We're all set: The Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots will do battle in the Super Bowl. Years pass, more and more teams grab the ring, and we imagine that it's not quite so hard -- or such a big deal -- to get there as it used to be. Nonsense. We wish both teams and their fans the best of luck.

Elsewhere, the big banks stole the show today. The significance may be less what happened to these specific businesses and their stocks, than the fact that their results were driven on the consumer side, reflecting a nation that remains strong and confident. For investors, that's rarely a bad thing.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Can They Save Disney?

Roy Disney Jr. and Stanley Gold are ready to fight. They aren't so much battling Disney(NYSE: DIS) as they are battling time. When the two former board members resigned last month and asked CEO Michael Eisner to follow their lead, you got the feeling that something worth watching was going down.

Providing the kind of entertainment that's been missing since Disney ruled the animation and broadcast network worlds a few years ago, Roy and Stanley launched SaveDisney.com. It's not every day that disgruntled executives take their case to the masses. When Hewlett-Packard's(NYSE: HPQ) Walter Hewlett narrowly lost his battle against Carly Fiorina's controversial acquisition of Compaq, he didn't go off and launch SaveHP.com. When Steve Jobs was booted from Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL), he didn't crack his knuckles and start pecking away at SaveApple.com.

However, the pool of Disney traditionalists clamoring for a return to quality theatrical animation and family theme park attractions runs deep. SaveDisney.com was a natural. There, Roy and Stanley can state their case, showcase the opinion of sympathizing media members and fans, and keep Hook's timepiece clicking the seconds away in their bellies.

It is, ultimately, a battle against time. Fiscal 2004 should be a good year for Disney. Even if the company were placed on autopilot, it would be hard to avoid the economic tailwind angling towards prosperity. Even if ABC continues to lag General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC and Viacom's(NYSE: VIA) CBS in the ratings, higher ad rates should benefit all of the broadcasters. Even if only EPCOT and Disney's California Adventure have opened significant new attractions recently, all of the parks should fare well as disposable income helps bankroll more Disney vacations over the summer. Disney's box office success in 2003 will lead to prosperous ways in the home video and DVD markets.

Roy and Stanley have a legitimate beef. While one can argue that the restoration process stood a better chance from the inside, this approach can be louder. It has to be. Inertia dictates that every passing quarter of improvement will thin out more of the anti-Eisner protestors. So, can you feel the urgency? Swift and steady is the only way to inherit the tailwind.

Shameless Plug: IRA Center

It's Jan. 20, and if you're like us, most of your New Year's resolutions are a fuzzy memory. You're loading up on the carbs, back on caffeine, and still watching too much TV. Luckily, Uncle Sam doesn't celebrate the end of 2003 until mid-April. While he's still planning a party, sneak in your 2003 IRA contribution and pat yourself on the back for completing one important resolution. Our IRA Center compares account fees, freebies, and other pertinent stuff.

Is J&J Pain-Free?

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) blew past expectations on Tuesday morning, when it reported fourth-quarter earnings rose 33% on prescription drugs, medical devices, and its range of consumer products that so many of us are familiar with. However, the coming year may bring some stepped-up competition -- and that could leave some investors wondering if the present is about as good as it gets for a while.

The company reported fourth-quarter revenues of $11.2 billion, 19.7% higher than those reported in the fourth quarter of 2002. Net income came in at $1.85 billion, or $0.62 per share, compared to $1.38 billion, or $0.46 per share. Pharmaceutical and medical device sales grew 16% and 25%, respectively.

One sour note was flagging sales of Johnson & Johnson's Procrit medication, one of its major drugs; sales dropped 12% in the fourth quarter. Both Amgen(Nasdaq: AMGN) and Roche provide competing products to treat anemia.

If anything's putting a damper on things going forward, it's the competition facing many of the drugs that helped make J&J's fourth quarter so successful. For example, rival Boston Scientific(NYSE: BSX) seems sure to bite into Cypher stent sales if it gains FDA approval for its Taxus stent in February; while Mylan Laboratories(NYSE: MYL) has threatened to launch a generic version of J&J's popular Duragesic pain patch in July (although the two companies are currently involved in patent litigation over that plan).

Johnson & Johnson plans a double-digit increase in research and development expenditures in 2004, Reuters said, for those looking for efforts to reinforce the pipeline. Dow Jones reported that the J&J's Chairman and Chief Executive William Weldon prognosticated that between now and 2005, patent protection will have faltered for 8% of its current revenue base.

Today, Johnson & Johnson shares increased nearly 3% in early trading. Things may look good today, but soon investors will start looking for proof that of more successful drugs to come to replace any rival-ravaged revenues.

Discussion Board of the Day: Disney

While its latest animated feature tanked at the box office over the weekend, can Disney still emerge as the teacher's pet? Is the concept SaveDisney.com productive or counterproductive to the future of Disney? What would Walt think? All this and more -- in the Disney discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

3Com's No Steal

Somebody certainly sees something they like in struggling network equipment provider 3Com(Nasdaq: COMS). Near a 52-week high, the stock is up nearly 100% in a little over a year.

And indeed, there is beauty on the balance sheet: $1.3 billion in cash, and no debt. That's about as clean as it gets. The company's performance over the last three and one-half years, though, has been nothing but bad, including net losses totaling $2.1 billion. Ouch!

The ugly: the company's options program. During the last six months, the company issued 8.8 million options -- a whopping 2.3% of the outstanding shares. With a total of 73.5 million options currently in play, the potential dilution is at 19%.

3Com moves through fiscal year 2004 saying, "...we believe that we must further reduce total operating expenses over the next several quarters to be less than $100 million per quarter, as compared to $171.8 million for the most recent quarter, in order to achieve profitability." Clearly, after years of cost cutting, this particular ugliness will continue.

And management readily admits that 3Com's future is tied to its 49% minority interest in a joint venture with China's largest manufacturer of telecom equipment, Huawei Technologies. The venture's router and modular switch products target telecom giant Cisco(Nasdaq: CSCO) -- a 900-pound gorilla that appears to be taking Huawei seriously.

A strong partner to be sure, Huawei recently formed another JV with German electronic giant Siemens(NYSE: SI) to develop 3G wireless products. Huawei also sell next-generation network equipment in China with software giant Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) and has agreements with Intel(Nasdaq: INTC), Infineon(NYSE: IFX), Qualcomm(Nasdaq: QCOM), and others.

Still, as strong as Huawei is, 3Com isn't cheap. Sales were up 14% in the most recent quarter, but the company is not projecting profitability for fiscal year 2004. And yet, the stock sells for four times revenue -- and that's the options dilution. Clearly, investors see more good than bad and ugly in the years ahead.

Quote of Note

"We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but like a house to stand." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson


e Fool News

For all of today's stories, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

When Linus asks Lucy to give him five good reasons for one thing or another, she slowly makes a fist -- one finger at a time -- with her right hand. "Those are good reasons," Linus mumbles, tugging on his collar. So, you better listen up: Robert Brokamp is even badder than Lucy, and he's got 5 Reasons You Need an IRA. David Forrest, who never resorts to threats, has been known to use a simple stock screen to find stocks that have come too far, too fast. Read all about it in Stocks at the Extremes.

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