Pop, pledges, and pucks colored in the week that was.

Coke is it?
It's been a long road for the world's largest beverage company. Coke (NYSE:KO) went from being one of the greatest growth stocks of the 20th century to underperforming the market over the past few years. While its latest quarterly report -- showing a healthy 30% spike in earnings -- may sound impressive, the cool company isn't doing all that hot. Back out layers of currency gains and favorable tax moves, and the company isn't growing much at all. Its case volume was down by 1% in North America and up by just 2% worldwide.

Flavored bottled water and new soda products may help inch those sums higher in 2005. A turnaround has to start somewhere, right? The stock has traded higher since being recommended in our Inside Value newsletter. Yes, after decades of trading at lofty market multiples the stock finds itself a respectable choice for value investors.

Love was in the air, as long as your wandering heart wasn't hit with roaming charges
Mergers have been meaty lately. That's why the nearly $7 billion deal that was announced on Valentine's Day hooking up MCI (NASDAQ:MCIP) with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) probably didn't draw too much attention. The troubled telecommunications sector is discovering that misery loves company, so the out-of-favor players are trying to pair up to spearhead the industry's investing revival.

There are advantages to the courtship. From redundant cost savings to heartier marketing muscle, a two-headed company can be better than two separate entities. Yet with Qwest (NYSE:Q) claiming that it was rebuffed despite offering a higher buyout bid, don't go rushing to send MCI and Verizon any wedding gifts. This may be just the beginning of a bidding war. Then again, since we are talking about the troubled telcos, this may be as good as it gets.

Can a hockey player go for a check even if he isn't getting one?
Ice hockey fans are steamed that the NHL is canceling its hockey season. After owners and players were unable to resolve their differences before Wednesday's deadline, it's not just the spectators that are smarting. What do you tell Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS)? Its NHL 2005 video game has been marked down, and it's hard to imagine that players will be clamoring for NHL 2006. What about General Electric (NYSE:GE)? It took a chance on the sport by aligning itself with the league in a revenue-sharing deal, and you don't need to flash back to your elementary math class to understand the evils of dividing by zero.

It took baseball a long time to come back after its strike-shortened season ended with the World Series being called off. How forgiving will fans be for a professional sport that calls off the entire season? Like a hockey player's chipped-tooth smile, it's not going to be pretty for the NHL. It's not going to get any prettier for those invested in companies that have a vested interest in the sport maintaining its popularity. I guess that's what one would call thin ice.

Want to read more about the stories that rocked the week that was?

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was wondering why his Florida Panthers team hadn't lost a game in so long. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.