Are you ready for some football?It's only Thursday, but that doesn't mean you can't get a taste of some NFL action. In the past, the way fans got their Thursday fill of the pro pigskin was to wait until Thanksgiving, when they could watch the Lions in the early game and Cowboys in the afternoon. But in recent years, the NFL expanded its schedule to include Thursday-night games, scheduled this season during the first week and weeks 10 to 16. Tonight, which kicks off week 10, pits the Denver Broncos against the Browns in Cleveland. This isn't the NFL's first expansion from Sunday-only games. Decades ago, in response to fans clamoring for more than just their local Sunday game, the NFL launched Monday Night Football, which allowed it to promote the best teams on an even bigger stage. From there, it expanded to Sunday Night Football and late-season Saturday games. These various expansions have been a way for an already tremendously successful league and sport to branch out even more, bringing more of its games to a national audience and expanding its dominance. The NFL has taken a sport many thought was already so successful it was nearing a ceiling, and it has blown the roof off. That's the kind of thinking I look for when I look at a stock. Today I like Apple ( AAPL). Economic fears continued to weigh on traders' minds on Thursday, pushing the Dow down about 450 point in afternoon trading, which seems only moderately bad considering some of the unprecedented, dramatic point swings we have seen lately. Cisco ( CSCO) for its part, came out with a very weak outlook on Thursday.
However, despite any short-term pain, I think Apple is a solid company to hold on to for the long run. I have been watching Apple for a while, and I think now is the right time to buy. Sure, there are challengers in the marketplace to some of its products, but not many have the brand awareness or the head start in the fields that Apple does. How many iPod competitors can you name? The company's stats also appeal to me. It is now trading at just about $99 in afternoon trading following a 4% decline on Thursday. It has shed more than 44% during the last year, vs. just 35% for the S&P. It's much closer to its 52-week low of $85, which it hit on Oct. 10, than it is to its 12-month high of almost $203. It has a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 14.89, which is a little on the low side, telling me investors are not overly confident in this stock. It had a return on equity of more than 32% and revenue of $32.48 billion. It has more than $24 billion in the bank and $9.6 billion in operating cash flow. This is a big company that will help you in the long run or for a long run. Keep moving the chains!