the outcome of games. Just ask the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers. Ask referee Ed Hochuli. Some teams' players will whine in their postgame interviews, others will simply move on. The St. Louis Rams are taking their case to the NFL office. In their matchup against the defending AFC champs, the Rams were hit with 12 penalties, although three were declined. The New England Patriots were flagged just once and the Rams declined the penalty. The Rams, who lost 23-16 on Sunday, say there was some questionable officiating. Rams coach Jim Haslett noted three plays in particular that he thinks should have been penalties against the Pats. They include a facemask against Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and a late hit on Bulger as well as an out-of-bounds hit on cornerback Fakhir Brown. He also contends the officials missed the mark by 10 yards on the placement of an out-of-bounds punt. The Pats drove down a short field to score on that series.
The point I'm trying to make is that the difference between winning and losing can be so tiny, and can often be the result of "external" conditions. Right now in the market, there are a lot of external conditions, particularly which personality traders collectively have that particular day. And, which stocks are being unfairly beaten up and what the line is between being undervalued and correctly priced. Today, I think I have found a pick that is a solid long-term play that you won't need to use the instant replay to see the value here. I'm talking about Nokia ( NOK). The stock was trading at about $28 in late August. Now, it's at just $16.01, and that's after it has bounced back from its 52-week low it hit earlier in yesterday's session. In the last year alone the stock has shed more than 38%. The company has great instincts and can market itself rather well. And, in recent comments it reiterated its expectations for handset industry growth of 10% this year. The company has $9.46 billion in the bank, which is very important in an economic downturn because it can use cash to grow the business when necessary. It has $7.78 billion in operating cash flow. It's got revenue of more than $67 billion. I like that it is very solid in several other areas as well. It's got a return on equity of 39.27 and a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just 8.09, which tells me Wall Street is underestimating this stock. While it's hard to tell what any stock will do in the near term, over the long haul I think Nokia is a winner to add to your portfolio. Keep moving the chains!