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Wait Till Next Year

By the time you read this, a baseball team from New York will have won the World Series. Those of us who live in the New York area are still recovering from weeks of pre-playoff anticipation and hype, pre-World Series anticipation and hype, and what no doubt will be tons of post-World Series analysis and hype. But while the fact that the Mets and Yankees made it to the World Series—the first Subway Series since 1956—has been and probably will be Topic Number One in this market, this developmentno doubt is a big yawn for fans in other parts of the country. Part of it is just hometown prejudice, but part of it also has to do with the mixed emotions people around the country have for New York: envy and curiosity mixed with disdain and boredom—a general feeling of, "What about us for a change?"

These feelings are probably quite similar to the feelings many insurance industry executives have about the Internet Economy and its biggest names. Envy, curiosity, excitement, inadequacy—mixed with disdain, skepticism, relief and even smugness. Right now (disclaimer—it could be a different story by the time this issue comes out), every old economy company, especially in industries observers love to criticize (such as insurance), must be feeling the way CBS, ABC and NBC will feel if Fox got bad ratings for the World Series.

The stock market gyrations of the past few months have pulverized many once-hot IPOs and dot-coms. Even established technology powerhouses such as Microsoft, Lucent and Intel have seen their stocks decline. There are many questions about profits and revenues in the high-tech sector. You can call it sour grapes, but the less-flashy companies, such as insurers, that don't get as much attention probably are gloating a bit right now. A lot of CEOs who were criticized for being slow to embrace the Web probably feel like saying, "I told you so."

It might be a good idea for them to keep their thoughts to themselves, no matter how legitimate their feelings are. Yes, it's true there has been tremendous hype and unrealistic expectations about the high-tech sector and especially dot-coms, and it's true that innovation and success at less-glamorous organizations often is overlooked.

But if there is one certainty in today's business world, it's that things happen and change very quickly. So, I-told-you-so today could be "Never mind!" tomorrow. To go back to the baseball theme, as a Chicago native and die-hard Cub fan, I can grit my teeth over a New York-centric World Series—but I also know it ain't over till it's over.

Katherine Burger, Editorial Director

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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