Forget the abbreviated, Michael Jordan-less National Basketball Association season. Internet stock trading is where the real action is. Conversations that used to be about whether Dennis Rodman will be a quick fix for the Los Angeles Lakers now center on whether there's more juice in eBay on Monday after a big run-up on Friday. And how about that new rookie, theGlobe.com; that stock really knows how to charge.
Just as in sports, everybody's got an opinion and yours is as valid as the next guy's. As Forbes says: "Each day a 5 million-strong mob of online investors is proving that, when it comes to stock picking, might makes right. In their world, everything you have learned about rational pricing -- earnings or book value or even revenues -- is meaningless. Don't worry about the long haul. Trade for the moment. Make a killing. Hey, everyone else in the chat room [the cyberspace equivalent of the water cooler] seems to be doing so."
I don't know about you, but I didn't hear one person complain about the NBA lockout. Everybody had other things to do -- like trade stocks on the Internet. Where else can you go to get heart-pounding action and maybe make a few bucks at the same time?
"I cannot wait to get up in the morning and trade. This is the most exciting thing in the world for me right now," a personal injury lawyer told Forbes. "My philosophy is to buy high and sell higher and not be afraid to take risks. I use no research tools or software; I just surf the message boards and look for volume."
I don't think it was coincidence the Internet trading frenzy gathered steam while the NBA season was on hold. The lull gave nascent Internet stock traders plenty of time to become completely hooked on the excitement of nailing a trade just before the stock takes off.
Now it's going to be difficult to lure former armchair basketball fans back to the game, especially with Michael Jordan's retirement and the breakup of the Bulls. That's why the Knicks had to take radical action by hiring Latrell Sprewell, the guy famous for choking his former coach.
Advertisers, too, will be forced to take radical action to retain contact with this prized demographic group. With young men abandoning basketball and other sports for the bigger rush of online trading, beer advertisers will make deals with E*Trade and other online brokers to allow them to sponsor trades. When you press the key to buy a stock, the voice of the Budweiser lizard would say, "This trade brought to you by the King of Beers."
Gambling will also suffer. Who needs Las Vegas or Atlantic City when the real action is on your computer? And I'd say the odds of hitting on a high-flying Internet stock are roughly comparable to rolling your number in a game of craps, maybe even a little better.
The next step is for Internet brokers to go after the lottery crowd. For the cost of a lottery ticket, players could invest in minishares of Yahoo!, Amazon.com and the rest of that Wild West lineup. And what a public service it would be -- weaning people who can't afford to lose their money from a no-win proposition to a might-win scenario, and they can watch their stocks move up and down instead of having a one-shot chance of striking it rich. Now that President Clinton has proposed putting some Social Security money in the market, stock trading becomes even a better bet.
I can just see it. When you go into a casino in the new millennium, you won't see row after row of slot machines. You'll see row after row of computers, all turned to E*Trade and ready to take your bet on how Uranus.com and other out-of-